United Kingdom Condemned by HRW

A Statement from Human Rights Watch, 12 January 2023: “Human Rights Watch Issues Damning Verdict for UK. World Report 2023 Says UK Policies Raise ‘Grave Human Rights Concerns”

The United Kingdom government repeatedly sought to damage and undermine human rights protections in 2022, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2023.   “In 2022, we saw the most significant assault on human rights protections in the UK in decades,” said Yasmine Ahmed, UK director at Human Rights Watch. “From your right to protest to your ability to hold institutions to account, fundamental and hard-won rights are being systematically dismantled.”

Volunteers sort food into food parcels at the Rumney Forum community charity on November 8, 2022 in Cardiff, Wales. © 2022 Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

In the 712-page World Report 2023, its 33rd edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in close to 100 countries. In her introductory essay, acting Executive Director Tirana Hassan says that in a world in which power has shifted, it is no longer possible to rely on a small group of mostly Global North governments to defend human rights. The world’s mobilization around Russia’s war in Ukraine reminds us of the extraordinary potential when governments realize their human rights obligations on a global scale. The responsibility is on individual countries, big and small, to apply a human rights framework to their policies, and then work together to protect and promote human rights.

Human Rights Watch highlighted several laws introduced in 2022 that had the effect of significantly weakening human rights protections. The UK government introduced laws that stripped rights of asylum seekers and other vulnerable people, encouraged voter disenfranchisement, limited judicial oversight of government actions, and placed new restrictions on the right to peaceful protest.

The government also proposed the repeal and replacement of the Human Rights Act, which gives life to the European Convention on Human Rights in the United Kingdom, with a so-called Bill of Rights. Human Rights Watch said the bill, if adopted, would fundamentally undermine human rights protections in the UK.

As these rights were being stripped away, the United Kingdom was hit hard by a cost-of-living crisis, with inflation reaching 11.1 percent by the end of October and official data showing that low-income households disproportionately felt the impact of rising energy and food prices.

The government’s refusal to reverse a social security cut made in 2021, and a November 2022 announcement that social security support would not increase to meet inflation until April 2023 breach the rights to social security and to an adequate standard of living, Human Rights Watch said. Frontline welfare, anti-poverty, and food aid organizations criticized the government’s position.

On the world stage, the UK’s record was decidedly mixed, Human Rights Watch said. Commendably, the government took on a leading role in multilateral forums to address abuses in Myanmar, China, Hong Kong, Russia, and Sri Lanka, as well as referring the Ukraine situation to the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor. However, in a number of situations, the UK failed to speak up or act against abuses, including those committed by Israel or that had been committed, including by the UK, during the colonial period.

In April, the government passed the Nationality and Borders Act, which stripped away fundamental commitments to protect people fleeing persecution. The act criminalizes many of those who attempt to enter the UK irregularly to seek protection, empowers UK officials to engage in dangerous pushbacks at sea, and allows the government to expel asylum seekers from the UK to alleged “safe third countries.”

The government then brokered a deal with Rwanda to expel asylum seekers arriving by boat or other irregular routes to Rwanda, despite the country’s appalling human rights record and opposition to the deal by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other UN experts. The deal has been challenged in court, with the UNHCR intervening in the case, and the government has not yet been able to expel anyone to Rwanda.

In June, when the UK’s then prime minister visited Rwanda for a Commonwealth summit, he failed to raise any human rights concerns. The UK government also continued to fund countries engaged in egregious human rights violations, including Bahrain; obstructed a proposal at the World Trade Organization to waive intellectual property rules for Covid-19 vaccines and therapeutics; undermined a Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel; and voted against a UN Human Rights Council resolution on racism, racial discrimination, and xenophobia.

These policies undermine the UK’s ability to effectively advocate for a rules-based international order, Human Rights Watch said.

“Despite heralding itself as playing a ‘leading role in defending democracy and freedom across the world,’ the UK Government has taken a sledgehammer to fundamental international commitments,” Ahmed said. “In one breath the British government is denouncing Russia for violating international law and in the next it’s actively flouting and undermining its own international commitments.”


An Email Comment from “Fair Dinkum” …who sent Thuppahi this item:

“The hypocrisy of the UK government knows no bounds.  The British go around accusing China and other countries they regard as enemies of human rights abuses while the Human Rights Watch issues a damming verdict on the UK saying that repressive legislation introduced by the UK government has produced the worst human rights violations in the UK in the past 20 years. 2022 is the worst year on record and 2023 looks even worse as the UK continues to pass repressive laws that greatly damage human rights, for instance, by making it difficult to mount an effective protest in the UK, and enabling secret arrests and people being tried without the opportunity to see the evidence against them while they are held in atrocious conditions.  The British government are lashing out at others as their power and influence around the world continues to decline. The British inappropriately use human rights as a way to gain influence.  The UK government have tried to play the human rights card in Sri Lanka and Hong Kong, but they have no moral high ground to lecture others on human rights when their own record is so appalling.  A disgraceful country that is on the path back to the days of Samuel Pepys when people in England were hung drawn and quartered.

The Global North no longer has any morale authority to lecture others on human rights says this report.  This damming report brings shame on the British government for two reasons namely (1) its appalimg record on human rights and (2) its blatant hypocrisy.” ... (with highlighting emphasis imposed by The Editor, Thuppahi).


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3 responses to “United Kingdom Condemned by HRW

  1. sachisrikantha

    Please allow me to comment on the views of Fair Dinkum. I too share the revulsion of Fair Dinkum, on the hypocrisy and partiality of the UK government. Having stated this, I ask whether he did check all the pages of the HRW World Report 2023. Apart from UK, this report also contain records of human rights violations in China (pp. 149-161) and Sri Lanka (pp. 561-568). How’z that?

  2. Fair Dinkum

    Yes, I did read the rerport including the criticism of China. But there is big difference in the two cases between the UK and China, including Hong Kong. In the case of Britain, China is not behind the protests and they are not trying to use protest movements to topple the British government, whereas in the case of Hong Kong, there is clear evidence the US and UK governments were behind the protestors whose intention was to topple the government, bring about succession and bring about a pro UK-US government in Hong Kong.
    In the circumstances it is right for China to introduce a national security law to prevent Hong Kong from sliding into chaos, and history shows it was the right thing to do. Of course, those pro British Hong Kong people rant on about it, but no one cares a toss for such people as we know their intentions well. Some of these people were stupid enough to go to the White House and dine with Mike Pompeo and other US leaders. Can you imagine a UK protestor dining with Xi in Beijing before launching a protest!

    In the case of Hong Kong, not one protestor was killed by the police. We cannot say the same about Western countries where protestors are killed.

    In regards to Xinjiang, I don’t accept the premise that there are widespread human rights abuses taking place. Much of this has been advanced by Western countries (who normally don’t give a shit about Muslims or Palestinian, but only care about Muslims in Xinjiang). In the case of Kashmir, the only reason the US and UK governments recently raised human rights abuses in India was a political tool to bring pressure on India to change its policy and join with the West against Russia. India refused to do so, so the UK and US are raising human rights issues in Kashmir. If India had complied, the UK and US would not raise these issues. So go figure that one!
    Ask yourself: if the UK government actually gave a shit about Muslims, why don’t they condemn Israel for their human rights abuses against Palestinians? whenever this comes up in the UN, Western countries always support Israel, so don’t wank on about China where other countries are abusing human rights like there is no tomorrow.

    There are claims by US and UK think-tanks and governments that over a million people have been killed in Xinjiang. But there are no graves. The West are very selective in their history. They only recall the bits that suit their narrative, and delete the aspects of history that weaken their case. The West have ignored for years that there was a massive terrorist problem in Xinjiang going back to 2003, a movement which was supported by the US government with the purpose of breaking Xinjiang away from China and bringing it under the US sphere on influence. Those terrorist activities demanded a response in the same way the UK, US and other Western Governments have responded to terrorist activities in their own countries. Human rights reports do not investigate terrorism, do not document these activities, and are not in a position to advise governments on terrorism, and if we left it up to Human Rights organizations, terrorists would have a free runt the world over. The concept of human rights has been so discredited and so politicalised in recent years by Western governments and think-tanks just to smear countries they don’t like. The concept “human rights” has become debased, even for organizations like Human Rights UK.

    So when you raise the issues of human rights in China, you need to do more extensive reading beyond this report and research the history of terrorism in China and how Western governments are behind it and what they are trying to achieve by supporting terrorism in China. One of the terrorist organizations was prescribed by the US Government as a terrorist organization in 2002 because of its links with Al-Qaeda and their terrorist act in the USA in 2001, but evangelical nutcase Mike Pompeo (who was prepared to launch a war against the Netherlands if the International Criminal Court dared to bring a case of human rights abuse against any US serviceman or CIA officer) lifted the proscription against the terrorist organization operating in Xinjiang a few years ago, when he realized this terrorist group could be used to undermine China, of course with CIA support. M oreover, the NED have the gall to claim they give this terrorist group money to promote democracy! So I am afraid the claims made in this human rights report, which I did read, are completely erroneous on China because they don’t tell the full story, or even barebones of it as I have above.

    • Sachi Sri Kantha

      I whole heartedly agree with specific observations made by Fair Dinkum, such as

      (1) “The West are very selective in their history. They only recall the bits that suit their narrative, and delete the aspects of history that weaken their case.”

      (2) “Those terrorist activities demanded a response in the same way the UK, US and other Western Governments have responded to terrorist activities in their own countries.”

      (3) “concept of human rights has been so discredited and so politicalised in recent years by Western governments and think-tanks just to smear countries they don’t like.”

      Why? there have been bus load of phony human rights activists (including Presidents, Prime Ministers and ranking Cabinet Ministers in Sri Lanka) during it’s recent civil war period, who curried favor from countries like China for arms and development funds etc.

      Whereas Fair Dinkum observes ‘smear countries they don’t like’; I would say USA, UK and HRW Reports had also smeared ’emerging states like Eelam’ as well, in the past

      My peeve with this kind of HRW Reports is that they hardly cite credible sources, and authors who contribute country reports are ANONYMOUS.

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