Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

British government warned over human rights

Tim Hancock urged the Government to break free from past human rights records
Tim Hancock urged the Government to break free from past human rights records

Britain's new political era is an opportunity to break free from human rights abuses of the past, Amnesty International has said.

Campaigners accused leaders of losing the moral high ground by trying to circumvent the international ban on torture and placing people under control orders.

Tim Hancock, the organisation's UK campaigns director, speaking as Amnesty International published its annual report on the state of the world's human rights, said senior figures in both coalition parties criticised the record of the previous Government and said they must restore pride in the country's own record.

Mr Hancock said: "Both parties in the new government have criticised the previous government on human rights grounds and it's vital that they live up to their fine words now they're in office.

"We're stressing that 'justice gaps' - where people are cut off from accessing justice - need to be closed all around the world, and it's only right that the UK delivers on law and order at home and abroad. While dozens of countries in the world have very poor human rights records, the plain truth is that ours has been nothing to write home about either."

Amnesty International singled out Britain's championing of the International Criminal Court and a global arms trade treaty as examples of where it is leading the way on human rights.

But campaigners said attempting to get around an international ban on torture through diplomatic assurance deals for deportation cases and the continued use of control orders are deplorable.

The encyclopaedic 420-page annual report covering 159 countries highlighted how a "global justice gap" is aggravated by "power politics" as some influential nations attempt to stand above human rights laws, and accused these countries, including the United States, Russia and China, of shielding allies from criticism and only taking action when it is politically convenient.

Amnesty International recorded torture, unfair trials and restrictions on free speech in dozens of countries, singling out Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, North Korea, Myanmar, Russia and Sri Lanka for criticism and highlighted mass forced evictions in Africa, increased reports of violence against women in central America and the exploitation of migrants in South Korea, Japan and Malaysia.

Claudio Cordone, Amnesty International secretary general, said: "Repression and injustice are flourishing in the global justice gap, condemning millions of people to abuse, oppression and poverty. Governments must ensure that no one is above the law, and that everyone has access to justice for all human rights violations."

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