Human Rights

Lib Dems Condemn Government Secrecy on Extradition to the U.S.

Liberal Democrats today call for the government to stop the secrecy and come clean on its agenda regarding extradition of British and other citizens to the United States. Neither the Westminster nor European Parliaments are being consulted in a proper democratic fashion about the new UK-US or EU-US extradition agreements.

In today's Lords debate on the Extradition Bill Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP will challenge the government on:

Afghan deportations gesture politics""

The safety of Afghan asylum-seekers is being sacrificed to the Labour party's political advantage.

That's the charge put by Baroness Sarah Ludford - London MEP and Liberal Democrat European spokeswoman on asylum and immigration - reacting to the news that 30 Afghans are having their "leave to remain" status cancelled and are being put forcibly on a flight to Kabul even though Afghanistan is still reckoned unsafe by international organisations.

Said Sarah: "The Home Office seems proud of the fact that this flight has a 'symbolic' purpose. Just three days before the local elections in which Tony Blair says asylum will be a 'serious issue' this looks like gesture politics of a particularly nasty kind."

Human rights experts condemn terrorist profiling

An EU network of experts in fundamental rights has put into serious question the development by EU governments of "terrorist profiles" with its first annual report.

The network of independent human rights academics set up at the behest of the European Parliament said that profiling by police or immigration authorities of potential terrorists on the basis of characteristics such as 'psycho-sociological features' nationality or birthplace "presents a major risk of discrimination".

Guantanamo Bay - A legal limbo (HoL)

My Lords can the Minister clarify the prisoner of war situation?

He has been largely reassuring about the situation of British detainees although he spoke of how they would be treated as prisoners of war under the Geneva conventions until proved otherwise. Under what mechanism would it be decided that such prisoners were not prisoners of war but unlawful combatants? What would happen to people who are classified as unlawful combatants? I do not believe that he has clarified what he understands the situation to be and what assurances he has received from the United States about the status of their detainees.

Asylum: UK may renege on international commitments

The UK government is in danger of reneging on their international refugee commitments with its latest plans that are set to dominate a meeting of European Home Affairs ministers in Greece tomorrow.

Following on from last week's EU Spring Summit British proposals for external processing of asylum requests and responsibility sharing arrangements with third countries have raised serious concerns in the European Parliament as well as in the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP European Liberal Spokesperson on Justice and Home Affairs said:

Guantanamo Bay - A legal limbo (EP)

How can there be sufficient mutual trust between the United States and the EU on law enforcement and upholding of fundamental rights such as to justify agreement on exchange of information mutual legal assistance and extradition whilst European citizens are interned without charge in breach of international law in Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay?

Brussels urged to enforce English court asylum benefits ruling

The EU Council and Commission are being urged to ensure that all Member States when implementing the new European Directive on refugee support agreed late last year follow the ruling in the UK yesterday that making asylum seekers destitute by denying them food and shelter is a breach of the European Convention of Human Rights.

The English High Court blocked the UK Government's new policy of denying welfare benefits automatically to asylum seekers who make delayed claims (claims which are not 'as soon as reasonably practical'). The court said it was a breach of human rights and a breach of the ban on 'inhumane and degrading treatment'.

North Koreans fleeing to China must be given refugee rights

Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP for London and Liberal Group justice spokeswoman in the European Parliament has pressed the European Commission and the Council of Ministers to do more to guarantee the rights of North Koreans seeking asylum in China.

Baroness Ludford said:

"North Korea is a thoroughly unpleasant and repressive regime with an absolutely deplorable human rights record."

"Many of the thousands of North Korean refugees who have clandestinely crossed the border into China in recent years undoubtedly have genuine asylum claims".

Campaigning on Two Death Sentence Miscarriages of Justice

Today Sarah met Mrs Navneet Kaur wife of Professor Davinderpal Singh Bhullar who is facing the death sentence in India and supporters from the Sikh Human Rights Group. Sarah has written urgently to the President of India pointing out that there seems to have been a grave miscarriage of justice and urging clemency while appeals are in train.

Sarah will also be taking up the case in the European Parliament and with the UN Commissioner for Human Rights.

Sarah also joined the campaign to stop the execution of Jackie Elliott in Texas including by sending letters to Foreign Secretary Jack Straw Prime Minister Tony Blair the Governor of Texas and the Texas Pardons and Paroles Board.

Sadly despite the strong case for re-examining the evidence the execution went ahead.

Execution of Jackie Elliott

Mr President on a point of order I should like to ask you to write to President Bush and the Governor of Texas to protest at the execution by lethal injection of the British citizen Jackie Elliott last week despite mounting evidence that he was innocent of the crime for which he had been convicted and was on death row for 16 years.

There were numerous protests from the United Kingdom and people in prominent positions and there was new evidence from police reports that pointed to other more likely suspects for the 1986 murder of which he was convicted as well as urgent requests for crucial DNA testing.

Prestige": European Parliament backs Liberal campaign for compulsory ports of refuge"

The European Parliament has today supported a Liberal Group campaign to establish compulsory rules on ports of refuge which would require EU Member States to provide assistance and accommodation for ships in distress as well as providing compensation for ports which suffer damage when providing refuge for a damaged ship carrying a polluting cargo.

Commenting after the vote Baroness Sarah Ludford Liberal Democrat MEP for London said:

Council must uphold right to a family life.

Question by Elspeth Attwooll

Subject: Brides Without Borders

The UK Government is seeking to oblige many British women to leave the UK so that they join husbands refused residence rights. They are told that it is safe to settle in countries such as Iraq Iran Afghanistan Congo and Burundi although such countries are deemed by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office or US State Department as being dangerous for Western visitors and/or in breach of fundamental rights.

How is this practice compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights especially the right to a family life the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights and Article 6 of the Treaty on European Union?

EU Common Refugee Definition

The European Parliament has reached agreement on a common definition of "refugee" to be used throughout the EU. This will help stop 'pass-the-parcel' and 'forum-shopping' of asylum-seekers around Europe.

Welcoming the vote which went entirely in line with Liberal group policy European Liberal Justice spokeswoman Baroness Sarah Ludford said:

"This is a key building block of a common EU asylum policy. The ball is now in the court of the Council of Ministers to stop procrastinating. It is untenable to close Sangatte because of tensions between French and UK asylum law while refusing to agree a level European playing field for treatment of refugees."

International conference on combatting human trafficking

Sarah Ludford chaired a major international conference on combating human trafficking co-organised by the European Union and held in the European Parliament September 18/19 2002. She introduced M. Antoine Duquesne the Belgian Minister of Justice who opened the session on police and judicial co-operation.

Said Sarah:

"There are many aspects to the problem of trafficking in human beings - which frequently means sex slavery for women and children. These include poverty protection of victims gender equality and illegal immigration. But law enforcement to get the organised criminals making fortunes out of human misery must be one of the top priorities. Human trafficking must be combated with the same seriousness and commitment as terrorism."

Leaderless Labour MEPs block talks on US demands for International Criminal Court immunity

Socialist members of the European Parliament a group which includes British Labour MEPs have this week blocked an opportunity for the European Parliament to discuss American attempts at blackmailing Europe into undermining the International Criminal Court (ICC) further denting expectations that they will act to advance progressive causes.

"At a time when European governments are under pressure to cave in to US demands for bilateral "immunity agreements" to exempt US personnel from liability at the ICC for human rights breaches it was vitally important that the European Parliament help to stiffen backbones by expressing firm support for the tribunal" said Baroness Sarah Ludford European Liberal Democrat spokeswoman on justice & home affairs and MEP for London.

Human rights court victory welcomed

The High Court judgement that nine men detained indefinitely without trial under anti-terrorism legislation is unlawful and discriminatory under the Human Rights Act has been welcomed by London Liberal Democrat Euro-MP Baroness Sarah Ludford.

"This was a shameful example of the government purporting to defend freedom and democracy - by undermining fundamental rights!"

"In fact the UK government is the only one in Europe that resorted to breaching the European Human Rights Convention by locking up people it claimed to be terrorist suspects but without proving it in a trial."

Government breaking EU law on asylum-seekers

Liberal Democrat Euro-MP Baroness Sarah Ludford speaking to the Medway Racial Equality Council annual general meeting has strongly criticised a Home Office decision made this week.

This banned all asylum-seekers from working however long they have waited for a decision while simultaneously announcing funding of £1 million for 'summer activities' to keep them occupied!

Sarah Ludford MEP who is European Liberal Democrat justice & home affairs spokeswoman in the European Parliament fumed:

"This crazy decision is calculated to intensify the already damaging stereotype of 'scrounging' asylum-seekers and indeed has already led to a screaming front page tabloid headline 'Asylum seekers' summer fun with your £1 million'."

Celebrating a human rights victory

The setting up today (April 11th) of the International Criminal Court is a great victory for the cause of international human rights says London's Liberal Democrat Euro-MP Sarah Ludford.

It will be able to prosecute future murderous despots like Pinochet and Milosevic who commit crimes against humanity such as torture ethnic cleansing mass rape and disappearances.

Says Sarah: "I am proud that Britain has been one of the first to ratify the Statute and that very soon all 15 EU states will have ratified." [the last Greece is going through Parliament now]

European Parliament calls for action on Kashmir

Baroness Sarah Ludford Liberal Democrat MEP for London has welcomed the call by the European Parliament for the EU to make a bid to end the 50-year dispute between India and Pakistan over the future of Kashmir.

MEPs supported a proposal that the EU should offer its services to both sides as an "honest broker" in order to demonstrate the EU's wish to see a resolution of the conflict and to assist in the fight against terrorism.

The disputed territory has been described as "the most dangerous place in the world" because of the simmering conflict which has twice erupted into war between the two nations both of which now have a nuclear capacity.

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