Evidence submitted by Amnesty International
1. Amnesty International is a worldwide
membership movement. Our vision is of a world in which every person
enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights. We promote all human rights and undertake research
and action focussed on preventing grave abuses of the rights to
physical and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and expression
and freedom from discrimination.
THE FCO REPORT
2. Amnesty International welcomes the publication
of the FCO Human Rights Annual Report 2005 ("the FCO report").
The 2005 report is a slimmer document than its two immediate predecessors.
Nevertheless, it is still a comprehensive report providing a thorough
overview, on the whole, of the work that the Government has been
doing to protect and promote human rights worldwide. We would
emphasis how important it is for the Government to continue to
use the opportunity of the publication of the report to present
its activities in depth and breadth and to explain its position
in a competent and coherent manner. This can only help to contribute
to a greater understanding of the government's work in this field
and to keep the UK public informed of government policy.
3. Amnesty International similarly welcomes
this opportunity to contribute to the work of the FAC Committee
("the Committee") in its scrutiny of FCO human rights
policy. We consider the Committee plays an invaluable role in
its examination of this work and the recommendations that it makes
for its improvement. The recommendations that it makes to the
Government on foreign policy concerns are clearly taken seriously
by the Secretary of State and the FCO. That it continues to undertake
this work is vital to the continued accountability of government
policy in this field.
4. This submission cannot include all of
AI's observations and recommendations regarding the FCO report.
Amnesty International welcomes therefore the opportunity that
the Committee is providing to the organisation to present oral
evidence to it when it meets in November. We will also be pleased
to submit additional information should the committee require
5. The FCO report records developments up
to June 2005. This year, the FCO chose not to adopt the format
used in the previous two years of leading with "Challenges
and progress" (an approach which put issues of terrorism
front and centre). Instead the report leads with a description
of what might be called the "bread and butter" work
undertaken by the FCO. Amnesty International would have found
this approach surprising even if events had not taken such a dramatic
turn in July with the horrifying London suicide bomb attacks.
However, judged in the context in which the report was written,
we consider that while it covers all the bases it has become somewhat
perfunctory and dry in tone. This may be because the report has
had to be produced to tighter deadlines due to the need to gear
up for the UK's Presidency of the EU and chairing of the G8. Nevertheless,
we consider that the 2005 report, taken as a whole, does not convey
the passion for human rights of previous FCO reports.
6. We remain doubtful over the FCO's rationale
for subsuming work on human rights under the umbrella of sustainable
development. We cannot escape the conclusion that having selected
eight strategic priorities for the FCO Strategy published in December
2003, this arrangement is more likely a reflection of the reality
that the FCO has many more areas of work than strategic priorities.
Put simply, in the eyes of the FCO, human rights do not appear
to warrant treatment as a standalone strategic priority. However,
we are reassured by the former Minister's strong affirmation in
his oral evidence to the previous committee that human rights
concerns are mainstreamed across all the activities and actions
of the FCO. And certainly we are able to maintain a productive
dialogue with many parts of the FCO on human rights issues most
notably, of course, with the Human Rights, Democracy and Governance
Group, but also with other groups and country desks.
7. Since 2004-05, the Human Rights Project
Fund has been folded into the broader Global Opportunities Fund.
Last year, we reflected our concerns to the previous committee
over the difficulties in establishing what funding was being made
available for discrete human rights projects within the larger
sums provided for "human rights, democracy and governance".
In its written response to the committee (para 13), the FCO provided
figures pointing to a steady increase in expenditure on such projects
and has listed many of these in Annex 2 of the 2005 report. In
answer to the previous Committee's request for its definition
of a human rights project, the FCO also advised that the Government
"use the definition that a human rights project is one that
furthers HMG human rights priorities and objectives in the country
concerned. This means that projects will vary from one country
to another and from one region to another." It is difficult
not to interpret this to mean that a human rights project is what
the FCO says it is.
8. From what we know of the workings of
the GOF, for spending on human rights projects, it represents
a move away from a worldwide and applicant led process under the
HRPF to one much more focused on obtaining demonstrable results
in a narrower band of countries. Under the Sustainable Development
programme, spending is restricted to 18 priority countries
selected from country posts that choose to apply and can demonstrate
a knowledge of sustainable development and human rights issues.
In its written response to the previous committee (para 16), the
FCO stated that, in total, 73 countries were eligible for funding
under any of the four GOF programmes that could promote human
rights compared to 90 under the HRPF. We are not able to gauge
how influential human rights considerations are in allocating
funds under these other programmes though we recognise that the
total sum exceeds that spent under the Sustainable Development
9. The HRPF also supported projects benefiting
multiple countries and addressing thematic issues (such as torture).
Very limited sums (less than £100,000) are now available
for thematic work under the Sustainable Development Programme.
Most of this is being channelled into important work on freedom
of expression. However, the FCO seems prepared to put aside excellent
work done in the past on torture and we see little prospect of
this being taken up in the new counter terrorism climate.
10. The FCO report states that in the 2004-05
financial year, £13.4 million was spent on human rights,
democracy and governance work overall. Looking at the figures
presented for such work in Annex 2 of the report and provided
elsewhere by the FCO, however, we are unable to identify expenditure
in the 2004-05 financial year beyond approximately £11 million.
We are currently clarifying this discrepancy with the FCO.
FCO HUMAN RIGHTS
11. As in 2003 and 2004, we feel obliged
to question the extent of the Government's commitment to human
rights and the extent to which human rights play a part in shaping
UK foreign policy. The manner in which the 2005 report has been
produced, the less than rational inclusion of human rights under
sustainable development, changes to the funding arrangements for
human rights projects, and even the less central location for
the Human Rights, Democracy and Good Governance Group within the
FCO all point to what we consider to be the declining influence
of human rights in shaping UK foreign policy. In some critical
areas, however, matters appear worse. Elements of the Government's
counter terrorism strategies, at home and abroad, are seriously
challenging accepted human rights standards (particularly in relation
to torture and fair trials). This trend is being exacerbated through
the radical change of track that the UK Government is now pursuing
in response to the events of last July.
12. The section on terrorism in the FCO
report has been overtaken by the terrible events of July 2005.
13. Amnesty International unconditionally
and unreservedly condemns attacks on civilians, including those
in London, and calls for those responsible to be brought to justice.
States have an obligation to take measures to prevent and protect
against attacks on civilians; to investigate such crimes; to bring
to justice those responsible in fair proceedings; and to ensure
prompt and adequate reparation to victims. We recognise that in
the aftermath of the July attacks it is incumbent upon the UK
Government to review its legislative and other measures with a
view to ensuring the non-repetition of such attacks. It is equally
incumbent on the UK Government to ensure that all measures taken
to bring people to justice, as well as all measures to protect
people from a repetition of such crimes, are consistent with international
human rights law and standards. Security and human rights are
not alternatives; they go hand in hand. Respect for human rights
is the route to security, not an obstacle to it.
14. The global impact of the UK's approach
on counter terrorism is considerable. The UK is a key member of
many influential organisationsthe UN Security Council,
the EU (currently as President), the G8, the Council of Europe
and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
Together with the USA it has framed the debate about international
security and human rights. In response to the July attacks, the
UK has now used its influence to promote the criminalisation of
"incitement to terrorism" throughout the world, including
through tabling the recently adopted Security Council resolution
on "incitement to commit a terrorist act or acts". The
UK has also been the main ally of the USA in the wars in Afghanistan
and Iraq, and has stood by its partner notwithstanding criticisms
of human rights abuses by US forces.
15. Amnesty International shares the view
expressed by the Council of Europe's Commissioner on Human Rights
who stated in June 2005 that the UK has the tendency to "consider
human rights as excessively restricting the effective administration
of justice and the protection of the public interest."
We are deeply perturbed by what has become a repeated pattern
whereby the UK announces tough counter-terrorism measures that
run counter to human rights standards and which other countries
then say they need. The UK in turn uses such statements in support
of its initial proposals. Yet again we see this process being
played out in relation to the Terrorism Bill 2005 now before parliament
(particularly, in relation to the permitted period of detention
before charge for terrorist suspects). Amnesty International considers
that this and a number of the provisions in this Bill are inconsistent
with the UK's obligations under domestic and international human
rights law (rights to liberty, to the presumption of innocence
and to freedom of expression and association). If enacted, these
provisions may lead to serious human rights violations.
They cannot be justified by "cherry picking" from the
practices of other countries.
16. Amnesty International believes that
unless the UK Government's counter-terrorism measures are firmly
grounded in respect for human rights and the rule of law, the
Government risks destroying those values of a free and open society
that it would protect and defend. We also consider that the UK's
authority to speak out on human rights violations around the world
is being seriously weakened by the nature of its counter terrorism
response since July 2005.
17. In last year's submission, we deeply
regretted that the Government had been slow to condemn the lack
of fair trial for those detained at Guanta«namo Bay. The
committee recommended that the Government "make strong representations
to the US administration about the lack of due process and oppressive
conditions in Guanta«namo Bay and other detention facilities
controlled by the US in foreign countries" (para 79 of the
fourth report of Session 2004-05). The 2005 FCO report does not
address these concernsin fact, this year, for the first
time, the report offers an explanation for why the US Government
made the detentions and the dilemma it faces in considering releases
from Guanta«namo Bay (see page 190).
18. Amnesty International considers that
the UK Government's record in relation to Guanta«namo Bay
has been lamentable. For two years government ministers claimed
no knowledge of the abuses being suffered there. Only after intense
pressure was exerted by relatives of Guanta«namo detainees
and human rights organisations did the Government finally act
to seek the release of the UK nationals. However, it has continued
to fail to make adequate representations on behalf of UK residents
still held there. It has also failed miserably to mount a serious
protest against the litany of human rights abuses being suffered
by the hundreds of men who remain in Guanta«namo without
any hope of justice. Moreover, UK intelligence officers have taken
advantage of the legal limbo and the coercive detention conditions
at Guanta«namo Bayand reportedly at other locations,
including Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan, to conduct interrogations.
Such interrogations have taken place without any of the normal
safeguards, such as having a lawyer present, thereby circumventing
both domestic and international human rights law. UK officials
have also taken part in, witnessed or effectively condoned the
interrogation under duress of UK detainees in the custody of the
USA and other countries.
19. Amnesty International calls on the UK
Government to urgently intervene to help prevent unnecessary loss
of life from the ongoing hunger strike at the US detention centre
at Guanta«namo Bay. Of the estimated 210 camp detainees currently
on hunger strike, at least six are UK residents. These individuals
are protesting at their continued detention at the military prison
without charge or trial. They are also protesting at their conditions
of detention. Amnesty International alongside human rights organisation
Reprieve has sought assurances by letter from the Prime Minister
that the UK Government make an immediate assessment of the number
of British residents on hunger strike, ascertain the gravity of
their medical condition and obtain from the US authorities a guarantee
that an independent body is given access to all the UK residents
on hunger strike. In reply, Mr Jack Straw has indicated that the
US authorities have given assurances to the UK Government that
they are concerned to ensure the welfare of the detainees. Amnesty
International considers the UK Government response to our concerns
to be wholly inadequate. Amnesty International continues to receive
reports of serious deterioration in the conditions of the hunger
strikers, including reports that some of them are "critically
20. We renew our request for proper investigation
of such reports by the UK Government into the condition of the
UK residents as an immediate priority and further, that all information
and responses received should be reported to the families of the
UK residents on hunger strike. It is noted that many of these
family members are British nationals who are making a legitimate
request for information on the status of their family members
from their government representatives. Amnesty International fully
supports these requests.
21. Amnesty International notes that the
individuals on hunger strike have made a personal decision to
refuse food, however, we are extremely concerned about the reports
of force feeding being carried out and note that the demands of
the hunger strikers for proper trial or release are precisely
those required under international law. Amnesty International
considers that the UK Government is failing in its obligations
to the UK residents on hunger strike in Guanta«namo Bay.
190 AND 194-198)
22. We endorse wholeheartedly the view expressed
in the FCO report (page 194) that: "Torture is one of the
worst human rights abuses. As torture is outlawed under general
international law, as well as specific human rights treaties,
when governments condone it, they risk losing their legitimacy
and provoking terrorism."
23. The report also states (page 190) that
the Government "will not deport or extradite any person to
a country where we believe that they will be tortured or where
there is a real risk that they will receive the death penalty."
24. Both of these statements were made,
however, before the Prime Minister's declaration that the "rules
of the game have changed" following the London suicide bomb
25. Amnesty International is deeply concerned
that what we view as the government's disregard for human rights
law when framing anti-terrorism legislation is also now being
reflected in its attempts, both in international and domestic
law, to undermine the absolute prohibition on torture or other
26. In the course of the previous committee's
inquiry on the 2004 report, members pressed hard for information
from the Government on whether or not the UK receives or acts
upon information extracted under torture by a third country (paras
104-106 of the fourth report of session 2004-05 refer). In its
written response to the committee (para 41), the FCO stated that
"it is hard to imagine circumstances in which evidence proved
to have been obtained through torture could make its way into
proceedings." Amnesty International would note, however,
that in July 2003, in the course of an appeal before the Special
Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) against certification under
Part 4 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, counsel
for the internee cross-examined an MI5 security officer (witness
A). "A" made statements to the following effect: that
it was possible that evidence extracted under torture could be
assessed as reliable by MI5, and that, therefore, it could be
relied upon by the Home Secretary in the context of the SIAC proceedings.
27. On 17-19 0ctober 2005, the House of
Lords heard the case of A and others v Secretary of State for
the Home Department on behalf of 10 of the detainees held
under Part 4 of the ATCSA who had challenged their certification
by the Home Secretary as suspected terrorists and risks to national
security. Amnesty International and thirteen other organisations
intervened in the case to seek a ruling that admission as evidence
in any proceedings of statements obtained as a result of torture
or other ill-treatment of any person anywhere is unlawful. Lawyers
for the Government argued (as set out on page 190 of the FCO report)
for the need to be able to use intelligence to avert threats without
knowing exactly how it may have been obtained. The House of Lords
28. A principle inherent to the absolute
prohibition of torture or other ill-treatment is that no one should
ever be sent to a country where they would be at risk of torture
or ill-treatmentthe principle known as non-refoulement.
However, the Government is now actively trying to find ways to
circumvent this principle in order to deport people it deems are
a risk to national security but against whom it maintains not
to have sufficient evidence to support criminal charges.
29. In August and October 2005, the UK concluded
Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with Jordan and Libya that form
the basis on which the UK authorities are taking steps to forcibly
return people to those countries. The Government has also said
that it is currently trying to negotiate further "diplomatic
assurances" with other countries in the Middle East and North
Africa such as Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia. Amnesty International
has documented cases of torture in these countries.
30. Over 20 foreign nationals (nearly all
from Algeria) who are deemed by the Home Secretary to pose a threat
to national security are now detained or held on stringent bail
conditions pending deportation. They include persons previously
detained under Part 4 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security
Act 2001 and then made the subject of Control Orders under the
Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 as well as a number of persons
acquitted in the "ricin plot" trial.
31. Amnesty International has stated publicly
that we will not work with the Government to monitor the treatment
of foreign nationals deported in this manner from Britain. We
consider that such "assurances" are not worth the paper
they are written on. Torture is practiced by states that deny
it. They torture in secret and in violation of legally binding
agreements that they have signed, as well as their own laws. The
only acceptable "diplomatic assurances" come in the
form of credible proof that the state concerned does not practice
torture and follows international standards of fair trials. In
other wordsin cases where "diplomatic assurances"
are not needed. If the UK authorities truly suspect people of
committing serious offences they should charge and try them according
to international fair trial standards instead of attempting to
deport them to a country where they may be tortured.
32. To remove those persons suspected of
involvement with terrorism who are now being detained, the UK
Government will need to convince the domestic courts and the European
Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) that "diplomatic assurances"
remove the risk of being tortured in the receiving country. However,
in the case of Chahal v the UK (1996), the ECtHR ruled
that to return a Sikh separatist to India on national security
grounds where he would face a "real risk" of torture
or ill-treatment was a breach of Article 3 (the prohibition of
torture) under the ECHR. In other words, there was no act or threat
that could justify exposing someone to the real risk of torture
or ill-treatment. However, the Government now argues that the
ECtHR and the domestic courts should adopt a "balanced approach"
weighing national security interests against the risk of torture
or ill-treatment. In the hopes of overturning Chahal, it
has announced its intention to intervene (with Italy, Lithuania,
Portugal and Slovakia) in the case of Ramzy v the Netherlands
(an Algerian national facing deportation from the Netherlands)
that is due to go before the ECtHR next year. It has also intimated
that it would be prepared to amend the Human Rights Act 1998 if
the domestic courts reject the adequacy of "diplomatic assurances"
as a means to remove the risk of torture.
33. Amnesty International is deeply disturbed
at the possibility that the Government could amend its flagship
Human Rights Act in this manner and by its attempts to persuade
other European states to adopt its interpretation. We find it
extraordinary that the UK Government which has been a strong advocate
of the elimination of torture throughout the world should now
undermine such work on two counts (refusing to bar the use of
evidence obtained through torture and seeking to circumvent the
principle of non-refoulement).
34. So far the Government seems only to
have focused its efforts on the domestic and European arenas.
It does not appear to have addressed the question of its obligations
under the UN Convention Against Torture that, on this issue, are
virtually indistinguishable from those under the ECHR. The UN
Special Rapporteur on Torture (Manfred Nowak) has said, in response
to the UK Government's plans that deporting people to countries
where they would be subjected to the risk of torture is absolutely
prohibited under international law, and that diplomatic assurances
should not be used if there is a substantial risk of torture.
As the FCO report states (page 195) "the UN Special Rapporteur
plays an essential role in eliminating torture." Amnesty
International urges the UK government to heed the views of the
Special Rapporteur on Torture and to cease immediately its attempts
to rely on diplomatic assurances to return suspected "terrorists"
to countries that are known to practice torture and other ill-treatment.
UN REFORM (PAGES
35. Amnesty International agrees that this
year is absolutely crucial for the UN. As the FCO concludes, there
needs to be a single global agenda which recognises that: "security,
development and human rights are not competing priorities, but
fundamentally interrelated goals."
36. The World Summit held this September
in New York, provided an opportunity for moving closer to developing
and meeting the goals of that global agenda. We were disappointed
that the minimum essential features for creating a new mechanism,
namely a Human Rights Council, which could ensure that human rights
are respected and protected, were not included in the final Outcome
Document which was agreed at the Summit. We had hoped that strong
supporters of UN reform, like the UK Government, would have done
more to secure agreement on a robust Human Rights Council.
37. Amnesty International does not doubt
the UK Government's commitment to ensuring that the promotion
and protection of human rights is strengthened within the UN system.
Now is the time for the international community, and in particular
leading member states such as the UK, to capitalise on the momentum
of the Summit and build on its positive outcomes, such as the
agreement to create a Human Rights Council and to strengthening
the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR),
through the doubling of its budget. Other positive outcomes which
need to be built on include: the unqualified acceptance by all
states of their collective international responsibility to protect
people from genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity;
strong commitments to end discrimination against women and impunity
for violence against women; and the decision to further mainstream
human rights throughout the UN system.
38. These commitments must be turned into
concrete action. The priority should be the creation of an effective
Human Rights Council. This Council should be a principal organ
of the UN, established at the same level as the UN Security Council,
the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
It should meet regularly, examine all countries and deal with
urgent situations, retain the strengths of the Commission on Human
Rights (ie the unique rules and practices for participation by
NGOs and its system of independent human rights experts, the "Special
Procedures") and have electoral rules that effectively provide
for genuine election of Council membership.
39. Governments must ensure that their resolve
to double the OHCHR's regular budget resources within five years
is translated into specific and substantial budgetary allocations
when the UN budget is adopted in the Fifth Committee later this
year. An upward revision of around US$30 million over the first
two years would be an appropriate start.
40. In order to protect people from genocide,
permanent members of the Security Council should agree not to
exercise their veto when addressing situations of genocide, war
crimes and crimes against humanity. It is unjustifiable that a
document of such historic importance as the Summit document did
not contain any reference to the International Criminal Court
(ICC). Strong supporters of the ICC, like the UK, should stand
firm in their support. A strong ICC could tackle impunity and
do much to protect individuals from the most serious crimes under
international law. To facilitate the work of the ICC all states
that have not yet done so, like the UK, should ratify the Agreement
and Privileges and Immunities of the ICC and implement these into
41. The strong language on gender issues
contained in the Summit document is an achievement. States should
undertake an immediate review of laws that may discriminate against
women and repeal them and ensure the full and effective implementation
of Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.
(PAGES 22-23, 150-153)
Arms trade treaty
42. The development of an international
Arms Trade Treaty, to help curb the flow of arms to those using
them to commit abuses of human rights and international humanitarian
law, remains crucial.
43. The UK Government has taken a lead role
in the promotion of an international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) over
the last year. Such a treaty would create legally binding arms
controls and ensure that all governments control arms transfers
to the same basic international standards. We welcomed the Foreign
Secretary's announcement that the proposed treaty will cover all
conventional weapons, be legally binding
and that negotiations for such a treaty should start no later
Nearly 40 other countries across the world have also pledged their
support for the idea of an international arms trade treaty. The
July 2006 UN review conference on small arms offers a significant
opportunity for further progress towards an ATT next year.
44. However, the fact that the post-G8 communique«
failed to include reference to an ATT and that the final outcome
document at the UN World Summit failed to make reference to arms
control is indicative of the challenges that lie ahead, in persuading
some states to support the ATT. Amnesty International is also
concerned that during the course of difficult negotiations the
treaty could become significantly watered down. However, we are
insistent that to have an effect, the treaty must be legally binding
and consistent with states existing responsibilities under relevant
international law. It is essential therefore that the UK government
remain committed to the ATT and that it actively develops strategies
with both supporter and blocker states in order to achieve international
agreement by next year.
45. The UK government has made a commitment
not to grant arms export licences to countries that fail to uphold
fundamental human rights.
Yet, in the last annual report on arms exports, the UK Government
granted licenses to 19 out of the 20 countries identified as major
countries of concern in the FCO report including, Saudi Arabia,
Israel and China.
46. In addition, the UK has an insufficient
system of end use monitoring in place to ensure that once arms
exports have left the UK, that they are not misused to commit
human rights violations or diverted to other governments or illegal
47. By continuing to export to countries
with major human rights concerns, the UK Government is undermining
the progress it has made in developing a more transparent licensing
system, and its commitment to developing stronger international
export controls. The UK Government should provide an explanation
in its annual report on strategic export controls as to why it
is granting licenses to countries it lists as being of "major
concern" in the FCO human rights report. The Government should
also publish more information on the end use and end users and
implement a formal system of end use monitoring of UK arms exports.
Common Foreign and Security Policy
48. The report emphasises the importance
of the EU guidelines on torture, death penalty, children in armed
conflict and human rights defenders, and includes their implementation
as one of the priorities of the UK Presidency. Amnesty International
is concerned that, on the whole, implementation of the guidelines
remains inadequate and we are calling for more resources to be
allocated to this area of EU work.
49. One of the problems we have encountered
during our research is the lack of access to information. The
UK Presidency should press for the Council's Annual Human Rights
Report to give information on the implementation of the actions
provided for in the EU Guidelines. Annual reports on the human
rights situation prepared by EU Heads of Missions are not currently
made public, so it is not possible to check if they contain relevant
information, such as the situation of human rights defenders.
Mechanisms for documenting actions taken by the EU need to be
established. All the guidelines refer to the use of demarches
to express EU concern, but the FCO report simply refers to "over
100 demarches . . . in a wide range of countries", and that
"many of these focussed on the death penalty." While
we welcome the demarches that have been made on the death penalty,
we are concerned how few appear to have been made on human rights
defenders, torture or children in armed conflict.
50. The EU guidelines on children and armed
conflict are being reviewed under the UK Presidency. The Coalition
to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, of which Amnesty International
is a member, is calling for the establishment of an EU high level
focal point on children and armed conflict, such as the appointment
of a Special Representative, or at least a designated expert to
be based in the office of Michael Matthiessen. We are also calling
for a specific reference to children and armed conflict to be
included in the mandates of the EU regional Special Representatives;
so far this is only the case for the Special Representative for
the Great Lakes, and we feel that this should be extended as a
priority to the mandates of the Special Representatives for Afghanistan,
the Middle East and Sudan.
51. While we welcome the discussions that
Amnesty International has had with the FCO both before and after
the EU-Russia human rights consultations, we hope that the UK
will press for full NGO participation in future consultations.
We were disappointed that public statements by the UK Presidency
during the EU-Russia summit ignored human rights concerns.
52. We welcome the UK Presidency's willingness
to accept a briefing and submission of individual cases prior
to the EU-China human rights dialogue. However, we are concerned
that to date no feedback is provided following these dialogues
and we call on the UK Government to break with this practice and
give an update on progress made on individual cases.
EU AGREEMENTS WITH
53. As the report states, all EU agreements
with third countries now include a human rights clause. As in
previous years, it is stated that these are used as a basis for
dialogue. Amnesty International is calling on the UK Government
to use its Presidency to put monitoring of compliance with the
human rights clause on a more formal basis, with regular and impartial
monitoring of the human rights situation on the ground and the
setting of specific objectives that have to be met. These objectives
could inter alia be taken from recommendations made by UN human
rights bodies. The EU agreements should be a starting point for
mutually agreed and cooperatively implemented programmes to advance
human rights protection in the country concerned.
54. The report welcomes the proposal to
extend the remit of the EU Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia
to encompass human rights. However, the remit of the Fundamental
Rights Agency that is currently being proposed by the EU Commission
is limited to actions by the EU and its Member States when applying
EU lawexcluding the general human rights situation in Member
States where they act autonomously. Amnesty International has
consistently argued against such a minimalist conception of the
agency, and called for its mandate to include human rights compliance
by Member States. There is a strong need for an independent and
competent agency that is empowered to identify the weaknesses
in the existing system of human rights protection within the EU
and to develop a comprehensive and coherent strategy for addressing
Bulgaria and Romania
55. Amnesty International agrees with the
UK Government that there have been positive developments in human
rights protection and promotion in both Bulgaria and Romania in
recent years. However, we still have concerns relating to the
rights of people with mental disabilities, ill-treatment by law
enforcement authorities and discrimination against Roma communities.
We welcome the recognition of these concerns in the report and
the support given by the UK Government for police training. We
are calling on the EU to urge the governments of these two countries
to establish effective systems to monitor psychiatric institutions,
to ensure that full and impartial investigations are conducted
into all cases of shootings by law enforcement officers and that
discriminatory and racist actions do not go unpunished.
56. With regard to the opening of EU membership
talks with Croatia on 4 October, the EU should engage Croatia
to bring its laws and practice into full compliance with recommendations
by the Council of Europe and the UN. The EU should continue to
press and support the Croatian authorities to reform and resource
its domestic judicial system to ensure that all perpetrators of
war crimes and crimes against humanity committee during the 1991-95
conflict are brought to justice, regardless of their ethnicity
or that of the victims.
57. Amnesty International welcomes the human
rights chapters in the European Neighbourhood Action Plans. We
hope that the Action Plans and the establishment of sub-committees
on human rights with Jordan and Morocco will offer platforms for
a sustained engagement of Euromed partners with regard to better
human rights protection. EU-Euromed cooperation on counter-terrorism
and on asylum and immigration must be anchored in full respect
for international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law.
58. Amnesty International notes the UK Government's
continued promotion of women's human rights in the international
fora. In particular we welcome the ratification of the Optional
Protocol of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination Against Women. As legal funding is not available
to make an application under the Optional Protocol, we recommend
that the UK Government publicise the operation of the mechanism
to ensure that the voluntary sector and civil society are able
to utilise the mechanism effectively.
59. Amnesty International also welcomes
the support of the UK Government in reaffirming the commitment
to the Beijing Platform of Action at the 49th session on the Commission
of the Status of Women in March 2005. At the 49th session
a resolution was passed requesting the Secretary General to report
to the Commission on the Status of Women on the implications of
the creation of a Special Rapporteur on Discriminatory Laws at
the 50th session. Amnesty International is greatly concerned at
the failure of many states to implement the Beijing Platform for
Action and requests that the UK government support the appointment
to ensure that both CEDAW and the Beijing Platform for Action
are effectively implemented when this matter is reviewed at the
50th session of the Commission on the Status of Women.
60. Whilst Amnesty International welcomes
the efforts of the UK Government in supporting supply and transit
countries such as Pakistan, Nigeria, Russia and the Philippines
in building their capacity to combat human trafficking and welcomes
the UK Government's own criminal justice responses we remain deeply
concerned about the continued lack of protection for victims of
trafficking within the UK.
61. There are no reliable statistics available
on the numbers of women, men and children who have been trafficked
into the UK. Information from criminal justice agencies and anecdotal
information from NGOs suggest that the majority of those trafficked
are women and girls forced into prostitution, and the problem
is UK wide with the media reporting cases of trafficked women
and girls in Scotland, Lancashire, Birmingham and South West England.
The FCO reports suggests that the Home Office works with a number
of voluntary sector organisations to support such victims. However,
there is only one Home Office funded refuge in the whole of the
UK for women trafficked into sexual exploitation, which has 25
bed spaces that are currently full. There are no designated support
services for children or for men and women trafficked into forced
62. The recent detention of six women in
October 2005 who were suspected of being trafficked into forced
prostitution in Birmingham, highlights the deficiencies in the
UK Government's abilities to identify, support and protect the
victims of trafficking. The Home Office only stayed removal of
these women following pressure from human rights and women's organisations
and still disputes that they have been trafficked despite police
intelligence to the contrary and the fact that two of the women
have been admitted by the Home Office funded refuge which only
admits women identified as trafficked.
63. Amnesty International recognises the
efforts of the UK Government to promote a coordinated EU response
to trafficking within its presidency of the UK and the development
of an EU action plan on trafficking, but believes these efforts
fall short of the measures required to protect the human rights
of trafficked victims. Whilst the support and protection of trafficked
victims in the UK is outside the remit of the FCO, Amnesty International
is concerned at the continued failure of the UK Government to
sign or ratify European wide legal instruments that could improve
the protection trafficked victims receive in the UK.
64. The FCO report refers to the drafting
of the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking
in Human Beings but omits to mention that the Convention was made
open for signature in May 2005. The Convention guarantees
an effective system of identification of trafficked persons, and
for those identified as trafficked, a one month recovery and reflection
period, emergency healthcare, shelter and legal representation
and renewable residence permits and/or the right to asylum for
trafficked persons who are at risk on return. The UK government
opposed the inclusion of the above protections during negotiations
on the drafting of the Convention. To date 15 states have signed
the Convention including Italy, Poland, Iceland and Norway. The
UK Government has not signed the Convention although it has stated
that it may sign in the future if it can ensure the protective
measures will not be abused by illegal entrants.
65. Amnesty International calls upon the
UK Government to support the protection of the rights of trafficked
victims within the UK and internationally by signing the Convention
and encouraging its fellow EU member states to sign the Convention.
66. The UK Government has also chosen not
to opt into the 2004 EU Directive providing short term residence
permits, employment rights, education and training for victims
of trafficking who cooperate with prosecutions of traffickers.
This decision is to be reviewed in April 2006.
67. Amnesty International calls upon the
UK Government to make a decision to opt into the EU Directive
on short-term residence permits for trafficked persons in April
Host Government Agreements
68. Amnesty International acknowledges the
FCO's view that "companies and other stakeholders can play
an important role in working with states to create frameworks
to help promote good human rights observance". Yet recent
research by Amnesty International indicates that companies also
have the potential to have the opposite effect.
69. In its recent report "Contracting
Out of Human Rightsthe Chad-Cameroon Pipeline Project",
Amnesty International outlines the potential dangers to human
rights posed by the private investment agreements underpinning
the project that have been agreed between the Exxon-Mobil-led
consortium and the governments of Chad and Cameroon.
70. These investment agreements, known as
"host government" agreements risk seriously undermining
the ability and willingness of Chad and Cameroon to protect their
citizens' human rights, and illustrate how companies are inserting
themselves into the heart of governance. Whilst "stabilisation
clauses" and similar provisionsdesigned to reduce
financial and political risks posed to foreign investors by sudden
changes in national lawsare common in agreements between
companies and countries hosting large projects, Amnesty International
is concerned that the breadth of these provisions may undermine
human rights and the administration of justice. Chad and Cameroon
may have to pay large financial penalties if they ever interrupt
the operation of the pipeline or oil fieldseven when making
an intervention to protect rights and enforce laws that apply
elsewhere in their countries. This is likely to deter the states
from initiating legal proceedings against the consortium of oil
companies for malpractice. It also compromises the ability of
individuals adversely affected by the pipeline to obtain redress.
71. Amnesty International is calling for
a new approach to investment that ensures respect for human rights.
We urge the UK Government to require the Export Credits Guarantee
Department and UK companies to ensure that their investment policies
and practices are consistent with a host government's obligations
to improve human rights protection over time, and make such agreements
available for public scrutiny before they become effective. As
a shareholder in the World Bank, it should also ensure that the
World Bank does not support projects underpinned by legal agreements
that could undermine the ability of the host state to meet its
international human rights obligations.
THE UN SPECIAL
72. Amnesty International welcomes the efforts
of the UK Government to achieve consensus on the resolution it
tabled and which was subsequently passed at the Commission on
Human Rights in April 2005 calling for the appointment of a Special
Representative on business and human rights. Regarding the mandate
of the Special Representative, we share the FCO's desire to see
"an outcome that will require multinationals to support,
rather than inhibit, respect for human rights through their activities".
However, we believe that the subsequent assertion that "only
states hold obligations under human rights law" can no longer
be credibly maintained.
73. There is a growing acceptance that international
human rights treaties create obligationsat least indirectlyon
companies. The allocation of responsibilities between government
and business is evolving and developing, and there is a clear
trend to extend human rights obligations beyond states, including
to individuals (for international crimes), armed groups, international
organisations, and companies.
74. While national law remains the most
important means of ensuring legal accountability in relation to
companies' impacts, systems of regulation are inadequate in many
countries, either because the legal framework itself is weak or
because there is an absence of effective enforcement mechanisms.
Many national governments are often unwilling, constrained or
simply unable to hold companies operating in their country to
account for their adverse impacts. Amnesty International therefore
urges the UK Government to support the development of an international
human rights framework that can be applied to companies directly,
acting as a catalyst for national legal reform and serving as
a benchmark for national law and regulations. The starting point
for the development of such a framework should be the UN Norms
on the responsibilities of transnational corporations and other
business enterprises with regard to human rights.
75. Amnesty International welcomes the Government's
continued abolitionist stance on the death penalty worldwide and
we welcome the continued movement towards our universal abolitionist
goal by a number of states. Both Mexico and Liberia have abolished
the death penalty for all crimes in 2005, bringing the total number
of abolitionist countries, either in law or practice, to 121.
76. Amnesty International has continued
to campaign to stop the execution of child offenders. As a result
we have been focusing our work on Iran, who continues to execute
individuals for crimes committed when they were under the age
of 18. So far in 2005 Amnesty International is aware of six
juveniles executed by the Iranian authorities. This is in direct
conflict with its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights
of the Child. Amnesty International recommends that the UK address
the issue of child executions worldwide in line with the FCO focus
on "reducing the application of the death penalty".
We look forward to a continued commitment from the Government
to achieving an end to this practice, including the encouragement
and support for the implementation of legislation making the execution
of child offenders illegal, in accordance with international human
77. A major achievement in the past year
has been the ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States,
on 1 March, that the execution of juveniles was unconstitutional.
The decision means that the lives of over 70 child offenders currently
on US death rows would be spared and no others would be sentenced
to death. However, the United States continues to undertake executions
and at the time of writing the USA is on the brink of carrying
out its 100th execution since 1977. Amnesty International
recommends that the UK Government urge the United States to abolish
the death penalty in all states for all crimes, in accordance
with its stated abolitionist stance.
78. Amnesty International UK continues to
campaign on the case of Kenny Richey, a joint UK-US national on
death row in Ohio. There have been numerous developments in Mr
Richey's case in the past year and we have continued to raise
his case directly with the FCO. He may now face a retrial and
we encourage the FCO to file further Amicus Briefs in the case
where possible and appropriate. Amnesty International recommends
that the UK Government make representations to the State of Ohio
regarding the case of Kenny Richey at every available opportunity.
We would also recommend that the UK Government develop a transparent,
consistent and codified strategy for representation and intervention
on all cases of British nationals on death row worldwide.
79. The report emphasises the importance
of bilateral discussions as a means for the UK to raise human
rights concerns with China, but seems to express a sense of frustration
at a lack of substantive progress on most issues. While we do
not oppose the "human rights dialogue" between the UK
and China, we are concerned that this process alone is not leading
to significant, tangible human rights advances in China. The UK
Government should develop specific benchmarks against which to
measure progress by China within an agreed timeframe, and retain
the option of reviewing the dialogue approach if this is not yielding
significant results. This should also be accompanied by public
criticism where necessary.
80. We encourage the UK Government to continue
to press the Chinese authorities for a timetable for the ratification
of the ICCPR, and for the lifting of China's reservation to Article
8.1A of the ICESCR (the right to form trade unions and join the
trade union of choice).
81. China's extensive use of the death penalty,
often following unfair trials, continues to be of serious concern,
as indicated also by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
during her recent visit to China. While
Amnesty International welcomes the reinstatement of Supreme Court
review of death sentences, we are concerned that this may have
the adverse effect of further entrenching the death penalty in
the Chinese criminal justice system. As a genuine step towards
abolition, this needs to be accompanied by other measures, including
full transparency in the use of the death penalty and a reduction
in the number of crimes carrying the death sentence, which is
still applicable to numerous non-violent offences. The UK Government
should also continue to press the Chinese authorities to publish
full and detailed statistics on all executions, and urge them
to introduce a moratorium on the death penalty, as a first step
82. The problem regarding the death penalty
is compounded by the numerous deficiencies of the Chinese justice
system, which continues to be characterised by "confessions"
extracted through torture, limited access to lawyers, extensive
corruption, lack of transparency and political interference in
the judicial process, giving rise to gross miscarriages of justice.
A first step in reforming the Chinese judicial system should be
the abolition of the system of Political and Legal Commissions,
which institutionalises the supremacy of the Chinese Communist
Party over the law, followed by an increase in resources for training
judges and lawyers and a further strengthening of legal aid, particularly
in rural areas, where access to justice is limited. The practice
of Re-education through Labour (RTL) should also be abolished.
83. Vague legal provisions continue to be
used to criminalise the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression
and association, and the lengthy prison sentences imposed have
given rise to a climate of self-censorship. The rise in internet
surveillance and censorship in recent years has particularly restricted
freedom of expression and access to information. As a first step,
the Chinese authorities should eliminate the requirement for media
organisations to have a Government sponsor to obtain a licence,
as well as the requirement for all internet companies to sign
a pledge of self-censorship and for internet cafes to check the
identities of their customers.
84. Specific groups continue to be targeted
through abusive applications of laws relating to "subversion"
and "state secrets", including the Falun Gong, unofficial
religious groups and peaceful dissenters in Tibet and Xinjiang.
In particular, China's "Strike Hard" campaign in Xinjiang,
which was publicly renewed in May this year, continues to result
in harassment and arbitrary detention of Uighur peaceful protesters
and dissenters, often described as "religious extremists"
85. Amnesty International also continues
to be very concerned about China's forcible return of North Korean
asylum-seekers, many of whom have a very strong claim to asylum.
86. Amnesty International urges the UK Government
to continue to press for the release of numerous prisoners of
conscience held by the Chinese authorities, including Zheng Enchong.
We have also documented a disturbing pattern of harrassment and
detention of the relatives and associates of Rebiya Kadeer. Two
of her former employees, Ruzi Mamat and Aysham Kerim, remain in
detention without charge since May this year, and Chinese authorities
have tried to threaten her son Alim Abdiriyim into signing a false
statement against her. They have also reportedly set up a police
unit solely to keep her family under surveillance. Since Rebiya
Kadeer's release in March this year, the Chinese authorities have
gone to great lengths to try to tarnish her reputation by publicly
asserting that she has since engaged in `terrorist and secessionist
activities'. In a meeting requested with Amnesty International
Netherlands in October this year, the Chinese Embassy in the Netherlands
claimed she has links with Osama bin Laden, among other matters.
The UK Government must unequivocally call on the Chinese authorities
to end the harassment of Rebiya Kadeer's family, and produce hard
evidence to support their claims against her or cease making these
claims. Her former employees should be charged with a recognisably
criminal offence or released immediately.
87. Preparations for the Beijing Olympics
have also resulted in human rights abuses, particularly forced
evictions without offers of compensation. While the Chinese authorities
have hailed the Olympics as an important opportunity for human
rights improvement, their lofty statements have not been matched
by an improvement in their practices, which on the whole continue
to disregard people's basic human rights.
88. Amnesty International welcomes the fact
that the EU has made progress on human rights a prerequisite for
lifting its arms embargo. In this respect, a key requirement must
be the release of the dozens of people still held in connection
with the 1989 pro-democracy protests, accompanied by a full, public
enquiry into the events of Tiananmen Square, and an end to the
imprisonment and harassment of relatives of victims and of those
who call for an end to impunity in connection with those events.
89. Amnesty International would also request
that the UK Government press the Chinese authorities to grant
access to China to international human rights organisations, including
Amnesty International, to carry out research and other human rights-related
46-49 AND 150-151)
90. In June 2005, Colombia's congress approved
the Justice and Peace Law, which aims to regulate the current
demobilisation of paramilitaries by granting them significantly
reduced prison sentences and possibly even de facto amnesties.
Whilst Amnesty International has repeatedly called on successive
Colombian Governments to disband paramilitary groups and break
the links between them and security forces we believe this legislation
fails to conform to international standards on the right to truth,
justice and reparation.
91. The UK Government, as President of the
EU, recently agreed EU Council Conclusions, which provide political
(and subsequent economic) support for this demobilisation process.
This is despite an earlier commitment by the UK in the FCO report
that states that the Colombian Government "must recognise
the rights of victims to truth, justice and reparation in a comprehensive
legal framework covering the demobilisation of illegal armed groups."
(page 49) EU support for a fundamentally flawed piece of legislation
is deeply worrying.
92. Amnesty International is concerned that
the real aim of the law is not only to guarantee the impunity
of paramilitaries and their political and financial backers implicated
in human rights violations, by failing to ensure they are subject
to full and impartial judicial investigations, but that it is
also facilitating the "recycling" of illegal combatants
into the conflictit appears that ex-paramilitaries are
recruited into Government informer networks and as armed guards.
Essentially the law is facilitating the re-emergence of paramilitarism
under a new legal guise.
93. UK support for Colombia's Justice and
Peace Law is contrary to both its own commitments to upholding
the rule of law in Colombia and to the UN Commission on Human
Rights recommendations. Instead of giving legitimacy to this law,
the UK Government should insist upon full implementation of Colombia's
UN CHR human rights recommendations.
94. The UK Government provides a variety
of military assistance to the Colombian Government despite the
continuing links between the army and paramilitary groups. And
despite elements within the Armed Forces continuing to carry out
extra judicial executions and torture.
95. In the latest quarterly report on UK
arms exports, licences were granted for equipment including heavy
machine guns and components for combat helicopters. As is the
case for all UK exports there is no formal end use monitoring
of these licences. The UK Government also provide human rights
training to the Colombian military. Whilst Amnesty International
welcome efforts towards security sector reform, there is very
little monitoring of the effectiveness of this training. The only
informal guarantee that military authorities benefiting from this
assistance are not engaged in activities that violate human rights,
aid internal repression or collude with paramilitary organisations
is, according to the FCO report, via "personal interviews
and background checks" (page 49).
96. Amnesty International believes that
the UK Government should not provide Colombia with military assistance
until it fully complies with the UN Commission on Human Rights
recommendations. Until then there can be no guarantee that such
transfers will not result in serious human rights violations carried
out by the Colombian army or the paramilitaries. In addition,
the UK Government should formalise an effective monitoring process
of military assistance already provided.
97. The FCO annual report states that "we
attach particular importance to the swift and effective implementation
of the UN recommendations" (page 47). The Chair's statement
adopted by this year's UN Commission on Human Rights called on
the Colombian Government to adopt a timetable for implementing
the UN recommendations on Colombia in the first half of 2005 and
to implement a human rights plan by December 2005. We are, however,
concerned that similar calls in the past have failed to yield
98. Amnesty International welcomes therefore,
the willingness expressed by the EU, in the latest Council Conclusions,
to discuss mid-year progress made by the Colombian Government
on implementation of the UN recommendations together with the
UNHCHR. We urge the UK Government to ensure that this leads to
their full implementation.
(DRC) (PAGES 52-54)
99. Amnesty International agrees that: "overall
there has been very little progress on human rights in the DRC."
Over the period of the FCO report Amnesty International has documented:
increased ethnic tension; a climate of impunity and fear; large-scale
human rights abuses including rape and attacks on human rights
defenders and; the proliferation of arms, in direct violation
on the UN's embargo on the transfer of arms to the DRC. The continuation
of large-scale human rights abuses in the country is driven by
the Government's failure to address impunity and to ensure the
accountability of its armed forces, which are now undergoing a
process of integration and unification.
100. The international community and the
Government of the DRC are currently focused on organising nationwide
elections for early 2006. Amnesty International is concerned that
essential reforms and safeguards aimed at ensuring that the elections
are capable of being held in free, fair and safe conditions may
be overlooked. Human rights violations linked to the elections
are already on the increase. Without peace and stability based
on a respect for human rights, the possibility of holding free
and fair elections is greatly diminished.
101. The FCO is right to single out the
human rights situation across eastern DRC as particularly worrying.
North Kivu remains a volatile area where local, national and regional
tensions, as well as rival political and economic ambitions, are
fought and played out. The province contains the intersecting
zones of control of different Congolese armed political groups,
built largely on ethnic loyalties. The situation in the province
has been aggravated by the failure so far to integrate all the
military forces in the province into the national army, and to
bring to justice those responsible for multiple human rights abuses,
including the mass killings of civilians in Nyabiondo and Buramba
in December 2004. Success of the transition to peace will depend
to a large extent on ensuring a peaceful and just solution to
the underlying crisis in North Kivu.
102. Amnesty International believes that
the UK Government should focus its attention on ensuring that
the Government of the DRC takes concrete action to address human
rights abuses. The Government must prioritise the integration
of the national army and the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration
processes, which are essential to introducing greater security
in the east. Progress on this has been painfully slow and this
carries a terrible human cost: an estimated 31,000 Congolese are
dying every month from direct violence or from preventable diseases
and starvation brought about by insecurity, displacement and lack
of access to humanitarian and medical care.
103. Army unification and security sector
reform must take place promptly and in line with human rights
principles. An independent vetting mechanism to ensure that suspected
perpetrators of human rights violations are excluded from the
national army and other security services is essential. In addition,
the national army should be supported, through training and other
measures, to become a professional and impartial force capable
of upholding human rights and international humanitarian law.
104. The UK Government should continue to
press the DRC Government, and assist it materially, to rehabilitate
the civilian justice system across the country and ensure its
independence and efficacy, as an essential measure in ending impunity.
105. In its role as EU President, it should
push for implementation of the EU's foreign policy human rights
guidelines particularly those on the protection of human rights
defenders, the death penalty, children in armed conflict, torture
and prison conditions.
106. It is also crucial that the UK Government
and the international community continue to apply pressure on
Rwanda and Uganda, to refrain from actions which destabilise the
DRC and result in even more human rights abuses occurring. In
particular, both states should be pressed to end all support to
armed groups in the DRC and to abide fully by the UN arms embargo
on the DRC and to cooperate with the UN Group of Experts charged
with monitoring compliance with the embargo. Encouraging the disarmament
and repatriation of foreign armed groups in eastern DRC, themselves
responsible for grave human rights abuses, is essential to engendering
better relations between states in the region.
107. Amnesty International is encouraged
that the UK Government is consistently calling on the UN Mission
in the DRC (MONUC) to take a robust approach in dealing with the
militias that cause so many of the human rights abuses. MONUC's
peace-keeping response has been inadequate. Despite the clarity
of its mandate MONUC has failed on several occasions to protect
civilians from human rights abuses. All too often its peacekeepers
have either not intervened at all to avert attacks or have arrived
too late on the scene to offer meaningful protection.
108. Amnesty International would question
the broadly positive tone of the FCO report on Iraq. The overall
human rights situation in the country remains of grave concern.
While we welcome the various forms of assistance which the UK
is providing to Iraq on human rights matters, including police
training, the report makes these the main focus of this section,
as opposed to the numerous and serious human rights concerns in
109. The security situation throughout the
country, with the possible exception of the Kurdish-controlled
area in the north, has seen no signs of improvement over the past
year. It remains characterised by numerous instances of armed
violence and widespread and serious attacks against civilians,
mostly carried out by insurgent groups. We have no evidence to
support the FCO's belief that "the number of attacks continues
to decline" (page 61): there has been no reduction in terrorist
attacks, and insurgent groups have continued to kidnap and execute
civilian hostages. Amnesty International strongly condemns all
attacks against civilians, including kidnappings and executions
by insurgent groups.
110. Because of the seriousness of the current
situation throughout the country, Amnesty International is troubled
at the UK Government's plans to deport failed Iraqi asylum-seekers
to parts of Iraq which we feel are neither safe nor stable. The
UK Government should refrain from forcibly deporting any failed
Iraqi asylum-seeker to any part of Iraq.
111. Amnesty International has expressed
grave concern at reports of killings of civilians and violations
of the laws of war by all parties over the past year. The report
makes no mention of the intense and sustained attack that US forces
launched on Fallujah in November 2004 which raised serious concerns
about grave violations of human rights and the laws of war. Amnesty
International has received numerous reports of killings of civilians,
disproportionate use of force, extrajudicial executions and serious
restrictions on access to humanitarian aid on the part of US forces.
Amnesty International would ask what discussions the UK Government
has had with the US authorities on observance of the laws of war
112. Amnesty International continues to
be very concerned about reports of torture and ill-treatment in
detention, and the failure of members of the Multinational Force
to conduct genuinely transparent, impartial and independent investigations
into all allegations of abuse of detainees by its forces. All
allegations of abuse must be properly investigated and those responsible
brought to trial.
113. We are particularly concerned by abuse
and ill-treatment of detainees by US forces in Iraq. The report
seems to wish to shield the US from responsibility, and states
that "by May 2005 the US had conducted five substantial enquiries"
into prisoner abuse. Amnesty International does not believe that
these investigations were sufficiently thorough, transparent or
independent, and disagrees with the assertion that the abuse at
Abu Ghraib was the result of "a few sadistic individuals"
and not "the result of US policy or procedures" (page
63): Major General Taguba's report into allegations of abuse at
Abu Ghraib found "systematic and illegal abuse of detainees",
and there is reason to believe that such abuse continues to be
practiced systematically by US forces not only in Iraq but other
detention facilities under US control, notably Guantanamo Bay.
In addition, we have grave concerns about the continuing existence
of "ghost detainees", whom the US authorities wish to
hide from the International Committee of the Red Cross and who
are held incomunicado, and therefore at a high risk of torture
114. The UK Government has a clear obligation
under the Geneva Conventions not only to refrain from abusing
or ill-treating detainees under its control, but to ensure that
its allies do so as well. Amnesty International urges the UK Government
to seek a public and verifiable statement from the US Government
that abusive practices against detainees under its control, including
the practice of holding "ghost detainees", have ceased
and that all allegations of abuse will be duly investigated and
those responsible brought to justice.
115. Amnesty International has also received
various reports of torture by Iraqi police. At least 12 men have
died in police custody this year, many of them showing signs of
torture, including electric shocks. In April, Iraqi national television
broadcasted "confessions" by alleged "terrorists".
These men appeared to have been held incommunicado and showed
signs of torture or ill-treatment. The UK Government should urge
the Iraqi authorities to ensure that all allegations of torture
and cases of death in police custody are duly investigated and
those responsible brought to justice.
116. Amnesty International continues to
be deeply concerned about the large number of people held without
charge in prisons controlled by US and UK forces, often for long
periods of time and without access to a lawyer or their family.
We are also very concerned at the continuing practice of internment:
the UK should ensure that all detainees, including those held
by US forces, have their case resolved in the shortest possible
timeframe. All those detained in Iraq should be charged with a
recognisably criminal offence, given access to a lawyer and their
family, and be brought before a judge within a reasonable amount
of time, or released.
117. The trial of Saddam Hussein for crimes
against humanity began on 19 October this year. Amnesty International
has sent observers to the trial. Before the trial commenced we
expressed serious concerns about the trial proceedings, as well
as the rules and statute of the Iraqi Special Tribunal, which
are not fully consistent with international law: in particular,
they omit essential guarantees of the right to a fair trial, and
reveal irregularities in the procedures for the appointment and
removal of judges and prosecutors. Saddam Hussein's defence counsel
also did not receive crucial information about the trial and charges
against him until very late. It is important that justice is done
and seen to be done, so that Saddam Hussein receives a visibly
fair trial. In particular, his defence counsel must be given access
to all relevant documentation, including the details of the prosecution's
case, well in advance of the relevant hearings.
118. Amnesty International condemns the
reinstatement of the death penalty by the Iraqi interim government
as a deeply retrograde step, and deplores the execution of three
men on 2 Septemberthe first judicial executions since Saddam
Hussein's rule. At least 50 people have been sentenced to death
in recent months. Amnesty International is pleased to know that
the UK Government has urged the Iraqi Government not to lift the
suspension on the death penalty, and strongly encourages it to
continue to urge the Iraqi government to abandon the death penalty,
or at least impose a moratorium. The Iraqi Special Tribunal trying
Saddam and others should not impose the death penalty. Is the
UK Government content that its representations so far seem to
have been treated so lightly?
119. The section on women's rights lists
a number of welcome developments but paints a much rosier picture
overall than Amnesty International is able to confirm. As we pointed
out in our submission last year, there has been a worrying increase
in discrimination and violence against women in Iraq following
the war. The extremely volatile security situation has meant that
many women continue to live under constant fear of being beaten,
abducted, raped or murdered by armed groupsor relatives,
in the case of "crimes of honour". There have been numerous
threats and physical attacks against women's rights campaigners
and female political leaders over the past year and many women
have been forced to give up their work and their studies because
of fears for personal safety. One prominent women's rights activist
and government advisor, Amal al-Ma'malji, was killed in an attack
on her car in November 2004.
120. Amnesty International is also concerned
that certain parts of the new Iraqi constitution, which states
that Islam is the main source of legislation, may be interpreted
as allowing practices, which discriminate against women and violate
and restrict women's human rights. The UK Government should urge
the Iraqi government to remove discriminatory legislation in Iraqi
law and take all necessary measures to ensure that gender-based
violence is thoroughly investigated and punished according to
121. Amnesty International shares many of
the concerns raised in the FCO report. However, we believe that
the report misses out some vital points of information that illustrate
the seriousness of the situation.
122. Punitive house demolitions have not
been limited to demolishing the houses of suicide bombers. The
houses of those who have been accused, though not convicted of
involvement in attacks, have also been targeted. In addition,
most of the homes and other properties that have been demolished
have been for "military/security" reasons and for lack
of building permits. Although the demolition of the houses of
suicide bombers has been suspended, demolitions for these other
123. The problem of impunity is understated
in the report. To date, not a single Israeli soldier or member
of other security forces has been indicted for murder. The conviction
for manslaughter of the Israeli soldier for the murder of UK activist
Tom Hurndall is an exception. More than 3,200 Palestinians have
been killed by Israeli forces in the past five years, many unlawfully.
In the same period Palestinian armed groups have killed some 1,000
Israelis and many Palestinians in Israel have been convicted on
charges of involvement in these particular attacks.
124. The removal of some 8,000 settlers
from the Gaza strip and from four small settlements in the north
of the West Bank is a positive development. However, it is crucial
to counterbalance this against the fact that the Israeli Government
has, at the same time as these removals, stepped up its expansion
of settlements and infrastructure, including roads for settlers,
throughout the West Bank. More than 400,000 Israeli settlers continue
to live in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in violation
of international law, and that number has grown by some 10,000
in the past year. This has happened during the period covered
by the FCO report, yet there is no reference to it.
125. The report highlights concern over
the building of the Israeli barrier. 85% of the fence/wall is
being built on occupied Palestinian land inside the West Bank.
126. The report states that "Israel
cannot always justify the degree of restriction on people's freedom
of movement on security grounds". This is another understatement.
The overwhelming majority of restrictions imposed on Palestinians
inside the West Bank, ie not between the West Bank and Israel,
are imposed to prevent Palestinians from entering or being near
to Israeli settlements and settlers' roads in order to protect
the privileged status of settlements. This violates international
127. The report rightly mentions that from
31 August 2004 to 31 March 2005 27 Israelis were killed in armed
Palestinian attacks, including suicide bombings (in that period
18 Israeli soldiers were also killed by Palestinian gunmen). The
report does not mention that in the same period, Israeli forces
killed some 420 Palestinians, many of them unarmed and including
more than 80 children. That is an unfortunate omission.
128. In terms of the Palestinian Authority
(PA) the report focuses more on political developments than human
rights. The administration of justice remains our main concern
and in particular the use of the death penalty, detentions without
trial, lack of proper law-enforcement and widespread impunity
within the PA. The report predicts an improvement in "Palestinian
capabilities to reduce human rights abuse". Rather the opposite
has happened since the report was issued. While recognising that
in the West Bank the ability of the PA security forces is severely
curtailed by restrictions imposed by Israel, the PA should not
use this as a pretext to avoid taking even those measures it can
129. With regard to the Gaza Strip, the
UK Government should demand that Israel ensures freedom of movement
(for persons and goods) for Palestinians between the Gaza Strip
and the West Bank and, so long as it continues to control the
border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, allows freedom of movement
for Palestinians across that border.
130. The UK Government should also demand
that Israel takes concrete measures to end impunity for members
of its forces. Pressure does work, as eventually seen in the case
of the soldier who killed Tom Hurndall. The UK should demand and
push for justice for the hundreds of Palestinian children and
other unarmed civilians killed by Israeli forces when they did
not pose any threat.
131. We were dismayed by the failure of
the UK authorities to arrest the Israeli army General Doron Almog,
when he arrived at London's Heathrow airport in September. A warrant
for the general's arrest for alleged war crimes had been issued
before his arrival.The UK authorities failure to arrest him was
a clear violation of its obligations under both national and international
law. The UK Government should be setting an example. Its failure
in this case raises questions about the Government's commitment
to tackling its human rights concerns.
132. The UK Government needs to take the
lead as the most influential EU member on Middle East policy to
demand concrete measurable action from Israel including: an immediate
end to the building and expansion of its settlements and to the
construction of the fence/wall inside the West Bank, including
in and around East Jerusalem; measures to evacuate settlers living
there; and a dismantling of those sections of the fence/wall already
133. The UK government should demand that
the PA put in place concrete and effective mechanisms to: prevent
abuses; investigate killings, abductions and other attacks, and;
bring those responsible to justice in trials which comply with
international standards for fair trial. The UK Government should
be more vocal in calling on the PA not to execute any more people.
134. On the whole, the FCO report addresses
Amnesty International's main concerns relating to Russia.
135. Numerous human rights abuses continue
to occur in the context of ongoing fighting in the North Caucasus.
Amnesty International strongly condemns all attacks against civilians,
including all instances of hostage-taking and executions by armed
groups, such as the tragic events of Beslan.
136. Russian security forces continue to
commit serious and widespread human rights abuses as part of their
counter-terrorist operations in Chechnya and the North Caucasus,
including "disappearances", torture and arbitrary and
incommunicado detention. Impunity for these abuses remains rampant:
although some investigations have been opened, they are very rare
and far from independent and transparent, and there have been
only two convictions of members of the Russian forces for crimes
against civilians in Chechnya so far.
137. During Amnesty International's latest
trip to the region, in September 2005, our delegates received
numerous reports of people being arbitrarily detained and held
in incommunicado detention, where they are subjected to torture
and ill-treatment in order to force them to confess to crimes
they did not commit. Many people have been detained in Chechnya
since January 2005 in a series of raids, allegedly by security
forces under the jurisdiction of the first Deputy Minister of
Chechnya. All allegations of abuse by security forces must be
independently investigated and those responsible brought to justice.
138. Amnesty International welcomes the
current dialogue between the EU and Russia on human rights matters.
We urge the UK Government and the EU to pursue these discussions
in earnest and with renewed vigour over the coming year, involving
human rights NGOs in both countries as much as possible.
139. Harassment of human rights NGOs in
Russia, including threats and unwarranted criminal investigations,
is of particular concern. Amnesty International is closely following
the case of Stanislav Dmitrievskii of the Russian-Chechen Friendship
Society, who is currently on trial for "incitement to enmity
or hatred". The Russian authorities must cease immediately
all harassment of human rights organisations and human rights
defenders. The UK Government should encourage the Russian authorities
to accept human rights NGOs as partners, and not look at them
with suspicion and distrust.
140. Freedom of expression in Russia remains
a major concern as outlined in the FCO report. Although the situation
could clearly be worse, the fact that "the authorities have
yet to crack down on dissent on the internet" (page 75),
among other things, does not in our view qualify as a "positive
141. Increased instances of racism and xenophobia
are also of concern. Although there have been some positive developments
in the authorities' willingness to condemn, investigate and punish
racist and xenophobic attacks, more proactive and preventive measures
should be taken to create a climate where these attitudes cannot
142. Unlike last year, the report makes
no mention of violence against women as an important concern in
relation to Russia. The conflict in Chechnya disproportionately
affects women, and levels of domestic violence remain alarmingly
high in the rest of the country. We are concerned at the absence
of material on this issue and wonder why this is the case.
143. Amnesty International agrees that the
signing of the comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) on 9 January
2005 was a major step, contributing to the end of more than 21
years of conflict. But that step has been largely overshadowed
by the continuing conflict in Darfur. The tragedy of Darfur, which
worsened during 2003 while international powers concentrated on
the North-South peace process, shows the dangers of sacrificing
concerns for human rights for the sake of a negotiated peace.
Neither peace nor greater respect for human rights has been achieved.
144. On 30 June 2005, the Sudanese Government
reiterated its promise to end the state of emergency, but only
in parts of the country, and to release political prisoners. The
Government also promised to release all those detained in connection
with the conflict in Darfur, as agreed under the 9 November 2004
agreement reached between the government and the Sudan Liberation
Army (SLA) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). Only a few
have been released and over 300 remain in detention.
145. The FCO report is accurate in its conclusion
that "the humanitarian situation in Darfur is dire."
The human rights situation is also dire. Notwithstanding the widespread
international attention on Darfur, the displaced and those still
living in rural areas of Darfur remain unprotected. Increasingly,
humanitarian organisations are also coming under attack, undermining
their vital activities in the region.
146. The UK Government has played a key
role in responding to the crisis in Darfur. It was instrumental
in securing UN Security Council resolution 1593 which referred
the situation in Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC)
also, under the auspices of the EU and the African group, the
resolution at the UN Commission for Human Rights. Ministers continue
to give their attention to this conflict, as exemplified by the
recent visits to Darfur by the International Development Secretary
Hilary Benn and the FCO Minister for Africa, Lord Triesman. It
is crucial that the UK Government ensures that the situation in
Darfur remains high up its agenda and that it continues to apply
pressure on the government of Sudan.
147. In particular the UK Government should:
continue to support the work of the
Sudanese Organisation Against Torture (SOAT) and other human rights
defenders in Sudan. The Government of Sudan targets human rights
groups and activists. In early October 2005 Amnesty International
learnt of the Sudanese Government's launch of legal proceedings
against SOAT in an apparent attempt to silence that organisation;
push for the Government of Sudan
to fulfil its human rights obligations under the comprehensive
peace agreement. As the FCO report highlights, the CPA contains
provisions to address the human rights situation in Sudan. It
commits Sudan to ratify and implement, amongst other things, the
right to life, the right not to be arbitrarily arrested and the
right not to be tortured. Yet everyday these rights are violated.
Therefore, it remains crucial that the Government in Sudan is
not only reminded of its obligations but also held responsible
for failing to implement them;
call on the Government of Sudan to
adhere to it promise to release political detainees;
call on the Government of Sudan to
tackle impunity. Sudan's interim constitution grants immunity
for a range of officials at the highest levels of government.
This is unacceptable, particularly given the gravity of human
rights crimes committed, some of which constitute crimes against
push for and support reform of the
judicial system in Sudan. The ICC is charged with investigating
and prosecuting individuals with regards to the serious crimes
committed in Darfur. In the short-term this is a very positive
outcome. But in the long term the entire Sudanese judicial system
will need to be reformed if justice is to be done.
148. Amnesty International agrees with the
FCO report that in the end "only the Sudanese can bring peace
to Sudan. But the international community has an important role
to play . . .". Until the Government of Sudan respects the
human rights of its people, the protection of the population will
rest largely with outside monitoring and peacekeeping forces.
Therefore it remains crucial that the UK Government supports both
the AU and UN missions in Sudan. A secure environment for refugees
and internally displaced persons remains the priority.
149. We would welcome any intervention that
the FCO could make to the Sudanese Government on granting Amnesty
International access to Northern Sudan and Darfur. It was the
Secretary of State's timely intervention which resulted in Amnesty
International gaining access to Darfur in March 2004. Since that
visit, our requests for visas have been rejected. We have recently
visited the Southern Sudan area, currently being administered
by the SPLM but do not have access to other parts of the country.
150. Amnesty International has welcomed
the Turkish Government's commitment to bring Turkish laws relating
to the protection of human rights into line with international
standards. We feel that there has been a slowing of the reform
process however, and a failure to build upon previous achievements.
The opening of negotiations on Turkey's full accession to the
EU, this October, offers opportunities for further progress.
151. For Turkey to make effective progress
in implementing its human rights commitments, reform of its human
rights institutions is essential. At the moment there is an absence
in Turkey of independent and effective institutions that will
promote and protect human rights, including through effective
investigation of patterns of human rights concerns and individuals'
complaints about human rights violations they have suffered, and
through making recommendations accordingly. Amnesty International
understands that both the widely-criticised national and regional
Human Rights Boards attached to the Prime Ministry and the Human
Rights Advisory Board have ceased effective operation. We therefore
urge the Turkish Government to give priority to drafting national
legislation on National Human Rights Institutions such as an Ombudsman
and Commissions. The UK Government should apply pressure on Turkey
to ensure that such institutions conform to the UN Paris Principles
to ensure they have the power to investigate on their own initiative.
152. The new Turkish Penal Code (TPC) that
entered into force in June contained many positive aspectsmost
obviously in connection to provisions that should, if implemented,
improve significantly the level of protection from violence for
women in Turkey. However, we believe that Turkish lawincluding
the new TPCstill contains numerous provisions that may
be used to restrict the right to freedom of expression in a way
that is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Article 159 of the previous TPC which criminalises "insults"
against various state institutions and which has been used to
prosecute and imprison those that have made peaceful criticisms
has been carried over into the new TPC as Article 301. This provision
has already gained notoriety as it has been used to open a trial
against the writer Orhan Pamuk for "insulting Turkishness".
Many other less high-profile trials have been opened against those
that have articulated peaceful, albeit controversial, views. The
existence of such unnecessarily restrictive provisions offers
ample pretexts to prosecutors to initiate legal proceedings that
violate Turkey's responsibilities under international law. Turkey's
legal provisions for the right to freedom of expression must therefore
be strengthened furthermost obviously by abolishing Article
301and made compatible with international law. Existing
provisions must be better implemented through increased training
of the judiciary and especially of state prosecutors and security
forces, for which the UK Government should continue to offer financial
and technical support.
153. As the FCO report states, "the
Government needs to do more to tackle impunity in the security
forces" (page 104). Amnesty International has been greatly
concerned about the issue of torture and ill-treatment perpetrated
by members of the security forces in Turkey for many years and
sees this area as the testing ground for the reforms undertaken
by the Turkish Government. We have warmly welcomed the Turkish
"zero tolerance for torture" policy but feel that the
government is failing in meeting the challenge of implementation.
Figures collected by independent non-governmental organisations
also give a disturbing picture related to continued problems in
this area. For example, the Human Rights Association (IHD) reported
843 reports of torture and ill-treatment in 2004.
154. Amnesty International considers that
most investigations by prosecutors into such incidents are seriously
flawed and would urge that steps be taken to ensure that investigations
into serious human rights violations by security forces such as
torture, extrajudicial executions, ill-treatment and deaths in
custody are independent and impartial. A body such as a Police
Complaints Commissionsimilar to the Independent Police
Complaints Commission in the UKthat would investigate any
allegations of torture or ill-treatment perpetrated by members
of the police forces should be developed.
155. In addition, we believe that one of
the most effective safeguards against torture would be to improve
the monitoring of police stations by independent visiting bodies.
Unannounced visits by the Turkish human rights boards to police
stations are not sufficient. Amnesty International warmly welcomes
the recent signature by the Government of Turkey of the Optional
Protocol to the Convention against Torture which mandates the
establishment of a system of regular visits undertaken by independent
international and national bodies to places where people are deprived
of their liberty in order to prevent torture and ill-treatment.
The UK Government should encourage the Turkish Government to ratify
the Optional Protocol as soon as possible and press ahead with
the establishment of an independent visiting mechanism.
Amnesty International wishes to express its
appreciation for the tribute paid in the FCO report (page 4) to
the work of its founder, Peter Benenson, who died in February
Amnesty International UK
11 November 2005
1 In the guidance for bidding NGOs published by the
FCO in January 2005, the priority countries listed are Argentina,
Brazil, Burma, Cameroon, Caribbean region (including Cuba), China,
Colombia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, India, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico,
Nigeria, Russia, South Africa, Thailand and Vietnam. Back
Report by Mr Alvaro Gil-Robles, Commissioner for Human Rights,
on his visit to the United Kingdom, 4-12 November 2004, CommDH(2005)6,
8 June 2005, p 6. Back
See United Kingdom-Amnesty International briefing on the draft
Terrorism Bill 2005, AI Index: EUR 45/038.2005, 14 October 2005
and Amnesty International's briefing for the House of Commons
second reading of the Terrorism Bill, AI Index: EUR45/047/2005,
25 October 2005. Back
Speech by Foreign Secretary at the Institute of Civil Engineers,
March 2005. Back
Africa Commission Report. Back
Criterion two of the Consolidated Criteria requires respect for
human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country of final
destination for defence exports. Back
See Saferworld press release "Arms exports undermine human
rights and anti proliferation policies of government" http://www.saferworld.org.uk/media/pr210705.htm
NB last annual report on arms exports covers 2004 but was published
in July 2005. North Korea was only country excluded from receiving
Although official statistics on use of the death penalty continue
to be a "state secret", it is estimated that China executes
around 10,000 people per year, based on a statement by a senior
member of the National People's Congress in March 2004. Back
The Office in Colombia of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights
and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the OAS have
also reiterated their opposition to the law. Back