Britain's human rights record attacked in EU report

Britain's human rights record has been heavily criticised in an EU report which calls on the government to sign key international conventions before lecturing other nations on their failings.

Tony Blair's government is singled out for not falling into line with international commitments on efforts to curb human trafficking, on the protection of migrant workers and concerning child soldiers.

The timing of the European Parliament's annual review of human rights is sensitive, after Mr Blair's public hints that the Human Rights Act should be amended in view of the threats from terrorism and organised crime.

Richard Howitt, the Labour MEP and author of the European Parliament's report on human rights, said the debate in Britain could undermine criticism of foreign regimes practising torture and oppression. He said: "It is time to say that threats may change, but rights are inviolable."

The Government has yet to implement the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. This gives victims of trafficking a minimum of 30 days to recover and escape from the influence of criminal gangs, providing them with a breathing space when they can decide whether to co-operate with the authorities.

Though the UK has signed up to the United Nations optional protocol to the convention on the rights of the child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, it has entered one key reservation. This concerns recruitment of soldiers from the age of 16, although it says that normally no one below the age of 18 will be sent into battle.

And people in Britain are not protected by the UN's international convention on the protection of the rights of all migrant workers and members of their families. That gives basic rights when working abroad.

The European Parliament report says: "To have credibility on the international stage, EU member states need to be firm in setting dates for the ratification of all key human rights conventions and their optional protocols."

It adds: "Many agencies suggest that EU policies to address illegal migration have moved so far as to curtail the ability of asylum seekers to exercise their human rights".

The document praises the stand taken by the UK over the death penalty during its six-month presidency of the EU last year. But it says that the Government failed to push that agenda on child soldiers.

"The attitude of the presidency that, 'It is not its role to tell its partners what to do' was worrying." Overall, the EU is, it says, "better at issuing statements than in following them up".

A British official said: "The UK takes human rights very seriously in the European Union and is proud of the achievements in this area during the UK presidency. The report gives credit to the UK as well as highlighting some concerns. When we sign up to a convention we implement and aim to instigate a rights culture. We do not simply sign up to agreement and then put them on the shelf to gather dust."

The European Parliament targets the EU's timid stance on human rights abuses in Chechnya, and suggests "that the EU has one rule for small countries and applies a different one for large countries". The report criticises the bloc's failure to put human rights dialogue at the heart of bilateral trade and political contacts.

It pointed out that, on the insistence of Beijing, officials meeting in the EU-China human rights dialogue did not have simultaneous interpretation, and had to read statements to each other.

The document calls for a unified EU human rights report identifying an annual list of countries of concern. It also wants a sliding scale of sanctions against countries that abuse human rights, agreed without national vetoes.

Speaking in the European Parliament, where the report won the backing of 522 MEPs, Mr Howitt said: "Those responsible for terrorism, violent crime and child abuse may have committed morally repugnant acts, but our own morality is questioned unless we accord them a fair trial, proper conditions of imprisonment and protection on release."

He went on: "Let me refer to the debate raging in my own country this week, on how human rights can be reconciled given the changed threats of terrorism, people trafficking and organised crime. It is time to say that threats may change, but rights are inviolable."

What UK has not signed up to

The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings

This entitles victims of trafficking to medical treatment, counselling and information as well as appropriate accommodation. They have at least 30 days to recover and escape from the influence of the traffickers and to decide whether to co-operate with the authorities. A renewable residence permit may be granted if their circumstances merit or if they need to stay so they can co-operate in a criminal investigation.

The United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict

Countries must take all "feasible measures" to ensure that those under 18 do not take a direct part in hostilities. Nations that recruit those below the age of 18 must lay down a series of limited safeguards including the informed consent of the person's parents or legal guardians

UN's International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families

This spells out the basic rights of all workers including equal pay rights and that they "shall not be held in slavery or servitude". It also obliges the host country to apply basic standards if criminal charges are levied against a migrant worker. These include the right to be informed in a language they understand of the charge against them; to have adequate time and facilities to prepare their defence; to be tried without undue delay; and to be tried in their presence and to defend themselves in person or through legal assistance of their own choosing.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little