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Why the UK government must remain a human rights champion

Written by Ann Clwyd MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group (PHRG)

In my role as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group (PHRG), I would like to mark International Human Rights Day this year by stressing the continued importance of the international human rights framework.

It is becoming increasingly common for some UK politicians to denigrate international and regional frameworks and obligations, and for the media and UK population to denigrate human rights.

It can be all too easy for us in the UK to take the promotion and protection of internationally recognised human rights for granted, to the extent they become devalued – and perhaps even understandable that some have concluded these rights don’t mean much when we are faced by individuals and groups who hold such rights in contempt.

Let us, however, not forget the origins of the international human rights framework - forged in the experiences of the Second World War in recognition that human rights underpin stability, security, justice and prosperity – and the issues ultimately at stake, such as: extrajudicial executions; disappearances; sham trials; torture; imprisonment for peacefully exercising rights; forced religious conversion; persecution and discrimination on the grounds of gender, race, ethnicity and/or sexual orientation; and, unfettered corruption.

These issues – and the extent of serious and systematic rights violations – are well illustrated by the cases featured in this year’s Amnesty International Write for Rights campaign – which span the globe and involve a number of countries, including Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Burma, Malaysia, Mexico, and the US.

The cases also demonstrate another long-standing obstacle to the realisation of rights: the limited or convoluted avenues for redress available to victims – particularly those who are marginalised, in conflict zones and/or trying to defend fundamental rights in authoritarian regimes. The impunity which results often continues to fuel further serious and systematic violations in too many parts of the world.

Yet again in the last twelve months, often through the auspices of the PHRG, I have been privileged to find out more about the commitment, resilience and courage of human rights victims and defenders throughout the world – in the face of incredible - and frankly at times unbelievable - risks, odds and hardships.

I would ask my Parliamentary colleagues and others throughout the UK therefore to take just a few minutes today to show their solidarity with those who don’t have the luxury of taking their human rights for granted – by taking an action in support of those whose cases are highlighted in the Write for Rights campaign this year. 

And to take a few more minutes to consider how the international human rights framework has benefited those in this country, in Europe and more widely, and what you could do to protect those achievements, and the UK’s international credibility as a human rights champion on the world stage, if they were threatened in future.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
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.
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