Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from Christian Solidarity Worldwide


  1.  Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a human rights organisation with a special focus on religious freedom. We work all over the world and seek to promote religious liberty for all. We undertake campaigning and advocacy on behalf of individuals and groups facing discrimination, imprisonment, persecution and even death as a result of their faith or beliefs. Information is presented to governments and multilateral organisations, such as the United Nations, on a regular basis.


  2.  CSW would first like to commend the Government on the publication of this latest report, which represents a significant step in the process of placing human rights at the forefront of our foreign policy. The publication grows in details and breadth each year, which is also a commendable trend.

  3.  Naturally this report cannot be treated in isolation from other such examples nor can it be taken in isolation from the policy initiatives it highlights. On a positive note, it must be said that few governments that we are aware of have a similar such report. On a more cautionary note, it must also be recognised that unless the report is as comprehensive as possible, there is a danger that a false signal may be sent to governments and other violators of human rights who are omitted from this report. Thus one would have to make comparisons with reports, such as the US State Department that deal country by country with human rights abuses. Knowing the expertise available in the Foreign Office, it is surely not long before a report of this nature is feasible.

  4.  CSW is pleased that the report covers such a breadth of issues including the vital area of corporate responsibility. Without addressing this area we are undoubtedly sending mixed messages to regimes with whom HMG deals.

  5.  CSW is of the opinion that this Government has been more open to NGO input than most of it predecessors. This is reflected, in part, in this report and in the encouraging number of forums which the FCO facilitates. However it must be noted that there are occasions when desk officers in the FCO comment that HMG representation is not possible or likely because UK nationals are not involved. This is clearly the exception to the rule but it is an unhelpful counter-current to the overall flow towards prioritising human rights irrespective of nationality. Indeed, it is our belief that we must focus our efforts on those who often have no-one else to represent them.

  6.  Clearly positive steps are being made in the training of staff and diplomats at the FCO in the arena of human rights. Without more substantive details it is impossible to comment, but we would be grateful for clarification of the place given to training on religious freedom within this. As a complex and increasingly relevant concern[3], religion and religious freedom are areas that surely must be addressed. NGOs such as CSW, and undoubtedly this is true for others, would be pleased to assist or recommend experts to facilitate this.

  7.  On occasions CSW has been invited to a briefing or round table discussion for a new or visiting British Ambassador. This face-to-face dialogue has been most helpful. Equally we have been pleased to provide briefings for key political officers prior to their postings abroad. This is particularly important when their posting is to a country where religious freedom is a primary facet of human rights concerns. CSW would recommend this as an example of positive practice that could be extended by country and theme.

  8.  Clearly there a multitude of individual country comments that CSW would be prepared to submit. These would include briefings or evidence on religious freedom in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, North Korea, China, Vietnam, Laos, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Cuba and India. We would also be happy to comment on the conflict in Moluccas (Indonesia) and Sudan, and on human rights abuses in Peru and Burma. In terms of this report, CSW regrets the omission of key human rights abuses, such as the horrific prison camps in North Korea, and would contest some individual "facts"[4].

  9.  In summary, CSW would welcome further development of this report to include more countries, more in-depth reports and a greater focus on the emerging area of violations of religious freedom.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide

30 November 2001

3   Especially given the current conflict in Afghanistan and the events of September 11 2001. Back

4   An obvious example is the detail given on Egypt on p 112, which, in our opinion, is inaccurate. In the given example CSW reports that one Muslim and 21 Christians were killed whilst the report states, "a number of Muslims and Christians were killed". Whilst this might seem initially trivial it is an issue of reporting that has caused untold problems in the region. Back

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