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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