"In 2020, and beyond, the UK will place the promotion and protection of human rights at the top of our list of international priorities."

Lord Ahmad, FCO address to UN Human Rights Council

February 25, 2020

Facts

British support for human rights is selective. When Britain’s enemies (for instance Iran or Russia) are accused of breaching human rights Britain is quick to react. By contrast Britain protects allies (for instance Israel or Saudi Arabia) accused of human rights violations. The Johnson government in general has a poor record of protecting human rights.  

For example, British civil courts and public enquiries have produced serious evidence of torture and other war crimes by UK forces in Iraq but there have been hardly any prosecutions. Despite this, the Johnson government proposed legislation that would have created a “presumption against prosecution” for members of the British armed forces accused to crimes, including torture, committed abroad more than five years earlier. The Overseas Operations bill set out to reduce the likelihood of British servicemen being held to account, although the government backed down on some of the worst elements following a major vote against it in the House of Lords. 

Boris Johnson has opposed the International Criminal Court investigation into unlawful Israeli settlements in the West Bank and alleged war crimes by Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza. Human Rights Watch and others have long sought such a probe, which opens a long-awaited path to justice for Israeli and Palestinian victims of serious international crimes.

International trade secretary Liz Truss renewed arms sales to Saudi Arabia despite massive documentation of violations of the laws of war by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. 

Verdict

We look forward to the day when the Boris Johnson government places the protection of human rights at the top of its list of international priorities. 

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