Tag Archives: human rights

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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Willie Rennie says Salmond should meet Dalai Lama

First Minister Alex Salmond loves to meet international dignitaries and world leaders. Every chance he gets, he’s off playing a larger than life role on the international stage. Just last weekend, he was in Los Angeles promoting Scottish business and schmoozing with celebrities at  a film premiere.  It’s all the more surprising, then, that he can’t find a space in his diary to meet the Dalai Lama when he visits Scotland this week. This is in stark contrast to the reception the exiled Tibetan Spiritual Leader received in 2004 when he addressed the Parliament and met the then First …

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Lynne Featherstone to reform Equality and Human Rights Commission

The Guardian reported on Tuesday that Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone is to reform the Equality and  Human Rights Commission, cutting its budget and removing some of its responsibilities, most notably its obligation to assess how Government policies would affect the poorest.

Now, if ever there was a quango in need of reform, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission is that body. Dysfunctional seems to be the best word to describe the EHRC. Wasteful would be another. For three years running, the National Audit Office qualified its accounts. Last year was the first year since its formation in 2007 when it managed to …

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Opinion: we can not allow ourselves to be used as scapegoats by the Tories

It was an amazing coincidence that Lady Warsi’s interview on BBC2’s Newsnight spoke so lamentably about the state of the coalition the evening before YouGov put the Tories 11 points behind Labour. The Conservative Party chairman without hesitation accused us of being immature and failing to accept collective responsibility within the coalition.

Patrick Wintour’s article in yesterday’s Guardian  highlights the despicable manner in which Lady Warsi, as a cabinet member showed no loyalty to her coalition partners by putting the boot in as soon as the going got tough and the Tories started struggling in the opinion polls.

The whole episode …

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Edward McMillan-Scott  MEP “I’ve been helping Syrian rebels”

Edward McMillan-Scott, is one of our Liberal Democrat MEPs for Yorkshire and the Humber and a Vice President of the European Parliament with special responsibility for Human Rights and Democracy. I caught up with him for a quick chat at Conference in Gateshead.

Elected in 1984 to the European Parliament, he recently celebrated his second anniversary of joining the Liberal Democrats at the weekend. He came to us because of the way the Conservative Party had “abandoned its relationships with mainstream parties in the European Parliament. Rather than follow …

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Liberal Democrat MEP McMillan-Scott gets European Parliament Human Rights portfolio

Liberal Democrat MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, Edward McMillan-Scott, re-elected as one of the European Parliament’s 14 Vice Presidents last month, has again been allocated the portfolio for Democracy and Human Rights.  He has also been given a new responsibility, for Transatlantic Relations. He was put forward by the Liberal Group (ALDE) and is only British MEP on the Parliament’s Bureau which is responsible for its management, organisation and finances.

He has a long record in campaigning for human rights and democracy support. He was the first outside politician to get to Cairo after the fall of Mubarak and has …

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Opinion: Let’s get case for Alan Turing pardon debated in Parliament

Today, I ask you as fellow Liberal Democrats to sign the Grant Alan Turing a Pardon petition on the number 10 website.

The petition reads:

“We ask the HM Government to grant a pardon to Alan Turing for the conviction of ‘gross indecency’. In 1952, he was convicted of ‘gross indecency’ with another man and was forced to undergo so-called ‘organo-therapy’ – chemical castration. Two years later, he killed himself with cyanide, aged just 41. Alan Turing was driven to a terrible despair and early death by the nation he’d done so much to save. This remains a shame on the

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LibLink | Nick Clegg: “Human beings need human rights – in Britain as well as Libya”

Nick Clegg writes this evening at Comment is Free on the need for the British government to uphold human rights at home as well as abroad. He describes the strengths of British human rights laws, and reminds that the Liberal Democrats will continue to support them in the face of the Tories’ rhetoric or moves to renegotiate them.

Britain has a proud history of international leadership on human rights. It was our political leadership and legal expertise that led to the creation of the European convention on human rights in 1950, a convention modelled on centuries of English law.

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Martin Horwood MP writes: Facing up to human rights in China

Premier Wen Jiabao of China arrived in Britain over the weekend for a series of events culminating in bilateral talks with the Prime Ministers today at Number Ten.

While the discussions will undoubtedly turn to the economy, trade agreements and further cooperation between our two countries, I hope the Prime Minister will also promote our greatest exports: our long held values of democracy, human rights and free speech.

These bilateral meetings offer the British government a chance to place human rights unambiguously on the agenda in our discussions with the Chinese. As William Hague wrote last year, “promoting human rights is …

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Opinion: Lib Dems promoting human rights abroad

As a Liberal Democrat member*, I’m proud of the fact that our  party is in government, with ministers making tough choices about the UK.

While most attention is on electoral reform and tuition fees, I want to steer your attention towards foreign policy. In the Foreign Office there is one Lib Dem minister, Jeremy Browne MP. He takes the responsibility in the FCO for human rights policy among other things.

Mr Browne recently made an excellent Q&A video on YouTube last month, focussing on the UK’s action on promoting foreign policy abroad:

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In other news… the NHS, human rights and levels of spending

Liberal Democrats seek changes to health reformThe Observer on the aftermath of the party’s spring conference vote on the NHS.

“Nick Clegg has just won a powerful victory over the Conservatives, appointing a Bill of Rights commission which is certain to leave the ECHR intact” – The Spectator has the news.

And in The Independent, Dominic Lawson is unimpressed with some of the comments made about public spending:

As Dr Tim Morgan points out in his incisive Centre for Policy Studies pamphlet, Five Fiscal Fallacies, “No one should imagine that the Coalition’s plans amount to a major reversal

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Coalition Government’s torture inquiry keeps Lib Dem manifesto pledge, spells “end to Labour’s shameful legacy on human rights”

The Guardian reports:

David Cameron today announced a judicial inquiry into Britain’s role in torture and rendition since the al-Qaida attacks of September 2001. … it would be expected to conclude its investigations with 12 months. …

A three-person inquiry panel will be headed by Sir Peter Gibson, a former appeal court judge who is currently commissioner for the intelligence services. He will be assisted by Dame Janet Paraskeva, the head of the civil service commissioners, and Peter Riddell, the former Times political commentator who is now a senior fellow at the Institute for Government.

Most of the inquiry will be held

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