Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Written evidence submitted by Amnesty International


  Many congratulations on your appointment as Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.

  Our annual report, which is enclosed, documents the state of the world's human rights and covers the period from January to December 2004. As Chair of the G8 and president of the EU, the UK is in a unique position this year to challenge some of the abuses, which we highlight in this report.

  Over the next Parliament we will be looking for your support to press the UK Government to:

    —  turn its verbal support for an international arms trade treaty into concrete action. The UK should set out its strategy for engaging with international partners on building support for a treaty. The Prime Minister has already identified Africa as one of his priorities for this year. Making progress on an international arms trade treaty will do much to alleviate suffering in that continent;

    —  become a signatory to the European Convention against trafficking in human beings, which opened for signatures in May. Trafficking is a violation of human rights and an offence to human dignity and integrity. The Convention requires those states which become parties to take measures, individually and collectively, to prevent trafficking, to prosecute those responsible for trafficking and to take specific measures to protect and respect the rights of trafficked persons;

    —  ensure that it resists all efforts to water down the absolute ban on torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. At every opportunity the UK Government should be making clear unequivocally that it will not rely on, or present "evidence" obtained through torture; and

    —  push for radical reform of the UN's human rights machinery. The UN Secretary General has taken the bold initiative and proposed that human rights be given greater prominence within the UN. It is crucial that the UK Government supports this reform in order to improve the UN's effectiveness in promoting and protecting all human rights.

  As well as the issues highlighted above Amnesty International UK will be aiming to protect human rights in a range of countries including the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Sudan, Turkey, Iraq, Israel and the Occupied Territories, India and Colombia.

  We look forward to working with the Committee in the future, particularly on its inquiry into the FCO's annual human rights report and other inquiries related to our work. We would encourage the Committee to consider looking particularly at the human rights situation in the DRC and Colombia. The conflict in the DRC has claimed an estimated four million lives since 1998 and in many ways is the forgotten conflict in Africa. Even though peace agreements have been signed, conflict still continues in the eastern part of the country claiming lives daily and contributing to a dire human rights situation. The UK Government has a key role to place in ensuring that peace and stability is instituted throughout the DRC and it would be useful for the Committee to probe further into this issue.

  The armed conflict in Colombia has resulted in the deaths of over 70,000 people in the last 20 years and resulted in more than three million internally displaced people—one of the highest rates of displacement in the world. The conflict is characterised by a flagrant disregard for human rights and international humanitarian law by all sides. There are well-established links between paramilitary groups and the State, and elements within the Armed Forces continue to carry out extra judicial executions, torture and violations of due process, and impunity is widespread. Yet, the UK provides large amounts of financial and military support to the Colombian Government, with little or no analysis of its impact. We believe that this support requires detailed scrutiny.

Maniza Ntekim

Parliamentary Officer

Amnesty International

25 July 2005

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