I have recently had several constituents email me regarding human rights defenders and the important role they play in standing up to tyranny.
I agree that more must be done to protect human rights defenders globally. Human rights defenders champion and fight for the human rights of others, challenging oppression and injustice. I believe the UK should lead the world in promoting human rights and they should be at the heart of our foreign policy.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which recognises the right and the responsibility of individuals, groups and associations to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels. It is therefore disgraceful that over 300 human rights defenders were killed last year, while hundreds were harassed, threatened or detained.
In December last year, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office issued updated guidelines to the UK’s Embassies and High Commissions on working with human rights defenders. This asks them to find practical ways to support human rights defenders and consider groups who may face additional risks, such as those defending the rights of women.
Unfortunately, I am worried that there has been a move away from the prioritisation of human rights under the current Government, including in its international dealings. I believe the Government should lead international efforts through the UN and other international organisations to ensure that human rights are protected and upheld around the world, and that it should also urge respect for human rights in its discussions with other governments.
I can assure you that I will continue to press the Government to support human rights, and those who defend them globally.