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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

William Hague's hypocrisy on human rights at home and abroad

William Hague's hypocrisy on human rights at home and abroad

Human rights are key to our foreign policy

We must harness Britain's generosity and compassion to help the rest of the world, says William Hague.

William Hague has chosen the example of the floods in Pakistan, and the amount of government aid and public donations to claim that the nation should feel proud. He states that we acted quicker and and gave more than some other countries. Conveniently, he ignores the UK's failure to act in 5 years on the issue of convicted prisoners human right to the vote and on this we lag behind most other countries in Europe.

William Hague continues: "It also confirms something fundamental about our society's attitude to the suffering of others, whether that distress is caused by natural disaster, state oppression, or conflict. It is not in our character as a nation to stand by while others are in need, or to be unmoved when they are denied the hard-won freedoms and protections that we enjoy in Britain as a result of centuries of striving for individual rights within a democratic society".

What belies William Hague's claim is that our society's attitude to the suffering of prisoners exposes that we are really less civilised than we like to pretend. They simply buried their collective head in the sand when prisoners were denied their hard-won human right to the vote by state oppression.

William Hague continues: "It is a sad fact that there are scores of countries in the world where human rights are severely curtailed. Somalia, Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo and North Korea are just some of the many countries where people endure war, want or political oppression. There is no single country that has the power to transform this situation alone. In the end, strong institutions and the rule of law are the only lasting guarantee of freedoms, and we all know that these things take a long time to build and must be constantly nurtured".

Instead of looking out, lets look in at the UK. We have 75,000 convicted prisoners whose human right to vote is severely curtailed by political oppression. The institutions of the Council of Europe, Committee of Ministers and European Convention and European Court of Human Rights, and the rule of law are being ignored therby not guaranteeing basic human rights to the most vulnerable group in society.

William Hague waffles on: "But this does not diminish the centrality of human rights in the core values of our foreign policy. We cannot have a foreign policy without a conscience. Foreign policy is domestic policy written large. The values we live by at home do not stop at our shores. Human rights are not the only issue that informs the making of foreign policy, but they are indivisible from it, not least because the consequences of foreign policy failure are human. When ceasefires break down or unchecked climate change takes hold, ordinary people suffer. Where there is lawlessness, human rights abuses inevitably follow, affecting our security in the UK as well as affronting our common humanity".

It would be laudable for a country which guaranteed human rights at home to put human rights at the centre of its foreign policy. However, it is embarrassingly hypocritical to be caught out saying "Don't do as we do, do as we say!". All that produces is 'pot calling kettle black'. In all conscience it is wrong to commit evil at home and state we are committed to doing good abroad. It is because of the lawlessness of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Ministry of Justice that convicted prisoners human rights abuse inevitably followed.

William Hague continues: "In our first 100 days we have brought the energy of a new government to bear on the promotion of human rights. We have enacted in weeks what the previous government failed to do over several years by announcing an inquiry into whether Britain was implicated in the improper treatment of detainees, and publishing the guidance given to intelligence services personnel in the interviewing of detainees held by other countries".

What belies this statement is that the coalition is well aware that Labour did nothing in 5 years on the issue of convicted prisoners and their human right to vote, and the coalition has deliberately done nothing to remedy this situation in its first 100 days!

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