Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

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.


  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 it.

  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[1] 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 Programme.

  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.


  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 organisations—the 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."[2] 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.[3] 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 concerns—in 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 Bay—and 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 ill".

  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.

TORTURE (PAGES 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 attacks.

  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 ill-treatment.


  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 reserved judgment.


  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-treatment—the 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 words—in 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.


  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 national law.

  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.

ARMS CONTROL (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[4] and that negotiations for such a treaty should start no later than 2006.[5] 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.[6] 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.[7]

  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 armed groups.

  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

EU guidelines

  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.


  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 law—excluding 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 them.

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.


International fora

  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 labour.

  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 2006.


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 Rights—the 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 provisions—designed to reduce financial and political risks posed to foreign investors by sudden changes in national laws—are 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 fields—even 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.


  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 obligations—at least indirectly—on 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 rights law.

  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. [8]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 towards abolition.

  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" or "terrorists".

  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 activities.

COLOMBIA (PAGES 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[9].

  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 conflict—it 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 results.

  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.


  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.

IRAQ (PAGES 60-67)

  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 Iraq.

  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 in Iraq.

  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 or ill-treatment.

  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 September—the 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 groups—or 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 law.


  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 reasons continue.

  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 law.

  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 take.

  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 built there.

  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 aspect".

  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 proliferate.

  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 humanity;

    —  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.

TURKEY (PAGES 104-107)

  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 aspects—most 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 law—including the new TPC—still 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 further—most obviously by abolishing Article 301—and 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 Commission—similar to the Independent Police Complaints Commission in the UK—that 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.

Peter Benenson

  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 this year.

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

2   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

3   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

4   Speech by Foreign Secretary at the Institute of Civil Engineers, March 2005. Back

5   Africa Commission Report. Back

6   Criterion two of the Consolidated Criteria requires respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country of final destination for defence exports. Back

7   See Saferworld press release "Arms exports undermine human rights and anti proliferation policies of government" NB last annual report on arms exports covers 2004 but was published in July 2005. North Korea was only country excluded from receiving exports. Back

8   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

9   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

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