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Human Rights

Volume 722: debated on Tuesday 8 November 2022

The UK puts human rights at the heart of what we do. That includes: leading efforts to hold Russia to account over its actions in Ukraine and at home; leading on United Nations Human Rights Council resolutions, including on Syria, Sri Lanka and Somalia, and a joint statement on Xinjiang; and sanctioning officials involved in human rights violations in Iran.

Thousands of my constituents are concerned about the ongoing human rights abuses in Indian-administered Kashmir. What steps are the British Government taking to raise those concerns with the Indian Government and ensure that human rights are protected and respected for all throughout the region?

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. Any allegations are deeply concerning and must be thoroughly investigated. We raise concerns with both Governments, and we can do so because relations are so close and mutually beneficial.

I welcome the right hon. Gentleman, my constituency neighbour, to his place. Our ability to act as human rights defenders around the world would be much stronger if we collectively hit the G20 target of lending $100 billion of the special drawing rights issued last year. To date, the UK has committed to sharing only 20% of its special drawing rights. That fraction is much lower than France and China. What is he doing to get a grip of the Government achieving the aim of sharing a much higher proportion?

The right hon. Gentleman, my constituency neighbour, has raised with me privately the issue of SDRs. I agree that there is much more that the international community can do to use those SDRs for the benefit of the poorest people in the world, whom we wish to help. All I can say today is that those discussions with the Treasury are ongoing.

I welcome the Minister back to his place. Today will be the third day that Alaa Abdel Fattah—a pro-democracy activist and British citizen—has not consumed any water. The Minister will know that he has been in prison in Egypt for nine years and that he has been on hunger strike for more than 200 days. With the eyes of the world on COP27, will the Minister confirm that the Government will not allow Egypt to get away with using the summit to paper over human rights atrocities and that every UK channel is being used to secure Alaa’s release? And will he make really clear the consequences if Egypt were to allow Alaa to die in prison?

I thank the hon. Lady for her kind remarks, her question and her concern. That matter was raised specifically by the Prime Minister at Cabinet this morning. He spoke to the Egyptian authorities and I have no doubt that the arguments that she put were strenuously emphasised by the Prime Minister in those discussions.

Iran has one of the worst human rights records in the world, and I am sure that is one reason for the extensive protests. Will the Government ensure that if the joint comprehensive plan of action is revived or replaced, it will place strong obligations on Iran to repair its appalling and shocking human rights record?

My right hon. Friend raises a most important subject. What is going on in Iran is of immense concern to the Government. I will ensure that her comments are carefully recorded for the Foreign Secretary.

The Minister will be aware of the tremendous work done by the charity Open Doors over a number of years. Will he ensure that when cases are brought to him about human rights abuses against Christians and other religious believers across the globe, they will receive his attention and that appropriate action will be taken in respect of the nations that carry out those abuses?

Let me return to Alaa Abdel Fattah, a British citizen and democracy campaigner who was imprisoned in Egypt for sharing a Facebook post. His mother waited outside Wadi el-Natrun prison on Monday for the weekly letter from her son, but no letter came out. He has stopped drinking water and his life is now in grave danger. For too long, the Government’s diplomacy has been weak. The Prime Minister raised the case yesterday but failed to secure consular access before he did so. What diplomatic price has Egypt paid for denying the right of consular access to a British citizen? Will the Minister make it clear that there will be serious diplomatic consequences if access is not granted immediately and Alaa is not released and reunited with his family?

The shadow Foreign Secretary is absolutely right to raise that case. For that reason, the Prime Minister made a particular point of making representations to his opposite number in Egypt, and I very much hope that those representations will be heard.