Skip to main content

Egypt and Bahrain now Human Rights Priority Countries: FCO acts following Committee's recommendation

21 April 2016

The Committee welcomes the announcement that Egypt and Bahrain have been included as Human Rights Priority Countries in the FCO's 2015 Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy.

In its recent report on human rights, The FCO's Administration and Funding of its Human Rights Work Overseas, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee urged the FCO to include Egypt and Bahrain as Human Rights Priority Countries.

The Committee considers this to be an important step in re-establishing the UK's proper position as a vocal advocate of human rights worldwide.

Chair's comments

The Chairman of the Committee, Crispin Blunt MP, commented:

"I am glad to see that the FCO has remedied the obvious oversight where it did not officially consider Egypt and Bahrain to be countries of concern in its 2014 report. This sent an unfortunate message about the UK's priorities.

The human rights situation in Egypt has long been of profound concern and the current attempt to close the civil society space for human rights organisations threatens the residual capacity for Egyptian rights defenders to record the worsening violations.

The continuing failure to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Italian government over the torture and murder of Cambridge doctoral student Giulio Regeni sends the wrong message to the Egyptian leadership as they seek to confront the culture of impunity infesting the Egyptian internal security forces and police. Regeni's case provides the opportunity to exercise leverage to make things better for ordinary Egyptians, for whom the experience of a tea seller, shot dead by a police officer in a row over the price of his tea on 19 April is symbolic of a security system crushing Egyptian human rights.

The Foreign Affairs Committee's recent report also sought headline targets for the outputs of its human rights policy and greater clarity around objectives under the FCO's three broad priorities for human rights. Today's FCO report starts to address this with aims and goals for key human rights issues such as violence against women, LGB&T rights and freedom of belief.

There is still much work to be done to overcome the negative perception of ministers' commitment to Human Rights, as detailed in our recent report."

As promised in the Foreign Affairs Committee report, the Committee will continue to monitor FCO progress on human rights around the world and test whether, in the Foreign Secretary's words, the FCO has “mainstreamed human rights, making it a core part of the everyday work of all British diplomats” or simply downgraded it.

The FCO list of Human Rights Priority Countries is included in the 2015 Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy. Countries are designated a priority based on the human rights situation in the country, its human rights trajectory and the UK's ability to influence change.

Further information

Image: iStockphoto