[JURIST] The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) [official website] released its Annual Report on Human Rights 2009 [text, PDF] Wednesday, noting the increasing demand for human rights by citizens throughout the world. The report also cited the contrasting argument by some governments that human rights are merely a Western construct that are unnecessary or inappropriate in certain countries. Introducing the report, UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband [official profile] said [press release] that several steps must be taken to uphold human rights around the world:
First, we must support the struggle for civil rights. When courageous protestors make their voices heard on the streets of Iran for example, we, making clear their desire for democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms; and when their Government responds with brutality, then we're right to speak up.The report mentioned 22 countries of concern, including Myanmar for its detention of political prisoners including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi [JURIST news archives]. Despite improved commitments to human rights in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories [JURIST news archives], the report expressed concerns with Israeli actions in East Jerusalem and restrictions on the Gaza Strip as well as the Palestinian Authority's failure to condemn violence. The report indicated that human rights have decreased in Iran and Pakistan [JURIST news archives] since 2008. Sri Lanka [JURIST news archive] was the only new country added to the list.
Second, we should provide practical help that meets individual countries' specific needs, working with civil society rather than lecturing Government. ...
Thirdly, we need to recognise that new technologies transform the ability of individuals to organise in the face of authoritarianism.
Last week, the US State Department released its annual reports [JURIST report] on human rights conditions in almost 200 countries. Last year's FCO report focused on terrorism and global warming [JURIST report] as key issues. The UK also voiced concern [JURIST report] over the rights situations in many of the same countries in its 2007 report.