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Hague makes human rights commitment

Foreign Secretary William Hague is to declare his commitment to the protection of human rights around the world, insisting it is not in Britain's interests to pursue "a foreign policy without a conscience".

Mr Hague will use the third in a series of linked speeches on foreign policy to announce that he is setting up a new group - including aid agencies and independent experts - to advise ministers on human rights issues.

He will also say that the Foreign Office is reissuing guidance to its staff on the need to report any incidents of torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment that they encounter in the course of their work.

"There will be no downgrading of human rights under this Government and no resiling from our commitments to aid and development. Indeed I intend to improve and strengthen our human rights work," he is expected to say.

"It is not in our character as a nation to have a foreign policy without a conscience, and neither is it in our interests.

"We cannot achieve long-term security and prosperity unless we uphold our values. Where human rights abuses go unchecked our security suffers. And our international influence will bleed away unless we maintain our international standing and cultural influence."

His comments carry echoes of former foreign secretary Robin Cook's declaration at the start of the last Labour government that it would pursue a foreign policy with an "ethical dimension".

Mr Hague will also confirm that the Foreign Office will continue the previous government's practice of publishing an annual human rights report - although it will no longer be a glossy document but a simple parliamentary paper.

Shadow foreign secretary David Miliband welcomed the confirmation that the report would be retained, but accused Mr Hague of diverting resources away from human rights issues and frontline diplomatic services.

"William Hague has cut programmes on human rights and democracy by £560,000 this financial year, while the Government has watered down Labour's policy for a universal standard for arms sales," he said.


From Belfast Telegraph