Tag Archives: human rights

LibLink: Mark Williams on happiness, which is still ground for punishment in Iran

 

Mark Williams has written an article for The Hill, the Washington based news source. Under the eye-catching headline “Happiness is still ground for punishment in Iran” Mark writes:

A couple of years ago, Western audiences were noticeably shocked at the news that several Iranian youths had been arrested for the “crime” of dancing together and posting a video of themselves celebrating life to the strains of an American pop song called “Happy.” It was one in a long series of vivid reminders of repression in Iran. But unfortunately it was one of only a few that have gained significant traction in the Western media. It left the European and American public with the right idea about the Islamic Republic, but also with a potentially incomplete picture of how serious and how pervasive the problem is.

He explains that the incident took place soon after the reportedly moderate Hassan Rouhani had taken over as President, and there was hope that things would change under his leadership.  But hopes were dashed.

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Rennie: Deal with Chinese company with bad human rights record would tarnish Scotland’s human rights reputation

Any contract signed with the China Rail Group CR3 will tarnish Scotland’s human rights record. So says Willie Rennie following the refusal of the First Minister to rule out such a contract with the controversial company.

Watch their exchange at First Minister’s Questions here:

Nicola’s bad-tempered response shows her defensiveness on this issue.

This week saw revelations in response to Parliamentary Questions by Willie and Freedom of Information requests that government officials tried on multiple occasions to remove reference to the China Railway Group from documents around the Memorandum of Understanding but the First Minister still signed the final agreement with them.

The FOI releases include a letter from the First Minister expressing “delight” that the specific projects presented had been well-received by the Chinese investors. This contradicts the Government’s assertion that specific projects were not on the table.

Answers to PQs from Willie show that the Scottish Government had not made any checks to find out that the China Railway Group had been blacklisted by the Norwegian state pension fund, or investigate the human rights concerns expressed by Amnesty International about their work in Africa.

And to compound the ill-advisedness of this process, apparently Brian Souter, SNP donor and campaigner against LGBT rights, had been mentioned as a potential investor.

It has now emerged that Sir Brian Souter, a high-profile SNP supporter and donor, was discussed as a possible investor in a deal potentially worth over £10bn from an early stage.

Willie says that the First Minister needs to decide whether to drop China Rail Group CR3 or drop Scottish values on human rights.

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Carmichael: Tories “hell-bent on unravelling the union”

Citing concerns raised by the Irish Justice Secretary to her Eurosceptic British counterpart, Michael Gove, Alistair Carmichael, Lib Dem Home Affairs Secretary has accused the Government of being “hell-bent on unravelling the Union.”

The Irish Minister said that decoupling Northern Irish law and the European Convention on Human Rights could undermine the Good Friday Agreemment on which the peaceful settlement in Northern Ireland was based.

The Minister’s letter can be read here.

This also applies to the devolution settlements in Scotland and Wales.

Alistair said:

The devolved settlements in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have the European convention hard-wired into them. This Tory government seems hell bent on unravelling the Union by their actions.

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Rennie: It’s time for answers on China deal

During the election, the Scottish Liberal Demcorats raised questions about a trade deal signed between the SNP Government and Chinese companies with dubious human rights records.

Willie Rennie has now stepped up his quest for more information by tabling  a series of parliamentary questions.

During the election it emerged that the China Railway Group, who own one of the companies involved, had been blacklisted for investment by the Norwegian government’s oil fund over corruption allegations and criticised by Amnesty International over forced evictions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The First Minister admitted that due diligence was not completed on the businesses involved in a deal that it is claimed could be worth up to £10bn. Scottish Government officials failed to respond to Freedom of Information requests from journalists on the deal ahead of the election last week.

Willie said:

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When the Minister didn’t quite get Alistair Carmichael’s sarcasm…

This week, Lib Dem Home Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael  put down an Urgent Question to the Home Secretary after she all too casually said that the UK should leave the European Convention on Human Rights. It’s clear that ,whatever the result of the Referendum, the Tories are desperate to have a big bonfire of all of our most basic rights. What they could object to about things like the right to privacy and freedom of expression is beyond me.

Anyway, Theresa May didn’t bother to turn up to face Alistair. She sent Attorney General Jeremy Wright instead. He didn’t really answer her question, prompting Alistair to say:

I am grateful to the Attorney General for that answer. I should make it clear that I hold him in the very highest regard; I enjoyed working with him as a Minister in the previous Government. But he is not the Home Secretary, and he should not be responding to the urgent question today. The Home Secretary was the one who could make the speech yesterday and she can, apparently, come and make a statement tomorrow. She should be here today. Yesterday she went rogue; today she has gone missing.

There is total confusion at the heart of Government policy. What the Attorney General has just said at the Dispatch Box contradicts clearly what has been said previously. Yesterday the Home Secretary said:

The ECHR can bind the hands of parliament, adds nothing to our prosperity, makes us less secure by preventing the deportation of dangerous foreign nationals – and does nothing to change the attitudes of governments like Russia’s when it comes to human rights. So regardless of the EU referendum, my view is this: if we want to reform human rights laws in this country, it isn’t the EU we should leave but the ECHR and the jurisdiction of its court.”

Posted in Op-eds and Parliament | Also tagged and | 5 Comments

Rennie: Sturgeon must shred China deal after human rights warning

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie today said that the SNP risks dragging Scotland’s reputation through the mud following reports that a Chinese firm at the heart of a controversial £10bn deal with the Scottish Government is tied to human rights abuses.

It was reported in today’s Herald that Amnesty International named China Railway Group Ltd (CRG) and subsidiaries it controls in a report exposing human rights abuses related to the mining industry in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It had previously emerged that CRG had been blacklisted for investment by Norway’s oil fund over fears that the construction giant was involved in gross corruption.

Willie said:

The last thing that the First Minister did before the election started was sign a £10bn deal with a business directly tied to allegations of corruption.

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Baroness Liz Barker writes: The Tory threat to UK foreign policy

Lynne Featherstone and Lindsay Northover were outstanding DfID Ministers. During their tenure, with the support of Liberal Democrats in both houses, and throughout the party, for the first time,  radical commitments such as an to end Female Genital Mutilation by 30% by 2018 were included in UK Government policy.  Furthermore, those Liberal Democrat ministers, insisted that commitments to the rights of LGBT people and people with disabilities be central to FCO and DfID policy and programmes.

They did so, not just because of our unshakeable commitment to human rights, but because the UK’s unique history with the Commonwealth nations and relationships with European partners, give an unparalleled position from which to be an influence for good in the world.

This summer, the UK government has an opportunity to attend the 2016 Global LGBTI Human Rights Conference,  which will be co-hosted by the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Government of Uruguay. It will involve the main international donors who support and fund LGBTI programmes.  It is a rare opportunity for the UK government to leverage the political commitment of the coalition government by involving other governments,  and the private sector,  in developing good practice guidance on funding, supporting NGOs to bring about change on difficult subjects. 

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