Since the Conservatives won a majority in the most recent election, the party’s policies have provided much to ponder and potentially fear for those supporting a strong upholding of human rights in the UK. With Michael Gove currently working out how to scrap the Human Rights Act, we face the possibility that the application of human rights in the UK could diminish quite severely. Not only will we lose the check and balance of the European Court of Human Rights (using them as an advisory body instead), but also the current plans for the British Bill of Rights deviate from the basic foundations of human rights (that they should apply equally to all), by for example removing their application to convicted migrants.
However, many believe Jeremy Corbyn as the new Labour leader may be able to stop these potentially devastating amendments. His position regarding human rights is supposedly strong. The first quote you encounter on his campaign page from the recent election reads;
PRIORITISING THE NEEDS OF THE POOR AND THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF ALL.
As well as this, Corbyn has campaigned and voted consistently to support equality and human rights, including continued support for LGBT rights, working with Amnesty International and the Stop the War Coalition, as well as more specific campaigns such as the Anti-Apartheid Movement and more recently his support of human rights implementation in Mexico.
Despite this, questions have been raised about how committed to human rights Corbyn really is and whether he offers positive alternatives to the current situation. Since his outstanding victory was announced last week, the Conservative party, its members and their favourite journalists have been on a mission to destroy this sudden wave of support for the new leader of the Opposition. The best known example of this in the past week, is the (laughable) video posted by the Conservatives, identifying the new Labour leader as “a threat to our national security”. This scaremongering campaign led by Mr. Cameron is incredibly petty and sad, but I thought I would investigate some of the accusations made anyway, just to see what this threat was that they proposed.
Firstly, it was suggested that Corbyn was seemingly too close to a number of extremist and terrorist groups. For example, he called Hamas his ‘friends’ and invited them to Parliament in 2009. For those who don’t know, Hamas is a movement aiming to create an Islamic state in the pre-1948 territory of Palestine (i.e. before the UN and most famously Truman recognised Israel as a state). Seen as the best-known ‘rejectionists’ of the current rule in the area, tensions with the Israelis have been high between the two for over 20 years now, peace seems a long way away in Israel and Palestine. Suicide bombings and torture are common human rights abuses carried out by Hamas.
Sticking with his links to terrorism, Corbyn has also been slammed for calling the death of Osama Bin Laden a “tragedy” – a man who played a part in tens of thousands of innocent people being killed worldwide.
Even away from terrorism, many have asked questions about Corbyn’s relationship with Russia – who he seemingly sympathised with when the tensions between them and Ukraine overspilled in the campaign for Crimea. Russia’s laissez-faire approach to invasions, as well as their consistently poor human rights records have become well-known in the UK recently, with such records continuing to get worse and worse. For example, LGBT rights have been severely restricted by Putin’s ‘anti-LGBT law’, banning the “propaganda on non-traditional sexual orientation”, as it is identified as a danger to Russian society. Racism has also seen a dramatic rise in recent years, as far-right supporter’s call for ‘Russia to be for Russians’.
Such accusations against Corbyn certainly suggest a distinct lack of commitment towards human rights. Such relationships are not healthy from a human rights perspective, due to all of the parties named being seemingly in favour of war, torture and a lack of fair justice. So can Jeremy Corbyn really claim to be as committed to human rights as he suggests? Do the Conservatives have a point about the new leader being a danger to us?
Simply – yes he can & no, of course they don’t.
It cannot be denied that any association with the actions of the parties named would certainly weaken some people’s trust in Corbyn’s commitment to human rights being applied universally, and understandably so. Many of the most obvious and well-known examples of human rights abuses in recent times have been committed by those Jeremy Corbyn is accused of standing by. However, these accusations are supported by weak evidence, tampered with by those who aim to destroy the hope he represents for so many. By commenting on world affairs and what he would like to see done about the infinite problems we see, Corbyn’s words have been continuously twisted in an attempt to strike fear into the nation and weaken his commitment to human rights. The removal of context from his comments is the reason he is facing allegations of close links to the actions discussed above.
For example, when pointing out that Corbyn called Hamas his “friends”, there was an omission of the explanation for him using that word. Luckily for us, Channel 4 carried out an interview where Corbyn explained his use of the term ‘friends’ clearly and succinctly, stating “it was used in a collective way, saying our friends are prepared to talk”.
“Does it mean I agree with Hamas and what it does? No. What it means is that I think to bring about a peace process, you have to talk to people with whom you may profoundly disagree,”
He is well known supporter of the Palestine Supporter Campaign and wants to achieve fairness and peace for all in that territory through discussion. His tolerance towards Hamas is not because he supports the methods they use in an attempt to achieve freedom – it is to try and allow diplomacy and peace to prevail, hopefully bringing an end to the human rights abuses that so commonly occur in the Middle East at the moment.
The comment about Bin Laden’s death being a tragedy received similar treatment from the Mail (amongst others). As the quote has been posed to suggest sympathy with Bin Laden, the true meaning of the phrase was removed. What Corbyn was actually meant when he said the death was a tragedy, is that this is yet another example of no attempt being made to properly implement justice. He says “There was no attempt whatsoever that I can see to arrest him, to put him on trial, to go through that process”. This is what he identified as the tragedy.
And finally, the way his ‘friendship’ with Russia has been discussed can also obviously be questioned. Similarly to the story with Hamas, Corbyn has communicated numerous time that he feels discussions need to be made between Russia, Ukraine, NATO and so on. At no point has he ever endorsed their actions, nor their political stance on human rights. One has to admit that he has not declared their human rights records to be of central importance here, but nonetheless his pleas for peace in the area will no doubt have positive effects on human rights in the area.
So, simply it is easy to see that the accusations made against Corbyn and his policies concerning human rights are exaggerated beyond recognition and there is seemingly no reason for us to question his commitment to human rights. The fact is that Corbyn has consistently supported human rights and will continue to support their expansion in practice (hopefully worldwide) for as long as he has a say. “Human rights should be the building blocks of every society” is how he sums up his prioritisation of human rights on his page and I have no doubt that such a quote will continue to be heard throughout his leadership.
As stated at the beginning of this article, we potentially face a battle to protect human rights sufficiently in the UK, due to the amendments being suggested by our government. This is the most vulnerable human rights have been since the introduction of the Human Rights Act in 2000 and for those concerned about their scope being reduced, a strong leader in favour of universal application of human rights is required. Jeremy Corbyn offers exactly that and more to me – with a career founded on constant rebellion against the norm in favour of equality and peace, all those who fear for the future of human rights in the UK should rejoice in Corbyn’s election. Jeremy Corbyn is most certainly as committed to the application of human rights as he suggests. We should not allow these scaremongering, childish fabrications cause us to question that.
Thanks for reading our post and we hope you enjoyed it! Please share your opinion on Corbyn’s appointment as Leader of the Opposition by commenting below. Any questions and criticisms are welcomed and will be answered swiftly! But, even if you don’t want to comment, be sure to share the article with others who may be interested and follow our social media pages to keep up with THWBlog’s progress. Thanks!