1.The Government has made it clear that promoting human rights, the rule of law, and strengthening the rules-based international system are essential to the foreign policy of “Global Britain”, and that they are closely—even inextricably—linked.1 Since 2015, the human rights work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has been based around three broad themes, centred on the idea of a rules-based approach: “democratic values and the rule of law”, “strengthening the rules-based international system”, and “human rights for a stable world”.2
2.Previous Foreign Affairs Committees have carried out regular inquiries into the FCO’s human rights work, examining the annual Human Rights and Democracy report. As part of our overarching inquiry into Global Britain, the Committee decided to examine the FCO’s human rights work from the perspective of its rules-based approach, looking at efforts to strengthen the international rules-based system, and to promote the rule of law worldwide. We focused on the UK’s standing within the United Nations (UN) human rights system; and on the FCO’s programme work on rule of law, and how this interacts with its human rights agenda.
3.As part of our inquiry we heard evidence from Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the FCO Minister of State for the Commonwealth and the UN; and from three FCO officials: Richard Jones, Deputy Director, Human Rights and Democracy; Corinne Kitsell, Deputy Director UN & Multilateral / UN Co-ordinator; and Paul McKell, Legal Director. We also heard from Ben Emmerson QC, former UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-terrorism and Human Rights; Professor Rosa Freedman, of the University of Reading; Sir Roger Gale MP, Leader of the UK Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe; Angela Smith MP, Opposition Leader of the UK Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe; Murray Hunt, Director of the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law; Professor Javaid Rehman, of Brunel University, and appointed after our evidence session as UN Special Rapporteur on Iran; and Natalie Samarasinghe, Executive Director of the United Nations Association - UK (UNA-UK). We received written submissions from current and former independent experts within the UN system, representatives of campaign groups and think tanks, and academics, among others. We are grateful to our witnesses and to those who provided written evidence.
1 FCO, Human Rights & Democracy: The 2016 Foreign & Commonwealth Office Report, Cm 9487, July 2017, page v
2 FCO Human Rights Work: A New Way Forward (leaving no priorities behind), Rob Fenn, Foreign Office Human Rights blog, 5 August 2015
Published: 11 September 2018