New report on worldwide human rights and democracy

30 April 2012 by

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has launched the Human Rights and Democracy- The 2011 Foreign & Commonwealth Office Report, which aims to provide “a comprehensive look at the human rights work of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) around the world in 2011“. The report makes for essential reading for anyone with an interest in human rights at the global level.

The report contains a section devoted to the Arab Spring, which it describes as being “about citizens demanding their legitimate human rights and dignity” and having “no single cause“. The report also comments on the role of human rights protection in safeguarding Britain’s national security and promoting Britain’s prosperity.

Perhaps most interesting is the section on 28 countries “of concern“, documenting the developments in 2011 in these states. This is a wide-ranging guide to some of the most important recent developments, both good and bad. The commentary on Iran for instance, informs us that,

There has been no improvement in the human rights situation in Iran in 2011, and in some areas there has been deterioration. The rate of executions over the last 12 months continued at an exceptionally high level, with the minimum standards required in international law rarely applied. Iran regained the status of having more journalists in prison than any other country in the world. A number of political opposition leaders remain detained without charge since February. Non-government sponsored protests were brutally crushed. Ethnic and religious minorities faced systematic crackdowns. Human rights defenders and lawyers continued to be detained or forced to flee the country.

Burma on the other hand, while being noted to have some very serious problems affecting human rights, has been the scene of,

…a change of direction in several areas…The October parliamentary session saw new labour laws passed, allowing for the establishment of independent trade unions. An amendment of the Political Party Registration Law paved the way for the NLD, and Aung San Suu Kyi herself, to run in by-elections planned for 2012. In October, over 200 political prisoners were released from detention, although several hundred remained.

The report is often harrowing and demonstrates the enormous extent of human rights abuses around the globe, but it does also show the uplifting progress which is being made in some parts of the world, in providing and safeguarding the most basic and important rights. Essential reading.

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  1. I, and some others, have a real problem with this report produced by the FCO: We contend that the report has been produced by an undemocratically elected and therefore unlawful government. Our rationale for this is as follows:

    In 1981, in the case of Mathieu-Mohin and Clerfayt v. Belgium, 18 judges of the European Court of Human Rights (“EctHR”) set out the meaning and the importance of Article 3 of Protocol number 1 to the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”);

    In 2005 the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Hirst v the UK (No.2) found that the conditions surrounding elections in the UK violated article 3 of protocol number 1 (“A3P1”);

    Please read paragraphs 56 – 62 of Hirst No 2 and 46 – 52 of Mathieu-Mohin to grasp the importance of A3P1 (and the obligation to hold free and fair elections contained within) to democracy, the ECHR and human rights in general;

    A3P1 was brought into UK law via the Human Rights Act 1998 (“HRA”);

    It is contended that as soon as the HRA became law then our present government(s), at that moment, became unlawful! (Please consider the doctrine of implied repeal set out and explained in Thoburn V Sunderland City Council 2003 QB 151);

    Please note that the Registration Appeal Court (Smith v. Scott 2007 SLT 137) confirmed the unlawfulness of UK elections by issuing a declaration of incompatibility with regards to section 3 of the Representation of the People Act 1983;

    Putting all of the above together it would seem that we have an unlawful government who, amongst a great many other things, are unlawfully funding and producing reports on human rights and democracy;

    Can an unlawful government do anything? Prosecute? Raise taxes? Take and pay salaries? Modify the legislation that made them unlawful? Are they caught in a classic catch 22?

    I have deliberately made this comment very brief but if anyone is interested I will post in more detail.

  2. ObiterJ says:

    John Hirst makes a fair point.

    The deeds of the British government must match up to the rhetoric used in this report. To date, there are certain questions to be answered.

  3. There is something hypocritical about the FCO stating that it is putting human rights abroad at the forefront of its foreign policy, whilst being responsible to the Council of Europe for human rights breaches at home. For example, the FCO represented the UK in Hirst v UK (No2) in Strasbourg. The FCO is not only guilty of failing to abide by the ECHR but also guilty of failing to abide by the ECtHR decision.

  4. James Moore says:

    This is the UK Human rights report and what is particularly interesting about it is it had all kinds of statements of solidarity for foreign countries in terms of access for justice etc but they strangely are missing comments for the UK itself!

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