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1302 days have passed since the Salisbury incident - no credible information or response from the British authorities                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     1294 days have passed since the death of Nikolay Glushkov on British soil - no credible information or response from the British authorities

PRESS RELEASES AND NEWS

19.08.2021

Human rights situation in the United Kingdom. Report by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Moscow, 2021

The United Kingdom positions itself as the benchmark in promotion and protection of human rights while neglecting principles of sovereign equality of States and non-interference in their internal affairs. Teaching others how to behave and repeating trite age-old clichés, London tries to disguise its own problems, including comfortable existence of organizations with neoNazi ideologies, increase in racist acts, discrimination of ethnic minorities in many areas of public life, abuse of powers and use of torture by law enforcement officials. This list is far from exhaustive. Besides, crimes of British soldiers against civilians during military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq remain unpunished.

The modern British political correctness largely prefers to ignore the painful issue of neo-Nazi organizations' activity in the country. Most of them are distinctly marginal and solely focus on spreading their influence in the Internet. At the same time, the most active of them got spotted by their high-profile public actions in big cities, such as London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Belfast.

The British National Party (BNP), founded in 1982, has been the most notable far-right organization until recently. Its slogans have long included such concepts, as preservation of values of the "White" British family, complete closure of the border for immigrants and repatriation of those who already arrived in the country. Its supporters have often put forward anti-Semitic ideas and called the Holocaust a "historical hoax".

The Organization's goals include consolidation of the global and, primarily, the European camp of the far-right and it still claims the leadership in the British nationalist camp. In the 2009 elections to the European Parliament the BNP received two seats, which is its best political "performance". However, the inter-party controversies led to the decrease in the Party's official membership – from 13,500 in 2009 to 500 in 2019.[147]

Britain First, founded in 2011 by former BNP members, is also worth mentioning. Its supporters are against the Islamization of the UK and mass migration to the country. They declare as the main objective the protection of the traditional British way of life, ethnic and cultural heritage and Christianity. It has a paramilitary action force named the Britain First Defence Force.

The Organization captured attention in 2014 by a number of provocative acts against Muslims in London, Glasgow and Luton, including attacks on mosques, forced distribution of anti-Muslim propaganda booklets and protests in the vicinity of homes of local community leaders. Also in London, they organized "Christian patrols" of 12 activists total to counter Islamic extremism. Their actions were condemned by religious leaders of both the Muslim community and the Anglican Church.[148]

The English Defence League has been gaining weight recently. Initially, it was a street movement emerged spontaneously in March 2009 as a protest in response to demonstrations organized by the Islamic group al Muhajiroun against homecoming parades of the British military returning from Afghanistan.[149]

Today, this informal, predominantly, youth movement openly opposes the Islamization of the country. Their main activity includes marchers and demonstrations, organization of public protests against construction of new mosques and against attributes of the Islamic culture imposed on the British.

Annually on 23 September, a large memorial concert is held in the United Kingdom on the day of Ian Stuart Donaldson's death, founder of the international neo-Nazi group Blood and Honour. In 2008, the concert in Redhill (Somerset) was widely covered by BBC, radio and newspapers. The 2013 event devoted to the 20th anniversary of Donaldson's death was the biggest of the kind in the UK in the last 15–20 years (various estimates suggest it was attended by 1,000–1,200 neo-Nazis from across Europe.[150]

At the same time, an undoubtedly positive step was Home Secretary Priti Patel's request to the Parliament to outlaw the neo-Nazi group called Atomwaffen Division (AWD), which promoted the idea of creating a fascist White ethnostate. Since the ban the membership in the group will be a criminal offence and the guilty will be sentenced to up to ten years of imprisonment.

London declares observance of the rights of national minorities residing in the country, ongoing efforts to combatdiscrimination and support for the development of minorities' cultures and identities, and emphasizes State guarantees of rights and liberties, including related to ensuring access to education and mass media, protection of languages of ethnic minorities and their involvement in public life. However, in reality the state of affairs is the opposite.

Persons of African and Asian descent, representatives of national minorities and Roma face racial discrimination in enjoyment of their rights, in such areas as health, employment, education, social welfare, as well as during stops and searches and in the criminal justice system. There is high unemployment among representatives of those groups, as well as occupational segregation, with them occupying mostly insecure and low-paid jobs.

In August 2016, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) noted that these communities continued to face exclusion and to be subject to negative stereotypes and stigmatization in media. It noted the continued discrimination in access to health services and in the quality of care. It was also pointed out that the mentioned categories of population were still disproportionately targeted throughout the criminal justice system. Additionally, the ethnic composition of the majority of the police forces in the UK is not representative of the communities that they serve, particularly in Scotland. Another reason for the Committee's concern was racist bulling and harrassment in schools.[151]

A high-profile event was the publication by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in August 2016 of its report on violations of rights of ethnic minorities.[152] The document, which local experts call "the biggest ever review into race equality in Britain", notes that representatives of ethnic minorities (first of all, Black people), on average, are three times more likely to become victims of crimes than White people. Unemployment rates are significantly higher for ethnic minorities at 12.9 per cent, which double the country's average. There is discrimination at work places: Black workers with degrees earn 23.1 per cent less on average than White workers. While just 6 per cent of African/Caribbean/Black school leavers attend any of 24 leading UK universities (12 per cent of native population and 11 per cent of Chinese). There is also discrimination against ethnic minorities in employment to judicial and law enforcement bodies. In general, the document concludes that the situation of ethnic diasporas has deteriorated in the last five years.

Head of the Commission David Isaac said: "Today's report underlines just how entrenched race inequality and unfairness still is in our society". He added: "So far, the Government's economic plan since 2010 has not been paralleled by a race inclusion plan that prevents cutting some communities even further adrift from equality of opportunity". He also noted that "if you are Black or an ethnic minority in modern Britain, it can often still feel like you're living in a different world, never mind being part of a one nation society".

In March 2021, the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which had been created by the authorities following the wave of protests of the Black Lives Matter movement, presented its report commissioned by the UK Govenment. The document authors believe that manifestations of racism in the United Kingdom are of individual, not institutional, nature.[153] The UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent and Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance E.Tendayi Achiume rejected the findings. The experts condemned the UK Commission report for ignoring the pervasive role that the social construction of race was designed to play in society, particularly in normalizing atrocity.[154]

Persons of African origin are more likely to become victims of abuse by UK law enforcement agencies. The Metropolitan Police Service in August 2017 indicated that people of African descent and of ethnic minority background, in particular young African and Caribbean men, were twice as likely as other people to die from the use of force by police officers and the subsequent lack or insufficiency of access to appropriate health care. Despite making up just 14 per cent of the population, Black, Asian and minority ethnic men and women make up 25 per cent of prisoners, while over 40 per cent of young people in custody are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. The human rights defenders note that the Metropolitan Police Service Gangs Matrix has been criticized as "the representation of young Black males on the Matrix is disproportionate to their likelihood of criminality".[155]

In the United Kingdom, individuals from Black and minority ethnic groups are four times more likely to be stopped than those who are White, the Home Office's latest statistics show. In particular, Black people were stopped and searched for drugs at almost nine times the rate of White people, research findings show, while Asian people – at almost three times the rate of White people.[156]

At the same time, since 1999 the British police have been trying to get the proportion of officers from ethnic minorities to match the proportion in the populations they serve. However, experts note that activity in the area is slow and is criticized by law enforcement officials themselves, for example, Chair of the National Police Chiefs' Council (coordinates the UK police forces work) Sara Thornton saying that over 20 years "not one of the 43 forces in England and Wales has achieved that and it will be 2052 at the earliest before that happens".[157]

The racial discrimination situation in the juvenile justice system continues to deteriorate. According to February 2019 estimates, the number of Black of 15–21 years of age in young offender institutions is 51 per cent of the total young offenders (in 2017 – 40 per cent). Experts believe that it is caused by an array of factors, which include cuts in funding of local authorities, police and mental health services, and increase in confiscation of Black families property, etc.[158] Children of Caribbean descent are 3.5 times more likely to be expelled from public schools than the rest pupils.

In May 2019, the Guardian published data of the Opinium agency opinion poll among ethnic minorities, according to which 71 per cent of the respondents have faced racial discrimination (in January 2016 – 58 per cent).

One in four employees with a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background had witnessed or experienced racist harassment or bullying from managers in the last two years, the governmental review "Race in the workplace" found.[159]

At the same time, 50 per cent noted that they see manifestations of racism on the Internet and in social media daily.

In June 2020, the large-scale opinion poll conducted by the UGov agency showed that 52 per cent of respondents believe that racism is a common phenomenon in the UK (8 per cent – extremely common, 44 per cent – largerly common). But 36 per cent of the surveyed said that the problem of racism is exaggerated and 6 per cent think that it doesn not exist.

The UK Home Office recorded a significant increase in hate crimes in 2019. In the reporting period, in total there were 103,379 offences (a 10 per cent rise compared to 2018) with 77 per cent of racist hate crimes (78,991 incidents, an 11 per cent increase compared to 2018). There was a 14 per cent rise in incidents against disabled persons (up to 8,256 cases) and a 3 per cent increase in religious hate crimes (up to 8,566).

However, serious concerns about the sharp rise in racial hate crimes, especially in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, were expressed by the CERD in August 2016,[160] the Human Rights Committee (HRC) in July 2015,[161] and the Committee against Torture (CAT) in May 2019[162]. The CERD noted, in particular, the wide-spread, including on the Internet, "anti-immigrant and xenophobic rhetoric" and "the negative portrayal of ethnic or ethno-religious minority communities, immigrants… and refugees by the media". Experts stressed that "many… political figures not only failed to condemn such rhetoric, but also created and entrenched prejudices, thereby emboldening individuals to carry out acts of intimidation and hate towards ethnic or ethno-religious minority communities and people who are visibly different". It was also noted that "the problem of underreporting on the number of hate crimes persists, and the gap between reported cases and successful prosecutions remains significant." According to the Committee against Torture, only 2 per cent of all hate crimes result in a successful conviction with an enhanced sentence for hostility on the basis of a protected characteristic.

Despite public condemnation and wide media coverage of anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom, human rights defenders estimate the situation as rather negative. According to the report of the Community Security Trust NGO, in 2019 the number of anti-Semitic incidents broke the record. In the period, there were 1,805 cases of anti-Semitism in total – 7 per cent more than in 2018. Incidents with the use of force increased by 25 per cent (up to 158 cases). Documented acts of anti-Semitism in social networks almost doubled (from 384 tо 697). In total, in 330 cases insults included mentions of the Holoсaust and/or references to the Nazi ideology, including swastika images. The overwhelming majority of them took place in London and Manchester, cities with the biggest Jewish communities.[163] Manifestations of anti-Semitism by Labour party members are compiled in the report of the Labour against Antisemitism organization, which was submitted to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.[164]

In her report on contemporary forms of racism and combatting the glorification of Nazism to the 74th session of the General Assembly pursuant to Assembly resolution 73/157 Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Tendayi Achiume, indicated the scope of the problem.[165]

As for Russian citizens and compatriots, they do not face systemic violations of their rights in the UK. However, throughout 2020, the Russian Embassy in London was receiving signals from compatriots about various kinds of British prejudices in connection with publications in local media, suggesting that the Russian diaspora had allegedly close ties with the Russian special services.[166]

However, Russian roots may become an obstacle for getting a job in intelligence services and be the ground for discrimination, including abuse. It was the experience of Gleb Steshov, who sued the UK Ministry of Defense. He claims that in 2009-2010, when in the Infantry Training Centre in Catterick, Northern Yorkshire, he was made by a corporal to march like a Russian soldier and sing Russian military songs, and was regularly asked why he had joined the Royal Army, not the Russian. Currently, he is seeking compensation from the Ministry for moral and physical damages.[167]

Illustrative are tough measures to suppress undesired civic actions, which, according to London, seem not to contradict the principles on which the existence of a democratic society is based. For example, in April 2019, 1,130 people total were arrested for participation in mass "climate" demonstrations organized in London by the Extinction Rebellion movement.

Besides, the heinous incident with George Floyd in the US became a sort of catalyst for discontent with racist acts. The wave of manifestations attended by thousands of people in UK cities led to clashes with the police and vandalism against historic monuments somehow related to slavery.

However, the greatest public outcry was caused by disproportionate and unduly brutal actions of the London police during the peaceful vigil for Sarah Everard. A Metropolitan Police officer with the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection unit was accused of kidnapping and murdering this young British woman. That crime literally stirred up the UK public, having encouraged thousands of women to share their stories of rape, beating and harassment. Participants in the "Reclaim These Streets" women campaign did not do vandalism acts against historic monuments related to slavery or blocked the work of prinft-shops unlike the eco-activists from the Extinction Rebellion. They took to the streets to remind that the problem of violence against women is not a vestige of the past and that the authorities and the society do not do enough to solve it. However, the vigil against violence was faced with violence: the policemen twisted the participants’ arms behind their backs and dragged them by hair along the ground.

Those ill-proportioned brutal actions by the police were criticized even inside the UK, in particular by London Mayor Sadiq Aman Khan and Home Secretary Priti Patel. The opposition also called for dismissal of Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis Cressida Rose Dick.

Against this backdrop, of particular concern is the introduction in the Parliament of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021. Of highest interest in terms of human rights is the part of the document devoted to public order. For example, para. 54 "Imposing conditions on public processions" and para. 55 "Imposing conditions on public assemblies" contain proposals to complement the text of the Public Order Act 1986 with clarifying provisions. The document as drafted establishes the right of the law-enforcement bodies to impose restrictions on processions (for example, changes in the route or ban on visiting certain public places), if such procession may result in disorder, significant damage to any property or serious disruption to the life of the community. In light of the UK international legal obligations to ensure its citizens their rights to freedom of opinion and expression and to peaceful assembly, the amendment of the mentioned article with new contitions on public processions exclusively on the ground that the generated noise may result in "serious disruption to the activities of an organisation which are carried on in the vicinity of the procession" and/or "have a relevant impact on persons in the vicinity of the procession" seems insufficiently substantiated. In any case, it is quite obvious that generation of noise during the public action is a means of attracting attention to a concept or an idea the participants intend to express.

No less important is the fact that the amendments to the Act do not comply with legal certainty – the key criteria for imposing restrictions on the enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms. For example, the concrete definitions of "serious disruption to the activities of an organisation" and "serious disruption to the life of the community" is left to the Home Department, which can (but must not) adopt a decision to that effect. And in defining the 'prohibited' noise the bill sponsors use subjective concepts ("may cause … to suffer serious unease, alarm or distress").

Attempts to restrict the rights to freedom of opinion and expression rightfully provoked Britons' wave of outrage, who joined the "KillTheBill" rally. For example, over 100 people were arrested in the centre of London during a large demonstration in April 2021.

The human rights community criticizes the measures taken by the UK Government to tighten the counter-terrorism legislation. It was the issue of focus as early as in mid-2010s, particularly for the Human Rights Committee in July 2015[168] and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in August 2016.[169] They noted, inter alia, that the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 further extended the power of police officers to seize and temporarily retain travel documents (if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a person intends to travel abroad to engage in terrorism-related activities) and to place suspects under surveillance at long distances from their place of residence. Experts were also concerned by the ambiguous paragraphs, which allowed for mass interception of communications and data, and lacked sufficient safeguards against arbitrary interference with the right to privacy. In particular, there was practice of untargeted warrants for the interception of external private communications and data sent or received outside the United Kingdom. In addition to it, the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 provides for wide powers for the retention and access to such data.

Criticism is often focused on the 2010-introduced measure allowing the Home Office to denaturalize persons involved in terrorist activity or otherwise posing a threat to country's national security (given, however, they are nationals of another State). This measure has been actively applied since 2016 and, according to official statistics, its use has increased.

The new Counter-Terrorism Strategy adopted in June 2018 causes public discontent. According to the Home Secretary of the time Sajid Javid, it is based on the principle of "ensuring that there are no safe spaces for terrorists internationally, in the UK and online". In line with the document, UK special services are to share more information with a broader range of partners, including government departments and local authorities. Besides, the Strategy provides for design-out of vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure, increased security measures in crowded locations, and fast response to suspicious purchases. The document also suggests involvement of private companies, which shall report to the police about suspicious purchases (chemicals) and clients' behaviour (e.g., when leasing a car, etc.).

The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019, which provides for increased penalties for dissemination of illegal digital content via the Internet, should be mentioned as well. Human rights defenders argue that the language of the relevant provisions is ambiguous and may be interpreted by uniformed agencies as widely as possible, resulting in absolutely legitimate actions being criminalized, including accessing extremist content in academic, research and professional purposes. An intensive discussion continues around higher liability for posting extremist content on the Internet, as well as enhanced instruments of pressure on disseminators of extremist ideology.

Still widely discussed is the initiative of former Prime Minister Theresa May to suppress extremist content online: web-sites of major IT companies, social media and video hosting services. IT companies are willing to cooperate with uniformed agencies only if the authorities strictly observe human rights. The Facebook leadership, in particular, believe that excessive access of law enforcement agencies to personal data may aggravate the situation as criminals would move their activities to those countries where they cannot be detected or brought to justice.

Heavily criticized was the Government decision to make the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act adopted on 26 February 2020 retroactive, resulting in several dozens of people loosing the opportunity to be released.

Experts and the public gave a negative assessment of the contents of the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill introduced in the Parliament on 20 May 2020, aimed in particular to extend the counter-terrorism powers of uniformed agencies focusing on preventive work. It proposes, inter alia, to change the practice of use by law-enforcement bodies of so called "terrorism prevention and investigation measures", which include curfew for certain persons, home arrest, forced relocation to a new place of residence, ban on participation in assemblies, restriction on the right to use banking services and means of communication, and confiscation of foreign passports. Currently, the instrument may be used up to 2 years given the evidence of the suspect involvement in terrorism. The new bill proposes to use it in case of suspicion of terrorist activity, to remove restrictions on the duration of such measures and to include in the list such measures as drug testing, rehabilitation programmes for drug addicts and compulsory disclosure of any electronic communication device possessed or used by the individual or any other person in the individual’s residence.

The human rights community accuses Boris Johnson’s Cabinet of disregard for the UK human rights obligations and intention to punish certain citizens extrajudicially solely on the basis of suspision of law enforcement agencies without strong evidence of their guilt. It is noted that the introduction of the Bill amid the COVID-19 pandemic is not accidental. This step allegedly aims to pass the document through the Parliament without an appropriate public discussion.

In addition, since 2014 the Face Recognition system has been operational in the UK: 6 mln cameras with such functions have been installed in the country. This has generated very mixed reactions in society. Prior to the use in the capital, the technology was openly tested in Cardiff during a football match at the Cardiff City stadium on 12 January 2020, which was accompanied by protests and strong condemnation by human rights organizations and common citizens.

Its working principle is the following: the software reads faces offline, recording individual features of a scanned face to create a unique "imprint", which is automatically cross-checked with the Wanted Offenders database, as well as bases of missing children and representatives of vulnerable groups. The computer then ranks possible matches for further verification by a police operator.

In case of a match, the identified person shall be detained by a police officer for an interview.

The UK social organization Big Brother Watch supporting the right to privacy and freedom from State and Big Tech surveillance actively fights against its introduction by vigils, litigation and petitions to the Parliament. According to its statistics, 93 per cent of the identifications in 10 testings were wrong. The research by Essex University Professsor Peter Fussey showed the accuracy of the system was no high than 19 per cent.

Allan Hogarth, Amnesty International, said in this regard: "The Met Police’s decision to introduce facial recognition tech poses a huge threat to human rights…

This technology puts many human rights at risk, including the rights to privacy, non-discrimination, freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. This is no time to experiment with this powerful technology that is being used without adequate transparency, oversight and accountability."

Human rights defenders point out that law enforcement officers, under cover of objectives to ensure national security and search for perpetrators, often use those data without legal grounds, which may result in adverse consequences for many citizens. Commissioner for the Retention and Use of Biometric Material Paul Wiles criticized police's 'chaotic' use of facial recognition and called for a clear legal framework for the use of such technology to avoid violations of human rights.[170]

Human rights structures have regularly noted that the United Kingdom authorities have not conducted any independent investigation into acts of torture overseas, including those committed during UK military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq.[171] In 2018, the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament published Detainee Mistreatment and Rendition reports following the inquiry into actions of the UK intelligence and security agencies. The mentioned Inquiry was terminated ahead of time due to inability to obtain key evidence as the British authorities refused to allow the intelligence agencies staff to testify. Nevertheless, the documents’ conclusions on the UK possible involvement in torture caused special concern of the CAT.

The Committee experts also observed that neither of 3,400 reports of unlawful killings, torture and ill-treatment by the United Kingdom armed forces in Iraq in 2003–2009 received by the Iraq Historic Allegations Team was prosecuted. Moreover, before its work ceased in June 2017, the Team's remaining investigations were transferred to the Service Police, which had closed the most of cases.[172]

Against this background, human rights organizations and law firms representing the interests of victims speak about unprecedented pressure by the military lobby on the judicial system of the country aimed at prompt closure of the pending cases.

The UK unwillingness to investigate the cases is illustrated by the fact that in the twenty years only one military was tried and sentenced for one-year imprisonment.[173]

Moreover, the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill was introduced in the UK Parliament. It provides for soldiers' immunity from prosecution for military crimes and crimes agaist humanity committed overseas.[174] Its main objective is the so called triple protection. It provides for "presumption against prosecution" meaning that prosecution should take place only in exceptional circumstances despite solid evidence of crime and torture. Besides, limitation of action for such crimes would be five years and only the Attorney General would have discretion to prosecute, and only in exceptional circumstances with the power to restrict prosecution using the right to veto. According to the Bill supporters, this document is a necessary instrument to protect the military personnel, including those deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan from unsubstantiated accusations.[175]

The experts from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed their abhorrence of the protection for the military who repeatedly commiteed murder and torture. In particular, they pointed out that "statutes of limitations should not be applied to acts constituting enforced disappearance, as it is considered a continuing offence." Besides, "failing to investigate and prosecute deprives victims of their right to obtain justice and redress. The government must not limit the time victims have to apply for remedy."[176]

Human Rights Watch experts also note that no British soldier or commander who served in Iraq and Aphganistan has been prosecuted, let alone convicted for war crimes, which shows contempt for the rule of law.[177] Amnesty International believes that the Government’s Overseas Operations Bill will do irreparable damage to the reputation of the armed forces of this country and undermine basic principles of access to justice.[178] Human rights NGO Liberty specialists draw the public attention to the fact that the Bill virtually contains provisions decriminalizing troture. Emma Norton, the director of the Centre for Military Justice, said she believed the Bill was a breach of the UK’s obligations under articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protect the right to life and ban torture respectively. "Where there are credible allegations of torture, …, there is an obligation on the State to properly and openly investigate," Norton said. A Labour MP also expressed his negative view of the document and wrote to Minister of Defense Ben Wallace calling for halting the consideration of the Bill.[179] His position is shared by members of the Scottish National Party and Scottish Liberal Democrats. However, despire criticism, the Bill was approved (by 331 votes to 77) and passed to the House of Lords for further consideration.[180]

The human rights community is concerned about the situation in the UK prison system. The main problems include over-incarceration and bad conditions in male prisons in England and Wales. Besides, experts note a disproportionate number of representatives of ethnic minorities among both male and female prisoners in these parts of the Kingdom. This fact was also recognized by the UK official delegation in May 2019 during the "presentation" of its sixth periodic report in the Committee against Torture and was reflected in the Concluding observations.[181] There was also the reported increase in the use of electrical discharge weapons (tasers), including on children and young people, and their disproportionate use against members of minority groups. Between March 2017 and March 2019 there were 8 apparent homicides and 160 selfinflicted deaths.[182]

The Group of Experts from the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) visited the United Kingdom in 2019. They focused on the persistently high levels of violence in male prison estates, as well as on broader concerns regarding the use of force, segregation and means of restrain. In general, the experts noted the progress in promoting the prison reform programme. However, the Committee believes that the UK penitentiary system is still in crisis. Prisons are overcrowded lacking safe conditions for the inmates. Many of them are punished by placement in isolation.

A similar situation is in Young Offenders’ Institutions (YOIs). The CPT recommended to significantly reduce the number of the children there and stop using pain-inducing techniques to control them. It supports the adoption by the State of a new socio-educative approach to meeting the needs of minors, which would provide for, inter alia, creating smaller institutions.[183]

Besides, the British Government is criticized for the inhumane treatment of the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. According to United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer, who met with Julian Assange in the Belmarsh Prison, his state of health is the same as of those with prolonged exposure to psychological torture. Nils Melzer underlined that Mr. Assange was displaying "extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma". It was emphasized that the UK authorities together with the US and Sweden had been behind the campaign of intimidation and defamation against Mr. Assange.

On 7 September 2020, the journalist was arrested under the US 15count indictment and stood before trial in London. On 4 January 2021, the Court decided that Julian Assange could not be extradited to the US as he suffered clinical depression and was suicide-prone, but he would remain imprisoned in the UK during time provided to the US Prosecution Office for an appeal.

International human rights non-governmental organizations criticize the UK Government for non-compliance with earlier undertaken commitments to receive Syrian refugees in the country.

In 2016, London declared its intention to grant asylum to 3,000 Syrian minors. In fact, only 480 such persons were received, and then in July 2018 the Government informed about closing the programme. The subsequent attempt of the Help Refugees NGO to challenge this decision in court failed – the High Court of Justice remained it in force and dismissed the further appeal.

The difficult situation of asylum seekers was pointed out by UN human rights treaty bodies, including the CERD, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDW), CAT, HRCtte and Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR). It was noted, in particular, that refugees, asylum seekers and persons who have been denied asylum, as well as Roma, still face discrimination in accessing health care. Moreover, human rights defenders highlighted the lack of clear time limits for detention in expulsion centres for migrants. A big problem in the UK remains mistreatment of migrants in temporary detention centers, as well as in prisons and detention centers – treaty bodies recorded a great number of complaints in this regard. It was pointed out, inter alia, by the HRCtte in July 2015[184] and the CAT in May 2019 in their Concluding observations. According to the latter Committee’s data, in 2013–2018 over 6,500 investigations were launched into allegations of misconduct and 2,600 prison staff members were subjected to disciplinary action, including 50 prison officers – for assault – in 2017–2018.[185]

The human rights community has repeatedly highlighted the social inequality of certain vulnerable groups in the UK. Following the consideration of the sixth periodic report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the CESCR expressed its concern about the adverse impact that recent changes to the fiscal policy, such as the increase in the threshold for the payment of inheritance tax and the increase of the value added tax, as well as the gradual reduction of the tax on corporate incomes, are having on the ability of the State to address persistent social inequality and to collect sufficient resources to achieve the full realization of economic, social and cultural rights for the benefit of disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups. It was underlined that the reforms to the legal assistance system and the introduction of employment tribunal fees restricted access to justice in such areas as employment, housing, education and social welfare. The Committee experts noted that, despite the increase in the employment rate, some disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups continued to be disproportionately affected by unemployment, including persons with disabilities, young people and persons belonging to ethnic, religious or other minorities. The concern was also caused by various changes in the entitlements to, and cuts in, social benefits introduced by the Welfare Reform Act 2012 and the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016, in particular, the reduction of the household benefit cap, the removal of the spare-room subsidy (bedroom tax), the four-year freeze on certain benefits and the reduction in child tax credits. The Committee was especially concerned about the adverse impact of these changes and cuts on the enjoyment of the rights to social security and to an adequate standard of living by disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups, including women, children, persons with disabilities, low-income families and families with two or more children.

The Committee noted with concern that certain groups of the population, in particular persons with disabilities, persons belonging to ethnic, religious or other minorities, single-parent families and families with children, were more affected by, or at an increased risk of, poverty.

Besides, the Committee noted the persistent critical situation in terms of the availability, affordability and accessibility of adequate housing in the UK, in part as a result of cuts in State benefits. The lack of social housing has forced households to move into the private rental sector, which is not adequate in terms of affordability, habitability, accessibility and security of tenure.[186]

In November 2018, following his visit to the UK Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, published a report in which he criticized the country's social safety net. The document underlines that the policy of austerity implemented since 2010 by the Treasury has had adverse effects on its citizens' well-fare and brought suffering and division into the social sphere. The Welfare Reform failed, first of all due to tougher requirements for applicants and significant delays in payments. The current UK tax system has not the best impact on the well-being of the most vulnerable groups, including women, persons of Asian and African origin, representatives of ethnic minorities, single parents, disabled persons and asylum seekers.

In response, the UK Government tried to accuse Mr. Alston in substitution of notions, stressing the alleged non-existence of signs of extreme poverty in the country and that the given observations did not characterize the overall situation in the social sphere.

The situation was deteriorated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Only in three months since its beginning, 6,000 Britons lost their homes and moved to temporary accomodation centres. The charity organization Shelter reports that the authorities housed 253,000 homeless people in such public centres, which is the highest rate in the last 14 years.[187]

It should be noted that the concern about the vulnerable situations of women, especially "Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic" women, as well refugee women, was expressed in February 2019 by the CEDAW following the consideration of the eighth periodic report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Committee, in particular, pointed out the disproportionately strong impact of austerity measures on women, who, in its view, constitute the vast majority of single parents and are more likely to be engaged in informal, temporary or precarious forms of employment. It was also noted that budget cuts in the public sector, where more women are employed than men, and cuts in funding to organizations that provide social services to women. The Committee believes that the latter increased the burden on primary caregivers, who are disproportionately women.[188]

Despite the UK Government efforts to eliminate gender inequality (including the adoption in July 2019 of the documnet titled Gender Equality at Every Stage: a Roadmap for Change), human rights organizations estimate the sutuation in the area as far from perfect.

According to the Fawcett Society NGO, currently, the gap in income of the two sexes is 10 per cent among people in full-time jobs and 34,5 among part-time workers. Women are 70 per cent of all people receiving minimum wages. In recent years, the imcome disparities in the UK has been increasing faster than in other OECD countries; currently, throughout their careers women earn averagely £140,000 less than men. Besides, 54 per cent of women in part-time employment (2.8 mln) have low-paid and low-status jobs below their qualification, experience and skills.

According to the Scottish Widows retirement and insurance company, 37 per cent of the UK women do not have pension savings, whose share increases annually. In 2019, only 40 per cent of women had adequate retirement savings (in 2006 – 50 per cent), however, the average sum of the monthly contribution hardly reached £182, whereas among men it was around £260. Analysts link this with the constantly growing expenses for the maintenance of children and elderly parents, the most part of which are borne by women.

There is significant gender disproportion in the UK in such spheres as journalism, law and business. Women occupy only 6.1 per cent of senior positions in leading companies and represent just 3 per cent of boards of directors. The number of women in the judiciary is 23 per cent of the total, while many superior courts are still "exclusive men’s clubs" whose members block the appointment of women to high posts.

The protection of human rights of children in childcare facilities is still discouraging. The Historical Institution Abuse Inquiry report published in January 2017 showed the extent of physical and sexual child abuse in children's homes and other residential institutions run by religious, charitable and State organizations in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995. The CAT noted this problem, having underlined that the recommendations arising from the inquiry have not been implemented and that, as a result of this inaction, the identified victims of ill-treatment have not got compensation or other forms of redress.

Moreover, the CAT experts expressed concern at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse published in February 2019, which said that in 20092017, despite a significant decrease in the number of children detained, there were 1,070 cases of child sexual abuse in custodial institutions for minors in the UK. It was noted that investigations into complaints are very rare. The Committee also mentioned the remaining concern regarding the need to investigate historical practices in institutions not covered by the inquiry, namely the Magdalene laundries and mother-and-baby homes.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the UK authorities to take measures, albeit limiting some basic human rights and freedoms, but necessary to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease. However, fight against COVID-19 has revealed certain human rights problems. For example, according to the UK Office for National Statistics, the COVID-19-related death rate among ethnic minorities (African, South Asian and Caribbean origin) on average is 1.52 times higher than among White Britons. Besides, the country's highest incidence of COVID-19 is recorded in London Boroughs of Brent, Barnet and Harrow with the prevailing Black population. They usually get lower wages and have no adequate access to medical institutions. A number of famous politicians and public figures (including London Mayor Sadiq Aman Khan, House of Lords member Baroness Doreen Lawrence and writer Kwame Kwei-Armah) called upon the British Government to immediately start an independent investigation into the reasons of the anomaly high death rate among ethnic communities.

There are problems with ensuring the elderly rights. For example, in April 2020, in total 17 senior centers refused to accomodate residents earlier hospitalized with COVID-19 and discharged upon recovery. According to owners of such institutions, such acts are motivated by their unwillingness to take the risk of further spread of the disease, despite the treated persons having health certificates.

Hospitals were reported to refuse to admit elderly patients with coronavirus symptoms. The Care Quality Commission has been verifying this information.

Among other things, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the sprawl of the forced labour throughout the world. The UK is no exception. For example, during the lockdown period there was an increase in calls to the helpline of the Unseen anti-slavery charity. It reports that the majority of victims of expoitation work in construction. However, while the most of enterprises were shut down, persons employed in the sphere contined to work. The construction workers reportedly carried out tasks throughout the lockdown without observing social distancing and were eating on the street. Besides, they were not wearing high-visibility work clothes and all the vans were unmarked. One of the callers informed about a teenager spotted carrying wood out of the building in his town.[189]

Compulsory measures taken to counter the spread of the disease, in particular telecommuting, have had a negative impact on the labour. Salary gap between telecommuters and people who continued to work in the office is 13 per cent.

Underpriviledged schoolchildren and their families have been severly affected. Distance learning meant education primarily via video-lessons both online and previously recorded by teachers. However, that format was not available for every child, as many low-income families cannot afford a computer. Therefore, a part of schoolchildren was excluded from the learning process.

Besides, free food parcels given to the children in need to provide them with lunch for some days were rather unsatisfactory and poor. Against a backdrop of criticism by parents, the authorities decided to let them choose since 18 January 2021: to further receive food parcels or to use a system of vouchers allowing adults to buy food for children themselves.[190]

Compelling citizens to observe the self-isolation regime led to the aggravation of the already serious problem of domestic violence. According to the data as of late April 2020, since the start of the quarantine, calls to the domestic violence helpline have increased by 49 per cent and the number of people died in domestic conflicts has doubled. The Counting Dead Women Project reports that the victims were 14 women and two children.[191]

In early 2019, public outcry was caused by protests in Birmingham against including sexual education lessons in school curriculum, aimed "to promote LGBT equality and challenge homophobia". The protesters voiced their opposition to such lessons explaining that at best they should be optional rather than compulsory.

The UK authorities' main stance was to marginalize the protesters, the majority of whom are Muslims. In mass media they were qualified as "aggressive minority" and "extremists". Damian Hinds, Secretary of State for Education at the time, said: "It is not right to protest in front of schools; it is frightening to children and disrespectful to hard working teachers." Supporters of opposite views were criticized. For example, statements by House of Commons MP Esther McVey that parents needed to have the final say on the presence of their children at such lessons was vigourously criticized by her Party, in particular, by former Secretary of State for Education Justine Greening (she is in a same-sex relationship) and former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Amber Rudd (well-known supporter of the LGTB community empowerment).

As a result, on 31 May 2019 the High Court of Justice granted the injunction of the Birmingham City Council and decided to ban protests in the vicinity of schools as they allegedly threaten "safety and wellbeing of the staff, children and parents". The organizers of the protests intend to appeal this verdict before a higher tribunal.

Therefore, currently, the United Kingdom still faces an arrow of human rights challenges from manifestations of neo-Nazism to domestic violence, from uninvestigated military crimes to poor food rations for underpriviledged schoolchildren. They seem to require the closest attention of London more than affairs essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of other States.

 

https://www.mid.ru/ru/foreign_policy/humanitarian_cooperation/-/asset_publisher/bB3NYd16mBFC/content/id/4025481?p_p_id=101_INSTANCE_bB3NYd16mBFC&_101_INSTANCE_bB3NYd16mBFC_languageId=en_GB#8




LATEST EVENTS

21.09.2021 - Embassy comment on the new ‘development’ in the investigation of the Salisbury incident

It is worth noting that immediately after the incident in Salisbury Russia suggested that a comprehensive and transparent cooperation by law enforcement agencies of the two countries would allow to establish the facts of what had happened. Instead, the UK chose to conduct investigation unilaterally and behind closed doors. Now, we hear once again that yet another Russian national was, as a ‘member of the GRU’, allegedly involved in the attempted murder. Just as was the case with earlier claims made during this investigation, neither the public nor Russia have been provided with concrete evidence. To present the fact of a certain individual entering or leaving the UK on particular dates in March 2018 as a newly obtained information is nothing but laughable.


21.09.2021 - Embassy comment on the British reaction to the Russian State Duma elections

It is symptomatic that our British counterparts plainly ignore the many positive developments in our electoral system. These include online voting used for the first time at the national level, as well as new steps taken to strengthen the system of civic control over elections, including observers at polling stations, live video streaming, speedy publication of results by polling station. Rather than recognising these achievements of the civil society, the UK continues with hollow claims of ‘undermining political plurality’ and ‘holding of elections on Ukraine’s sovereign territory’.


24.08.2021 - Comment by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on the meeting of the so-called Crimea Platform in Kiev

We have taken note of an event that was held in Kiev on August 23 and was entitled a “Crimea Platform Summit.” The stated aim of this political project, developed with active involvement of government experts from the United States, the UK and the European Union and funded by the United States Agency for International Development, is “the de-occupation of Crimea and its reintegration with Ukraine.” The participants involved are just right for this goal – mainly being NATO countries and some international organisations sharing a common delusion that the Crimean Peninsula should be part of the current Ukrainian state and that it can be torn away from the Russian Federation by increasing political and economic pressure on Russia.


21.08.2021 - Embassy comment on new sanctions imposed by UK

We took notice of the new personal sanctions imposed by the UK on the Russian nationals for what is claimed to be ‘their direct responsibility for the poisoning of Alexey Navalny’. It is indicative indeed that sanctions are being rubber-stamped in a process which is completely detached from actual facts and looks like a formality, a way to ‘mark anniversaries’.


20.08.2021 - Press release on the anniversary of “Alexey Navalny case”

August 20 marks one year since the emergency hospitalisation of Russian blogger Alexey Navalny in Omsk - an incident which, through the purposeful efforts of a group of Western states, was raised to the level of an international event, which led to the bringing of unsubstantiated charges against Russia for allegedly using a “chemical warfare agent” on its territory. At the same time, the actions taken by the FRG authorities and their allies over the past 12 months clearly show that that a pre-planned provocation was carried out against our country to discredit the Russian Federation in the eyes of the international community and to damage its national interests.


17.08.2021 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s answers to media questions following a visit to the Kaliningrad Region, Kaliningrad, August 17, 2021

Question: You had a meeting with freight carriers today. What is the status of the Dubki-Rambinas checkpoint, when will it become operational and, in general, what problems did the carriers share with you? How can you help them? Sergey Lavrov: I discussed the state of affairs with the Governor and the President of the Association of International Road Carriers {ASMAP). Many issues under review were highly specific and purely technical. As we reiterated today, they are being considered by a special government commission chaired by First Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Belousov. The next meeting will be held in September. Today's meeting, which made it possible to sum up all our concerns, was quite timely. In a joint effort with our colleagues from the Kaliningrad Region Government and ASMAP, we will summarise these suggestions for further consideration by this commission.


14.08.2021 - Russia's MFA Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on the situation concerning BBC Moscow correspondent Sarah Rainsford.

The official London, as represented by Minister for European Neighbourhood and the Americas Wendy Morton and the UK’s diplomatic mission in Moscow, have chosen to link the non-renewal of the Russian visa and accreditation for BBC Moscow correspondent Sarah Rainsford with “the deteriorating situation with media freedom in Russia,” cynically turning the whole situation on its head. We have to state that these assertions are false.


29.06.2021 - Joint Statement of the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China on the Twentieth Anniversary of the Treaty of Good Neighbourliness and Friendly Cooperation between the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China, 28 June 2021

On the eve of the twentieth anniversary of the Treaty of Good Neighbourliness and Friendly Cooperation between the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China, signed on 16 July 2001, the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China, hereinafter referred to as the Parties, in order to continue the dynamic development of comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction in a new era, in accordance with the spirit and letter of the Treaty, declare as follows:


24.06.2021 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the 9th Moscow Conference on International Security, Moscow, June 24, 2021

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the 9th Moscow Conference on International Security in Moscow.


18.06.2021 - The Visa Centre in Manchester will resume its operation

Due to considerable number of requests of foreign nationals living far away from London the Visa Application Centre in Manchester will reopen on 23 June.



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