The UK needs to place democratic values at the heart of its foreign policy towards ‘Arab Spring’ countries

REDRESS welcomes the recommendation in the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) report released today that the UK needs to place democratic values at the heart of its response to the Arab Spring.

In its report British Foreign Policy and the ‘Arab Spring’, the FAC examined in particular the dramatic developments in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya but also ongoing struggles in states such as Bahrain. It heard evidence from a range of organisations including REDRESS in a written submission.

The FAC noted that, as submitted by REDRESS and others, previous regimes were responsible for a myriad of human rights abuses including torture and unlawful killings, and that these need to be investigated to ensure there is no impunity for those who perpetrated such crimes.

Regarding the current situation in Libya, the FAC said the UK Government was correct to press Libya for the protection of human rights and the elimination of torture in places of detention. It also expressed serious concern over the present human rights situation in Egypt under the military, and said the UK should maintain a consistent and robust approach to supporting human rights in that country. Regarding Bahrain, the UK must be clear in its public criticism of human rights violations there to avoid hypocrisy.

REDRESS also agrees with the finding that if the UK had consistently advocated for human rights and democratic reforms previously this might have helped to improve the human rights in each of these states and others in the region. The report concludes that the UK’s policy of engaging with autocratic powers in the Middle East and North Africa region while remaining
relatively quiet in public on human rights and political reform “has linked us in the eyes of many people with those deposed and discredited governments”.

“The UK’s foreign policy should be based on scrupulous adherence to international human rights standards, and avoid condoning or being seen to condone torture in any way,” said Carla Ferstman, director of REDRESS.

The FAC said it was right to place democratic values at the heart of the UK’s response to the Arab Spring.

“The UK can assist in addressing the legacy of torture in this time of transition, by strengthening civil society in these states and helping institutions to comply within clear international obligations to prevent and prohibit torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” said Ferstman.

For further information: Contact Eva Sanchis ([email protected]) at +44 (0) 20 7793 1777 or +44 07 8571 10076.