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Human Rights

Volume 655: debated on Tuesday 26 February 2019

17. What diplomatic steps his Department is taking to promote and support human rights internationally. (909453)

The hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Catherine West) will be pleased to know that the UK is wholeheartedly committed to the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide. As a result, we continue to support the work of the UN Human Rights Council and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The UK is one of the longest-standing members of the UNHRC, and we are keen to maintain that record at next year’s elections.

Child soldiers represent a major human rights concern. What more can be done to condemn and improve the situation of child soldiers in Yemen, both those on the Houthi side and, crucially, the Sudanese children being exploited by the Saudi forces?

The hon. Lady is right to point out that the situation is absolutely heartbreaking. I am the father of an 11-year-old son, and boys of roughly that age are fighting in parts of the world such as Yemen. I reassure her that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will raise the matter when he is in Saudi Arabia in the days ahead.

Human rights defenders around the world are under attack. They are censored, imprisoned and sometimes even murdered for speaking out, and women who speak out in countries such as Saudi Arabia are particularly vulnerable. Does the Minister agree that we need to do more to support the women around the world who are brave enough to stand up for what they believe in?

The hon. Lady is right that that is a major issue. My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Middle East raised the matter when he was in the region last week and will continue to do so.

When I was chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, we tried on a couple of occasions to raise human rights violations against LGBT citizens around the world, but our attempts were regularly blocked by Uganda, China, Russia and several other countries. Will the Minister use his influence, particularly in the Commonwealth, to try to raise such issues so that we can give hope to millions of people living in those countries?

My hon. Friend is right that the issue is still contested. We will continue to make the case for LGBT rights, and all Foreign Office Ministers and other Ministers with broader foreign affairs responsibilities will make it clear when abroad that we need to stand up for these important rights.

On 5 April, Professor Zaffaroni, a justice of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, will present to His Holiness the Pope a report on the consequences of the criminalisation of same-sex relations in the Caribbean. The Government will be invited to be represented at the presentation, so will the Minister ensure that they are?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. These are important issues, and clearly we will be represented at the most senior level possible. It may be difficult for a Minister to be present, but we will ensure that our ambassadors and other leading figures in the Foreign Office are there to make the case to which he refers.

Was the Minister as appalled as I was last week that it took an order from the European Court of Human Rights to force the Orbán Government in Hungary to provide food to the starving asylum seekers being held at the border? Further, has the Foreign Office protested to the Orbán Government about this disgraceful episode?

Clearly this is something that causes great concern. The shadow Minister will be aware that it is not an issue for which I have direct responsibility, but I know my right hon. Friend the Minister for Europe and the Americas will ensure that our embassy in Budapest is in a position to make the case in the way he has expressed it. Obviously we will try to return to the House at some point with more information, or do so in writing.