Only fools and horses would ignore human rights during this election
The other day I watched six episodes of TheThick Of It straight off the reel. Now after a l-o-o-o-o-o-ng week of the election campaign. I’m starting to … feel the burn.
Probably what’s preventing my head exploding in a Malcolm Tucker-like moment of spontaneous combustion is the thought that, actually, when we’ve had all the economics – NI up or not?, public sector job cuts/“natural wastage”/cancel Trident, three quid a week to get married etc, etc, etc …. there’ll still be the human rights issues. None of the major parties are really talking about them at the moment, but they’re still out there. They include:
• The need for an independent inquiry into alleged UK collusion in torture and other “war on terror”-era abuses, and abolition of the hopeless “control order” regime
• Reform of the asylum system, including ensuring that thousands are not forced into poverty and destitution
• Guarantees that the UK will not go soft on suspected war criminals who are here in the country
• Getting Shaker Aamer and Ahmed Belbacha out of Guantanamo
• Guaranteeing women’s rights to be free from violence (at home and abroad) and to be able to have children without risking death in pregnancy
Another key concern is the UK’s worst-in-Europe record when it comes to signing dodgy deals with governments whose security forces are addicted to torturing their detainees. As a new Amnesty report on so-called “diplomatic assurances” argues, it’s sheer folly to think that a country like – for example – Libya is going to care about a piece of paper that says it promises to respect the rights of people it receives from Britain, not least as we’ve already labelled them “terrorist suspects” (but done precisely nothing to put them on trial).
It’s even greater folly – or is it bad faith? – to imagine that there can be effective monitoring of these dodgy transfers of at-risk individuals. A local NGO might try to get in to see a prisoner if s/he is picked up. But in practice they’ll be more or less powerless to stop any abuse.
See the full report for more detail on what is a completely under-discussed scandal. The shame of it is that Britain has “led” the way in Europe when it comes to fashioning these shoddy bilateral schemes. They not only endanger the individuals themselves; they also pose a threat to the global ban on torture.
Summing it up – and to recycle a Nick Clegg soundbite from last week – diplomatic assurances are the international equivalent of Del Boy’s “bargains”. (“Lovely jubbly. Another one of them ‘terror’ types out of the way, no questions asked. Cushty!”) They’re about as kosher as Trotters Independent Traders.
So, only four weeks to go to 6 May and plenty of time for us all to bust a Malcolm Tucker blood vessel. But don’t forget to press all our would-be politicians to cast their vote for human rights. If they’re going to convince the electorate they’re worth putting into Parliament, we should know where they stand on human rights. And never mind what Malcolm Tucker says ..
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.