Your 'Ethics' Are a Sham, Cook Told

Article excerpt

Byline: MICHAEL CLARKE

ROBIN COOK claimed yesterday that the Government was doing more for global human rights than any other in history.

Publishing his department's annual human rights report, the Foreign Secretary said: 'We try to make a difference whenever and wherever we can.'

He also said boycotting countries with poor records would not help improve them.

But campaign groups and the Tories said his 'ethical foreign policy' was a sham and Labour was all too willing to seek business deals at the expense of native people's rights.

Amnesty International said the Foreign Office was keen to crack down on repressive states when no trade was at stake but turned a blind eye when big markets or fat contracts were up for grabs, for instance in China, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Director Kate Allen said: 'There is evidence that the Government may be sacrificing human rights on the altar of commercial expedience.' Unveiling his report, Mr Cook said trade and human rights could go hand in hand. And he poured scorn on campaigners 'who believe we best preserve the purity of our commitment to human rights by refusing to talk to those who most need to hear our message'.

He said force was sometimes the only option where governments were oppressing their citizens, as in Kosovo. But in Iraq and Burma trade sanctions were the best way forward.

Mr Cook added: 'There will be other times when critical engagement, dialogue and encouragement is more likely to produce results. …