The UK Government must put an “ethical” foreign policy at the heart of trade negotiations with the EU and rest of world, says Grahame Morris MP.
The former Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government believes nearly a quarter of a century since the former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook made his famous speech saying that Britain would become a force for good in the world, pledging arms control measures, a focus on human rights and the environment.
Mr Morris believes that we still a long way off from honouring this vision and as the UK seeks trade deals with countries around the world, the Government has prioritised doing deals over “doing good”.
He commented: “As Robin [Cook] said, the government does not accept that, ‘political values can be left behind when we check in our passports to travel on diplomatic business’, yet even now we are failing to call out countries like the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) for their human rights abuses.”
Mr Morris has lodged a series of Parliamentary question, raising the plight of human rights campaigners in the United Arab Emirates, where dozens of activists have been jailed, or harassed over expressing their opinions peacefully.
For example, in 2017, the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi upheld the conviction and sentencing of journalist and poet Tayseer Salman Al-Najjar (an Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience) who was arrested in 2015 over comments on Facebook which the authorities believed were “damaging [to] the reputation and prestige of the Emirati state”.
In the same context, Ahmed Mansoor (winner of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders 2015) a UAE human rights activist has been in detention since March 2017. Regrettably, the UAE has chosen to arbitrarily deprive him of liberty over his opinions, taking him away from his family. Mansoor’s only crime was to peacefully exercise his human right to freedom of expression. He was not given even the right to appoint a lawyer and is being detained in the capital Abu Dhabi, which makes it hard for his family to visit him.
Mr Morris has urged the UK Government, which has strong trade ties with the country, as well as the EU to bring pressure on the UAE to release activists detained over expressing their opinions.
He concluded: “We should never fear speaking up against injustice even when perpetrated by our friends. And the Government must be clear that it is vital that all our allies and trading partners should uphold their international commitments and positively contribute
to promoting human rights, showing tolerance to minority communities and campaigners – This includes the release of activists like Al-Najjar and Mansoor. The Prime Minister must clearly state that promoting human rights and our values will be central to international trade deals not an optional extra.”