Minutes of November group meeting


We are pleased to attach the minutes of the group’s November meeting with thanks to group member Lesley for the work in compiling them. They contain a lot of interesting material including information about future events, planned or actual, as well as reports on refugees and the death penalty.

Note that the next meeting is December 8th at 2pm. We welcome new members and we hope to see returning ones now that we have shifted to an afternoon slot. We remain concerned about the range of bills and laws the government is planning to pass which will limit our rights to protest and its increasingly authoritarian tone. Refugees remain a live issue receiving much coverage in the media particularly about the boat crossings but who fail to mention the full facts.

FIFA and the World Cup


FIFA writes to all contestants urging them to ‘focus on the football’

November 2022

The decision to hold the World Cup in Qatar was always controversial and as the competition approaches, temperatures have risen concerning the state’s human rights record and treatment of the migrant workers who built the stadiums and facilities, around 6,500 of whom have reportedly died. The FIFA president Gianni Infantino has written to the 32 competing nations asking them to ‘focus on the football’. He suggests further that they need ‘to respect all opinions and beliefs without handing out moral lessons.’ The FIFA General Secretary Fatma Samoura goes further and tells us that the food is great and ‘the tea is beautiful!’ She suggests, absurdly, that Qatar can be used as a ‘role model for other countries in the Gulf’.

The essential dispute is whether sport is a useful pressure point to improve the human rights of the host nations where events take place, or whether sport is simply being used to sanitise the reputations of dire regimes, in other words, sports washing. There is an argument for sporting events going to a country where the combination of visibility, media attention and the need to ‘put on a good face’ can have a positive effect on how individuals are treated. While this may be true in principle, it was hard to find such positive examples on a search through a range of sport-based campaign organisations who promote this idea such as the Centre for Sports and Human Rights. The IOC claimed to insert requirements into their contracts but the extent to which they outlast the actual competition has to be questioned.

Qatar has a range of problems on the human rights front. They include the kafala system which ties workers to their employers. We have mentioned the claim that around 6,500 have died building the facilities. The workers are barred from forming a trade union. FIFA has claimed that reforms have been introduced but there seems little sign of them in practice and enforcement seems minimal. Wage theft is common.

Women are treated poorly. The suffer under the guardianship system which means the permission of a male member of the family is needed to marry, travel or study abroad and divorced women are not permitted to be their children’s guardian.

Same sex relations are banned and are a crime. There is no freedom of expression.

FIFA’s statements seem to be at variance to the idea of sport having some kind of ambassadorial role. If the footballers are being asked not to wear armbands, nor to ‘hand out moral lessons’ as they put it and generally keep a low profile, where then is the pressure on the Qataris going to come from? They were joined by the UK’s foreign secretary James Cleverly MP who was quoted at saying, in connection with LGBT football fans heading for the competition, that they should be ‘respectful of the host nation’. Downing Street distanced themselves from this crass comment.

Another factor is how the competition will be reported. Sports reporting lives largely in a world of its own. The narrative is around how the home country is progressing, who is the favourite to win and facile interviews with the various participants about their performances on the field past and future. Life outside the stadium and hotel rooms are unlikely to get a mention. Will any of the sports reporters visit the squalid accommodation that the men who built the stadiums live in? Will the subservient status of women be mentioned? Since freedom of expression is substantially curtailed, none of this is likely to see the light of day. The reporters might reasonably argue we are here to comment on football not on social or human rights conditions.

There seems no escape from the fact that sport is being used by repressive or abusive regimes to enhance their reputations and the sports people are only too willing to play along. It’s not just football of course: tennis; boxing; golf; motorsport; cycling and athletics have all quite happily taken the money. The notion that sporting events are a force for good and the publicity they generate helps those abused by the regimes is fanciful at best. There seems little evidence of sustained benefit deriving from these major international sporting events. Claims are made but the power of money seems to trump any moral considerations and those with the power to make a difference are only too content to look the other way.

Sources: ITV News; HRW; Amnesty; Mirror; Daily Mail; UNSW Sidney

Human Rights records of PM candidates


Link to post by Each Other of the human rights records of the prime ministerial candidates

July 2022

It will be down to two candidates by tonight (20 July 2022) but the review by EachOther of the human rights records of the four candidates is instructive. We already posted the worrying record of Rishi Sunak, currently in the lead. This link adds more detail.

Rishi Sunak MP


If Sunak becomes the new prime minister, what can we expect on the human rights front?

July 2022

Rishi Sunak is, at the time of writing (15 July 2022), in the lead in the race to become the new prime minister of the UK. Asking about his attitude and voting record in connection with human rights is therefore of considerable interest. It doesn’t look good.

They Work for You, the site which analyses MP’s voting records shows that Sunak ‘generally votes against laws to promote equality and human rights’. He voted against retaining the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. He is in favour of repealing the Human Rights act which has been Conservative party policy for some years now and a draft Bill of Rights is awaited.

When asked about withdrawing from the European Court of Human Rights he is quoted as saying (vaguely) ‘all options [were] on the table’.

He has voted consistently for policies to increase mass surveillance.

He is in favour – despite being the grandson of an immigrant from Africa – for sending immigrants to Rwanda.

Altogether a grim collection of negative attitudes and there seem to be no speeches or much information about his attitudes or likely policies on this important subject. There was nothing in his manicured promotion video. It very much looks like we shall get the existing policies carried forward unchanged. He seems to be part of the party which is hostile to human rights, wants to see them rolled back and to detach the country from European norms and treaties.

He is supported in the election by the MP for Salisbury Mr John Glen who likewise has a record of voting against equality and human rights issues according to They Work for You.

Sources: Open Access Government; LBC; Metro; They Work for You [we carried out an extensive search for any other relevant material but were unable to find any]

June minutes


We are pleased to attach the minutes of our June meeting thanks to group member Lesley for preparing them. At 13 pages long they might seem overlong for minutes of a meeting which normally would run to a handful of pages. However, we do not produce a newsletter and many of the items are of interest to a wider public than just those attendees. The various bills being introduced by the government are of great concern and will curb dissent and criminalise various aspects of legitimate protest.

New HR site added


The Institute for Human Rights and Business has been added to our list of human rights sites to be found at the bottom of this page. The institute says it is ‘the leading international think tank on business and human rights. IHRB’s mission is to shape policy, advance practice, and strengthen accountability in order to make respect for human rights part of everyday business’.

Report on the murder of front line defenders


A report by Front Line Defenders sets out the toll of murdered activists around the world

The report is a chilling record of the casual way those trying to defend human rights are murdered around the world with countries like Columbia leading the way. Many are trying tackle environmental destruction or to protect indigenous peoples.

The report shows how the use of terrorism claims are used by countries to attack or arrest those who seek to highlight abuses. It is well produced with clear graphics and maps. It also shows how governments use the Pegasus spyware produced by NSO in Israel to penetrate the phones of defenders.

A link to FLD (and other human rights organisations) is available at the bottom of this site.

Human rights Measurement Initiative


New service available

We are pleased to welcome the Human Rights Measurement Initiative and we have provided a link to the site at the bottom of the page under ‘Human Rights’. We shall no doubt be referring to their work in future posts.

There is a group meeting tomorrow via Zoom – supporters welcome. If you would like to join us, leave a message here or on Facebook.

Religious persecution: North Korea


Report released by Korea Future on the persecution of religious believers in North Korea

A Report has been produced by Korea Future containing detailed evidence of the scale and extent of religious persecution taking place in North Korea. Entitled: Persecuting Faith: Documenting religious freedom violations in North Korea (vol 2) It is based on 456 documented cases of human rights violations involving 244 victims and 141 perpetrators.

There are two mains religious beliefs in North Korea: Shamanism and Christianity. Both are severely persecuted and those thought or accused of engaging in either are subject to brutal treatment. This includes physical beatings, ingestion of polluted food, positional torture, sleep deprivation and forced squat jumps.

The Ministry of People’s Security are responsible for 90% of the documented serious human rights violations against Shamanic adherents and the Ministry of State Security is responsible for 90% of violations against Christians. The difference is that Christianity is seen as a political crime and adherents are tried in secret. To possess a bible is to risk death.

Sources: Korea Future; Private Eye

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