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UN snub: Britain is turning its back on human rights, experts say

Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to opt out of a United Nations (UN) General Assembly debate has prompted fresh allegations that the majority Conservative government has turned its back on global justice and human rights.

Among those who are expected to outline their worldviews at the event are Russian president Vladimir Putin, US president Barak Obama and Iranian president Hassan Rouhani.

The UN’s schedule for the debate, which kicks off next Monday, shows Britain occupying the 76th slot. Richard Gowan, a New York-based fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, says this scheduling reflects the Cameron government’s view of the UN – and vice versa.

“Ten or 15 years ago, certainly in the Blair era, there was a feeling that that the UN was really central to what Britain was trying to do in the world,” he told the Telegraph.

“Now there’s a definite sense that the British don’t quite lead at the UN in the same way but are good workhorses when it comes to drafting resolutions.”

Although an official representative has not been confirmed, Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond is expected to attend on Cameron’s behalf. Britain has not had such a junior representative at the talks since 2007, when then-Labour prime minister Gordon Brown sent his foreign secretary David Miliband.

Although Cameron is expected to attend the UN General Assembly for a panel discussion on post-2015 development goals, he will depart before Britain takes part in the general debate.

Critics say Britain’s role of spearheading progressive global initiatives is now carried out by countries like France. They warn Cameron’s absence from the general assembly debate is the latest indication that Britain is retreating from the global human rights stage.

Fran Burwell, director of the Transatlantic Relations Program at the Atlantic Council, said Britain was notably absent from global efforts to tackle two of Europe’s biggest crises: the Ukraine conflict and Greece’s financial crisis.

“If it were just about the UN the people would think it was a clash in his diary,” she told the Telegraph.

“Because it takes place in this environment, it looks like another time when a country that was a leading force at the Iran talks will not be there when everyone focuses on it.”

Tory plans to sever ties with the European Court of Human Rights, repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights have provoked sharp criticism over the past year.

Justice Secretary Michael Gove is keen to push ahead with the reforms – measures experts warn could spark a constitutional crisis and blight Britain’s reputation on human rights worldwide.

Although the Tories were keen to push ahead with the legal changes during their last term in government, the move was blocked by the party’s ex-coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats.

Fresh from May’s general election victory, however, Conservative Party sources confirmed the human rights reforms are imminent.

Human rights campaigners warn the reforms would signal a death knell for democracy in the UK, and would erode fundamental human rights in the process.

Via RT. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license.

David Cameron: UK is too tolerant and should interfere more in people's lives even if they are obeying the law
Belfasttelegraph UK

'For too long we have left you alone if you obey the law'

The UK is too “passively tolerant” and should not leave people to live their lives as they please as long as they obey the law, David Cameron has said.

At the National Security Council today Mr Cameron unveiled a series of measures that he said would crack down on people holding minority “extremist” views that differed from Britain’s consensus.

“For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens 'as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone',” he said.

“It's often meant we have stood neutral between different values. And that's helped foster a narrative of extremism and grievance.”

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 today, however, the Home Secretary Theresa May said that tolerance and rule of law were ‘British values’.

“[The measures are] bigger picture , a strategy which will also have as a key part of it actually promoting our British values, our values of democracy, rule of law, tolerance and acceptance of different faiths,” she said.

She said the measures would focus on “seeking to undermine the very values that make us a great country to live in”.

Ms May first set out the proposals presented by Mr Cameron before the general election but was prevented from bringing them forward by the Liberal Democrats.

The package of powers, first proposed in March, would allow courts to force a person to send their tweets and Facebook posts to the police for approval.

Ofcom will have new powers to pressurize broadcasters which show content deemed “extreme” while the Charity Commission would be mandated to scrutinize charities who “misappropriate funds”.

The Prime Minister's comments about tolerance were met with criticism on social media.

Mass surveillance of UK citizens on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google is legal, says government’s top anti-terror chief Charles Farr
by James Vincent

In the first detailed defense of the UK’s surveillance policies since the Snowden revelations, Charles Farr, the director general of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, has said that the surveillance of popular websites, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google, is legal because their US origins means they count as “external communications”.

In a 48-page statement issued in response to a legal challenge brought by Privacy International, Liberty, Amnesty international and seven other civil liberties groups, Farr admits that the government allows the interception of a massive range of online activities without a warrant.

It was previously thought that the interception of communications within the country was covered by section 8(1) of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), with warrants granted when law enforcement suspected the individual in question of illegal activity.

However, by defining these web services as “external communications," they fall under the general warrants of section 8(4) of RIPA. This means that a range of activities – from emails to Facebook messages to Google searches – can all be intercepted even when the police have no grounds to suspect the individuals of wrongdoing.

Farr argues that the convoluted paths that data can take across the internet justifies an indiscriminate approach to data collection: “The only practical way in which the government can ensure that it is able to obtain at least a fraction of the type of communication in which it is interested is to provide for the interception of a large volume of communication.”

Referring to the concern that analysts would therefore be able to read the private communications of law abiding citizens, Farr said: "The analyst, being only human and having a job to do, will have forgotten (if he or she ever took it in) what the irrelevant communication contained."

Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International, said: “The suggestion that violations of the right to privacy are meaningless if the violator subsequently forgets about it not only offends the fundamental, inalienable nature of human rights, but patronizes the British people, who will not accept such a meager excuse for the loss of their civil liberties.”

James Welch, Legal Director of Liberty, said: “The security services consider that they’re entitled to read, listen and analyze all our communications on Facebook, Google and other US-based platforms. If there was any remaining doubt that our snooping laws need a radical overhaul there can be no longer.”
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