RightsInfo has published some research on the attitudes towards human rights of the known contenders for the post of Prime minister following the resignation of Theresa May
The general tone of the various contenders is to say they are in favour of human rights but their actions often belie these statements. Of the eight known contenders so far (28 May), all at various times have generally voted against human rights issues and most have voted to abolish or scrap the Human Rights Act (HRA) and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Some have wanted to replace the HRA with a British Bill of Rights but after around 10 years a bill has shown no sign of appearing. None of the contenders could in any way be described as a ‘champion’.
In a recent newspaper article, it was revealed that the UK government has relaxed its guidance on obtaining and using information gained from foreign intelligence agencies using torture. Although this cannot easily be placed at any particular minister’s door, it is likely that Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt knew or should have known during their times as Foreign Secretary. The consolidated guidance was revised in secret and has alarmed human rights groups. It is extremely equivocal and provides copious loopholes for information obtained under torture, or by using inhuman methods, to be allowed.
The contenders are :
Professes to be in favour but the web site They Work for You shows that he has generally voted against human rights issues. Human Rights Watch described his position ‘weak, inconsistent and often incoherent.’ Their review of his actions on arming the Saudis in their bombing campaign in Yemen, failure to press taking Myanmar to the International Court and his weakness in Egypt, make for grim reading.
Almost always votes against human rights issues according to They Work for You. She also voted against retaining the European Charter.
Raab has been an outspoken critic of the HRA and has claimed that human rights have run riot and are flawed. He has masterminded plans to replace the HRA. In a debate with Shami Chakrabarti, some of Dominic Raab’s doubtful logic and thinking is revealed.
Has spoken in favour of Human Rights and RightsInfo say that he was ‘reportedly’ a professor of human rights at Harvard University. He has criticised the ECHR saying it has ‘using the wrong principles to come to the wrong judgements.’ Has voted to scrap the HRA and the EU Charter in 2018.
Has been an active campaigner to repeal the HRA and replace it with a British bill of rights. Voted to scrap the European Charter.
Has supported the scrapping the HRA. Created the post of roving ambassador and appointed Rita French into the post. However if this is not supported by appropriate actions to support human rights in the UK it is unlikely to achieve much. Reprieve has reported in a lengthy report that the UK is heavily involved in the training of torturers in Bahrain during Hunt’s time as Foreign Secretary.
Matt Hancock; Michael Gove and Sajid Javid have all sought to scrap the HRA and voted against human rights issues in parliament.
What comes across from looking at their records, speeches and comments is that they want to be seen to support human rights but that as soon as a particular issue arises, such as for example, deporting people back to a country which uses torture, their resolve weakens. It is also not hard to see the influence of tabloid stories and obsessions in their comments, indeed, searching their names often brings up stories in the Daily Express or the Daily Mail.
Another common theme is that commercial interests are key. This is particularly so with arms sales to the Saudis with a blind eye turned to the bombing and destruction in Yemen. Whoever is appointed prime minister from the above list, we are unlikely to see a robust or principled defence of human rights. Rather, a continuation of attacks on the European Charter and a policy of business first and human rights second.
The MP for Salisbury, Mr John Glen (not known to be a contender) is also generally voted against human rights. He also voted against the retention of the European Charter.