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The FCO Report: yet another derision of the truth

By Bereket Gebru
Tigrai Onlne - April 17, 2014

Human rights rightly make up one of the biggest issues in international relations. Fulfillment of all thirty components of the declaration of human rights at an international level would ensure a much better world to live in. That is obviously because it would mean a world where people are not killed on purpose, access to education and health services is universal, and freedom of expression is guaranteed. A world characterized by equity and freedom would surely be as close to utopia as dreams would come.

The reality on the ground, however, is that the international system is marred with frequent and colossal transgressions of human rights. Developed and developing countries alike, human rights levels are generally a long way behind where they need to be.

Poverty, lack of good governance and the desire to cling to power contribute to the suppression of human rights by governments in developing countries within the confines of their jurisdiction. On the other hand, the same factors along with the belief that they deserve the resources of the weaker states derive the human rights breaches by developed nations both in and out of their jurisdiction.   

Despite this fact, the western mainstream media and the international organizations they dominate strive to have us believe that the powerful developed nations are vanguards of human rights all over the world. Although these countries wage wars and incite violence in other nations for their own benefits, they have put themselves in charge of setting and gauging ethical standards in relation with human rights.

It is utterly insulting to all human kind that the countries that led the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan that saw millions of their nationals killed in both countries combined, mark up international ethical standards on human rights. Whether it be through NATO, the UN, collectively or unilaterally, the powerful nations in the world use whatever means necessary to take what they want from other nations. The recent operation in Libya to control its oil and monetary supply is one such example.

In their capacity as supervisors of human rights records across the world, governments and International Non Governmental Organizations (INGOs) of these countries come up with regular reports. These reports “assess” how any given government in a country has fared vis-à-vis human rights in a given amount of time – mostly a year. The most prominent of these are the U.S state department report on human rights and the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report.

As expected, the human rights reports by the U.S state department and HRW both do not show the domestic and cross border breaches of human rights by the U.S and its satellite states. Not only the U.S but its partners in crime are immune from the shallow scrutiny of HRW. After all, the massive derailments of human rights they conduct at an epic level are conveniently camouflaged under positive sounding terminology such as the promotion of democracy or freeing nations from the hard grips of dictators.

On the other hand, governments that strive not to be subservient to the interests of these powerful nations and their financial oligarchs are targeted by the human rights reports. It has become increasingly evident that governments that put the needs of their own people ahead of the interests of the international bullies are smeared with harsh names.

Along with negative reports by the western mainstream media, these governments are portrayed as dictatorial enemies of human rights. Real dictators, however, who serve the interests of the international bullies get a soft treatment and even complement by those who produce the reports.

The frustration that the truth is increasingly getting harder to come by in the international arena of human rights has left us all hoping for a better day. However, with this week’s new production of yet another human rights sort of report by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) of the British government, our hopes are still pushed farther.

As is customary with other reports, the final section of the FCO report contains “a review of the human rights situation in 28 countries where the UK government has wide-ranging concerns.” Before going into that part, I just want to address a point raised by the Senior Minister of State Baroness Warsi in her foreword of the report. She stated:

When I visited Afghanistan in March and November, I was struck by how far it has come since 2001 and the determination of the Afghan people to hold on to the gains made in all areas of society. However, the Afghan people, particularly women and girls, continue to face many challenges in the realisation of what are fundamental human rights. But the UK will remain committed to helping Afghanistan consolidate the progress made over the last ten years.”

I am baffled by her bold statements since we all know that there are hardly any gains in all areas of Afghan society since the 2001 invasion of the country by a force including the UK through the use of false pretences. The occupation of Afghanistan has resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of Afghans, sectarianism of Afghan society, destruction of social services, grave dangers to peace and security, looting of Afghan resources by foreign forces, a weak government that puts the needs of the colonial forces first, etc.

No one of these changes in the country since 2001 can be taken as gains. On the contrary, what the years of occupation have brought to Afghanistan is the derision of social cohesion and complete annihilation of quality of life. Accordingly, the promise of the UK official to stay committed to help Afghanistan consolidate the progress made over the last ten years is the worse news possible for Afghanistan. Expressions of intent to stay in the country longer show that the social problems are only going to get worse.

While the reality shows a deterioration of human rights conditions in the last ten years in Afghanistan, the FCO has the audacity to claim that there have been gains that need to be consolidated further in the coming years. That says so much about the credibility of the report by the FCO of the UK government that puts Afghanistan at the forefront of the list of “countries of concern”.

It would come as no surprise to anyone with a bit of interest in international relations to see that the report has identified the usual suspects as the “countries of concern”. China, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Russia and a host of other developing countries from every corner of the world have been included in the list.

The notable deviants are the U.S satellite states of Israel and Saudi Arabia. Interestingly, the inclusion of Saudi Arabia in the list is testament to the recent foreign policy change of the west towards that country. Albeit its stature as the force behind the U.S and British governments, the FCO has tried to favor its own credibility by including Israel in the list.    

Although Ethiopia is not included in the list of 28 “countries of concern”, it has been included as a case study of justice and treatment in detention. In line with the repeated claims of other reports, this section states that “the UK is concerned about continuing restrictions on opposition and dissent in Ethiopia, through use of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP) and the Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSP).

Ever since its promulgation in August 2009, Ethiopia's anti-Terrorism proclamation has been a subject of criticisms from western activists and domestic opposition politicians. “The routine and categorical criticisms of the proclamation have come to be considered as factual that even those who never read the proclamation boldly denounce it as draconian. The proclamation was intended to provide adequate legal framework to ensure the right of the people to live in peace, freedom and security.”

A detailed analysis of the Ethiopian ATP vis-à-vis the anti-terrorist documents of western countries is presented in Sasahulh Yalew’s article entitled: “A Comparative Review of Ethiopian and Western Anti-Terrorism Legislations.”

Despite our capacity to identify our own interests and design laws that fit them, the FCO still seems to doubt us as demonstrated in the following excerpt from the report. It states: “We have also consistently raised our concerns about the ATP. Recognising the serious threat Ethiopia faces from terrorism, we have explained to the government the differences between the UK’s and Ethiopia’s legislation in this area.”

As has been clearly shown by their statement, the British believe that the Ethiopian government is not capable of identifying the differences between the two documents with the insinuation that theirs would obviously be the better one and hence Ethiopia should amend it to fit the British version.

As to the Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSP), it has increasingly become obvious that foreign aid organizations and International NGOs serve a political purpose in their host countries. The color revolutions that have been catching countries across the globe as wildfires are highly associated with INGOs and foreign aid organizations. In light of such realities, Ethiopia’s proclamation deals with the manner in which these organizations would be allowed to carry out their humanitarian objectives and puts a limit on their scope of political activities.

When the nuts and bolts of the 2009 proclamation is to ensure accountability, transparency of CSOs and uniformity in the regulation of all CSOs operating in the country, the report presented the ideals of the proclamation in a different way as if it was meant to restrict and highly influence their operation with  a great deal of government interference.

The government of Ethiopia acclaims and gives maximum possible support to CSOs and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), who are development partners in the multi-sectoral poverty alleviation endeavor of the country. The proclamation was entrusted to assist these development allies execute their missions and visions in a more transparent, highly effective and efficient manner thereby helping to meet their targeted goals.

One would expect a human rights report to denounce espionage and other acts instigating violence and chaos in various countries carried out by the INGOs as they infringe on the rule of law – a major prerequisite for enhancing human rights.

On the contrary, the FCO aligns itself against moves that strive to do something about these destructive activities while turning a blind eye to the instigative roles played by such organizations to incite violence that results in the generic violation of human rights.

The report also touches upon alleged abuses by the “Special Police” in Somali Region. It states: “The increased security presence in the region has brought some benefits, including some development of basic services and infrastructure – albeit from a low base.”

One thing to clarify for the British is that the development of basic services and infrastructure in the Somali region is a result of long term steady efforts rather than military force driven changes. For that matter, the “Special Police” is an emergency response force carrying out police and army duties. Every region and the federal government have their own Special police – not just Somali region. The force is also not big enough to effect region wide developments in social services.

The misrepresentation of facts on the ground by a big outreaching organizational set up like the FCO is indicative of the shallow efforts put into producing the report based on thoroughly carried out research. Complemented with its negligence of human rights breaches in the developed world, misrepresentation of facts adds to tarnish the credibility of the report.

Finally, I would say that the report is full of the clichés ordinary western based human rights reports are made of. It would be such a breath of fresh air if any one of these reports would point their fingers at the primary sources of human rights breaches all over the world – western political, economic and political interference. Considering western governmental and non-governmental organizations come up with the reports, the truth about human rights situations in the world could prove to be hard to come by in the foreseeable future.

It would be a sensible move, therefore, for developing countries to come up with alternative reports on human rights conditions around the world - including the developed world. Such reports might clearly show the world the extent of human rights abuses in the world and who is responsible for them.

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