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UK could join list of human rights abusers, warns report

Brexit: Greg Hands grilled by Remainer over human rights

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The report, published on January 12, said that during 2022: “The government signed an agreement to transfer asylum seekers who arrived irregularly in the United Kingdom to Rwanda, putting them at risk.

“Although the UK government worked with partners to press other states failing to uphold their human rights obligations, it did not consistently prioritize human rights in its foreign policy agenda and undermined international standards.”

Furthermore, on domestic human rights they wrote: “Four laws adopted in a single week in April raised grave human rights concerns: an immigration law that dismantles key aspects of existing asylum and refugee protections, replacing them with a discriminatory system;a police law that restricts and increases penalties for protests”

They added to their list “an election law requiring voter identification, likely to create disenfranchisement based on race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status, and reducing the independence of electoral oversight; and a law limiting people’s rights to judicially review social security, and immigration tribunal decisions.”

The report is a damning indictment of the direction the UK took domestically in 2022 and has added fuel to the fears of outside observers that the UK is moving in a dangerous direction.

Acting executive of Human Rights Watch Tirana Hassan told the Guardian there had been a “worrying trend” by the UK government of proposing laws which weakened human rights protections.

He said: “When you talk about civic space and about people’s right to participate in a democratic society, the right to peaceful assembly and the right to protest are key pillars of that. We’ve seen an outright assault from this government on that.”

She said the UK government had a very short window before it joined “the countries listed as human rights abusers rather than human rights protectors.”

The UK director of the HRW, Yasmine Ahmed, added that last year was the “the most significant assault on human rights protections in the UK in decades”.

However, report wasn’t entirely critical of the UK.

On foreign policy they wrote: “The UK has shown its commitment to addressing several key issues, including taking concerted action with partners to press states failing to uphold their human rights obligations. However, in the face of competing policy interests, the UK has failed to consistently prioritize human rights in its foreign policy agenda and undermined international standards.

“The UK continued to take coordinated action in response to violations committed by the military junta in Myanmar. In 2022, it sanctioned 6 individuals and 12 entities, and joined its G7 partners in condemning the junta’s executions of 4 pro-democracy activists.

“In August, the UK took an important step to tackle impunity by announcing its intention to intervene in The Gambia’s case before the International Court of Justice alleging Myanmar’s atrocities against the Rohingya violated the Genocide Convention.

“As penholder on Myanmar at the UN Security Council, the UK proposed a resolution responding to abuses stemming from the February 1, 2021 military coup.”

They added: “The UK continued to lead in seeking to hold the Chinese government accountable for its ongoing violations and crimes. It consistently pressed China to grant the UN high commissioner for human rights full and unfettered access to Xinjiang, and called on UN member states to, at minimum, debate the Commissioner’s long-awaited report on Xinjiang.”

Despite the praise, the report is a concerning development for the country as it battles multiple domestic crises.

This includes backlash against its proposed new legislation to mitigate the impact of strikes.

Dubbed by critics as ‘anti-strike legislation’ the new laws would affect the ability of people working in the public service to take action.

So far ambulance workerse, nurses, train drivers, and now physiotherapists, and members of the civil service have decided to go on strike.

How the Government deals with this and other problems could define how they do at the next election.

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