IHEU’s Geneva team was invited to the UK Foreign Office on 28 April 2010 to report on IHEU’s activities at the Human Rights Council and elsewhere over the past year. The meeting was of considerable importance for IHEU given the role played by the UK as an active member of the Human Rights Council.
Roy Brown and Keith Porteous Wood (from the UK’s National Secular Society) were welcomed by a top-ranking official for a lengthy and cordial meeting. We were congratulated on our work and careful note was taken of our activities and of the views we expressed. It was clear that the perspectives we offered were seen as valuable, and some were said to provide welcome reminders. We were asked to keep officials regularly informed of progress in key areas.
Issues covered included: child marriage, contemporary chattel slavery in north Africa; the execution of adolescents; children accused of being witches; the intimidation of IHEU’s representative for West Africa, Leo Igwe; corruption and its impact on human rights; systemic weaknesses in the Universal Periodic Review process (under which member states are reviewed by their peers); threats to freedom of expression including attempts to introduce laws against defamation of religion; the worrying emergence of support for “complementary standards” falling short of the Universal Declaration – including the 1990 Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam (which is expected to be the basis of the forthcoming Islamic Commission on Human Rights); and our concerns about the Holy See (Vatican) over child abuse.
The discussions also covered IHEU’s work at the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency; Sharia tribunals; and Caste discrimination against which ground-breaking legislation has recently been enacted in the UK.
Roy Brown commented: “I do not recall before having had the opportunity to speak in such detail to a senior official with such knowledge of human rights issues. Both the interest shown and the positive response were most gratifying. Thanks are particularly due to Keith whose previous meetings in London had paved the way for us.” Keith added: “the official’s eagerness to tap Roy’s detailed knowledge on so many of these matters was clear. I am sure that much that is positive for human rights will flow from this meeting, of which IHEU has cause to be well satisfied”.