Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Foreign Office annual human rights report; LGBT work Euro-focused

Foreign Secretary David Miliband from the Unit...Image by talkradionews via Flickr
By Paul Canning

The Foreign Office has released its second annual human rights report [PDF], the first covered 2008.

The 194 page document has two pages covering LGBT rights, largely focusing on Europe.

It cites:
  • The UK's opposition to the Ugandan 'kill-the-gays' bill (not mentioned but conveyed to President Museveni by Gordon Brown)
  • Raising violence against LGBT during the Nigeria country review

It notes that the UK welcomed positive legal developments in Rwanda, India and Mexico.

The most interesting development though was the UK pressing for the European Union's common foreign and security policy to develop a strategy based on the LGBT rights toolkit available to UK embassies since 2008.

It's main points are:
  • Decriminalisation of same sex relationships
  • Equality and non-discrimination in the application of human rights
  • Human rights defenders
  • Sexual health, reproductive rights and health education
The toolkit suggest that embassies provide messages of support when requested, encourage the British Council to include LGBT information in its public information centres, host debates and seminars on relevant issues and include LGBT aspects and speakers and support civil society work for LGBT rights by using local resources.

As the report's main focus is on Europe, mainly with institutions such as the Europe-wide Council of Europe and it includes a box highlight on the UK's support for Pride marches in Eastern Europe, it's unclear how widely the toolkit has actually been taken up by embassies outside Europe and there is no mention of any work with the Commonwealth.

In his speech launching the report, David Miliband mentioned the "small steps" of supporting gay rights activists in Uganda, Burundi and Malawi.

HT: UK Gay News

Edited to add:

The country reports do include some comments on lesbian and gay rights. On Iraq
We have received numerous reports of violence being committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation. It is difficult to obtain precise information. The 2009 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report highlighted examples of attacks being carried out by militia groups. However, official figures do not show a significant overall increase in violence against, or systematic abuse of, the homosexual community by fundamentalists or militia groups. The UK has raised concerns with the Iraqi Human Rights Minister who confirmed that homosexuality is not a criminal offence in Iraq. The Ministry of Interior has also stated that the killing of homosexuals is considered as murder, as it would be for any other individual, and the perpetrators will be prosecuted. We continue to monitor and discuss this issue with a range of NGOs, including a UK-based Iraqi LGBT group. In April, the former Foreign Office Minister, Bill Rammell, said: “The UK condemns the persecution of any individual because of their sexual orientation."

On Saudi Arabia:
The death penalty retains significant public support in Saudi Arabia and there is little sign of any movement towards its abolition. There were 67 executions in 2009. This compares to 97 executions in 2008 and 157 in 2007. The death sentence continues to be applied for offences including homosexuality and “witchcraft”. In May and November, the EU made representations to the Saudi government about the number of executions carried out in the Kingdom.
Foreign Office LGBT rights toolkit 

Foreign Office LGBT rights toolkit

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