Letters: Courage in Burma

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The Independent Culture
Courage in Burma

Sir: Your correspondents (letters, 22 September) are quite right to point out that it is the unjust length of the prison sentences handed out to the Britons jailed in Burma rather than human rights abuses in Burma that have been highlighted.

But campaigners should consider if human rights are really advanced by handing out leaflets and singing freedom songs in foreign capitals.

Human rights are advanced by action on a number of fronts: the banning of arms sales to repressive regimes and refusal to trade with them; the control of arms brokers who break international arms embargoes; the alleviation of poverty by aid for education or basic healthcare and the relief of debt of the poorest countries of the world; the ratification of the treaty to set up the International Criminal Court, agreed in Rome months ago but still waiting for parliamentary time. All these are things that the Government could do now.

By highlighting these issues here at home, campaigners and the media can bring attention to the need to convince this government that a "foreign policy with an ethical dimension" needs action, not words.

Human rights activists need to campaign against our government first - before they all get incarcerated in foreign prisons.

Dr JENNY TONGE MP

Liberal Democrat Spokesperson on International Development

House of Commons,

London SW1

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