The British government seriously undermined human rights in 2023

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Domestic human rights protections have been seriously eroded and efforts to promote human rights globally undermined by the policies and practices of the United Kingdom government in 2023, Human Rights Watch said today in its Report world 2024.

“The UK has had another dismal year for human rights in 2023,” said Yasmine Ahmed, UK director at Human Rights Watch. “The government has continued its attacks on fundamental rights in the UK, including to protest and seek asylum, while applying a double standard in its foreign policy, undermining its efforts to promote human rights on a global scale. »

In its World Report 2024, its 34th edition which has 740 pages, Human Rights Watch analyzes human rights practices in more than 100 countries. In her introductory essay, Executive Director Tirana Hassan argues that 2023 has been a fraught year, not only because of the repression of human rights and atrocities linked to armed conflict, but also because of selective outrage and transactional diplomacy. These government practices, she indicates, have profoundly undermined the rights of all those left on the sidelines of unacknowledged “deals”. A different and hopeful path is possible, she says, however, calling on governments to remain consistent in respecting their human rights obligations.

In 2023, the UK government weakened fundamental freedoms, such as the right to protest, by passing new legislation. The UK’s continuation of its plan to transfer asylum seekers to Rwanda and the introduction of the Illegal Immigration Act have undermined the rights of refugees and asylum seekers and have, generally speaking, a corrosive influence on international norms and standards.

In April, the government passed the Public Order Act, further criminalizing citizens’ rights to peaceful protest, undermining freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association, and limiting worker strikes. The law is part of an ongoing crackdown on people protesting the government’s increasingly regressive policies on climate change.

In July, the UK government passed the widely condemned Illegal Immigration Act, which bars access to asylum and undermines protections against modern slavery and trafficking for anyone arriving “from irregular manner” in the United Kingdom. The government continued to defend its controversial asylum deal with Rwanda in the Supreme Court, after the Court of Appeal ruled that Rwanda was not a safe third country to send asylum seekers to . In November, the Supreme Court confirmed that the UK-Rwanda deal was illegal because Rwanda was not considered a safe third country. The government responded to the ruling by pledging to pass emergency legislation to confirm Rwanda as a safe country and agree with Rwanda on a treaty to replace the existing memorandum of understanding.

Despite a persistent cost of living crisis, the UK government has failed to adopt policies guaranteeing citizens’ rights to social security and an adequate standard of living, particularly with regard to food and access to suitable accommodation.

British authorities have also failed to adequately address racial inequality and discrimination. In 2018, the British government apologized after thousands of black Britons from the Windrush generation were deported, detained and disenfranchised due to repeated Home Office policy failures. Yet the government continues to neglect these people, who still face serious difficulties accessing a complex and inaccessible compensation program, and backed down in 2023 on some recommendations from an independent inquiry into the scandal. The UN Working Group on People of African Descent condemned these failings when it visited the UK in January 2023.

Mauritius regarding the sovereignty of the islands, but the Chagossians were not really consulted. The UK has refused to grant them full reparations, including their right of return.

On the international stage, the government has used its position and influence to denounce abuses in Sudan, Ukraine, Iran, Belarus and elsewhere. However, it has shown itself prepared to flout its international legal obligations and apply “double standards” when it suits its interests.

Following Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7, 2023, the UK Government rightly condemned Hamas’ deliberate killings of civilians and hostage-taking as war crimes. However, he did not denounce the collective punishment inflicted by Israel on the population of Gaza by cutting off access to electricity, water, fuel and food, which also constitute war crimes. Nor did he express the slightest concern about Israel’s relentless aerial bombardments that have killed thousands of children and other civilians and reduced large parts of some neighborhoods to rubble. The hostilities have led to increased reports of anti-Semitic and Islamophobic incidents in the United Kingdom, according to civil society organizations and London police.

Since signing its asylum deal with Rwanda, the UK’s position on Rwanda’s human rights record appears compromised, as it has failed to pressure Rwanda to end its support for the armed group M23, which commits atrocities in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This article is originally published on hrw.org

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