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A Fantastic Move for Human Rights - If Consistently Upheld

29/05/2012 09:59 BST | Updated 28/07/2012 10:12 BST


The

government have done something right. Hoorah. On the Andrew Marr show, Deputy

Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that any individual that has

abused human rights would not be able to enter the country. He specifically spoke

about the Olympics and clarified that that any athletes from the Syrian

delegation who had connections (or supported) Bashar al-Assad's regime would be

banned from entering the UK.


I

don't need to say it but this is a fantastic move on the part of the British

government. As a country, we shouldn't be welcoming those who are involved in

torture, mass murder or a string of further abuses, as is the case with

al-Assad's regime. And the same can be said of the leaders of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia,

Yemen and

a number of other countries.


If

the government are serious about this, they need to prove it. In Bahrain, citizens

have been protesting peacefully for over a year, and one person was shot and

killed on the very first day. In a continuation of the brutal tactics, King

Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa then brought in tanks from Saudi Arabia to viciously

crush the non-violent movement. Tom Malinowski, director of the Washington,

D.C. office of Human Rights Watch, dubbed Bahrain "Prison Island" and writes that in

response for taking part in peaceful demonstrations, protesters can expect to

be either arrested, tortured, thrown off a building onto a balcony, tear-gassed

or a mixture of the above. So why, just over 10 days ago, was King Hamad at the Queen's

diamond jubilee celebrations sharing a joke with Her Majesty?


Similarly,

Iranian leaders should also be banned from the UK for sending in forces to

Syria -

although I don't think that would be too difficult for the British government.


In

Yemen, after enduring protests in which many of those involved were killed, the

people elected the former Vice President Abd Rabu Mansur Hadi - as he was the

only person on the ballot. The deal which lead to Ali Abdullah Saleh's

resignation was backed by the European

Union -

even though it consisted of giving amnesty to all crimes committed by the former

president and thereby broke UN Security Council

Resolution 2014 ("all those responsible for violence, human rights violations and

abuses should be held accountable.") With abstention votes being ignored, and many security

commanders unchanged from the previous regime, human rights abusers are

plentiful in the country. Britain should not only ban those involved from

entering the country, but also demand that they be tried under international

law for war crimes.


And

don't get me started on Saudi Arabia - who aren't even sending any

women

athletes, and have been denying women

opportunities to play sport in the country for many years. Apart from sending tanks to

Bahrain, this is the same country where public protests are banned, where girls and women have to

seek permission from their "male guardians" before travelling or studying and

where a fair trial is not commonplace. And rather than banning the team from entering,

on 23 May BAE sold the country twenty-two Hawk trainer jets in a £1.9bn deal. To top it off, Prime Minister David Cameron

said the deal was "more good news for British jobs, for British investment and

British Aerospace". Fabulous.


How

about Israel, a British ally, who arrested a member of the Palestinian national

football team three years ago and is still held without trial

or any charges? Forget the confining of citizens within the Gaza strip and Operation

Cast lead in 2008-2009, which included the "unlawful use of white phosphorus", London 2012 is meant to be "Everyone's Games". Arresting members of sports

teams without a trial doesn't particularly fit in with that message, does it?


And

how's our record? It turns out that we can put TPIMs on suspects and detain

someone for up to two years without charge, we arrested activists before the Royal Wedding because of a suspicion

that they may protest, we found out that the police are using

heavy-handed tactics during protests, and that we were complicit in torture in Libya. We still have

some work to do on the human rights front, then.


This

new move by the British government has the potential be an excellent one, a

broad claim that Britain will not welcome anyone involved with human rights

abuses. The biggest problem is that we work closely with many countries that

are extremely guilty of human rights abuses. If Britain wants to be seen as serious,

they need to be consistent. Yes, it will lead to a number of countries lacking

participants but it will show that the British government does not support

those countries in any way. It's no wonder that I'm not too hopeful...