A brief look at human rights violations: (part 14) the UK
A brief look at human rights violations: (part...
Reports and statistics from various international organizations and news agencies indicate that Human Rights is still more a dream than reality. In this report we take a brief look at some human rights violations in the United Kingdom in past four weeks. (Late July to late August)
1- COVID-19 is hitting a society that is already unequal. According to Human Rights Pulse, we can see the unprecedented effects of COVID-19 on the UK economy. April and June this year, households will have £43 billion less cash available for essential spending. Many families at the sharp end of inequalities who were struggling before the pandemic are now have reduced or no income. The Centre for Economics and Business Research has predicted that unemployment will more than double, with the biggest unemployment increase among the lowest-paid workers. The stress and insecurity resulting from financial strain can be anticipated to have immediate mental health effects on those most vulnerable. While making up just 13 percent of the population, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 due to health inequalities, and account for over a third of critical cases. Additionally, the economic impact is likely to hurt these communities more, as seen with the effect of austerity measures. This is because, due to discrimination and structural inequality, the UK poverty rate is twice as high in BAME communities as it is in that of white groups. Increased food insecurity has also been seen in response to COVID-19. As food prices have risen and access has been reduced, The Food Foundation has indicated a preliminary quadrupling of adults who are now food insecure.
The 2010 programme of economic austerity was posed as the only response to “save the economy”, with “no alternative”. Similar rhetoric is being employed by the government in response to COVID-19 to be “doing whatever is necessary”, thus ringing familiar alarm bells. Austerity measures are efforts to substantially reduce government spending in an attempt to regulate public-sector debt and are often adopted in response to recessions. However, according to the United Nations Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt, austerity measures serve to entrench inequalities, weaken social security nets and jeopardise state potential to respond to immediate minimum core human rights obligations. Considering that austerity has hugely contributed to the ineffective UK response to the pandemic, the 44,236 preventable deaths and the devastating impact on the most vulnerable in the UK, austerity cannot be the policy of the UK government in response to COVID-19.
2- According to The Times, more than 90 per cent of racism complaints against Metropolitan Police officers and staff have resulted in no further action being taken. Figures reveal that the number of complaints of racial discrimination levelled at Britain’s biggest police force rose to 611 last year, compared with 292 in 2015. While the Met is on track this year to record the highest number of racism complainants in at least five years, it is dismissing the vast majority of cases with no further action. Among all 2825 complaints in last five years, only 68 of them led to administrative actions such as giving a warning.
3- In August 1st, BBC wrote “at the height of the war in Afghanistan in 2011, two senior officers from Special Forces met in a bar in Dorset to have a secret conversation. They feared some of the UK's most highly-trained troops had adopted a "deliberate policy" of illegally killing unarmed men. Evidence is now emerging that suggests they were right.” The documents were released to solicitors Leigh Day, as part of an ongoing case at the High Court, which will rule on whether allegations of unlawful killing by UK Special Forces were investigated properly. It follows a BBC Panorama programme last year, which reported on the deaths. The programme worked with the Sunday Times Insight team to reveal evidence of a pattern of illegal killings by UK Special Forces.
Although, the government maintains that killings by UK Forces were for self defence since there were immediate threat, and the government is doing its best to ensure it is almost impossible to prosecute such crimes, the official account of the killings was met with suspicion by some in the British military. In many case reviews, a Special Forces Major discovered that many men who have been shot were not armed. "It seems to be one of the unique characteristics of British Special Forces that they are truly accountable to no-one," said Frank Ledwidge a former military officer.
4- Despite the UN warnings over great US police violence in demonstrations, the UK government has given the green light for the export of British tear gas and rubber bullets to the US. Whitehall officials secretly suspended the issue of new arms export licences to the US for a month at the height of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations so a review could be carried out amid concerns about police conduct, The Independent can reveal. But the review, which the government has refused to make public or comment on, concluded that the violence did not amount to "internal repression".
US police have used gas and rubber bullets against peaceful protesters and also targeted journalists since the beginning of the protests. Detention of protesters by unidentified federal officers sparked condemnation from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who warned the actions could give rise to human rights violations. More than 70 journalists have also been arrested during the protests. Commenting on the British decision to allow supply of tear gas and rubber bullets, Andrew Smith of Campaign Against the Arms Trade, said: "Over recent months we have seen US police forces inflicting brutal and often indiscriminate violence against protesters. For the UK government to claim that this isn't repression is staggering. This decision is not just an endorsement of US policing, it is a sign of support for the brutal techniques that have been used."
The same government department that reviewed the arms exports recently recommended the resumption of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, advising ministers that "possible" war crimes in Yemen were "isolated incidents" and should not disrupt the flow of arms.