October 12, 2006

MEDIA RELEASE FROM 6 HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANISATIONS

An ‘alternative’ human rights report is published today to coincide with the publication by the British government of its annual human rights report.  Analysing the government’s approach to six places with serious human rights problems – Burma, Chagos Archipelago, Colombia, Tibet, West Papau and Western Sahara – the report gives the government just 19 out of a possible 60 marks.

“As far as the British government’s foreign policy priorities are concerned, human rights have not just taken a back seat, but have been locked away in the boot,” says the introduction to the report.

The report argues that there does not appear to be a consistent approach to human rights issues from the government. Its human rights agenda appears to be driven more by media coverage and Parliamentary pressure than by an assessment of human rights concerns in individual countries. ‘‘The six countries covered by this report highlight the lack of priority given to human rights in general, and the disparity of approach. A consistent finding in the alternative report is the failure of the British Government to raise glaring human rights abuses with repressive regimes. This can be explained, at least partly, by the British Government’s glaring omission of human rights from its list of international obligations. Human rights have been sidelined under a general heading of sustainable development which comes a lowly seventh on the list.’‘

“Producing an annual report that highlights human rights abuses around the world is a welcome step,” says the report, “but human rights are still not a driving force in decision-making. This has to change.”

THE COUNTRIES COVERED BY THE REPORT

Burma – 7 out of 10
The British government has taken the lead within the European Union pushing for stronger measures against the regime, and worked hard to bring Burma before the United Nations Security Council. However, Burma is not given the priority it deserves given the scale of abuses in Burma, and the government inexplicably refuses to impose unilateral investment sanctions, despite the UK being the second largest source of approved investment in Burma.
For more information contact Mark Farmaner, media & campaigns manager, Burma Campaign UK, 020 7324 4713.

Chagos Archipelago – 2 out of 10
The British government refuses to allow Chagossians to resettle their islands, despite a high court ruling, has not paid appropriate compensation for forcing the Chagossians to leave their islands, and has made no formal apology for their treatment.
Robert Bain, Chairman, UK Chagos Support Association, mobile 07773 896 811.
Colombia – 1 out of 10
Columbia is experiencing a human rights catastrophe, with abuses being committed by government and non-government forces. The British government has not only failed to prioritise tackling human rights abuses, but actually provides military aid to the Colombian security forces, which are themselves responsible for many of the abuses.  The British government also backs the deeply flawed paramilitary ‘peace process’ rather than endorsing United Nation’s recommendations for serious modifications.
For more information contact Graham Copp, Justice for Colombia, 020 7794 3644.

Tibet – 4 out of 10
The British Government is engaged in both the UK and EU-China Human Rights
Dialogues but these dialogues have failed to secure substantive improvement in protecting and promoting human rights in Tibet. Other channels for applying pressure on the Chinese Government’s rights record have been ignored and the British Government has consistently failed to make any public statement of concern regarding the dire human rights situation in Tibet during recent bilateral exchanges with President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. The government’s public silence is
particularly damaging, coming at a time of increased repression in Tibet with monks and nuns targeted for particular persecution and when the opening of the Gormo-Lhasa Railway threatens to flood Tibet with Chinese settlers and troops, further marginalising Tibetans in their own country.
For more information contact Matt Whitticase, Free Tibet Campaign, 020 73244605.

West Papua – 1 out of 10
Although the British government accepts that Indonesia’s annexation of West Papua in 1969 was flawed, it has taken to apparent action to address this issue. In addition it has ignored requests to raise human rights abuses with the Indonesian government, and continues to supply arms to the Indonesian government, despite evidence that British-made weapons have been used in repression of the West Papuan people.
For more information contact Harri Seymour, Free West Papua Campaign, 077861 75841

Western Sahara 4 out of 10
Although it refuses to recognise the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara, the British government is very quiet on this issue, both in terms of human rights abuses being committed, and seeking a lasting solution to the occupation. The government priority seem to be to avoid offending Morocco, rather than standing up for the rights of the people of Western Sahara.
For more information contact Imran Shafi, Western Sahara Campaign, 07751 508 355

THE REPORT CAN BE VIEWED AT:http://www.burmacampaign.org.uk/pm/reports.php


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