In a report published today - FCO's Human Rights Work in 2011 - the Foreign Affairs Committee argues that Ministers should be bolder in acknowledging contradictions between the UK’s interests overseas and its human rights values.
It is inevitable that the UK will have strategic, commercial or security-related interests overseas which have the potential to conflict with its human rights work, says the Foreign Affairs Committee in a report published today. The Government should not be trying to assert that the two can co-exist freely: it should instead be explaining publicly its judgments on how to balance them in particular cases.
The Committee's recommendation comes in the light of the FCO's decision not to designate Bahrain as a "country of concern" in its 2011 report on its human rights work, despite the repression of demonstrations in Bahrain in 2011. The Committee recommends that the criteria for designation should be based purely on assessments of human rights standards and should not be coloured by strategic or other considerations.
The Committee also challenges the Government for being inconsistent in not taking a public stance on the Bahrain Grand Prix but boycotting group stage games at Euro 2012 in Ukraine.
On rendition, the Committee finds that the protracted police investigations had an unacceptable impact on the work of the Gibson Inquiry and of relevant committees. The Government should explain why current investigations into claims of rendition made by two Libyans are expected to take so long.
The Committee accepts that enough progress has been made in Burma to justify some relaxation of the EU's sanctions regime, but it says that Burma’s human rights record remains seriously blemished. It recommends that the UK should call for better access to those still detained as political prisoners, and should press the Burmese authorities to allow independent observers to visit Rakhine state, to assess the extent to which the rights of the Rohingya minority are being respected.