Memorandum submitted by Amnesty International
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. In pursuit of this vision, Amnesty International's
mission is to undertake research and action focused on preventing
and ending abuses of these rights.
The FCO's Human Rights Annual Report 2007
(the report) is the Government's 10th human rights report.
Amnesty International welcomes the publication of these reports;
they represent an important opportunity to set out the Government's
activities and policies in this field. On the whole, the report
is comprehensive and provides a thorough overview of the Government's
work to protect and promote human rights worldwide. However, the
report is noticeably weak in relation to countries where the UK
has particular strategic, security or economic concerns.
In part, the report is structured around the
FCO's new policy goals. Amnesty International was involved in
the consultation on the policy goal refresh; we welcome the involvement
of stakeholders in this process. Human rights are incorporated
in the policy goal "prevent and resolve conflict", and
in theory are "mainstreamed" throughout the work of
the FCO. However, Amnesty International is concerned at a number
of human rights omissions from the policy goals as well as by
the mismatch between rhetoric and practice in some instances.
Amnesty International is particularly concerned at the absence
of a serious and integrated approach to gender issues in both
the policy goals and the report; a separate section on women's
rights is insufficient. We would like to see gender awareness
throughout the report and the FCO's work more broadly.
The clear commitment to human rights expressed
in the report is not always consistently applied in practice.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights. This is a key moment for the UK to reinvigorate
its commitment to rights. The UK must take the lead and refocus
its efforts on promoting the human rights framework rather than
taking steps that undermine it (for example in the counter-terrorism
The Government has identified a role for the
UK as a global hub, a point of leadership and influence. Amnesty
International would like to see this role expanded to include
a proud and consistent assertion of universal human values. Human
rights values (including the rule of law, justice and equality)
should be at the heart of all the UK's foreign policy goals. This
is not just a principled approach; a human rights approach to
foreign policy is crucial to any effective long-term policy.
Amnesty International welcomes the Foreign Secretary's
recognition that human rights have moved "from the margins
to the mainstream" and can no longer be treated as a discrete
area of foreign policy, with human rights a vital dimension of
foreign policy challenges.
It is critical that human rights values are fully integrated in
UK foreign policy and are consistently respected in the implementation
of policies, and not just given rhetorical support at opportune
moments. This should be true in relation to all states, including
those with which the UK has important strategic, security or economic
The FCO frequently makes reference to the fact
that human rights cut across the policy goals and are mainstreamed
throughout the organisation. However, there is a need to make
mainstreaming more meaningful if pockets of good practice are
not to be seen as tokenistic. This could be achieved by such measures
as: strengthening and deepening human rights training across government;
strengthened, frequent and regularised dialogue with NGOs; and
regularised NGO briefings and training.
Amnesty International welcomes the report's
shorter, more compact format and general accessibility. However,
we note that with the exclusion of the annexes, the report does
not contain any breakdown of the level of government funding for
human rights projects. In the past, this information provided
an important opportunity to scrutinise expenditure. The issue
of funding for human rights projects is an ongoing concern. It
has often been difficult to establish what funding is available
for discrete human rights projects within the Global Opportunities
Fund (GOF). Fewer countries are eligible for funding under the
GOF programme than the previous Human Rights Project Fund and
there remain fears that the GOF could be susceptible to budgetary
This submission will look briefly at each of
the policy goals. It will then focus on a small number of "countries
of concern", incorporating many of our concerns relating
to the key human rights themes outlined in Part 4 of the report
(equality, democracy and the rule of law). The report covers the
period from September 2006 to December 2007, but also looks forward
to the year ahead. Therefore, this submission will focus on this
period, but comment on more recent events where appropriate, as
well as making forward-looking recommendations for government
policy and practice.
Counter terrorism, weapons proliferation and their
Amnesty International fully recognises the serious
nature of the threat of terrorism and the obligation on all states
to act to protect their citizens. We condemn in the strongest
possible terms all violent acts targeting civiliansthe
horrors of 9/11, the Bali, Madrid and London bombings. These terrorist
attacks were barbaric acts and gross human right violations and
the perpetrators must be brought to justice.
Amnesty International welcomes the report's
statement that "far from being an obstacle to our counter-terrorism
work, human rights are central to our efforts to counter radicalisation
under the Government's `Prevent' strategy". The report also
notes the importance of the rule of law in any long-term approach
to security. It is incumbent on the Government to ensure that
all measures taken to bring people to justice, as well as all
measures to protect people from terrorism, are consistent with
international human rights law and standards. Unless governments
across the world respond to the threat of international terrorism
in a manner that is fully grounded in respect for human rights
and the rule of law, they risk undermining the values they seek
to protect and defend.
The policy goals contain an important recognition
of the diverse range of factors that contribute to radicalisation.
Many of these factors have human rights aspects. The report notes
that the GOF supports projects that tackle human rights-related
themes and contribute to efforts to reduce the stimuli for radicalisation.
This is to be welcomed. However, there should be a more explicit
recognition of the importance of human rights throughout the various
approaches to countering extremism; human rights could be made
more central to the conceptual framework.
It is critical that policies in this area are
implemented in a human rights context. For example, working with
or promoting international partners who abuse human rights risks
making the policy counterproductive and could risk encouraging
extremism. It is also important to ensure that any "moderate
voices" the Government works to promote hold moderate views
across the whole range of issues, including gender. Given that
real or perceived political grievances or social injustice can
drive extremism, it is crucial that UK policies are consistent
in terms of the values they espouse. The alternative risks perpetuating
a cycle of political grievance and social injustice that could
contribute to extremism.
This is not just a matter of principle. There
is a national interest in being seen to do the right thing in
today's globalised world, where what the UK does in Pakistan,
Saudi Arabia, Libya or China is seen all over the world as well
as in the UK. Only by consistently living up to the values the
UK claims to stand for and promote, can the UK work towards reclaiming
the rhetoric of justice so often misused by extremists.
Deportations of foreign nationals and torture
Amnesty International would question the report's
assertion that the UK "abides by its human rights obligations,
including the absolute prohibition of torture". We are also
gravely concerned by the section titled "ethical dilemmas",
which appears to give support to the use of "torture evidence".
Under international law torture is absolutely prohibited in all
circumstances; no statement obtained through torture or other
ill-treatment should be admitted as evidence except in proceedings
against torturers. The absolute prohibition of torture and ill-treatment
is one of the most universally accepted human rights and encompasses
a ban on transferring a person to a state where there is a real
risk they would be subjected to torture or other ill-treatment
(non-refoulement). The principle is binding on all states,
is absolute and permits no exceptions.
The report states the Government's commitment
to the obligations under the Convention against Torture and Other
Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). However,
the report also sets out the Government's policy of deportations
with diplomatic assurance. Amnesty International is extremely
concerned at the Government's efforts to deport foreign nationals
to countries where they face a real risk of torture or other ill-treatment
(whether in association with memorandums of understanding, an
exchange of letters or any other sort of diplomatic agreement).
Amnesty International considers that the UK's reliance on diplomatic
assurances when seeking to expel people to countries where they
would face a real risk of torture or other ill-treatment violates
its obligations under international law. Diplomatic assurances
are corrosive of the absolute prohibition against torture.
Amnesty International is far from reassured
by what the report says about safeguards and improvements in human
rights brought about by these arrangements. Diplomatic assurances
are only sought with countries where there is a risk of torture
and ill-treatment and which do not respect their existing obligations.
Given that these states have previously violated legally binding
obligations, they cannot be relied on to honour bilateral diplomatic
understandings. Moreover, torture and other ill-treatment almost
always happens in secret. Amnesty International considers that
undertakings not to torture made by states known to use torture
or ill-treatment are self-contradictory and cannot be relied upon.
The idea that monitoring mechanisms bolster
the effectiveness of diplomatic assurances is misguided. The safeguards
that assurances provide fall below those in international law;
they lack an enforcement mechanism and do not provide a remedy
in case of a breach. Indeed, diplomatic assurances have proven
to be ineffective. People who have been transferred on the basis
of diplomatic assurances by other countries have later complained
Amnesty International considers that diplomatic assurances are
inherently unreliable and in practice ineffective.
Amnesty International has consistently raised
concerns about the UK's efforts to "balance" the risk
of torture and ill-treatment with national security concerns.
This has included interventions in a number of cases before the
European Court of Human Rights in an effort to change case law
in this area. In this regard, Amnesty International welcomed the
February 2008 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in
the case of Saadi v Italy. In this landmark judgement,
the Court ruled that deporting Nassim Saadi to Tunisia, where
he would face a real risk of torture, would violate the Italian
Government's obligations under the European Convention on Human
Rights. The Court recognised the difficulties states face in protecting
against terrorism, but explicitly rejected UK and Italian arguments
that the risk of harm faced by the individual should be balanced
against any danger posed by the individual.
The Court rejected as "misconceived" the arguments advanced
by the UK. Amnesty International considers that the Government's
efforts to "balance" national security and the risk
of torture work to undermine the absolute prohibition of torture.
Many international human rights institutions
and experts share Amnesty International's concerns in this area.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, has said:
"The prohibition of torture is absolute, and States risk
violating this prohibition| by transferring persons to countries
where they may be at risk of torture".
Terry Davis, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, has expressed
similar concerns: "Diplomatic assurances and memoranda of
understanding do not constitute adequate safeguards to avert the
risk of deportees being subjected to torture or other ill-treatment
in the countries of destination". The Council of Europe Committee
for the Prevention of Torture has said: "The fact that such
assurances are sought shows in itself that the sending country
perceives a serious risk of the deportee being subjected to torture
or other ill treatment".
Moreover, in April 2008, the Court of Appeal ruled in two cases
that the UK could not lawfully proceed with deportations in two
key cases. The Court found that an individual could not be returned
to Jordan because of the risk of unfair trial, including the use
of "torture evidence" and that two Libyans could not
be returned because the Memorandum of Understanding with Libya
is insufficient to protect them from torture and other ill-treatment.
Amnesty International calls on the Government
to reaffirm its commitment to the absolute obligation under international
law not to return any person to a country where they face a real
risk of torture or ill-treatment. It is extraordinary that the
Government, which has been a strong advocate of the elimination
of torture throughout the world, should now be undermining this
work by seeking to circumvent the principle of non-refoulement.
In previous years, Amnesty International has
criticised the Government for being slow to make sufficiently
strong and public criticism of Guantánamo. We therefore
welcome the report's finding that the "circumstances in which
detainees are currently held indefinitely at Guantánamo
Bay are unacceptable" and the call for the detention facility
to close. However, the report makes only brief mention of the
human rights abuses at Guantánamo and fails adequately
to criticise US practice there.
The report glosses over the harsh reality of
conditions at Guantánamo and gives a misleading impression
by citing reports of improvements. In addition to the serious
distress caused by the indefinite nature of their detention, most
detainees have languished in harsh conditions throughout their
detention, confined to mesh cages or enclosed in maximum-security
cells. In December 2006, a new facility known as Camp 6 opened.
This facility created even harsher conditions of extreme isolation
and sensory deprivation in which detainees are confined to almost
completely sealed, individual cells, with minimal contact with
any other human being.
Amnesty International is also concerned by the
report's acceptance of US assurances that the USA is opposed to
torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. It has
become clear over recent yearsnot least from the US Government's
own confirmation that it has authorised and used the form of torture
known as "waterboarding"that what the USA considers
torture does not match international law. Furthermore, the USA's
treaty reservations mean that it considers itself to be bound
by the prohibition of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment only
to the extent that it matches existing US law. Under US Supreme
Court jurisprudence, conduct is banned that "shocks the conscience".
This opens the door for consideration of the "circumstances"
in which the abuse occurs. In Amnesty International's view, the
USA adheres to a less than absolute ban on torture and other ill-treatment.
A further area of concern is the denial of access
to due process. The report notes some concerns about the Military
Commissions Act, but does not fully recognise the seriousness
of the situation. Detainees are held in indefinite executive detention
without charge or trial. The systems of review and trial fall
far short of international standards. The Combatant Status Review
Tribunals (CSRTs) have effectively served as rubber stamps to
affirm "enemy combatant" status, a status used by the
USA but unknown in international law. The narrow judicial review
of CSRT decisions provided for under the Detainee Treatment Act
cannot be an adequate substitute for habeas corpus review, and
in any event has not yet occurred. Military commissions are not
impartial or independent. Like the CSRTs, they also allow the
use of information extracted under cruel, inhuman and degrading
treatment and classified evidence, without the defendant necessarily
being able to effectively challenge this.
The conditions at Guantánamo and the
continued denial to detainees of access to due process are wholly
unacceptable. The Government should press the USA to repeal or
substantially amend the Military Commissions Act to bring it into
conformity with international law, including by fully ensuring
the right to habeas corpus. There is also an urgent need to end
the harsh conditions of isolation and sensory deprivation in use
at the camp.
The report notes the Government's change in
position on former UK residents held at Guantánamo and
its request for their return from the USA. Amnesty International
welcomed this and the return of Bishar al-Rawi, Jamil El Banaa,
Omar Deghayes and Abdennour Sameur. However, we remain deeply
concerned about former residents Binyam Mohammed and Shaker Aamer,
as well as Ahmed Belbacha, who also lived in the UK, but was excluded
from the UK request because the Government claims he was present
in the UK illegally. Belbacha, who is reported to be cleared for
release, would face a serious risk of torture or other ill-treatment
if returned to his native Algeria. It is now more than six years
since the first detainees were transferred to Guantánamo
from Afghanistan. There is a need for increased urgency in efforts
to find a solution to closing the camp. There is a broad consensus
that Guantánamo should close. However, the USA will need
assistance in achieving this. The Government should push hard
for the return to the UK of the remaining UK residents, and Ahmed
Belbacha, and work with its allies to encourage other states to
take a similar approach. The UK should also work with its allies
to help resettle detainees who are not going to be charged and
tried in accordance with international standards, and who cannot
return to their country of origin.
The report sets out the Government's understanding
of the terms "rendition" and "extraordinary rendition".
There is a danger of confusion over terminology in this area.
Amnesty International uses the term "rendition" to refer
to a variety of practices involving transfers of individuals from
one country to another, without any judicial or administrative
process such as extradition. This includes transferring detainees
into the custody of other states, assuming custody of individuals
from foreign authorities and abducting suspects on foreign soil.
Amnesty International considers rendition to be illegal because
it bypasses any judicial or administrative process. Additionally,
rendition usually involves multiple human rights violations, including
abduction, arbitrary arrest and detention and unlawful transfer
without due process of law. All of the victims of rendition Amnesty
International has interviewed have said they were subjected to
torture or other ill-treatment.
As reflected in the report, the Government has
taken a strong position on rendition that involves torture. However,
it has failed to take a principled position on the broader human
rights abuses involved in rendition. The Government has also failed
to criticise the US practice of rendition. The Government should
take a strong and consistent position opposing rendition in general
and not just rendition that involves torture. The Government also
needs to take a stronger position opposing the US practice of
rendition and secret detention.
The report sets out the Government's policy
on rendition and its expectation that the USA will request permission
to use UK airspace or Overseas Territories for rendition. Amnesty
International is deeply concerned by this position. As the report
notes, in February 2008, Foreign Secretary David Miliband was
forced to tell Parliament that previous assurances that UK Overseas
Territories had not been used for rendition were inaccurate. The
USA is now known to have used Diego Garcia to render two individuals.
Relying on US requests and assurances regarding rendition is clearly
ineffective. The Government should oversee a properly independent
and thorough investigation into the UK's involvement in rendition.
This should include flights believed to have been on the way to
or from a rendition (the rendition circuit) and not just those
with detainees on board. In relation to the two detainees rendered
through Diego Garcia, the Government should seek more details
about the men. The Government should also press the USA to make
a full disclosure of its rendition and secret detention programme,
cease rendition and secret detention, and hold to account those
involved in these practices.
A later section of the report sets out the Government's
position on the International Convention for the Protection of
All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. This Convention could
provide important protections in the area of rendition and secret
detention. The Convention recognises enforced disappearance as
a violation of human rights and prohibits it; puts an obligation
on states to make enforced disappearance a crime in national law,
bring offenders to justice and investigate reports of enforced
disappearance; and provides for reparations for victims and families.
The Government should give urgent attention to signing and ratifying
the UN Convention on Protection from Enforced Disappearance.
Arms Trade Treaty
The development of an international Arms Trade
Treaty (ATT) to help curb the flow of arms to those using them
to commit abuses of human rights and international humanitarian
law remains crucial. Significant progress continues to be made;
Amnesty International welcomes the commitment of the Government
and its international partners, which continue to play a lead
role in promoting the ATT on the international stage. In 2007,
at least 100 governments submitted their views on an ATT to the
Secretary General, an unprecedented number of responses for an
initiative of this kind.
This year (2008) is another key year for the
ATT. The 28-member Group of Government experts (GGE) will meet
three times to consider the feasibility, scope and draft parameters
of a legally-binding arms trade treaty and will report back to
the General Assembly.
The Government has been at the forefront of
support for the ATT initiative. It must continue to work hard
to drive it through the UN system and increase its efforts to
secure widespread and international active support, particularly
from southern governments. It is clear from progress so far, that
there is overwhelming international support for an ATT. However,
substantial blocks are starting to emerge as key governments begin
to outline their concerns. It is imperative that efforts are made
to engage effectively with these sceptical states and ensure they
do not de-rail progress.
It is also clear that an ATT will only save
lives and protect human rights if it is truly comprehensive, robust
and effectively implemented. Amnesty International does not support
an ATT at any cost; we believe that the eventual treaty must enshrine
the core principles of international human rights and humanitarian
law and other relevant non-proliferation norms and standards.
It must also be as comprehensive in scope as possible, apply to
all conventional arms, including their components, manufacturing
technology, production equipment and relevant dual-use goods.
As a starting point, Amnesty International recommends that the
ATT use the Wassennar military list. This list is comprehensive,
multilateral in status, supported by the majority of arms-exporting
states and is an agreed international standard for classification
of conventional weapons. The ATT must also cover all aspects of
international arms transfers, including import, export, transit,
transhipment, and overseas production and arms-brokering activities.
This year (2008) will see the conclusion of
a new international treaty prohibiting the use, production, stockpiling
and transfer of cluster munitions. Final treaty negotiations will
take place in Ireland in May 2008. Amnesty International welcomes
the Government's support for the process, but remains concerned
that it is part of a small group pushing for certain exemptions
that would seriously weaken the treaty. This stance risks undermining
the UK's leadership in this area and credibility to argue for
legally binding humanitarian standards for arms transfers.
In particular, Amnesty International is concerned
that the Government appears to be arguing for exemptions that
would allow it to keep its current stocks of cluster bombs, either
by allowing munitions with self-destructing mechanisms or by allowing
weapons with less than 10 munitions. The UK's existing munitions
stocks should not be exempted from an eventual cluster bomb treaty.
In addition, the UK continues to claim that
L20A1 artillery shells with M85 submunitions should be exempted
from prohibition because their "self-destruct" (SD)
mechanism means they do not cause significant post-conflict contamination.
However, M85 submunitions with SD were used by Israel in Lebanon
in 2006 and have caused contamination and subsequent casualties.
Analysis by the head of the UN mine action programme in southern
Lebanon, NGOs, government defence research bodies and independent
ordnance analysts has concluded that the performance of M85 with
SD in Lebanon demonstrates that the presence of SD mechanisms
does not provide an adequate basis for civilian protection.
In 2007, the Government sought to reclassify
CRV7 rockets with M261 warheads containing M73 submunitions as
"not cluster munitions", despite the fact they had been
categorised as cluster munitions previously. The Government argued
for this reclassification, and continues to argue for an exemption
from prohibition, on the basis that each warhead contains only
nine submunitions. An exemption for a cluster munition with 10
or fewer submunitions would represent a major loophole in the
treaty. Such a loophole would allow the development and continued
use of weapons that have exactly the same problematic effects
that have been associated with cluster munitions for decades.
In a short-term effort to secure an exemption for one specific
weapon, the UK appears to be prepared to create loopholes that
will result in long-term shortcomings for the international treaty.
These rockets are fired from pods of 19 rockets, and four such
pods are typically mounted onto an attack helicopter, providing
a capacity for 684 submunitions. M73 submunitions do not contain
any self-destruct mechanism, and so fall within the Government's
own definition of "dumb" munitions.
Even under controlled testing environments,
the M73 has an unacceptably high failure rate of approximately
6%. The UK has not made a detailed case for the particular military
utility of these weapons, nor has it explained why other CRV7
rocket warheads that do not contain cluster bombs, which can and
are fitted to the CRV7 system, might not be used to provide the
The Government has made a commitment not to
grant arms export licenses to countries or end-users that could
use the equipment to facilitate human rights abuses. However,
export licenses continue to be issued for types of equipment that
could be used to commit abuses to countries about which the Government
has expressed human rights concerns. These countries include Afghanistan,
China, Colombia, Israel, Iraq, Russia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
The type of equipment that has been licensed to these destinations
include armoured vehicles, pistols, machine guns and sniper rifles,
components for combat helicopters, components for air to surface
missiles, body armour, riot control agents and military communications
equipment. According to Saferworld, in 2007 the Government issued
export licences for arms and dual-use equipment to 18 of the 21
countries identified by the Government as "major countries
of concern" for human rights abuse.
The Government has made some improvements in
the transparency of its reporting, for example by disclosing the
end-users of certain equipment, particularly where it is destined
for a humanitarian end-use (eg mine clearance) or peacekeeping
activities. However, the Government's arms export reports still
do not enable adequate or meaningful scrutiny. It is imperative
that the Government provide a much more coherent explanation of
its export licensing decisions to countries it lists as countries
of concern in the FCO's annual human rights report. The Government
should also publish more information on end use and end-users.
Review of the Export Control Act
The 2007-08 review of the 2002 and 2004 Export
Control legislation offers an opportunity to close existing loopholes
in the UK's export control system. Amnesty International welcomes
the Government's decision to close the loophole on the brokering
and trafficking of small arms and light weapons by introducing
full extraterritorial controls on these categories of arms. These
are important and necessary controls.
We also welcome the decision to introduce a
new "end-use" control on goods and equipment that could
be used to facilitate acts of torture. This addresses a dangerous
loophole that could have allowed certain goods to evade control
because they were not included on a specific list of equipment.
Although we support efforts to introduce the torture end-use control
across the EU, as part of the ongoing development of the EU Torture
regulation, Amnesty International urges the Government to make
a commitment to introduce torture end-use controls within the
UK's national export controls at the earliest opportunity.
Amnesty International is also pleased that the
review is being extended into late 2008 to cover issues that require
further deliberation. We welcome the approach taken by the Government
and its desire to work constructively with both NGOs and industry.
Recent case examples have shown the need to more effectively regulate
international production issues, including the export and re-export
of components, as well as the need to extend full extraterritorial
brokering controls to a wider range of lethal equipment.
For example, in July 2007, Amnesty International
and other NGOs published a report detailing the proposed transfer
of military helicopters from India to Burma. These helicopters
contained significant components and technology from several EU
and US manufacturers. Several EU countries have much more stringent
controls over the re-export of components and technology, and
it appears that this stopped the deal. This is in stark contrast
to the situation in the UK, where no re-export controls are applied.
A previous transfer from India to Burma of UK military aircraft
went ahead. Similarly, in 2005, Uzbekistan security forces used
military Landrover defender vehicles during the Andijan massacre.
These vehicles were supplied by Turkey, which manufactures them
under license from Landrover in the UK. In February 2005, it emerged
that a UK subsidiary company based in India was negotiating to
supply military trucks to Sudan. This deal would have been illegal
if done from the UK, as Sudan is subject to an EU arms embargo.
Human rights and globalisation: human rights and
Clarity of strategy
The report outlines the Government's development
of a strategy on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Amnesty
International welcomes this and congratulates the Government for
developing a strategy on CSR. However, we have questions about
the clarity of this strategy. The strategy document of February
2007 states that: "The FCO also plays a lead role in the
international implementation of the DTI's International Strategic
Framework for Corporate Social Responsibility of March 2005".
Amnesty International would ask whether this means that the Government
is implementing two CSR strategies simultaneously, and if this
is the case, which strategy takes precedence and which department
has the lead on CSR? A further question would be whether DfID
is part of this strategy with regard to the role of the World
Bank and other international financial institutions in funding
Foreign Direct Investment projects.
Minimal human rights emphasis
The FCO strategy emphasises partnership with
business to demonstrate "the UK's currently undisputed leadership
in the CSR field", with benefits for the reputation of British
business and the UK generally. However, there is minimal emphasis
on human rights in the strategy, and none at all on the Government's
international obligations to hold companies accountable. The assertion
that "the FCO intends to encourage responsible business practice
that goes beyond compliance with international legal requirements
and regulations" calls into question why the Government is
not actively trying to raise the bar on international human rights
standards for business. The "beyond compliance" agenda
assumes that the impact of business at present is adequately regulated.
Amnesty International considers that this is not the case, especially
in areas of weak governance where states are unwilling or unable
to hold companies accountable.
The report notes that the Government has "identified
voluntary industry codes of conduct as a priority, focusing on
multi-stakeholder dialogues that bring together companies, governments
and civil society". This implies that the Government believes
that voluntary codes of conduct and multi-stakeholder initiatives
are effective in improving the effects that companies have. Amnesty
International would ask whether the Government has evaluated any
of these initiatives, and if so, what evidence there is that they
work. Amnesty International's experience of participation in the
UN Global Compact and the Voluntary Principles on Security and
Human Rights is that these initiatives are inadequately governed,
their effects on the ground are not monitored, and that there
is considerable variation between commitment and implementation.
This is reinforced by the lack of sanctions against those companies
that link themselves to initiatives but fail to operationalise
If the Government's approach to corporate social
responsibility is to lead to improvements in the impact that companies
have on human rights, it will have to address fundamental issues
outlined in the report to the Human Rights Council of the UN Secretary
General's Special Representative (9 February 2007):
Very few states explicitly consider
human rights criteria in their export credit and investment promotion
policies or in bilateral trade and investment treaties. These
are the points at which government policies and global business
operations most closely intersect.
For businesses with large physical
or societal footprints, accountability should begin with assessments
of what their human rights impact will be. This would permit companies
and affected communities to find ways of avoiding negative effects
from the start. No single measure would yield more immediate results
in the human rights performance of firms.
One area where greater clarity is
needed is indigenous peoples' rights. The current lack of consensus
on the practical implications of "consent" (in the formula
of "free, prior and informed consent" to large-scale
projects) is a major challenge for indigenous communities, business
and governments alike.
The rules governing extraterritorial
jurisdiction suggest that it is permissible for the home country
to impose civil liability on the parent company for its acts and
omissions regarding activities by its subsidiaries abroad.
In some instances, states are turning
to soft law to avoid more binding measures gaining political momentum.
Human rights, development and poverty reduction
As set out in the report, the Government is
proud of its record on poverty alleviation and the fulfilment
of economic, social and cultural rights. However, Amnesty International
has concerns about a number of areas of this work.
Rights Based Approach to Development
In "Realising Human Rights for Poor People"
(2000), the Government outlined the importance of human rights
for achieving poverty reduction and sustainable development. However,
two assessments of the role of human rights in the work of the
Department for International Relations carried out by the Overseas
Development Institute in 2004 and 2008, both highlighted the fact
that while the rights-based approach principles of inclusion and
participation are generally implemented, insufficient attention
is paid in policy and practice to the role of the international
human rights framework, both to hold governments to account and
to empower individuals.
Amnesty International recommends that the Government
implement a full survey of its use of international human rights
standards in its development and poverty alleviation work. This
should be with a view to strengthening the accountability element
of the rights-based approach that it takes and ensuring that state
recipients of UK aid use it appropriately. This includes ensuring
that UK aid donated through multilateral institutions, such as
the EU and World Bank, is also given in accordance with human
Millennium Development Goals
Amnesty International also commends the Government
for its focus on the MDGs. However, the MDGs are merely goals
and say nothing about the strategies required to achieve them.
As such, they are silent on the key human rights principles of
participation, inclusion, equality and in particular, non-discrimination.
The MDGs also set lower targets than states are required to meet
under international law and only partially reflect the spectrum
of economic, social and cultural rights states are obliged to
address. The MDGs also exclude civil and political rights, despite
acceptance that economic, social and cultural rights are rarely
realised where individuals are denied the freedom to mobilise
in defence of them.
Amnesty International urges the Government to
develop a set of principles at the UN Summit in September 2008
to assess progress towards the Millennium Development Goals worldwide.
Amnesty International urges the Government to work with relevant
civil society organisations in-country to achieve this.
Optional Protocol to the International Covenant
on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
It is critical that international institutions
and standards that affect development are strengthened. Negotiations
have been underway for some years at the UN in order to secure
an Optional Protocol to the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights (OP-ICESCR). This would allow redress at the international
level for victims of abuses of economic, social and cultural rights
on the same terms as victims of abuses of civil and political
rights. As part of the NGO Coalition for an OP-ICESCR, Amnesty
International believes that only a "comprehensive" form
of protocol would be effective, ie obliging states to allow individuals
to seek redress for all rights protected by the International
Covenant as opposed to only those the state chooses.
On 4 April 2008, a final text for such a protocol
was agreed by the UN working group on an OP-ICESCR and has now
been passed to the Human Rights Council for adoption in June,
after which it will proceed to the General Assembly for adoption
in December. Up until the last week of negotiations, the Government
argued for an "a la carte" version of the text, allowing
states to pick which rights would apply. However, the Government
supports the agreed text.
Amnesty International welcomes the Government's
support for an effective and comprehensive Optional Protocol to
the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The organisation
urges the Government to argue strongly for both the Human Rights
Council and General Assembly to adopt the Optional Protocol.
Amnesty International welcomes the fact that
preventing and resolving conflict are now at the heart of the
FCO's strategic framework. We agree with the report that "human
rights violations can be an indicator of an impending conflict".
Amnesty International urges the Government to ensure that all
UK posts are adequately trained in identifying human rights abuses
and are working to implement the EU Guidelines on Human Rights
The report also mentions the role that the UK
can play as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and
as a member of other multilateral institutions. Amnesty International
agrees that these institutions are platforms for addressing threats
to peace and security; however, political will is also required
for effective action. Amnesty International urges the Government
to ensure that it uses its membership of multilateral bodies to
ensure that high and equal standards are set when addressing issues
of conflict prevention and resolution. For instance, the Government
must condemn unequivocally abuses committed by states, including
when they are committed by close allies.
The report notes that international financial
institutions (IFIs) have a role to play in conflict prevention
and resolution. Amnesty International agrees that IFIs have a
role to play in ensuring that human rights are upheld and respected.
We urge the Government to use its influence and membership of
these bodies to ensure that human rights are on their agenda.
For instance, while trade agreements have created new opportunities
for some, and can have a positive impact on human rights, they
have been associated with patterns of growing inequality and deteriorating
social conditions, including denial of human rights for the poorest
and most marginalised sectors of the population.
Responsibility to protect
In September 2005, the UN World Summit agreed
the concept of the "responsibility to protect"; in April
2006, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1674 on the Protection
of Civilians in Armed Conflict. However, the international community
continues to fail to meet this responsibility; this is clear from
the situation in Darfur, where over 200,000 people have died as
a result of the conflict, tens of thousands of people have been
raped and assaulted, and almost two million people forced from
their homes. Darfur is the litmus test for the international community
to show its resolve in addressing egregious human rights violations;
to date it has failed to meet this test. The Government must show
commitment to translating the concept of the responsibility to
protect into a willingness to act in all instances where states
fail to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic
cleansing and crimes against humanity. It must use its influence,
in particular as a permanent member of the Security Council, to
ensure that prompt and decisive action is taken to protect civilian
The report addresses many of Amnesty International's
concerns regarding Sudan. The organisation recognises the Government's
continued engagement in efforts to find a resolution to the conflict
while seeking to maintain support for the 2005 Comprehensive Peace
However, while the report states that the Sudanese
Government is falling short of its human rights commitments, the
report fails to note that it continues to attack civilian populations
in Darfur. In February 2008, Amnesty International reported that
thousands of civilians had fled West Darfur's Sirba region; an
unknown number of people were killed as the Sudan Armed Forces
(SAF) moved to re-occupy the area, accompanied by uniformed Janjawid
militia on horseback. In the attacks, up to 100 civilians are
believed to have been killed in the three main villages in the
area (Sirba, Abu Suruj and Silea). The attacks were supported
by SAF aeroplanes and the SAF now occupies the area.
The report also fails to make any reference
to the fact that the conflict in Darfur has spilled over into
eastern Chad and the Central African Republic. Amnesty International
has conducted two missions to eastern Chad in the past year and
has reported cross-border attacks by Janjawid militia and other
armed groups. In the February attack, Amnesty International reported
that thousands of civilians had fled West Darfur's Sirba region;
up to 12,000 fled to Chad, where many, including women and children,
took shelter in the bush.
Amnesty International urges the Government to
use its influence to ensure that the African Union-United Nations
Hybrid Operation in Darfur is provided with the logistical support
it requires and that it is fully deployed as soon as possible.
We would also welcome any representations the
Government was able to make to its Sudanese counterpart to assist
gaining access for Amnesty International to Northern Sudan and
Darfur. It was the Secretary of State's timely intervention that
resulted in Amnesty International's access to Darfur in March
2004. Since that time, the organisation has only been able to
visit Southern Sudan, and does not have access to other parts
of the country.
Women, peace and security
The report notes that the UK was a driving force
behind the adoption in 2000 of UN Security Council Resolution
1325 on Women, Peace and Security. The report also sets out the
UK's development in 2006 of a national action plan for the implementation
of Resolution 1325. Resolution 1325 calls for increased protection
of women during armed conflict, for an end to impunity for gender-based
abuses during and after conflict, and the participation of women
at all levels of decision-making related to prevention, management
and resolution of conflict. Amnesty International welcomes the
Government's development of a national action plan. However, despite
modest progress in mainstreaming gender considerations in peace-keeping
initiatives, violence against women and girls in conflict-affected
situations continues unabated and most acts of violence are never
investigated, or the perpetrators brought to justice. Amnesty
International urges the Government, along with its international
partners, to take concrete steps to make real the promises of
Resolution 1325 for all women living in conflict-affected situations.
Private Military and Security Companies
The report does not mention the role of private
military and security companies. This is a grave oversight given
that these companies are currently not subject to adequate legal
control in the UK for their activities abroad, and that increasing
use is being made of them in conflict and weak governance zones
around the world, including by the Government. There is a pressing
need to regulate these companies. Amnesty International is concerned
that since the publication of the Green Paper ("Private Military
Companies: Options for Regulation") in 2002, and the Government
review completed in 2005, a decision has still not been announced
as to whether the Government will pursue regulation of private
military and security companies. Amnesty International urges the
Government to issue a timeframe for the announcement of a decision
on regulation of private military and security companies. We further
urge the Government to opt in favour of binding regulation that
will ensure accountability for human rights violations committed
by UK private military and security contractors.
In particular, Amnesty International calls on
the Government to put in place legislation that will enable private
military and security contractors to be brought to justice in
the UK for serious crimes committed abroad. We are concerned that
there is currently a lack of jurisdiction in the UK to prosecute
private military and security contractors for a range of serious
crimes if these are committed abroad. Given that contractors are
effectively immune from prosecution in many of the countries they
operate in, UK contractors are operating in a context of impunity
and the potential for unaddressed human rights violations is significant.
The Government must act swiftly to remedy this situation.
Amnesty International further urges the Government
to adopt measures to increase transparency and oversight over
the activities of private military and security companies and
reminds the Government of the recommendations made in this regard
by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee in its Ninth Report of
Amnesty International welcomes the fact that
one of the FCO's policy goals is to establish effective international
institutions. However, the focus in this section of the report
is on the UN Human Rights Council, the UN General Assembly and
the Third Committee. While these are critical bodies for addressing
human rights, Amnesty International considers that human rights
should be on the agenda of all international institutions; international
institutions should work to mainstream human rights in their activities.
In this section, the report fails to mention the role that international
financial institutions can play in promoting and protecting human
The report states that the Government is committed
to building an international system able to meet the challenges
of the 21st century. Amnesty International welcomes this ambition.
It is critical that the Government work with the international
community wherever possible to enhance, promote and improve human
rights, and to ensure that they are mainstreamed throughout all
international institutions. Amnesty International would also like
the UK to use its almost unparalleled multilateral engagement
(for example as a permanent member of the UN Security Council
and a member of the EU, the UN Human Rights Council, the G8, WTO
and IMF) to encourage other states to do the same, in order to
ensure that the multilateral infrastructure is fit for purpose.
UN Human Rights Council
The report's assessment of the UN Human Rights
Council is fair. The UK has been active in its efforts to ensure
that the Council is an effective body for addressing human rights.
The Council's success will depend on the political will of its
members and its ability to establish effective mechanisms for
addressing human rights. The Government has made a positive contribution
to the UN Human Rights Council, working to ensure that it is an
effective body. Amnesty International would urge the Government
to continue in this spirit, using its influence to build on the
foundations that have been laid in the Council's first year, ensuring
that its mechanisms and procedures continue to be strengthened.
The UK was among the first group of countries
to undergo the Universal Periodic Review (UPR); Amnesty International
urges the Government to set a high benchmark for others to follow.
The Ministry of Justice coordinated a cross-government consultation
process with civil society, in which Amnesty International took
part. In general, Amnesty International was satisfied with the
consultation; the timing was tight, but the Government was working
to a UN timetable. Nevertheless, there are likely to be lessons
to be learnt from the process. Amnesty International welcomes
the Government's willingness to share its experiences by holding
seminars for Commonwealth countries in Geneva and London.
European Neighbourhood Policy
The report covers the European Neighbourhood
Policy (ENP), stating that the underlying political principals
of the policy are the same as the EU's: democracy, liberty, freedom
of expression, respect for human rights and the rule of law. The
report goes on to note that respect for human and fundamental
rights feature heavily in each of the action plans. Amnesty International
would urge the Government to ensure that human rights are respected
by all the countries that are party to the European Neighbourhood
Despite recognising "difficult security
challenges", the report fails to reflect the severity of
the security situation in Afghanistan. The conflict in the south
and east has grown in intensity and had a detrimental impact on
governance in other parts of the country. In 2007, around 1,500
civilians were killed and thousands were forced to flee their
homes because of conflict and drought. The UN Secretary-General's
special representative to Afghanistan has expressed concern about
the deteriorating security situation in the south and called for
more development work as well as further military and diplomatic
interventions to curb the growing violence.
Benefiting from a climate of lawlessness, notably
in the south, the Taleban has enjoyed a significant resurgence.
Their forces are responsible for killing civilians and others
not involved in combat, using human shields to escape attack and
ill-treating and torturing those over whom they have effective
control. The conflict has also reduced the access of humanitarian
agencies to some of the worst affected areas in the south, hindering
the delivery of essential aid and medical care to millions of
While the report highlights the attacks on civilians
by the Taleban and other groups, it underplays the number of civilians
killed as a result of the failure by international and Afghan
forces to take precautions to protect them; this failure is in
contravention of international humanitarian law. Civilians have
been killed as a result of indiscriminate attacks, including aerial
bombardments by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)
and US-led Operation Enduring Freedom forces. As a matter of urgency,
Amnesty International calls on all sides to adhere in their operations
to the principles of distinction and proportionality, rules of
international humanitarian law by which they are bound. All forces
must ensure that they do not target civilians or carry out indiscriminate
The report states that the UK is "confident
that the human rights of detainees handed over by UK forces are
not breached". Amnesty International commends the UK for
keeping records of prisoner transfers and for regular monitoring
of prisoner welfare. However, the organisation remains concerned
about the treatment of detainees handed over by ISAF to the Afghan
authorities. We have received reports of torture and other ill-treatment,
as well as arbitrary detention by Afghan forces, particularly
the National Directorate of Security (NDS). Memorandums of Understanding
(MoUs) drawn up between some ISAF forces, including the UK, and
the Afghan authorities have not prevented allegations of torture.
Under international law, states are under an absolute obligation
not to expel, return or extradite any person to a country or location
where they would face a real risk of torture or other ill-treatment
(the principle of non-refoulement). MoUs must not be used to circumvent
this obligation. Research by Amnesty International, as well as
other sources, has shown that such a risk clearly exists in Afghanistan,
especially for those detained by the NDS.
Amnesty International urges all ISAF forces
to refrain from transferring individuals to the Afghan authorities
until safeguards against abuse are in place. During this proposed
temporary moratorium, Amnesty International suggests that ISAF
states work collectively to create a national engagement plan
to reform the Afghan prison system so that it operates in full
compliance with international law and standards. The Government
should also impress upon the Afghan Government the importance
of protecting the human rights of those in its custody and the
need for independent and impartial investigations of abuse. Amnesty
International also urges the Government to press the Afghan authorities
to allow independent monitors, such as the International Committee
of the Red Cross and the Afghan independent Human Rights Commission,
unrestricted access to all National Directorate of Security facilities.
The report recognises that there is still much
to be done on women's rights. Progress has been made in this area
since the fall of the Taleban, but Afghan women and girls remain
at exceptional risk, facing: widespread discrimination from all
segments of society; domestic violence; abduction and rape by
armed individuals; trafficking; forced marriage (including child
marriages); and being traded in settlement of disputes and debts.
Schools and teachers (especially those dedicated to educating
girls) and students have also been targeted.
Amnesty International is concerned at the failure
to ensure justice for women whose rights have been abused. The
police, courts and other justice-sector officials seldom address
women's complaints of violence, including rape and other sexual
violence. Women victims and defendants have little recourse to
justice and are discriminated against in the formal and informal
justice systems. Legal reforms designed to protect women have
not been implemented, and women continue to be detained for breaching
social traditions. There has been a rise in "honour"
killings and self-immolation by women. In promoting their rights,
women frequently encounter discriminatory laws, policies and practices,
as well as attacks. Amnesty International calls on the Government
to urge its Afghan counterpart to reaffirm its commitment to protect
the rights of women and girls and ensure that human rights defenders
are able to play their vital role documenting violations of human
rights and upholding international human rights standards. Amnesty
International also urges the Government to continue to fulfil
its commitments under UN Security Council Resolution 1325 through
practical projects that promote understanding of women's roles
in conflict prevention and resolution and peacebuilding.
Amnesty International is concerned that the
Afghan Government and its international partners are failing to
meet the benchmarks set in the 2006 Compact on justice and the
rule of law. Amnesty International calls on the Afghan Government
and its international partners, including the UK, to co-ordinate
efforts to reform the justice sector and establish the rule of
law, including by providing the sustained financial support that
is required for meaningful change.
Amnesty International welcomes the Government's
statements and the EU Troika demarche to the Afghan foreign minister
in response to the execution of 15 people in October 2007. The
15 men were executed by firing squad at the Pul-i Charkhi high
security prison outside Kabul. This marked an end to a three-year
moratorium on executions in Afghanistan. The Government should
continue to urge the Afghan Government immediately to implement
a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, in accordance with
the 18 December 2007 UN General Assembly Resolution on a moratorium
on executions. This should be a first step towards the total abolition
of the death penalty.
The Government's policy towards China stresses
the need for engagement and dialogue. It recognises the importance
of human rights, but is driven more by economic and other strategic
considerations. At present, the interface of the 2008 and 2012
Olympic Games is also important. The UK is keen to emphasise its
multi-layered approach, where high-level contact is supported
by a range of projects to improve human rights in modest but practical
ways. Public comments by senior members of the Government on China's
human rights record are carefully measured in order to avoid upsetting
the overall balance of the relationship with China.
However, recent events in Tibet and China's
actions in the run up to Olympics are challenging the Government
to be more robust in its condemnation of China's deteriorating
human rights record. The Chinese authorities seem to have considered
and then discounted the expected level of international reaction
to these events. The Government has been slow to rise to the challenge.
Amnesty International calls on the Government to express in unequivocal
and public terms its condemnation of the worsening human rights
situation in China.
Amnesty International considers that much of
the current wave of repression is occurring because of, and not
in spite of the Olympics. Human rights activists, and others who
have publicly criticised official government policy, have been
targeted in the official pre-Olympics "clean up", in
an apparent attempt to portray a "stable" or "harmonious"
image to the world. Although there have been some high profile
releases of human rights activists, many more have been detained
in recent months for nothing more than petitioning the authorities
to address grievances or drawing international attention to ongoing
human rights violations. Individuals who have linked China's human
rights responsibilities to its hosting of the Olympics have been
among the most harshly treated. In March 2008, Yang Chunlin was
sentenced to five years in prison for "inciting subversion"
after he spearheaded a campaign under the banner "We don't
want the Olympics, we want human rights". Yang was reportedly
tortured by the police in detention; he was denied the opportunity
to raise these allegations in court. Also in March, Beijing-based
activist Hu Jia was convicted for "inciting subversion"
in connection with his human rights activities; he had already
spent many months under intrusive house arrest. His wife, Zeng
Jinyan, continues to be held under tight police surveillance at
home. Amnesty International is calling for the release of both
these men. The Government should call for the unconditional release
of Yang Chunlin, Hu Jia and other human rights activists unfairly
convicted or detained in China.
Amnesty International has welcomed official
Chinese promises of "complete media freedom" and the
introduction in 2007 of new, more open regulations for foreign
journalists in the run up the Olympics. However, foreign journalists
continue to be obstructed from reporting on issues deemed sensitive
by the authorities. The Foreign Correspondents Club of China documented
more than 180 violations of the regulations in 2007, with some
cases amounting to assault and arbitrary detention. Chinese journalists
continue to work under conditions of tight control and censorship;
journalists who publish articles critical of the authorities or
official policy risk prosecution and imprisonment. In recent months,
new measures have been introduced to increase controls over the
Internet. Reports suggest that information controls are also being
extended to SMS text messaging in Beijing. The Government has
been instrumental in persuading China to relax restrictions on
foreign journalists for the duration of the Olympics; it should
continue to press the Chinese authorities to maintain this relaxation
and extend it to domestic journalists.
Since March 2008, serious human rights violations
have been reported in Tibet and neighbouring provinces. The Chinese
authorities have used excessive and sometimes lethal force to
crackdown on Tibetan protests; some of these protests are reported
to have resulted in death, injury and damage to property. Amnesty
International condemns such attacks and acknowledges the Chinese
authorities' right and duty to protect all individuals against
violence, including those who are at risk of being targeted solely
on account of their ethnic identity. However, we are concerned
that in restoring order, the Chinese authorities have resorted
to measures that violate international human rights law and standards.
Amnesty International has called on the Chinese authorities immediately
to end such repressive measures. We are particularly concerned
about the treatment of hundreds of persons detained in response
to the recent unrest. Amnesty International calls on the Government
to press the Chinese authorities to allow immediate access to
Tibet and surrounding areas by UN investigators and other independent
observers. The Chinese authorities should also disclose the names,
whereabouts and legal status of all those detained in Tibet, and
release anyone detained solely for peaceful protest.
The Chinese authorities have claimed that the
restoration of the Supreme People's Court (SPC) review led to
a significant reduction in the number of executions in 2007. However,
the authorities have failed to support these assertions by publishing
full national statistics and other detailed information on the
application of the death penalty. Such information is essential
to assess accurately the impact of SPC review, and allow the Chinese
public at large to debate and come to informed opinions on the
death penalty. Recent reports indicate that the review process
is beset by significant problems, including a lack of clarity
on procedures for defence lawyers. No efforts have been made to
reduce the large number of crimes punishable by death. Two recent
SPC judicial interpretations on damage to electric power facilities
and the production or sale of fake medicine may actually encourage
lower courts to impose the death penalty, even if the crimes have
China is a "litmus test" country against
which to judge the Government's resolve to make human rights considerations
a key component of UK foreign policy. Amnesty International considers
that, at this time, the Government is failing that test in its
policies towards China. The Government needs to re-examine whether
its longstanding policy of engagement and practical co-operation
is capable of delivering real human rights improvements in China.
The report acknowledges that Colombia has a
long way to go on human rights. Nevertheless, Amnesty International
considers that the report fails accurately to reflect the seriousness
of the human rights situation. There have been improvements in
the security situation in some large cities, leading to fewer
kidnappings and killings, but the situation remains serious, especially
in regions such as Nariño and Arauca, and in rural areas.
All parties to the conflictguerrilla groups, paramilitaries
and the security forces (sometimes in collusion with paramilitary
forces)are responsible for repeated and widespread human
rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law,
including war crimes and crimes against humanity. Amnesty International
agrees with the report when it says that there are too many victims
of extrajudicial execution; increasing reports of extrajudicial
execution by the security forces are a particular concern. The
security forces often describe the victims as "guerrillas
killed in combat"; in reality, they are mostly peasant farmers.
Amnesty International is concerned at reports
that some "demobilised" paramilitaries have regrouped
as criminal gangs, others have failed to demobilise, and new paramilitary
groups have emerged. Paramilitaries continue to commit human rights
violations in areas where they had supposedly demobilised. In
2007, paramilitary groups are believed to have been responsible
for more than 200 civilian deaths. The Government should question
the Colombian authorities about the progress of its demobilisation
process and urge it to investigate the links between public officials
and paramilitary groups.
Impunity remains a problem. Although the Constitutional
Court has said that the ordinary justice system should deal with
human rights cases implicating the security forces, most are referred
to the military justice system. The military system usually closes
such cases without any serious attempt to hold those responsible
accountable. Despite repeated recommendations by the UN, the Colombian
Government has failed to tackle this issue. In view of the UK's
support for the process of military justice reform, Amnesty International
urges the Government to insist on the complete exclusion of human
rights abuse cases from the jurisdiction of military justice.
Amnesty International welcomes the Government's
work to press the Colombian Government to prioritise victims'
rights. Nevertheless, the organisation questions UK and EU support
for the Justice and Peace Law (JPL), which is contributing to
the culture of impunity and continues to fail to meet international
standards for victims' rights to truth, justice and reparation.
There are insufficient investigative units to handle the thousands
of cases of human rights violations committed by paramilitaries,
and the process has moved very slowly. Very little of the estimated
4 million hectares of land stolen by paramilitaries has been returned
to the rightful owners; what little has been returned, has been
a consequence of investigations outside the JPL process. Investigations
into the links between state officials and paramilitaries have
largely resulted from the work of the offices of the Attorney
General and Procurator General, the Supreme Court of Justice and
journalists and human rights groups rather than the JPL process.
Civilians, especially those belonging to indigenous,
Afro-descendent or peasant-farmer communities continue to bear
the brunt of the conflict (many live on land of economic and strategic
importance). Amnesty International is concerned about the high
number of people forcibly displaced (estimates suggest more than
305,000 civilians were displaced in 2007). We have received many
testimonies of continued forced recruitment of children by both
guerrilla and paramilitary groups. Paramilitaries and criminal
gangs are also known to recruit women and girls for prostitution.
Combatants continue to kill, sexually abuse, kidnap and threaten
women and girls. The Government should continue to support the
Human Rights Ombudsman's Office and efforts to protect internally
Human rights defenders, trade unionists, and
community activists continue to be targeted, principally by paramilitaries.
The arrival of a permanent International Labour Organization representative
and the establishment of special units in the Attorney General's
office to investigate the killing of trade unionists are positive
steps. Nevertheless, Amnesty International remains concerned at
the high number of attacks against trade unionists and the small
number of prosecutions for these attacks. In 2007, 39 trade unionists
were killed. The international community has tended to take a
clear and constructive stance in this area. Amnesty International
urges the Government to continue to support organisations representing
human rights defenders. It is critical that FCO staff in Colombia
work to implement the EU Guidelines on human rights defenders.
Colombia has yet to fully implement the human
rights recommendations of the Office of the UN High Commissioner
for Human Rights, which provide a blueprint for addressing the
human rights crisis in the country. Amnesty International urges
the Government and its EU partners to monitor the Colombian authorities'
implementation of the UN recommendations. The Government must
also continue to fund projects that will strengthen this process.
Amnesty International is concerned that the
UK continues to provide military assistance to Colombia, including
to units implicated in serious human rights abuses, such as the
High Mountain Brigades. As in previous years, the report provides
little information on UK assistance. Given that successive Colombian
governments have failed fully to implement the UN human rights
recommendations, which are essential to confront the crisis, there
are no guarantees that military aid will not exacerbate the human
rights crisis. Amnesty International urges the Government to be
more transparent about assistance for the Colombian Government,
in particular the military.
There is a risk that funding projects linked
with the demobilisation process will exacerbate the problem of
impunity and cause further human rights abuses. One such project
(the Rural Reinsertion Programme) threatens to legalise ownership
of land stolen by paramilitaries. Instead, international actors
should consider how to ensure that such land is identified, registered
and returned to its rightful owners. The Government, with its
EU partners, should stop funding projects linked with the paramilitary
Compared with previous entries on Iraq, the
report takes a more balanced approach to the myriad human rights
problems in the country. Nevertheless, it underplays a number
of aspects of the very serious and broad nature of the human rights
abuses in Iraq. The Government should urge its Iraqi counterpart,
as well as its international allies, to make a real commitment
to protect and promote the full range of human rights for all
Iraqis and others within Iraq.
The report notes that insecurity is a serious
obstacle to a culture based on human rights and that violence
is generating a complex humanitarian picture. Amnesty International
agrees with this assessment, but considers that the report does
not fully reflect the reality that Iraq is now one of the most
dangerous places in the world. Hundreds of people are being killed
every month in pervasive violence. Despite the "surge",
the violence has continued, albeit less intensively than in recent
years. Most killings are the result of sectarian violence; all
sides have committed gross human rights violations. Amnesty International
condemns attacks on civilians as well as indiscriminate attacks,
abduction, hostage-taking, torture and other ill-treatment. The
Iraqi Government has a duty to bring those responsible to justice
in fair trials and without recourse to torture or the death penalty.
Iraqi security forces are reported to have extra-judicially
executed dozens of people. Some members of these forces are believed
to maintain close links with militia groups and allegations of
involvement in sectarian killings continue. In recent months there
have also been allegations of rape by members of the Iraqi forces.
The Iraqi Government has failed to introduce practical measures
to deal with the serious human rights violations perpetrated by
its security forces. The Government should urge its Iraqi counterpart
to ensure that allegations of human rights abuse by members of
the Iraqi security services are properly investigated.
The report overlooks the part played by the
multinational force in the violence. Amnesty International remains
concerned at the number of civilians killed by US forces. US forces
have killed scores of civilians in recent months, on many occasions
firing at unarmed civilians seen as a threat because they came
too close to a convoy or patrol or approached checkpoints too
quickly. Moreover, despite the introduction of measures to safeguard
detainees, torture and other ill-treatment by the multinational
force continue to be reported, albeit on a lesser scale than before
2004. The Government should urge both the Iraqi and the US Governments
to set up prompt, independent and impartial investigations into
human rights violations. The Government should also ensure that
there are proper investigations into alleged abuse by UK forces.
The report does not mention the problem of private
military security contractors (PMSCs) in Iraq. Contractors from
foreign firms have killed dozens of Iraqis, and appear to have
total impunity to do so. The Government should ensure that private
military security contractors contracted by the Government (whether
from the UK or elsewhere) are subject to adequate legal control.
The Government should also ensure that all allegations of human
rights violations committed by employees or contractors of such
firms are promptly investigated.
The report makes only brief reference to the
problem of displacement. Sectarian violence has forced millions
of Iraqis to flee their homes, creating a deepening humanitarian
catastrophe. Iraqi refugees who fled to countries in the region
are experiencing acute economic difficulties, mainly because they
are not allowed to work, and are at risk of detention and deportation
for overstaying their visas. Living conditions for people displaced
within Iraq have deteriorated considerably, with shortages of
food, clean water, shelter, fuel, electricity and adequate healthcare.
Many children are not attending schools. The international community
has largely ignored the increasingly desperate humanitarian situation
of displaced Iraqis. The Government should urge its Iraqi counterpart
to take immediate steps to improve security for all refugees and
internally displaced people, and provide them with adequate humanitarian
assistance, including ensuring children's access to education.
The international community must work harder to provide financial,
technical and in-kind assistance to regional states that have
received large numbers of Iraqi refugees, as well as to UN agencies
and international NGOs that are assisting Iraqi refugees and internally
displaced people. The Government should immediately stop all forcible
returns to any part of Iraq. Any return of failed asylum-seekers
should only take place when the whole of Iraq has stabilised.
The report fails to reflect the extent of the
impact of violence on women in Iraq. Violence against women and
girls has increased dramatically in the past five years. Many
have been forced to leave their jobs or schools for fear of being
killed; others have fled the country. Women are being threatened
if they do not observe strict Islamic dress. Women and girls are
also at risk of rape by armed groups and members of the Iraqi
security forces. Domestic violence and "honour killings"
are increasing; few cases are investigated. Iraq is a state party
to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
against Women (CEDAW). Under the Convention, the Iraqi Government
has a duty to protect women from violations by state agents as
well as by private actors such as armed groups. The Iraqi Government
also has a duty to amend any law that discriminates against women,
such as provisions in the Iraqi Penal Code that allow lenient
punishment for "honour killings". The Government should
urge the Iraqi Government to take urgent steps to uphold the rights
of women and protect women and girls from violence. Amnesty International
calls on the Government, through its commitment to UN Security
Council Resolution 1325, to press the Iraqi Government to advance
human rights through the Constitution and repeal any articles
that could discriminate against women.
The report includes a section on coalition detention
and internment, but does not properly consider the human rights
implications of these practices. The majority of detainees held
by the multinational force are security internees who have been
held without charge or trial and without the right to challenge
their detention before a judicial body. Amnesty International
considers the system of security internment to be arbitrary and
in violation of fundamental human rights. Under the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by Iraq,
the USA and the UK, no one should be arbitrarily detained. Detainees
must have access to a court empowered to rule without delay on
the lawfulness of their detention and to order their release if
the detention is found to be unlawful. These requirements apply
to "anyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention"
and therefore apply fully to those interned by the multinational
The report notes various weaknesses of the Iraqi
justice system. These include serious abuse in Iraqi prisons as
well as the failure to tackle the culture of impunity. The report
sets out some of the work the UK is doing to provide the Iraqi
police with human rights training and to support an improvement
in the criminal justice culture more broadly. Amnesty International
welcomes this work. Up to 35,000 detainees are held in prisons
and detention centres under the control of the Iraqi authorities,
where torture and other ill-treatment are widespread. The report
notes the execution of prominent members of the former regime,
including Saddam Hussein, and sets out the UK's opposition to
the death penalty. However, the report does not make clear the
extent of the problem. The death penalty has been used extensively
since its reintroduction in 2004; hundreds of people have been
sentenced to death after grossly unfair trials. In 2007 alone,
Amnesty International recorded at least 199 death sentences and
at least 33 executions. The true figure could be higher since
the media does not report death sentences systematically. The
vast majority of death sentences have been passed by the Central
Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI); trials before the CCCI consistently
fall short of international standards for fair trial. Defendants
commonly complain that their "confessions" were extracted
by torture and that they could not choose their own legal defence
counsel. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all
circumstances as a violation of the right to life and as the ultimate
cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.
The Government should call on its Iraqi counterpart
to immediately establish a moratorium on executions with a view
to abolishing the death penalty. Amnesty International continues
to urge the multinational force in Iraq not to transfer any detainees
to the custody of the Iraqi authorities for fear of torture. Both
the Iraqi Government and multinational force should release or
charge with recognisable criminal offences all those currently
held without charge or trial in prisons and detention centres.
The Government should urge the Iraqi Government to ratify and
observe the requirements of the Convention against Torture.
The report makes a very brief mention of the
situation in the largely autonomous Kurdistan region. Serious
human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests, torture
and the use of the death penalty, continue to be reported in the
Kurdistan region. Political opponents of the Kurdish authorities
are subject to arrest, and sometimes torture, by the security
forces. Journalists are muzzled and often risk arrest and torture
in their daily work. Scores of women have been killed in "honour
crimes", with few of the culprits being brought to justice.
Israel and the Occupied Territories
The report notes that the human rights situation
in Israel and the Occupied Territories has not improved over the
last year. Amnesty International say there has been a marked and
clear deterioration in the human rights situation. Moreover, despite
recent peace talks, there appears to be very little or no progress
in improving the humanitarian situation for Palestinian civilians
in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The report states that the Government is concerned
about whether Israel's use of force is necessary and proportionate.
Israel's response to attacks by Palestinian armed groups is often
disproportionate, and too often results in death or injury to
innocent civilians. In a two week period in May 2007, 50 Palestinians
were killed and 200 injured in the Gaza Strip by Israeli air strikes
and other attacks. On 20 May 2007, seven members of the al-Haya
family, including two children, were killed by an Israeli air
strike. Amnesty International has presented the Government with
information about these and other attacks. The organisation shares
the Government's concern over the failure to convict members of
the Israeli Defence Force for their part in such attacks. As a
party to the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Government should unreservedly
condemn Israel's disproportionate use of force, which too often
results in death or injury to Palestinian civilians.
The report rightly raises the humanitarian situation
in Gaza and notes that it has deteriorated further since the Hamas
takeover in June 2007. However, it is important to note that even
before this date, the Gazan crossing points only opened on an
ad hoc and infrequent basis, adversely affecting the humanitarian
situation. It is misleading to suggest that the humanitarian situation
was adequate before the Hamas takeover.
As the occupying power, Israel is responsible
for ensuring the welfare of the 1.5 million Palestinians in the
Gaza Strip, all of whom are protected persons under the Fourth
Geneva Convention. Arguments that Israel is not bound by the laws
of occupation because it redeployed to the perimeter of the Gaza
Strip in 2005 are inaccurate. Israel retains effective control
by virtue of its full control over the land border, air space
and territorial waters, as well as the movement of people and
goods. Israel is bound by its obligations under international
humanitarian and human rights law to ensure the welfare of the
Palestinian population. According to Article 33 of the Fourth
Geneva Convention: "No protected person may be punished for
an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective
penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism
are prohibited". The Government has failed to make this point
publicly. Amnesty International urges the Government to condemn
the collective punishment of the Palestinian population of Gaza
and to press the Israeli authorities immediately to end restrictions
on the supply of fuel, electricity, humanitarian assistance, medical
supplies and other necessities.
The report highlights the problem of access
to clean water and effective sewerage systems in Gaza and the
fact that this has been exacerbated by closures since June 2007.
However, the report fails to mention that the sewage plant was
originally destroyed by Israel in 2006. It also fails to mention
that access to water is a serious problem for Palestinian communities
in the West Bank, where Israeli settlers are given priority and
are permitted access to five times as much water as Palestinians.
Amnesty International agrees with the report
that Israeli settlements are an obstacle to peace and are illegal
under international law. The report notes the expansion of existing
settlements in violation of the Roadmap. In addition, existing
settlements continue to expand and new settlements are being built
despite previous assurances of a freeze on settlement expansion.
New settlements are also being built under the pretence that they
are part of existing settlements. In addition to violating international
law, the settlements and related infrastructure, including the
fence/wall (80% of which is inside the West Bank) and the network
of "bypass" roads, have had disastrous consequences
for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. Restrictions on movement
hinder the functioning of the Palestinian economy, causing increased
poverty and unemployment and ultimately preventing any semblance
of normal life.
The Government should continue to demand that
the Israeli authorities: immediately stop building and expanding
settlements and the fence/wall, including in and around East Jerusalem;
enact measures to evacuate settlers; dismantle those sections
of the fence/wall that have been built inside the West Bank; and
end the regime of closures and movement restrictions.
The report notes that the Israeli authorities
frequently demolish Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem and elsewhere
in Area C of the occupied West Bank on the grounds that they have
been built without a permit. However, as in previous years, the
report underplays the problem. The report also fails to mention
efforts by the Israeli military to intensify the expulsion of
Palestinians from the Jordan Valley. Much of the Jordan Valley
has been designated a "closed military zone". As a result,
the Israeli authorities are putting increasing pressure on Palestinian
villagers to leave the area.
The Israeli authorities continue to pursue a
policy of discriminatory house demolition. While Israeli settlements
are allowed to be built on occupied Palestinian land, in breach
of international law, Palestinian land is confiscated, with the
Israeli authorities refusing Palestinians building permits and
destroying their homes. This confiscated land is often used to
build illegal Israeli settlements. International law forbids occupying
powers from settling their own citizens in the territories they
Amnesty International urges the Government to
lobby its Israeli counterpart to cancel all outstanding orders
for forced eviction and demolition of unlicensed houses and to
impose a moratorium on forced eviction and demolition until such
time as the law is amended in a manner that complies with international
standards. Amnesty International would also ask the Government
to urge the Israeli Government to end its policy of punitive demolition.
The Palestinian Authority
The report condemns all acts of violence against
Israel's population and indiscriminate rocket attacks from the
Gaza Strip into Israel. The report notes the issue of intra-Palestinian
violence and in particular focuses on the inter-factional political
violence that has engulfed the Gaza Strip in the past year. Amnesty
International has reported that fighting between security forces
and armed groups loyal to the two main Palestinian political parties
(Fatah and Hamas) has caused the death of many unarmed bystanders,
including children. In the first half of 2007 alone, some 350
people were killed and over 2,000 injured as a direct result of
inter-factional violence. Both sides have committed grave human
rights abuses and have shown a flagrant disregard for the human
rights of the civilian populations of the Gaza Strip and the West
Amnesty International urges the Government to
use its influence to press the Palestinian Authority and the de
facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip to investigate all
unlawful killings, abductions and other attacks against civilians,
and to ensure that that those responsible for such crimes are
brought to justice.
While there has been considerable focus on the
security situation in the Gaza Strip since June 2007, the situation
in the West Bank has received much less attention. In the West
Bank, the Palestinian Authority security forces continue to detain
Hamas supporters and there have been reports of torture and other
ill treatment in detention. In addition, the Palestinian Authority
has closed more than 100 charities linked to Hamas and used violence
to break up demonstrations and public gatherings of Hamas supporters.
The Government is right to condemn abuses committed by Hamas and
other groups, but must pay equal attention to abuses committed
by the Palestinian Authority and armed groups affiliated to Fatah.
Amnesty International urges the Government to
use its influence in representations to the administration of
President Abbas to press the Palestinian Authority to:
Issue clear instructions requiring
all Palestinian Authority security forces to uphold the law and
respect human rights.
End the torture and ill treatment
of all of those detained by the Palestinian Authority.
End arbitrary arrests and detentions
and ensure that those detained arbitrarily are released immediately.
End impunity and investigate all
unlawful killings, abductions and any other attacks against civilians,
and ensure that those responsible for such crimes are brought
Amnesty International shares the Government's
concerns over the deteriorating human rights situation in Myanmar.
We welcomed the opportunity provided in October
2007 for our Secretary General to address the Prime Minister about
the violent suppression of peaceful demonstrations across Myanmar
in August and September 2007. We also welcomed the strong terms
in which the Prime Minister and Government responded to the serious
human rights abuses committed by the Myanmar authorities. Such
international pressure was clearly instrumental in the Myanmar
authorities' initial acceptance of visits by UN representatives
to the country. However, that pressure has not been maintained
and the Myanmar authorities have not since met any of the calls
to restore and protect human rights made in the UN Security Council
Presidential Statement of October 2007, UN General Assembly resolutions
or at the UN Human Rights Council. UN Special Rapporteur Paulo
Sergio Pinherio was not permitted to return to Myanmar to monitor
implementation of the recommendations he made following his visit
in November 2007. The Government, both in its own right and through
the EU, must continue to press the Myanmar authorities for Professor
Pinherio's successor to have the opportunity to complete a full
assessment of the human rights situation in the country.
The Myanmar authorities should continue to be
pressed to allow: international organisations access to political
prisoners, the unconditional release of monks currently confined
to their temples as well as those imprisoned, and the unconditional
release of prisoners of conscience, including Daw Aung San Suu
Kyi. The international community should set a strict timetable
for these steps to be taken.
Amnesty International understands that last
summer's demonstrators will be charged under law 5/96, which provides
for up to 20 years in prison for anyone who is found guilty of
expressing opinions that disrupt the stability of the state. We
have called for the repeal of this law and its vague and sweeping
provisions, which criminalise the peaceful expression of political
Concerns over the suppression of last summer's
demonstrations should not overshadow longstanding human rights
abuses suffered by ethnic groups in Myanmar. The Myanmar army
has resorted to killings, torture, forcible relocation and collective
punishment of populations suspected of sympathising with opposition
armed groups, especially in and around Kayin (Karen) State and
Bago Division. Punishments have included the burning of houses
and villages, and the destruction of crops. There is evidence
that these military operations have involved acts against civilians
that constitute violations of international humanitarian and human
rights law on a scale that amounts to crimes against humanity.
Amnesty International considers it unacceptable
for states to continue to supply arms to a government that is
responsible for persistent serious violations of human rights
and which now resorts to violence against peaceful demonstrators.
We have urged the UN Security Council immediately to impose a
comprehensive and mandatory arms embargo on Myanmar. The Government
is a party to the EU embargo and a supporter of the EU common
position, but is less vocal for action by the UN given the reluctance
of some other UN Security Council members to act. Amnesty International
has also called on the principal suppliers of arms to Myanmar
(China, India, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine and ASEAN nations) to prohibit
supply of military and security equipment to the country. Specifically,
in July 2007, Amnesty International and a number of European NGOs
produced a report illustrating how EU components (including parts
from the UK) were used in the manufacture of attack helicopters
apparently destined to be sold by India to Myanmar. India subsequently
denied such an intention and the sale did not go ahead.
Amnesty International welcomes the inclusion
of Pakistan in the report as a major country of concern and the
recognition of the many serious human rights abuses in the country.
Nevertheless, we consider that the report underplays some serious
areas of abuse and is insufficiently critical in certain places.
In November 2007, the Pakistani Government declared
a state of emergency. There were widespread arrests and incommunicado
detention of lawyers, judges, journalists and human rights defenders
as well as the violent suppression of peaceful protests. Criminal
charges were made against hundreds of lawyers who had protested
against the imposition of emergency powers. The report briefly
mentions this issue, noting the Government's criticism of the
imposition of the state of emergency. Amnesty International urges
the Government to press the Pakistani authorities to make public
information about all those arrested and subsequently released
during the state of emergency, and to ensure that individuals
are either charged and tried with recognisable criminal offences
in fair trial processes, or released.
The report underplays the human rights abuses
linked with terrorism and counter-terrorism activities. Armed
groups are responsible for violent attacks and public executions.
However, Amnesty International has also received reports of extrajudicial
execution, house demolition, arbitrary detention and harassment
by the Pakistani security forces. The organisation is also concerned
at the treatment of terrorism suspects, many of whom are dealt
with outside the judicial system. Hundreds of suspects are known
to have been handed over to US authorities outside the legal extradition
process; some were subsequently transferred to Guantánamo
Bay. There are also believed to have been large numbers of "disappearances";
it is impossible to know the true extent of the problem. The Government
should use its strategic relationship with Pakistan to push the
authorities to make greater efforts to ensure that human rights
are respected in its counter-terrorism policies and practice.
In particular, the Pakistani Government should ensure that there
are no further "disappearances", that there is full
disclosure of those who have been held in secret detention and
redress for victims and their families. The Pakistani Government
should sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection
of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. The Government should
also press its Pakistani counterpart to work harder to investigate
allegations of human rights abuse, and ensure that those found
responsible are held accountable.
Amnesty International remains deeply concerned
about the risks to women and children in Pakistan. The report
notes that amendment of some of the most damaging Hadood Ordinances
by the introduction of the Women's Protection Bill in 2006 was
a welcome step. However, women continue to be discriminated against
in law. This is evident in the refusal to recognise marital rape
and the incorporation of some of the provisions of the Zina (Hadood)
Ordinance into the penal code (this does not recognise women as
independent agencies and leaves them unable to make decisions
about their own future). Such provisions obstruct women's freedom
of movement, choices in marriage and contravene international
conventions. In addition, "honour crimes" and forced
marriage remain huge problems, and there is a high incidence of
domestic violence. Amnesty International urges the Government
to press its Pakistani counterpart urgently to work to repeal
laws that discriminate against women.
Press freedom was almost entirely suspended
during the state of emergency. The Pakistani Government is currently
repealing emergency laws restricting print and electronic media
freedoms, and reports suggest that the situation is returning
to "normal". However, even prior to the emergency measures,
press freedom was heavily constrained. Journalists who criticise
or contradict the Pakistani Government are regularly harassed,
intimidated, attacked and in some cases murdered. Amnesty International
urges the Government to put pressure on the Pakistani Government
to cease attacks against and harassment of journalists and ensure
that press freedom is respected.
Amnesty International remains concerned at the
low level of religious freedom in Pakistan. Members of faiths
other than Islam are often arrested and detained. Individuals
and their places of worship and business are also subject to attack.
Cases of arrest for blasphemy are increasing; individuals charged
with blasphemy face a long and unjust judicial process, with cases
often taking years to conclude. Individuals accused of blasphemy
remain at risk of attack even while in custody. The Government
should impress upon the Pakistani authorities the urgent need
to repeal all laws that persecute religious minorities.
Torture is used in police custody across Russia.
The General Procuracy routinely fails to ensure effective investigation
of torture allegations and there is no fully effective, independent
nationally enforced mechanism for monitoring places of detention.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has not yet been able to
visit the Russian Federation. The Russian authorities say that
the standard conditions of such visits (in particular, unannounced
arrival at places of detention and private interviews of detainees)
contravene Russian law. This is a particular concern in Chechnya;
the Special Rapporteur has been asking to visit the area since
2000. The Government should press the Russian authorities to sign
and ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against
Torture, establish a mechanism for unannounced inspections of
all places of detention, increase the effectiveness of investigations
into allegations of torture and improve professional training
for police officers. The Government should also press the Russian
authorities to cooperate with UN human rights bodies.
The report notes that the Russian human rights
group "Memorial" has reported a fall in the number of
disappearances in Chechnya and the North Caucasus, and comments
that this is a "positive trend". However, Memorial itself
has said that the picture in the North Caucasus "does not
look reassuring" and that "although the situation is
changing, there is no overall improvement in it". While the
number of reported enforced disappearances in Chechnya has decreased,
extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearance, abduction, arbitrary
detention and torture (including in unofficial places of detention)
have all been reported as part of the Russian Government's counter-terrorism
operations in the North Caucasus, particularly in Chechnya and
Ingushetia. Amnesty International calls on the Government to urge
the Russian authorities to investigate independently all allegations
of abuse by security forces, and bring those responsible to justice.
Amnesty International shares the report's concern
about the expanded Law on Combating Extremist Activity, and specifically
the overly broad definition of extremism. The right to freedom
of expression, assembly and association are guaranteed in the
Russian Constitution and are enshrined in international human
rights law. However, these rights are increasingly restricted.
The provisions in various Russian laws allow for arbitrary interpretation
and the Russian authorities have used them to clamp down on "dissent"
by human rights defenders and others expressing alternative viewpoints.
The report refers to the fact that a number
of NGOs have expressed concern about the new NGO law; Amnesty
International is one such organisation. In particular, Amnesty
International is concerned that the law has been used to target
NGOs, including human rights organisations, because they are seen
as a threat to state authority. Some NGOs, including human rights
organisations, have had to suspend their activities due to the
law's requirements, and in some cases NGOs are reported to be
facing possible closure for alleged violations of the law. The
Government should remind the Russian authorities of their domestic
and international duties to uphold the right to freedom of expression,
assembly and association.
Amnesty International shares the report's concerns
about growing xenophobia in Russia. The Russian authorities have
failed to provide protection or investigate effectively racially
motivated attacks, including murders. A small rise in prosecutions
of race hate crimes and local initiatives, such as increased policing,
have been insufficient to address the scale of the problem, and
there is no comprehensive programme to combat racist and xenophobic
ideas and ideologies.
We welcome the report's inclusion of material
on violence against women in Russia. However, this material is
limited to detail of UK funding for projects to support the Russian
police in dealing with domestic and sexual violence and human
trafficking. Amnesty International is concerned that the problem
of violence against women cannot be addressed solely by law enforcement
strategies. Russian law does not contain specific measures to
address violence against women in the family, and there is inadequate
government support for crisis centres and hotlines. The UN Committee
against Torture has expressed concern about domestic violence
and the lack of shelters for women. The Government should include
more detail on the problem of violence against women in future
human rights reports.
The report notes that Russia is the only member
of the Council of Europe that has not ratified Protocol 14 of
the European Convention on Human Rights. The protocol was designed
to reform the Convention and improve the workings of the European
Court of Human Rights. The protocol cannot come into force until
all member states have ratified it. Amnesty International notes
that Russia has also failed to ratify Protocol 6, which provides
for abolition of the death penalty, despite its commitment to
do so by February 1999. In addition to concerns about the retention
of the death penalty, we note that individuals who have sought
justice before the European Court of Human Rights have faced intimidation
by officials; defence lawyers have also been harassed. The Government,
along with its European allies, should remind its Russian counterpart
of its human rights responsibilities as a signatory to the European
Convention on Human Rights and participant in the Council of Europe.
The Government should press the Russian Government to implement
fully the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights.
Amnesty International shares many of the concerns
raised in the report, but we are disappointed by the extreme brevity
of the coverage of Saudi Arabia. The report cites the progress
of gradual reform as a hopeful sign. However, despite such reform,
Amnesty International remains gravely concerned about a range
of human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia.
The report notes the publication by the Saudi
Arabian National Society on Human Rights of its first report.
This is to be welcomed, as was the decision by the Saudi authorities
to allow a research mission to the Kingdom by Human Rights Watch.
However, the cancellation of subsequent missions and the refusal
to allow Amnesty International to send a research mission to Saudi
Arabia shows that transparency and openness remain the exception
rather than the rule. Amnesty International would welcome any
representations the Government could make to its Saudi counterpart
to assist gaining access for the organisation to the country.
We welcome the UK's engagement with Saudi Arabia
and the opportunity this gives to work to improve the country's
human rights record. However, we were disappointed at the failure
to discuss human rights as part of the 2007 state visit to the
UK by King Abdullah. The Government should use the UK's close
relationship with Saudi Arabia to express in unequivocal terms
its condemnation of the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia.
The report refers to ongoing reforms and work
to restructure the judicial system. However, it remains to be
seen whether these steps will address the system's serious shortcomings,
namely: the secrecy and lack of transparency of the criminal justice
system; the lack of adherence to international fair trial standards,
such as the rights to legal representation and appeal; and the
lack of independence of the judiciary. The rights of detainees
are commonly and systematically violated; detainees are often
denied access to representation and face lengthy periods of pre-trial
detention. Critics of the government are routinely held without
trial. The Government should urge its Saudi counterpart to take
steps to improve the fairness and transparency of the Saudi judicial
The death penalty continues to be applied to
a wide range of offences and is often applied to child offenders.
At least 158 people (82 Saudi and 76 foreign nationals) were executed
in 2007. These included three women and at least one child offender,
Dhahian Rakan al-Sibai, who was 15 at the time of the offence
for which he was prosecuted. Those executed were convicted of
murder, rape, drug offences, witchcraft, apostasy and other charges,
but virtually no information was available about their trials,
appeal, or whether the defendants received legal representation.
Most of the executions were carried out in public. The Government
should press the Saudi authorities to abolish the death penalty
Discrimination remains a serious problem, with
women, migrants, Shia Muslims and non-Muslims being particularly
at risk. Women suffer extremely harsh limitations on their freedom
(despite a number of reforms, women continue to have a lesser
status than men in Saudi law; a woman's testimony is worth half
that of a man). There has been discussion of allowing women to
participate in the political process, but at present women remain
unable to vote. Rates of domestic violence are high, with little
judicial recourse for victims and a culture of impunity for perpetrators.
The seriousness of the situation is illustrated by the al-Qatif
case, in which a girl was sentenced to 200 lashes and six months
in prison for committing a kilwa offence (being with a man who
is not a family member) after she was gang raped by seven men
while with this man. The Government should press the Saudi authorities
to eliminate all discriminatory legislation and judicial processes.
The Saudi Government should also adopt the recommendations of
the Convention on the Elimination of all Form of Discrimination
against Women (CEDAW), which Saudi Arabia ratified in 2000, in
particular in relation to women's freedom of movement, right to
work and equal status with men.
1 "The Foreign Secretary's Speech at the Launch
of the FCO's 2007 Human Rights Report", 25 March 2008, London. Back
In 2001, Sweden expelled two asylum seekers to Egypt relying on
"diplomatic assurances" to counter the risk of torture.
Both men were held in incommunicado detention in Egypt and allege
that they were tortured while in custody in Egypt. Back
Grand Chamber, Case of Saadi v Italy, Judgement, Strasbourg,
28 February 2008. Back
Statement of the Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak,
to the 2nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council, Geneva, 20
September 2006. Back
"Speech by Terry Davis", Secretary General of the Council
of Europe, at the Seminar on Action against Trafficking in Human
Beings, London, 10 December 2007. Back