Human Rights

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st November 2017.

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Photo of Faisal Rashid Faisal Rashid Labour, Warrington South 12:00 am, 21st November 2017

What steps he is taking to promote human rights in discussions with his counterparts in other countries.

Photo of Afzal Khan Afzal Khan Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Immigration)

What steps he is taking to promote human rights in discussions with his counterparts in other countries.

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

We defend human rights in a variety of ways. That involves not only funding human rights advocates and training judges and the police, but ourselves as Ministers raising directly with heads of states and our opposite numbers human rights issues across the world and across the continents.

Photo of Faisal Rashid Faisal Rashid Labour, Warrington South

Last February, the Foreign Secretary said that he wished to be a champion of President Sisi of Egypt. With mass arrests, torture, disappearances and deaths in custody now the norm in Egypt, can the Minister tell the House what exactly the Government find to champion in Sisi’s record on human rights?

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

We continue to raise very strongly with the Egyptian Government our concerns about these issues. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise them. There are some very troubling issues in Egypt. We continue to study them and we raise them with our US and EU partners all the way—[Interruption.] As the Foreign Secretary says, he raised it directly with President Sisi at his last meeting.

Photo of Afzal Khan Afzal Khan Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Immigration)

Similar to the horrors that we witnessed last year in eastern Aleppo in Syria, today, we are confronted with the brutal siege of eastern Ghouta by the Assad regime. What action will the Government take to protect civilians and to ensure compliance by reasonable actors with the human rights obligations, most particularly the Assad regime and its regime backers?

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

We absolutely agree that the Assad regime is horrifying in the way in which it treats civilians. It has an extraordinary record of brutality and murder. We will document very closely the abuses that it has committed. We continue to call on it through every single channel not to conduct these operations, and we will make sure that people are held accountable for their crimes.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

Christian communities are under attack in a number of developing countries to which we give very large amounts of international aid, including Pakistan. What steps will the Government take to ensure that that aid is given on condition that these communities are protected?

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

That is absolutely correct. Indeed, Christian communities and many other minority religious groups are increasingly under threat across the world. That is true of Christian communities in the middle east. It is true of Christian communities in Africa. It is true of Christian communities in Pakistan. We will support civil society organisations. In Pakistan, we support the rights of Christian communities, Shi’a minority communities and other groups. We continue to advocate for them with the Government of Pakistan, and we will continue that civil society support.

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Labour/Co-operative, Nottingham North

This month, FIFA’s advisory board urged FIFA to press the Qatari Government on the impact of the kafala system on migrant workers building stadiums for the 2022 football World cup. Do Ministers support this call? Will they press the Qatari Government on this and other important human rights issues?

Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham Labour, Coventry South

What progress has been made in Sudan regarding the political situation and the human rights situation?

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

We have a renewed dialogue with the Government of Sudan. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, the US Government have now lifted sanctions in relation to Sudan. I met the Sudanese delegation in October as part of the renewed dialogue. We had a human rights workshop at the centre of that dialogue, and we continue to press with the special rapporteur on human rights for progress on exactly these issues.

Photo of Khalid Mahmood Khalid Mahmood Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) (Europe)

In August, the American Government withheld $290 million of military and economic aid from Egypt because of its recent track record on human rights. I thought I would never say this, but will the Minister ask the Secretary of State to learn some lessons from Donald Trump and to force President Sisi to clean up his act?

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

We thank the shadow Minister very much for raising that issue. We agree very strongly that there are very disturbing signs in Egypt. That is why my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary raised this issue directly with President Sisi, and we will continue to do so on every occasion.