Boris Johnson cannot be trusted to defend Human Rights

Stephen Delahunty

Last week just 0.13 % of the population voted in a man to be the next Prime Minister whose commitment to human rights is as dubious as his voting record on the subject.

The inevitability of Boris Johnson’s coronation as Conservative party leader and Prime Minister rendered the leadership contest something of a dud, despite his proclamation that he was the “dude” to unite the country, before blaming half of it for lacking optimism. 

Beyond his usual outlandish narcissism it is not clear what his promise to ‘deliver, unite, defeat, and energise’ will mean for protections afforded under the Human Rights Act. Introduced in 1998, it incorporates the rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into domestic British law, and it sets out the fundamental rights and freedoms that everyone in the UK is entitled to.

However, the previous government failed to give assurances that it will not repeal or reform the Human Rights Act post-Brexit, and there is no evidence to suggest that Johnson, an ardent Euroscpetic who was taken to court under allegations of misconduct in a public office for claims made during the Leave campaign, can be trusted to maintain the Act’s commitments.

His party has previously pledged to replace the act with a British Bill of Rights, although Johnson missed a vote on whether to repeal the Human Rights Act in 2016.

Several human rights groups have already outlined what they think are the key issues that Johnson needs to address. Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, said that he must work to resolve the case of British Iranian citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe who was arrested in 2016 while visiting relatives and accused of spying by Tehran.

Although the last time the former foreign secretary intervened he failed to secure her release and Iranian officials cited his words as evidence that she had engaged in “propaganda against the regime”. Nazanin’s husband has since called on Johnson to acknowledge his mistake.

Allen also said Johnson should work to empower women and girls and reunite refugee families torn apart by conflict and persecution. As foreign secretary, Johnson gave a speech to the UN Human Rights Council stating: “We could achieve virtually every sustainable development goal – if only we could provide every girl in the world with at least 12 years of quality education”.

Despite his trademark bluster Johnson has consistently voted against laws to promote equality and human rights and was absent for a vote on the Impact of Tax and Benefit Changes on Women and Protected Groups in 2016.

On foreign affairs, watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) has described his approach to human rights as “weak, inconsistent, and often incoherent”. London’s diplomatic efforts in Egypt and Myanmar have “lacked leadership”, and documents released last year suggested that Johnson pushed the government to continue UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia despite concerns UK arms are contributing to “significant” civilian deaths in the Saudi-coalition’s war in Yemen.

The former journalist has been sacked from previous roles for making up quotes and lying about an affair, while his history of racist, homophobic and anti-LGBT slurs suggest he is not suddenly going to become a friend to minority communities at home or internationally.

He has also been referred to the Equality and Human Rights Commission for Islamophobic comments, and once wrote a lengthy Spectator column arguing that the best thing for Africa would be for the old colonial powers to return. If trust and words are to matter in politics, the new Prime Minister’s grasp of language, history and culture make him unfit to hold office.

Ultimately the Old Etonian’s approach to human rights may be best judged by the company he keeps – Johnson has courted the same white nationalist Svengali that installed his floppy haired equivalent in the White House – and he has just appointed arguably the most anti-human rights cabinet to date. The no-deal Brexit his cabinet are advocating could see many human rights protections currently enjoyed by UK citizens lost, including employment rights, equality and privacy. 

The new Prime Minister used his first speech in the Commons to declare a new “Golden Age” – but if Johnson’s record is anything to go by – human rights protections could hark back to the Stone Age.

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Join the LCHR Committee!

Job Details

The Labour Campaign for Human Rights (LCHR) is an organisation that promotes human rights within the Labour Party. Our activities include:

  • Discussion: LCHR serves as a forum and platform for Labour members and others who have an interest in human rights. We foster dialogue between civil society, academia, the public, and the Labour Party on human rights issues.
  • Advocacy: we engage with Labour Party policy and Labour politicians to ensure that human rights are at the heart of Labour’s foreign and domestic policy agendas.
  • Policy work: LCHR generates policy proposals for the Labour Party that ensure the protection and promotion of human rights.
  • Public, grassroots campaigning and awareness raising: we raise the profile of human rights issues within the party and the wider Labour movement.

LCHR is looking for three (3) new volunteers to help us run the organisation and our ongoing campaigns. The volunteers will join LCHR’s managing committee.

 

Job Title: Volunteers (x 3) – Partnerships & Fundraising (x 1), Campaigns (x 1) and Communications (x 1)

Working For: Labour Campaign for Human Rights

Location: London

Salary: Voluntary role (flexible hours)

 

Partnerships & Fundraising

Alongside a range of broader contributions to LCHR’s campaigns, specific responsibilities will include:

  • Developing LCHR’s fundraising & partnership strategy, and maintaining and enhancing the long-term durability of the Campaign;
  • Identifying and securing funding opportunities from a range of sources, including trusts and foundations, institutions and the corporate sector;

Ideal candidates will have:

  • Commercial Awareness and the ability to identify and seize opportunities;
  • Excellent relationship building and stakeholder management skills;
  • A keen interest in human rights and politics;
  • Excellent communication skills, including writing skills;
  • A good understanding of the Labour Party; and
  • Support the Labour Campaign for Human Rights and our mission.

 

Campaigns

Alongside a range of broader contributions to LCHR’s campaigns, specific responsibilities will include:

  • Writing articles and briefings;
  • Creating/editing digital content, including videos, to support our campaigns;

Ideal candidates will have:

  • Experience with inDesign or creating graphics;
  • Creating/editing video content;
  • A keen interest in human rights and politics;
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills, including writing skills;
  • A good understanding of the Labour Party; and
  • Support the Labour Campaign for Human Rights and our mission.

 

Communications

Alongside a range of broader contributions to LCHR’s campaigns, specific responsibilities will include:

  • Creating/editing digital content to support our campaigns;
  • Producing a regular newsletter for our supporters; and
  • Helping run our social media channels;

Ideal candidate will have:

  • An interest in social media and/or experience in running a social media channel;
  • Experience using mailchimp;
  • A keen interest in human rights and politics;
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills, including writing skills;
  • A good understanding of the Labour Party; and
  • Support the Labour Campaign for Human Rights and our mission.

 

Please indicate on your application, which role(s) you’re interested in.

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Hours are flexible and the role is primarily home-based, although candidates will ideally be based in London for meetings and events. Around 2-3 hours per week commitment is typical by not required.

We particularly encourage applications from women and BAME candidates.

 

Application Details

Please send a CV and short cover note to campaigns@lchr.org.uk

We will acknowledge every application, and will aim to contact successful applicants by Wednesday 8th May.

Interview Dates

Interviews will take place on Monday 13th and Tuesday 14th May.

LCHR on Venezuela: a man-made humanitarian and human rights catastrophe

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By Corinne Linnecar, Campaigns Officer

As the world divides over its support for the declared leaders of Venezuela, what is happening to its people?

Venezuela was once the richest country in Latin America. It is home to the largest known oil reserves in the world; more than Saudi Arabia. In 2013, it received an award from the UN for reducing hunger by half. Yet today, its simultaneous humanitarian and human rights crises have led to over 3 million people fleeing the country while those left within its borders face life-threatening conditions.

A rapidly deteriorating economy is set to see inflation rise to 10 million per cent in 2019. Even where food can be found, the prices have exceeded all realms of rationality, with one month’s salary now buying only 500g of oats, 24 eggs, or half a burger. The country is also severely lacking basic necessities and medicine. All of this has culminated in a humanitarian crisis, which is exacerbated by a repressive government that continues to crack down on dissenting voices.

Unlike many humanitarian crises in the world, Venezuela’s was not caused by war or natural disaster. This crisis is entirely man-made.

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Protests by parents must not be allowed to turn the clock back on LGBT rights

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This article was written by Peter Turay, Communications Officer at the Labour Campaign for Human Rights, and originally published in The Times on 21 March 2019.

Over the past few weeks Birmingham has seen angry protests by parents outside a school, armed with aggressive placards and a megaphone. You could be mistaken for thinking this was a scene from Westminster which is plagued with protesters, both Remain and Leave, shouting at MPs (and anyone else unfortunate enough to walk past).

Instead, this protest was held outside Parkfield Community School in Birmingham, which has drawn criticism from parents for the introduction of their “no outsiders” programme to the school’s curriculum. The programme aims to promote social cohesion, by teaching the children about equality and helping them learn to be tolerant of differences, including sexual orientation. Unfortunately, this has sparked anger among some parents and conservative religious groups in the local community.

 

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LCHR: Introducing ‘Britain and Her Allies’

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Last year was an important one for human rights. We saw the 20th anniversary of the Human Rights Act, and the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These documents not only form the basis of human rights laws in the UK, which guarantee freedom from persecution, violence and oppression, but are essential components of our democracy. The Human Rights Act protects the fundamental rights of all British citizens – ranging from freedom of speech to freedom from torture – and is one of Labour’s proudest achievements.

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LCHR on Brazil: Bolsonaro poses a grave threat to human rights

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By Stephen Delahunty, Guest Writer 

As Brazil’s new right-wing populist leader, Jair Bolsonaro, was sworn in as the 42nd president on 1st January this year, he promised the country’s “liberation from socialism, inverted values, the bloated state and political correctness”.

By the following day, it was clear to see what the former military captain actually meant. The President had already named seven former military men to head key ministries, the largest number of military officers appointed to cabinet since the end of the country’s military dictatorship in 1985. While the number of ministries was reduced from 29 to 22, a move that saw the Ministry of Labour axed in a country where over 12 million people are out of a job.

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