SECTION IV: Human Rights for British Nationals Overseas

Promoting and protecting the human rights of British nationals overseas is central to our work. Our consular staff, working closely with human rights NGOs in the UK and abroad, help British nationals facing the death penalty; those who are being mistreated in detention or who have concerns about the fairness of their trials; and those who have been forced into a marriage, subjected to female genital mutilation or whose children have been abducted by a former partner. We also press foreign governments to r espect the rights of British nationals and investigate allegations of abuses .

The Death Penalty
It is the longstanding policy of the UK to oppose the death penalty and we will use all appropriate influence to prevent the execution of any British nationa l. We work in partnership with the NGO Reprieve on cases and in close collaboration with the detainee¶s lawyers. Interventions include submitting amicus curiae briefs to foreign courts and high -level political lobbying.

In 2010 we intervened on a number of occasions to seek to prevent the execution of British nationals in the US, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In several cases we assess that our interventions helped result either in the commutation of the death penalty o r in a delay in moving towards an execution date, providing further opportunity for us to make additional representations.

Overseas Prisoners
As of 30 September, we were aware of 2,594 British nationals detained in 139 countries overseas. Consular staff spent a substantial proportion of time assisting British nationals in detention, including visiting them.

One particular case arose in July, when we became aware of a British national detained abroad on drugs charges. We were not notified of his arrest until a week after it happened, in which time he alleged that he had been beaten whilst in custody. Consular staff visited him and offered consular assistance ± including information about the prison and legal system ± and put him in touch with the NGOs Reprieve and Prisoners Abroad. We also offered to contact his family to make them aware of the situation. After getting his permission to do so, we protested to the authorities about both the lack of consular notification and his mistreatment .

Consular staff aim to contact British detainees within 24 hours of being notified of their arrest or detention, and to visit them as soon as possible afterwards. We work to ensure that countries meet their consular notification obligations under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations or under any bilateral conventions they have with the UK. If our consular staff are denied access to a detained British national, we will lobby vigorously to ensure that we are allowed to see them, both to check on their welfare and to explain the support we can offer. This support includes direct help, as well as providing information and access to the services of our NGO partners, most notably Reprieve, Fair Trials International, and Prisoners Abroad .

In 2010 we provided funding f or a Fair Trials International project to develop a system for providing non-discretionary basic legal assistance, support and referrals to all British nationals facing criminal charges overseas. We also provided core funding for several of our UK NGO part ners, including Reprieve and Prisoners Abroad, to help ensure that those detained get the assistance they need.

In 2010 numerous instances of mistreatment were reported to us by British nationals detained overseas. These ranged from being threatened by a police officer to reports of torture. On those occasions where the individual did not wish us to take action about their treatment, especially while they remained in detention, we respected their wishes but sought their permission to pursue the

allegations on release. Where we had the individual¶s permission, we raised the allegations with foreign authorities, often repeatedly, although the responses frequently remained inadequate. We will continue to approach foreign authorities if British nationals ar e not treated in line with international ly accepted standards.

Forced Marriage
Forced marriage is a form of domestic abuse and, where it affects children, child abuse. The Forced Marriage Unit ± a joint initiative of the FCO and the Home Office ± leads the Government¶s work to tackle forced marriage, helping British nationals who are in difficulty abroad and supporting victims of any nationality in the UK.

In 2010, the unit provided help and support in 1,735 cases of potential or actual forced marriage. In many of these cases the unit helped people access appropriate support from other agencies. The unit, working with our embassies and high commissions, directly helped victims to escape forced marriages in 240 cases. Often this involved visiting victims overseas and, if requested, helping them make arrangements to return to the UK. One 17 year-oldgirl was rescued, with help from the local authorities, from a remote area in South Asia where she was being held against her will, abused and forced into marriage. Our consular team in the High Commission arranged safe accommodation for her and a flight back to the UK, where she was met by social services and the police. With assistance she has taken out a Forced Marriage Protection Order and started to rebui ld her life. We also helped 229 people who had been forced into marriage and were subsequently being coerced into sponsoring a visa for their spouse.

People at risk of forced marriage may only have one chance to ask for help, which means that all practitioners need to be able to spot the warning signs and know what to do. We launched an interactive e -learning package in 2010, strengthening the multi -agency response to forced marriage by enabling a wide range of frontline practitioners to access tr aining. We also

launched guidelines on forced marriage and learning disabilities, developed in conjunction with leading learning disability NGOs the Ann Craft Trust and the Judith Trust, to help protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

During 2010 we continued to work closely with NGO partners. We funded six organisations to deliver projects, including safe places to stay for male victims and couples escaping the threat of forced marriage; community -based peer education; and an educatio n programme for schools. We also piloted a community engagement programme with communities that experience forced marriage, to highlight the problem and seek their help in changing behaviours and perceptions that lead to abuse. Our High Commission in Isl amabad also began a programme of outreach work to highlight the problem of forced marriage in Pakistan. We will review these pilot projects in order to ensure that our work is as effective as possible .

Female Genital Mutilation
The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 made it an offence for UK nationals or permanent UK residents to carry out female genital mutilation abroad, or to aid, abet, counsel or procure its carrying out abroad, even in countries where the practice is legal.

In November, the UK developed an ambitious cross -government action plan for tackling female genital mutilation. Drafted in consultation with civil society partners, the action plan aims to raise awareness of the issue of female genital mutilation, its illegality and its severe health consequences to ensure that professionals intervene to safeguard girls and women at risk. As part of this strategy, in August we issued guidance to our consular teams in countries where female genital mutilation is prevalent, to improve the support we offer to British girls and women at risk of suffering this abuse. Early informal evaluation has suggested that the guidance has succeeded in raising

awareness of the issue with our overseas staff and improved their confidence in addressing it. A more formal evaluation is planned for early 2011 .

Child Abduction
The 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, to which the UK is a signatory, aims to ensure that abducted or unlawfully retained children are returned to wh ere they normally live for custody matters to be resolved by the local courts. Unfortunately, many countries are not signatories to the convention and it is far more difficult for parents to regain access if their children are abducted to these countries. This is why we strongly believe that all countries should sign and properly implement the convention.

In 2010 we assisted in 312 cases of child abduction to non -signatory countries. In one case a father contacted us about his young son who was abducted by his mother from the UK to a country in Africa. We were able to conduct a consular visit and pass the father information about his son¶s wellbeing. We also registered an interest in the case with the local courts and lobbied the foreign government at ministerial level. At the end of the year, the father was awaiting the outcome of custody proceedings in the local courts, and we continued to be on hand to give him advice and support .

As well as offering assistance on individual cases, we encouraged for eign governments to sign the Hague Convention and facilitate the return of children to their homes. In 2010 we funded a workshop in Pakistan to increase understanding amongst the Pakistani judiciary of the UK ±Pakistan Protocol, a bilateral agreement on ch ild abduction, and in 2011 we are planning two follow-up workshops to disseminate good practice. Our approach means we support parents of abducted children in the shortterm, as well as promoting international procedures that prevent abductions and resolve cases quickly.

The Government intends to ratify the 1996 Hague Convention on Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children in 2011, which will enhance the measures of the 1980 convention. However more needs to be achieved with countries that are not party to the convention. Making greater use of the UK¶s international influence, for example through ministerial intervention on cases or linking child abduction to other issues in certain countries, will be key to encouraging wider par ticipation in the convention and improving international procedures on child abduction. Sadly, we anticipate a rise in parental child abductions in 2011 and even greater demand for our assistance. We will address this increased demand by working more clo sely with, and providing more self -help information to, those affected. We will also continue to raise awareness of the problem so parents have a greater understanding of what they can do to prevent their children from being abducted.

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