Written evidence submitted by UNA-UK earlier this year regarding the role of the UK on the UN Human Rights Council has been quoted in a recent report of the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC).
The FAC report examines the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) human rights work in 2013; it also highlights areas for improvement and proposes recommendations for the improvement of its work across specific countries of concern as well as thematic human rights issues.
UNA-UK’s evidence focused on the UK’s election to the Human Rights Council, the opportunities and constraints associated with a seat on the Council and recommendations for the UK’s future membership role. It also examined the UK’s own human rights record and explained how it may impact the UK’s ability to engage effectively with the Human Rights Council. The evidence informed an additional UNA-UK report which was also submitted to the FCO.
The FAC report acknowledges UNA-UK’s contribution of evidence relating to the UN’s Special Procedures (independent human rights experts), the UK’s role on the Human Rights Council and the UK’s own record of engaging with UN human rights mechanisms. The Committee reiterated UNA-UK’s concern regarding the UK Government’s handling of a visit by UN Special Rapporteur Rashida Manjoo, who claims that the UK Government failed to facilitate a visit to Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre despite repeated requests, and agreed that this “sets a dangerous precedent for other countries to follow suit”.
In its conclusions and recommendations, the report welcomed assurances “that the FCO is developing a new process to work with other government departments to improve cross-Whitehall preparations for future visits by UN Special Rapporteurs”.
The FAC report also shared UNA-UK’s concerns surrounding the UK Government’s engagement with the Council regarding the use of armed drones. The FAC concluded that the UK’s vote against a Human Rights Council resolution on this issue represented an inconsistent approach. It further recommended that the Government “provide a written response detailing its points of disagreement with the UN Special Rapporteur’s findings to both Parliament and the UN Human Rights Council”.