UK Government human rights report: Action not words - true test

The annual Foreign and Commonwealth Office report is likely to summarise the government's view on issues such as the 'war on terrorism', Guantanamo Bay, war in Iraq, the International Criminal Court and refugees, as well as various country profiles.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

'The true human rights test of the government's performance is not what its FCO annual report contains, but what it has done in the intervening year, not least in the 'war on terrorism'.

'Given that on crucial issues like Guantanamo Bay the UK's stance has been at best feeble, the annual report is unlikely to redress this shortcoming.'

Amnesty International is also calling for far greater 'joined-up' human rights thinking across key governmental departments, so that key linkages are made, for example, between the global 'war on terrorism' and domestic civil liberties, and international refugee flows and domestic asylum policy.

Kate Allen said:

'Under Britain's draconian post-September 11 anti-terrorism legislation, this country has held people in indefinite detention without charge or trial - a gross human rights violation and one that may seriously weaken the UK's resolve in condemning similar abuse abroad.

'Meanwhile, with the UK pursuing ever-more harsh asylum policies, the impression given is that human rights are a 'foreign' issue and not one that needs to be fully supported at home.'

On the International Criminal Court, Amnesty International warned that the government's early staunch support for a court able to prosecute war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, was now open to doubt following its relatively muted opposition to US-led efforts to destabilise the court.

For over a year the US has sought bilateral agreements with countries in an attempt to secure guarantees that that US nationals (or even its employees) will not be surrendered to the court. Such impunity agreements have been sought within a context of threats to withdraw support for peacekeeping operations, to cut aid agreements and of hostile public remarks from US officials.

Kate Allen said:

'The UK's failure to firmly defend the International Criminal Court against US's attacks give rise to the fear that the UK is more concerned with US wishes than with the court's future.

'Unless the UK significantly increases its level of criticism at American wrecking actions over the International Criminal Court, its own human rights reputation will certainly suffer.'

The report will be available online from Thursday afternoon at: www.fco.gov.uk/humanrightsreport2003

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