UK Human rights policies 'abhorrent and shameful'

March 14, 2005

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Indigenous peoples are marking Commonwealth Day on 14 March by attacking the UK government for blocking the recognition of their rights at the UN. 'The UK's human rights policies concerning Indigenous peoples are abhorrent and shameful,' says Inuit spokeswoman Dalee Sambo Dorough.

December 2004 saw the end of an international decade for Indigenous peoples, but no progress on the main aim of the decade – a UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples. This Declaration would be the most important advance for tribal people for fifty years, but some governments – mainly the UK, France and the US – are stalling the process, with potentially dangerous results.

These governments' main objection is to the mention of the collective rights of Indigenous peoples in the Declaration. This marks a reversal of hundreds of years of British policy, which recognised treaties made between the British Crown and the tribes of what are now Commonwealth countries as between one nation and another.

Grand Chief Ted Moses of the Cree people of Canada notes, 'The Blair government continues to deny us our collective human rights – it is the height of arrogance for the UK government to insist that Indigenous peoples should best embrace an individual rights approach.'

The UK government is demanding that Indigenous peoples should only have individual rights, but this would mean that their land could easily be split up and sold off.

Survival International launches a new letter-writing campaign today targeting Tony Blair over his government's blocking of the UN declaration. Click here to find out more.

Photos and footage available. For more information contact Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]