We defend human rights in a variety of ways. That involves not only funding human rights advocates and training judges and the police, but ourselves as Ministers raising directly with heads of states and our opposite numbers human rights issues across the world and across the continents.
Last February, the Foreign Secretary said that he wished to be a champion of President Sisi of Egypt. With mass arrests, torture, disappearances and deaths in custody now the norm in Egypt, can the Minister tell the House what exactly the Government find to champion in Sisi’s record on human rights?
We continue to raise very strongly with the Egyptian Government our concerns about these issues. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise them. There are some very troubling issues in Egypt. We continue to study them and we raise them with our US and EU partners all the way—[Interruption.] As the Foreign Secretary says, he raised it directly with President Sisi at his last meeting.
Similar to the horrors that we witnessed last year in eastern Aleppo in Syria, today, we are confronted with the brutal siege of eastern Ghouta by the Assad regime. What action will the Government take to protect civilians and to ensure compliance by reasonable actors with the human rights obligations, most particularly the Assad regime and its regime backers?
We absolutely agree that the Assad regime is horrifying in the way in which it treats civilians. It has an extraordinary record of brutality and murder. We will document very closely the abuses that it has committed. We continue to call on it through every single channel not to conduct these operations, and we will make sure that people are held accountable for their crimes.
Christian communities are under attack in a number of developing countries to which we give very large amounts of international aid, including Pakistan. What steps will the Government take to ensure that that aid is given on condition that these communities are protected?
That is absolutely correct. Indeed, Christian communities and many other minority religious groups are increasingly under threat across the world. That is true of Christian communities in the middle east. It is true of Christian communities in Africa. It is true of Christian communities in Pakistan. We will support civil society organisations. In Pakistan, we support the rights of Christian communities, Shi’a minority communities and other groups. We continue to advocate for them with the Government of Pakistan, and we will continue that civil society support.
We have looked seriously into this issue. We have pressed the issue with the Qatari Government, and we will continue to press exactly this issue with the Government of Qatar.
We have a renewed dialogue with the Government of Sudan. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, the US Government have now lifted sanctions in relation to Sudan. I met the Sudanese delegation in October as part of the renewed dialogue. We had a human rights workshop at the centre of that dialogue, and we continue to press with the special rapporteur on human rights for progress on exactly these issues.
In August, the American Government withheld $290 million of military and economic aid from Egypt because of its recent track record on human rights. I thought I would never say this, but will the Minister ask the Secretary of State to learn some lessons from Donald Trump and to force President Sisi to clean up his act?
We thank the shadow Minister very much for raising that issue. We agree very strongly that there are very disturbing signs in Egypt. That is why my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary raised this issue directly with President Sisi, and we will continue to do so on every occasion.