Human Rights

The Secretary of State Was Asked – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th July 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Liz Twist Liz Twist Labour, Blaydon 12:00 am, 11th July 2017

What discussions he has had with his counterparts in other countries on promoting human rights.

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Jointly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

With the Foreign Secretary’s permission, I can say that ensuring the promotion of human rights and engaging with this issue is an essential part of the foreign policy of global Britain. Ministers meet their counterparts regularly and raise issues including those relating to LGBTI people, gender equality, modern slavery, freedom of belief and religion, the death penalty and torture. This is an essential part of who we are as the United Kingdom and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Photo of Liz Twist Liz Twist Labour, Blaydon

Back in March, the UN Human Rights Council established an independent commission to investigate the many alleged atrocities committed against the Rohingya people in Myanmar. In the light of ongoing abuses, including recent reports of Rohingya women being raped by the security forces, does the Minister agree that the perpetrators of such crimes should be brought to justice as a matter of urgency, and what steps is he taking to progress these cases?

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Jointly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

I welcome the hon. Lady to the House. I was recently in Burma and was able to reaffirm the United Kingdom’s support for the independent United Nations Commission. Again, those in Burma are wrestling with this very difficult issue. The United Kingdom remains very close to the humanitarian needs of the Rohingya people in Rakhan.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Conservative, Basingstoke

The World Trade Organisation estimates that three out of four new trade deals include provisions to improve human rights around the world. What discussions has my right hon. Friend had with his colleagues in the Department for International Trade to ensure that, where appropriate, our new trade deals include obligations to improve human rights?

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Jointly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

My right hon. Friend is right: ensuring that human rights are an essential part of the United Kingdom’s policy on trade deals is an important part of the future and will continue to be a key part of our prosperity drive.

Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd Labour, Cynon Valley

Following the arrests of Amnesty International Turkey director and chair, Idil Eser, and Taner Kılıç—both examples of a worrying shift away from respect for human rights in Turkey—what steps is the Foreign Secretary taking to ensure their immediate and unconditional release?

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Jointly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

The right hon. Lady knows these issues extremely well. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary raised the matter with his counterpart, and the Prime Minister raised it with the President of Turkey at the G20. This remains a very important issue for the United Kingdom.

Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Conservative, South West Devon

On his recent visit to Burma, did my right hon. Friend encourage the Burmese Government to allow full access and to co-operate fully with the fact-finding mission of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees into human rights issues in that country?

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Jointly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

Yes, indeed. It is a difficult issue, but we have made it clear that the UN independent report needs full consideration. We have urged the Government to do all they can to facilitate what the UN needs to complete its work. An internal investigation is already being carried out by the Burmese Government.

Photo of Madeleine Moon Madeleine Moon Labour, Bridgend

Kamal Foroughi and Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe are in prison in Iran. We have been unable to gain access to them through our consul. What efforts are being made to use other countries to ensure that the human rights and, in particular, medical needs of these two people are protected?

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Jointly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

I met Richard Ratcliffe and the family just last week. I have already raised this issue directly with my counterpart, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran, and with the Iranian ambassador here. We remain very concerned about this and other consular cases involving Iran. I assure the hon. Lady and the House that we will continue to raise them at the highest level.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Fabian Hamilton Fabian Hamilton Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (Defence)

As the Government celebrated their victory in the High Court over arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the number of people affected by the cholera epidemic in Yemen passed 300,000. Humanitarian workers now face the agonising choice of whether to use their dwindling food supplies to feed those children suffering from malnutrition or those infected with cholera. In that context, will the Minister tell the House why the Saudi-led coalition continues to use British bombs to attack farms, food factories and water plants?

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Jointly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

Yesterday’s court judgment was unequivocal in stating that the United Kingdom had fully fulfilled its obligations on controlling the arms trade. The work being done with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on its response to international humanitarian law was fundamental to that judgment. The situation in Yemen remains a humanitarian disaster. The United Kingdom is actively involved in seeking to do all it can. The cholera outbreak is currently claiming some 6,500 new cases every day. I am pleased that the Department for International Development is fully engaged and is trying to do all it can to mitigate these actions.

Photo of Zac Goldsmith Zac Goldsmith Conservative, Richmond Park

My right hon. Friend—[Interruption.]

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Minister of State

He is new, and I thought that I was new too.