Tag Archives: human rights

Who are your human rights heroes?

Liberty is looking for nominations for its 2015 Human Rights Awards.

Here’s what you need to do by 5pm tonight:

We’re looking for the NGOs, the national campaigners, the local activists, the volunteers or professionals who are working on human rights issues – whether it be inspiring or organising, providing support or challenging misconceptions. Often individuals and organisations work tirelessly and with little recognition – this is our chance to thanks them for all they do, and shine a light on this crucial work.

Past award categories have included Human Rights Lawyer of the Year, Human Rights Young Person of the Year, and our ‘Close to Home’ award, which acknowledges those who battle for the rights and freedoms of their own families, streets and communities. These categories are not fixed so please nominate anyone you believe deserves recognition for their work to protect, promote or broaden understanding of human rights.

Who is eligible?

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Jim Wallace: The Human Rights Act gives us the ability to challenge the state on ordinary day to day issues

Yesterday was Lib Dem Opposition Day in the Lords and we chose two subjects very close to our heart. We’ve already covered the debate led by Paddy on foreign affairs.  Jim Wallace led one on human rights and civil liberties. He outlined how he frustrated he felt as a minister on the wrong side of a human rights judgement but that made him no less committed to the principles of the Act. Here’s his speech in full.

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Human rights and civil liberties feature in Lib Dem parliamentary debates

Next week, in two separate debates, Alistair Carmichael and Lord Jim Wallace will highlight the importance of human rights and civil liberties.

In an email to party members, Carmichael urged them to sign our petition in support of the Human Rights Act. He said:

As a former solicitor working in the courts, I know the HRA isn’t just some bureaucratic system invented by Brussels bureaucrats to wrap us in red tape, which is what the Tories would have you believe.

The HRA was drafted by British lawyers in the aftermath of the Second World War, and gives us so many fundamental protections that

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Opinion: Three things the Lib Dems can ‘own’

 

It seems to me that elections are fought not in the currency of policies but actually perception.

I feel that in the election campaign, where we actually talked about ourselves (on those rare occasions) we tried to take credit for the economic recovery. However, given that the Tories have always held that ground, they won that argument before it even began. As a result, voters who wanted a continuation of the past five years didn’t think to vote Lib Dem, they instead thought to vote Tory. It shouldn’t seem so baffling after all that people who voted Lib Dem last time chose to vote Tory this time if they were so thrilled about the outcomes of the coalition.

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The Liberals Putin can’t bear to have in Russia

I was very amused by this tweet from former Liberal Democrat MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber Edward McMillan-Scott.

If you look at the list, you’ll see that Edward, who was a powerful voice for human rights in the European Parliament, is viewed as more dangerous than Sir Malcolm Rifkind who was chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee. Edward is at 45 and Rifkind is 16 places further down at 61. It shows off your values when you are more horrified by people who want your citizens to have rights than someone who’s scrutinising the people who might be spying on you.

Edward is not the only dangerous liberal on that list, though:

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LibLink: Catherine Bearder MEP: How can Britain celebrate Magna Carta and contemplate leaving ECHR in the same year?

Catherine Bearder MEP has co-written an article for the New Statesman on the Conservatives’ plans to abolish the Human Rights Act. She said:

Fundamental rights, the rule of law and democratic principles are frequently violated in nearly all EU member states. In some cases, the violations are serious and systematic.  The current Hungarian government is one of the most egregious offenders. In recent years we have seen critical media gagged, the electoral law changed to secure an absolute majority for the governing party, opposition parties weakened and the independence of the judiciary undermined. But there are many other examples across Europe: the anti-gay laws in Lithuania, the deportation of Roma people from France, the inhumane treatment of underage asylum seekers in the Netherlands and the collective disregard shown for the law and civil liberties in many countries’ counter-terrorism policies.

We lose our moral authority if we tolerate torture, secret prisons, abduction, and indefinite detention without fair trials. These ugly blots tarnish Europe’s status as a shining beacon of freedom and human rights in the world. EU governments must be held accountable for these crimes, including and especially those committed in the name of defending democracy.

That is why we need legal instruments to uphold our common values, even if this means that sometimes national authorities are overruled.  EU member states have voluntarily signed up to these supranational laws and conventions for good reason.  It is the essence of democracy that those in power are bound by laws and their powers are limited.  That may sometimes be awkward, but these checks and balances are the vital safeguards which protect us against abuse of power by the state.

These principles are not left or right-wing, nor are they alien to British culture. Quite the opposite: safeguarding citizens’ rights and the rule of law have their roots in that ancient, famous document that we are celebrating this year.

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Flags at half mast – the right way to mark the passing of an illiberal despot?

You can probably guess that my answer to this question is a resounding “No.” When I saw yesterday that Westminster Abbey of all places was flying the flag at half mast to mark the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, I was horrified. The vomit-inducing tone of the tributes portraying him as some sort of reformer added to my irritation. If he was a reformer, Brian from the Magic Roundabout is a world champion sprinter to rival Usain Bolt.

I guess what intensified my overall sense of injustice was the chorus of silence from Liberal Democrats. Surely at least one of our parliamentarians should have openly criticised such a ridiculous decision. The only honourable exceptions I can find are Meral Ece and Mike Thornton, both of whom have been retweeting human rights information about Saudi Arabia and wry observations about the reaction to Abdullah’s death:

Most annoying was that it fell to a TORY to heap the most condemnation on the flags decision:

It’s all so different from 2007 when Vince Cable as acting leader boycotted the State Visit of King Abdullah, saying:

Mr Cable added: “I think it’s quite wrong that as a country we should give the leader of Saudi Arabia this honour.”

He said that although Britain has a “business-like” relationship with the country, Britain would not dream of extending the same invitation to other controversial leaders like Libya’s Colonel Gadaffi..

He said he had also been critical of the Saudi regime’s treatment of Britons.

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The Independent View: After Charlie Hebdo, we must not sacrifice democratic ideals in the face of fear

The images of masked men walking around with assault rifles including the brutal execution of a French policeman will fill many of us with terror and fear. The chilling words of Charlie Hebdo writer Laurent Léger on the phone to his friend ‘Call the police. It’s carnage, a bloodbath. Everyone is dead’ are chilling.

It is tempting at a time like this to seek security at all costs and those in power are usually all too willing to oblige. We ask to be kept safe and they are more than happy to play the paternalistic state. They give the caveat that we must give up certain freedoms in order to achieve the safety that we crave both for ourselves and our loved ones.

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Human Rights Committee criticises Terrorism Bill for plans to block UK citizens and for challenges to academic freedom

The knee-jerk reaction to any act of terrorism is to propose yet more regulations and legislation to prevent future attacks or to deal with the attackers. As liberals we have to be very careful to ensure that our civil and human rights are not being curtailed unnecessarily.

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Jo Swinson MP on new measures to rank companies’ human rights performances

2014Business_Forum_headerIn early December I attended the 3rd annual United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva.

The Forum gave an opportunity for key stakeholders to discuss how we can ensure universal human rights standards are upheld in business practices. As a Liberal Democrat and an internationalist I know, on an issue as important as this, co-operation with our global partners is the best way of ensuring transnational businesses maintain their responsibilities to their employees and their consumers.

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Who needs human rights?

Last week, in the run-up to Human Rights Day tomorrow,  the Scottish Parliament debated the Scottish National Action Plan on human rights. This aims to ensure that every citizen can realise these internationally recognised rights.

Alison McInnes led for the Liberal Democrats and she went through the SNP Government like a dose of salts for its dreadful stance on stop and search. She highlighted how any one of us might need these rights to protect us one day should we find ourselves sick or vulnerable. If you read the Daily Mail, it’ll tell you that human rights are nasty things that let terrorists off the hook. Well, actually, they  protect all of us from abuse by the state in all sorts of ways.

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LibLink: Edward McMillan-Scott: Britain’s obligation towards Hong Kong

Former MEP Edward McMillan-Scott, who until June was a Vice President of the European Parliament with responsibility for human rights, has written about the current situation in Hong Kong. First he sets out the context:

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Opinion: Human rights and all that jazz

This weekend thousands of Liberal Democrat activists will arrive in Glasgow for the Federal Conference. They’ll debate the major political issues of the day; hold the government to account for its failings and attend the odd fringe meeting. After all, free political discussion and association is a vital element of any modern democracy. But one exhibitor at conference doesn’t agree. The European Azerbaijan Society will be holding  their traditional jazz evening on Sunday, yet this organisation backs the Azerbaijani government that arrests, tortures and jails political activists and human rights campaigners. In Glasgow, activists go to conference. In Azerbaijan, they go to prison.

The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS) describes itself as an independent organisation dedicated to forging relationships between Azerbaijan and Europe. In fact, it has has troubling links with the highest echelons of the Azerbaijani dictatorship. Its director, Tale Heydarov, is the son of one of Azerbaijan’s richest and most powerful men (Emergencies Minister Kamaladdin Heydarov). A leaked US diplomatic cable spoke acknowledges that far from being independent,  ‘ talking points very much reflect the goals and objectives of the GOAJ .

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Opinion: The ECHR is a “British Bill of Rights”

Following the cabinet reshuffle earlier this month, the push from within the Conservatives to repeal the Human Rights Act and remove the UK from the European Convention on Human Rights with a British Bill of Rights in its place now seems firmly in the forefront of our political debate.

The most notable change was clearly William Hague’s surprise departure from Foreign Secretary and announcement that he would stand down as an MP next year but the most significant change was the sacking of Dominic Grieve from Attorney General. Serving as the Chief Legal advisor in the government, he had provided sound …

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Alistair Carmichael: “Torture is an abhorrent violation of human rights and dignity”

Carmichael Glasgow AmnestyToday is the UN’s Day of Support for Victims of Torture. Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael has a long association with Amnesty International and he visited the Glasgow group last night to mark the occasion.

He spoke about the imprisonment of the Egyptian journalists, the death penalty, how Scotland has such a big impact on human rights as part of the UK and what the Coalition has done to advance the cause of human rights. The whole speech is available here on my blog, but …

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LibLink: Edward Macmillan-Scott on ‘The European Parliament, Human Rights champion’

edward mcmillan-scottEdward McMillan-Scott is the Liberal Democrat MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber , but also the European Parliament’s Vice President for Human Rights. He has written an article for the latest edition of  the European Parliament’s monthly magazine, EP Today, to mark Europe Day. He writes:

Despite the profound changes the world has undergone since the fall of the Berlin wall, torture, unlawful imprisonment and genocide still haunt us.

That is why the end of the European Parliament’s mandate is an opportunity to review the vital work done by the EU ensure the promotion and protection of human rights and democracy worldwide.

He then lists many projects and initiatives by the EU in the field of human rights and concludes:

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Lynne Featherstone MP writes…A great leap backwards for gay rights

Uganda’s new anti-homosexuality legislation is abhorrent. It imposes draconian penalties for repeat offences of homosexuality, so-called ‘aggravated’ homosexuality, same-sex marriage, attempting to commit homosexuality and for the loosely defined ‘promotion’ of homosexuality. This is nothing short of a great leap backward – not just for Uganda but for gay rights across Africa. I believe it marks a growing state-backed homophobic trend across the continent, one we cannot and should not ignore.

From Day 1 in my role as Africa minister at the Department for International Development (DFID), strengthening the department’s LGBT rights strategy has been one of my top priorities. I …

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LibLink: Edward McMillan-Scott MEP: Tories are playing into Putin’s hands in high stakes game

Edward McMillan ScottYorkshire and the Humber MEP Edward McMillan-Scott has a longstanding interest in human rights. He’s travelled all over the world to make the case to governments who don’t respect their citizens’ freedoms. He’s understandably not wildly chuffed about the Winter Olympics taking place in Sochi and how this might fuel Putin’s ambitions. He explained why in the Yorkshire Post.

Putin has international ambitions for Russia: this is the new Great Game, the 19th century strategic rivalry and conflict between the British Empire and the Russian Empire for supremacy in Eurasia.

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Baroness Alison Suttie’s maiden speech

It is a tradition for LDV to bring its readers copies of our new MPs’ and Peers’ first words in Parliament, so that we can read what is being said and respond. You can find all of the speeches in this category with this link. Last Wednesday, Baroness Suttie made her maiden speech in the House of Lords during a debate on human rights. Her words are reproduced below.

Baroness Suttie (LD): My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on securing this timely and important debate. I congratulate my noble friend Lord Finkelstein on his …

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Malala Yousafzai wins European Prize for freedom of thought

Malala Yousafzai at Ministerial meeting with Afghanistan in New YorkMalala is known to all as the Pakistani girl shot through the head and neck after protesting  against the Taliban’s closure of girls schools in her region of the Swat valley. Now fully recovered she has been awarded the 2013 European Parliament Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought, human rights and democracy.

Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson was the first to put Malala Yousafzai forward as a nominee and led the campaign for her nomination and award in the European Parliament. …

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Opinion: Rearguard action and damage limitation are poor substitutes for a coherent Liberal Democrat strategy on Equality and Human Rights.

The Government’s partial U-turn on Section 3 of the Equality Act needs to be seen against a backdrop of other changes to the equality and related social justice legislation. These include:

•          New restrictions on the ability to challenge the state with restrictions to judicial review

•          Tribunals fees of up to £1,200 coming in this summer

•          An Increase of the general unfair dismissal qualification from 1 to 2 years

•          Reductions in the consultation period for redundancy

•          The end of crucial protections in discrimination such as questionnaires and protection from 3rd party harassment

•          Legal aid providers and face to face legal advice slashed …

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LibLink… Nick Clegg…Human rights: we won’t be silent

Over at the Guardian’s Comment is Free, Nick Clegg marks the publication of the Foreign Office’s 2012 Human Rights and Democracy report with an article stating that promoting human rights has never been more important.

He writes that many countries choose authoritarian capitalism over liberal democracy and this represents the “most serious challenge to our values since the end of the Cold War,”  especially as power transfers from west to east.

But, he says, younger populations and easily available technology make people more aware of their rights and less likely to accept authoritarian rule:

In the Middle East two-thirds of the population are

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Secret Courts..what does the party do now?

Its’s not been the easiest 24 hours to be a Liberal Democrat. It was very hard to watch the majority of our MPs vote to remove the right to a fair trial in civil cases where national security is deemed to be a factor.  Just seven MPs voted in favour of amendments advised by the Joint Committee on Human Rights. The fact that the JCHR had a different view from the Government should surely have raised a huge red flag. An even bigger signal that our MPs were on the wrong course was the fact that Labour were voting in …

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Eric Avebury writes…We must heed the cries of the Hazaras

Just over a week ago a massive bomb was detonated in a packed bazaar on the outskirts of Quetta, killing at least 92 people and seriously injuring more than 200.

Last month a double suicide bombing on Alamdar Road, Quetta took the lives of 108 people

These were the latest in a crescendo of genocidal attacks on the Shia Hazara community in Pakistan since the turn of the century, which was considered in a packed meeting I chaired at the House of Lords yesterday, February 25.

According to published accounts, these atrocities have left over 1,100 dead and 1,300 injured. In fact the …

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Hussein-Ece and Brinton on stalking, under-representation of women and gender-based violence

November 25th saw the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. This occasion was marked by a debate in the House of Lords last Thursday.

Just reading the Hansard account of the debate made me feel sick. There was a former surgeon describe the hours of surgery it took to reconstruct one woman’s face after a violent attack by her partner. There were descriptions of how girls as young as 12 were subjected to Female Genital Mutilation in this country despite laws against it. Where is the worst place in the world to be a woman? Reputedly …

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Bahrain – time for Britain to take a lead

On November 5, thirty-one Bahrainis were deprived of their citizenship arbitrarily, without notice and without judicial process, contrary to customary international law. Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that everyone has the right to a nationality and no-one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality. The victims can appeal these decision, but there is no point. The king has absolute power to grant or rescind citizenship, and the courts wouldn’t dream of overturning his decisions.

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Opinion: Prisoner voting and the rule of law

Liberal Democrats have always been proud defenders of the rule of law. As our manifesto stated in 2010, the values of ‘fairness and the rule of law’ lie at the heart of our foreign policy. However, just as we call on other states such as Burma, Belarus and Zimbabwe to respect the rule of law, so we must be ever vigilant that there is no weakening of this fundamental principle at home. The Liberal Democrat policy on the Justice and Security Bill at conference in September was a powerful reminder to the leadership on how seriously we, as a party, take this issue.

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Opinion: The Arab Spring – a liberal paradox?

What should a liberal make of the Arab Spring as it becomes a bloody winter? The recent wave of violent protest at a mindlessly Islamophobic YouTube video is not an isolated incident. In Tunisia in June, hardline Salafists attacked an art gallery and a trade union office. Since Egypt’s revolution there have been regular attacks on Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority. An Islamist-dominated panel reviewing Egypt’s constitution is likely to water down women’s rights, making child marriage easier and withdrawing from international conventions protecting women and children(£). Husni Mubarak, Egypt’s former President, must be wailing “I told you so” …

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Opinion: Unelected Lords are against the spirit of the European Convention on Human Rights

For as long as philosophers and political campaigners have asserted that certain rights are basic, universal or inalienable, the right to elect one’s legislators has generally figured in those rights.

England’s 1689 Bill of Rights protected the right to elect Members of Parliament without interference from the Crown.  In France the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man guaranteed the right to vote. In America, five separate Articles of the US Bill of Rights protect voting rights and both Houses are elected under the Constitution.

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides:

Article 21

(1) Everyone has the right to take part

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Edward McMillan-Scott MEP writes… Our voice on human rights is amplified by the EU

The Coalition pledge to put human rights at the heart of our foreign policy is bearing fruit. Thanks especially to pressure from the European Parliament – where as Vice-President for democracy and human rights I have lobbied hard – and the Foreign Office, civil society, the EU’s 27 governments recently adopted a comprehensive new approach. Jeremy Browne, our excellent minister for human rights, and I co-authored a recent article published by the Independent explaining the background of the ambitious new EU Human Rights package.

Although the EU’s foreign ministers gave the green light to a new Strategy with an  associated …

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  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 4th Sep - 7:37pm
    Jayne Mansfield 31st Aug '15 - 6:29am The signatories to the 1951 convention are nation-states, mostly (EU members all) signing the same document. Therefore they...
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    Sounds like the need for a proper sensible assessment of Corbyn's QE policy instead of the usual knee jerk loony left abuse stuff. David Blanchflower...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 4th Sep - 7:28pm
    Salmond does let his mouth run away with himself but he's no John Knox................ and there's no doubt Nicola is in charge now (remember the...
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    @expats I don't know if the other Labour candidates would make an impact, but I don't think they'd repeat the disaster of 1983. Even if...
  • User AvatarGeorge Kendall 4th Sep - 7:24pm
    @Little Jackie Piper I think you're right. Corbyn is the candidate of the zeitgeist of a small angry minority, but he has little in common...
  • User AvatarRoland 4th Sep - 7:24pm
    @Phyllis - ".but land, or rather a homeland is what is needed for these refugees." There is such a land and it currently goes by...