Memorandum by the Foreign and Commonwealth
1. The coming into force of the Human Rights
Act (HRA) was an important event for the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office (FCO). The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is
a key international treatya guiding principle for UK foreign
policy since accession in 1953. FCO Legal Advisers act as Agents
of the Government at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourgthe
link between the Court and Whitehall Departments. More widely,
the ECHR has been a touchstone for the remarkable transitions
that have taken place in Europe since 1989.
2. The Committee has asked what efforts
the FCO has made to implement the Human Rights Act.
3. A review of the FCO's legislative
responsibilities was carried out in the 18 months leading
up to the full coming into force of the HRA on 2 October 2000.
It should be noted that the FCO only occasionally initiates primary
legislation. No amending legislation was judged necessary in existing
areas of FCO policy lead.
4. FCO rules and procedures, at home
and abroad, were also thoroughly reviewed. These were originally
designed to be ECHR compliant. Practical guidelines on the implications
of the HRA were drawn up for all staff working on entry-clearance
and consular work. On personnel issues, the FCO has followed the
Cabinet Office review of civil service regulations and has adhered
to central guidance.
5. FCO procedures are being kept under close
review to take account of emerging HRA-related jurisprudence.
6. The Committee has further asked what
efforts have been made to develop a "human rights culture"
in the FCO.
7. The most significant requirement identified
for the FCO as a result of the HRA was for training and awareness
raising. Training has taken various forms. A contract was
awarded to the respected human rights organisation, Justice, to
run a general Human Rights Act training course for all FCO staff.
The course introduces staff to the HRA and, in practical terms,
helps them to relate the HRA to their areas of responsibility.
The courses began in early 2000 and have been well attended, and
highly rated by staff at all levels from across the organisation.
Representatives of Non-Departmental Public Bodies, for which the
FCO has responsibility, have also attended. Courses continue on
a monthly basis.
8. The FCO/Home Office Joint Entry Clearance
Unit (JECU), Immigration Service Training and Development Unit
(ISTDU) and Home Office Legal Advisers Branch cooperated to run
a cascade training course for Entry Clearance Officers (ECO) and
Managers (ECM) at all diplomatic posts abroad. Between April and
September 2000 courses were held at regional training centresNew
Delhi, Bangkok, Lagos, Pretoria, Dubai, New York, Caracas and
the Far Eastas well as in London. In addition, the HRA
is an integral part of training courses run by JECU for pre-posting
and home-based staff.
9. The HRA has also been incorporated into
training for all Management and Consular staff prior to departure
on overseas postings. Other FCO departments are developing supplementary
training programmes according to their specific needs.
10. HRA guidance and publicity materials
produced by the Home Office Human Rights Unit have been distributed
to all overseas posts. These have been supplemented by FCO-specific
guidance telegrams. Embassy managers were asked to ensure all
staffBritish and locally engagedwere aware of these
11. The Committee has asked how the HRA
has affected the FCO's approach to human rights issues, and about
the consequences for policy-formation and the delivery of services.
12. Over the past four years, human rights
have been central to this Government's foreign policy. Ministers
and an enhanced Human Rights Policy Department have worked to
"mainstream" human rights into the work of FCO geographical
departments and overseas posts. Human rights are therefore already
an important element in policy-formation. The coming into
force of the HRA has enabled the FCO to demonstrate, in contacts
with third countries, the importance the Government attaches to
human rights issuesat home and abroad.
13. The FCO's main service-delivery activitiesentry-clearance
and consular workwere reviewed to ensure ECHR compliance
(see para 4). Training and guidance materials have been used to
ensure that all staff engaged in these areas of work are aware
of the human rights implications. Some departments have taken
their own additional stepsfor example, Consular Division
have recruited a new member of staff to look at the human rights
aspects of consular policy.
14. There have been no court judgements
on human rights issues with direct implications for the FCO since
the coming into force of the HRA.
15. The introduction of the International
Criminal Court Bill in the House of Lords on 14 December 2000
required Baroness Scotland, FCO Parliamentary Under-Secretary
of State, to issue a Ministerial Certificate under Section
19 (1)(a) of the HRA. Having taken appropriate advice, Baroness
Scotland was satisfied that the Bill complied with Convention
rights and made a statement to that effect.
UK Human Rights Policy: Achievements Since
East TimorForeign Secretary
played key role galvanising international community's response
to crisis following independence vote; independence leader Xanana
Gusmao stayed with our Ambassador in Jakarta after his release
from prison; we are supporting the UN and East Timorese in their
preparation for full independence.
Sierra LeoneWe have
consistently led international support for the democratically
elected Government of Sierra Leone; deployed troops since May
2000 in response to rebels' breaking Lomé Peace Agreement;
now providing 200 troops to train Sierra Leone Army; and £30
million in aid this year (£70 million since 1998).
role in international community's response to impending humanitarian
catastrophe in 1999, and now in international efforts to rebuild.
We introduced in 1997 tough new
criteria for UK arms sales and worked with EU partners to
introduce EU code of conduct on arms exports in June 1998,
and in 2000, consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing
Criteria. In 1999 we lobbied for ratification of Ottawa Convention
banning anti-personnel landmines.
export and transhipment from the UK of electroshock batons, stun
guns, tasers, leg irons, gang chains, shackles and other equipment
that has been used in torture.
We have published three annual
reports on our strategic export controlsputting us
at forefront of transparency in arms exports in Europe.
We lobbied hard in favour of International
Criminal Court and played key role in negotiations leading
to agreement of strong court at Rome Conference in June 1998.
Bill to enable UK ratification introduced in December 2000.
International Criminal Tribunal
for Rwanda (ICTR)/International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia
(ICTY) We have provided strong support for both tribunalsUK
SFOR troops in Bosnia have taken part in 13 out of 24 detentions
of indictees to date.
Complete abolition of Death Penalty
in UK means we now lobby for abolition of Death Penalty
and for clemency in application worldwide. Ratified Additional
Protocol 6 of European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and Optional
Protocol 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights (ICCPR). Agreed guidelines on EU demarches (under UK Presidency).
EU resolution at Commission on Human Rights (CHR) each year. Foreign
Secretary's Death Penalty panel introduced.
Around the world our missions lobby
governments much more actively than ever before to promote
human rightsseeking dialogue and co-operation where possible,
encouraging wider ratification and implementation of core UN human
rights instruments, but also applying pressure where necessary
in response to violations of human rights.
Worldwide lobbying campaign for ratification
of Convention Against Torture, late 1998early 1999.
Ratification of CAT increased from 114 to 124. Torture Reporting
Handbook launched March 2000. 10,000 copies distributed in
Russian, Arabic, French, Spanish and English. Supporting publication
in Chinese and Turkish. Support for UN Voluntary Fund for Victims
of Torture, European Committee for Prevention of Torture, OSCE
anti-torture programme, Association for the Prevention of Torture
played key role in getting diamond producing, marketing and importing
states to work together against illegal diamond trade fuelling
Government has implemented a major
programme of initiatives to promote child rights. UK played
key role in drafting and securing agreement to International Labour
Organisation (ILO) Convention 182 on elimination of worst forms
of child labour in June 1999. In 2000, ratified that convention
as well as ILO Convention 138 on the minimum age of employment.
UK now ratified all eight-core ILO conventions.
Work with Governments around the
world to tackle commercial sexual exploitation of children.
Good example is Asia/Europe initiative with Government of the
Philippines, bringing together child protection experts from both
Prime Minister in September 2000
signed new Optional Protocols to Convention on the Rights of
the Childon children in armed conflict and the sale
of children, child pornography and child prostitution. Intend
to ratify both as soon as possible.
UK taking a lead in supporting international
action to tackle racism and racial discrimination; we pressed
for the fast tracking of the new EU Race Directive and have funded
preparations for the World Conference Against Racism in September
Re-election of UK to UN Commission
on Human Rights; and Professor Sir Nigel Rodley elected as
Independent Expert to UN Human Rights Committee.
UK first predominantly Christian
country to send a delegation to the pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi
Arabia, providing consular and medical assistance to about
2,000 of the 20,000 British Hajjis who performed pilgrimage in
Proposed jointly with Germans new
European Union Annual Human Rights Report. Second report
issued in December 2000.
We have published three annual
human rights reports explaining these changes in policy and
reporting our activity to implement them. The reports are a crucial
part of our on-going dialogue with those outside government, a
further step in the increased openness of policymaking, and a
deliberate move to hold ourselves and our record up to public
We have evolved human rights country
specific strategies to promote human rights in key countries
and target our efforts on issues where they can have most effectover
90 strategies so far. These set out key problems, objectives of
our policy, UK's scope to secure improvements, and plan of action.
The FCO's human rights training
course is essential training for all policy staff, up to and including
Ambassadors. 280 staff trained from 1998-2000.
We have strengthened our dialogue
with civil societyincluding through regular Human Rights
NGO fora chaired by FCO Ministers and NGO briefing for FCO Ministers
and Ambassadors. We work closely with NGOs on human rights in
posts, and have included a NGO expert as a human rights officer
at one of our Embassies. Representatives of Save the Children,
Amnesty International and World Organisation Against Torture have
been placed in Human Rights Policy Departments; FCO placements
to Article XIX, Minority Rights Group and Interights.
Worked closely with British businesses
and NGOs to support good practice in corporate social responsibility
overseas, including initiative to introduce voluntary guidelines
for companies operating overseas in the extractives sector. Creation
of FCO Global Citizenship Unit. Introduction of human rights screening
for applications to Export Credit Guarantee Department.
Human Rights websiteaddress:
hrpd.fco.gov.uk(no www.). Website includes database of
Human Rights Project Fund projects; Calendar of key international
human rights events; copies of both human rights reports; NGO
Forum and links to other human rights sites.
We have established a human rights
project fund (HRPF) to allow our missions around the world
to support grassroots human rights promotion. Since inception
in April 1998, it has supported over 450 projects worth over £15
million in over 90 countries. Used in close coordination with
the activities of Department for International Development and
the British Council on the ground.
support to Kenyan project dealing
with victims of alleged police abuse;
training for disabled children in
Russia on rights awareness, so that they can train others;
Palestinian Rights Programme;
BBC World Service Project "I
have a Right to. . . "launched November 2000, largest
single human rights project supported by FCO, largest BBC World
Service education project£650,000 from HRPF over three
years. Will broadcast 13 radio series in 12 vernacular languages,
including Russian, Arabic, Swahili, followed up by five awareness
raising events around world, and further radio programmes.
Amnesty International, in their 2000
audit of HMG's foreign policy, referred to the government's: ".
. . record of real achievementincluding the constructive
role the UK has periodically played around the world, the passing
of the Human Rights Act and the increasing importance accorded
to human rights and international justice in UK diplomacy abroad."
UK Human Rights Policy: Chronology
July 1997Speech by Foreign Secretary
"Human Rights into a New Century"
July 1997Announcement of new criteria
to be used in considering licence applications for the export
of conventional arms.
Sept 1997First meeting of FCO NGO Forum.
Feb 1998Announcement of Human Rights
Apr 1998First FCO/DFID Annual Report
on Human Rights launched.
June 1998EU Code of Conduct on arms sales
agreed by GAC.
Sept 1998Publication of Amnesty International's
first annual Human Rights Audit of UK Foreign and Asylum Policy.
Oct 1998Speech by Foreign Secretary "Making
the Difference" to Amnesty International human rights festival.
Oct 1998Launch of FCO anti-torture initiative.
Dec 199850th Anniversary of the UN Declaration
of Human Rights.
Mar 1999Publication of first FCO/DTI/MoD
Annual Report on Strategic Export Controls.
July 1999Second FCO/DFID Annual Report
on Human Rights launched.
Sept 1999Publication of second Amnesty
International Audit of UK Foreign and Asylum Policy.
Nov 1999Publication of second FCO/DTI/MoD
Report on Strategic Export Controls.
Nov 199910th Anniversary of the UN Convention
on the Rights of the Child; Children's' Select Committee.
Jan 2000Speech by Foreign Secretary "Foreign
Policy and the National Interest" at Chatham House.
Mar 2000Speech by Peter Hain, FCO Minister
of State, to the Commission on Human Rights, Geneva.
Mar 2000Launch of Torture Reporting Handbook.
Mar 2000UK ratifies ILO Convention 182
on elimination of worst forms of child labour.
May 2000UK re-elected to UN Commission
on Human Rights.
June 2000Beijing Plus FiveSpecial
Session of the UN General Assembly, on progress against Beijing
Platform for Action.
June 2000UK ratifies ILO Convention 138
on minimum age for entry into employment.
July 2000Publication of third FCO/DTI/MoD
Annual Report on Strategic Export Controls.
July 2000Publication of third Annual
Report on Human Rights.
Sep 2000Publication of third Amnesty
International Audit of UK Foreign and Asylum Policy.
Sep 2000Professor Sir Nigel Rodley elected
as Independent Expert to UN Human Rights Committee.
Sep 2000Prime Minister signs new Optional
Protocols to Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Oct 2000Speech by Peter Hain, FCO Minister
of State at European Conference Against Racism, Strasbourg.
Oct 2000Human Rights Act comes fully
Dec 2000Launch of Second stage of FCO