Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Human rights in the world

Delivered in Plenary - April 27th 2005

Mr President

I should like to congratulate Mr Coveney on his excellent report. I have always supported the highest civil and political rights and good governance for all states. Democracy is the ideal form of government that enables the full consent of the peoples involved.

Nevertheless, the world is a complex place and a number of issues remain relative rather than absolute. For instance, a balance must be struck between a state’s right to defend itself against terrorist action and the need to ensure civil rights for prisoners. This is illustrated by the Guantánamo Bay situation. The United States felt that its national security was threatened after the 9/11 attacks and therefore had to detain large numbers of suspects until the lack of danger could be proven. Now of course many have been released. Another case is the reference to the condemnation of the security fence built by Israel, which has dramatically reduced the number of Palestinian suicide bombers who cross into Israel to kill innocent Israelis. Yet many of my colleagues here believe that the fence represents an annexation of Palestinian terrority by Israel, although the final borders will be settled only through a land-for-peace deal.

Another issue is impunity, which of course we all rightly condemn. It is also a tricky issue as we have seen in countries such as Algeria, or, in the past, South Africa. The parliament of Algeria is currently debating an amnesty for all those guilty of crimes against detainees, in the interests of peace and reconciliation and turning over a new page. Regrettably perhaps, sometimes the carrot of amnesty is the only way of guaranteeing a lasting peace.

I have been also involved in the report on Uzbekistan and the question of a carrot-and-stick approach to this Central Asian republic which has no traditions of human rights or democracy and is now taking firm steps in that direction, something that must be encouraged. This House must also look more closely in general at the human rights clauses in the EU Association Agreements in countries such as Syria, which continue to be oneparty dictatorships. In the case of Syria, there is also the issue of support for terrorist groups such as Hezbollah.

Lastly, I remain deeply sceptical of the need for an EU human rights agency within or outside our borders. This would duplicate the work of other bodies such as the United Nations, the OSCE or the Council of Europe.