Peter Tatchell disrupts Jeremy Corbyn human rights speech with Syria protest
A speech by Jeremy Corbyn to highlight human rights abuses was plunged into chaos when campaigners staged a protest over Labour's response to the Syrian crisis.
Demonstrators led by Peter Tatchell waved banners calling for immediate air drops in the war-torn nation as Mr Corbyn began to address supporters.
Peter Tatchell disrupts Jeremy Corbyn's human rights speech in protest over Labour's response to Syria pic.twitter.com/z15HtYHZOM— Sam Lister (@sam_lister_) December 10, 2016
The human rights campaigner said he was acting in desperation over the Opposition leader's failure to push for action in the face of widespread civilian slaughter.
He told activists gathered to hear Mr Corbyn speak in the Central Methodist Hall in Westminster : "What is happening in Aleppo is a modern-day Guernica.
"We haven't heard the leader of the Labour Party speak out enough to demand UK air drops to besieged civilians who are dying in their thousands."
Mr Corbyn was on stage with Baroness Chakrabarti, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, shadow home secretary Diane Abbott and shadow diversity minister Dawn Butler when the demonstration happened.
Seemingly forgetting they were still wearing microphones, Baroness Chakrabarti advised the Labour leader "just let them do this". Mr Corbyn then consulted Ms Thornberry, asking: "When did we condemn the bombing?"
Mr Tatchell h as previously criticised the Labour leader for failing to speak out loudly enough against Russia, which is propping up Bashar Assad's brutal dictatorship.
He has also criticised the Stop the War coalition Mr Corbyn previously headed for opposing Western military action while failing to protest against the Syrian regime.
Mr Corbyn insisted that he had condemned Russia's bombing of civilian targets in Syria.
"I condemn all bombing by all sides against everybody in Syria," he added. "I also want aid drops to go in because there is starvation in Aleppo and other places and I want war crimes investigators to go in to investigate everything that has happened."
He added: "The people that came this morning, that's absolutely fine. This is human rights day, it's the right to speak out, the right to make your voice heard, the right to a protest."
Mr Corbyn has previously faced accusations from Labour former prime minister Tony Blair that he is "standing by" while Syrian civilians suffer. Mr Blair claimed the current party leader was engaging in the ''politics of protest'' while dodging difficult decisions.
Mr Tatchell, who has known Mr Corbyn for many years, said he was frustrated at the party's inaction over the humanitarian crisis in the country.
He told the Press Association: "Today's protest was an act of desperation because we are so frustrated that the leader of the Labour party Jeremy Corbyn seems to have forsaken the principle of international solidarity.
He's made no statements as far as we know in solidarity with civil societies in Syria. He's not listening to their demands, he's not promoting their demands, which are very simple - a UN supervised ceasefire, for the UN to supervise the evacuation of civilians to safe havens, and most importantly right now, the airdrop of aid and medicine to besieged civilian populations.
Peter Tatchell says today's protest at Jeremy Corbyn's speech was an 'act of desperation' pic.twitter.com/9sTfbUGU09— Sam Lister (@sam_lister_) December 10, 2016
"Those are things that Jeremy Corbyn could push for in Parliament right now this week. He hasn't done so, so far. We hope as a result of today, he will."
The Labour event had been arranged to highlight women's rights and other issues as part of International Human Rights Day.
After the five-minute protest died down, Mr Corbyn continued his address, telling supporters: "This Government may be lead by a woman but the rights of women are not in discussion.
"Without a mandate, but with a motive, Theresa May is trying to dilute the rights and protections of people across this country."