Liz Truss has been accused of delaying the publication of the Foreign Office’s annual human rights report because it is likely to contain criticism of Rwanda’s human rights record.
This year’s version of the annual assessment of how the UK views other countries’ rights was due before the summer parliamentary recess, and is now the most delayed since the Secretary launched the review in Foreign Affairs at the time, Robin Cook, 21 years ago.
Critics said the standoff could be an attempt to stifle criticism of Rwanda, to which the government wants to deport migrants and asylum seekers, or because Truss is focused on the conservative leadership race, where she is clearly the favorite over Rishi Sunak.
Sunak insisted on Thursday he still had “a chance to be prime minister”, despite a new poll indicating Truss had a 32-point lead as the contest enters its final fortnight.
The YouGov poll, with Sky News, found Truss had 66% of members backing her, with 34% backing Sunak, excluding don’t know.
The former chancellor has sought to reinvigorate his campaign with a new wave of political announcements, centering on a plan to improve NHS dental services, including an ‘early intervention’ check-up scheme in primary schools .
During the leadership race, Truss said she supported and would expand Rwanda’s controversial policy.
Court documents from proceedings to block the plan showed the UK’s high commissioner to Rwanda warned against the plan because the nation “has been accused of recruiting refugees to carry out armed operations in the neighboring countries “.
The delayed Foreign Ministry rights report would be expected to include further criticism of Rwanda. The latest edition, published in July 2021, said “critical voices continued to face heavy restrictions” in the country. She also condemned the death in police custody of a reconciliation activist, Kizito Mihigo.
There were regular case studies on Rwanda in all reports from 2011 to 2014, with critiques of abuses and restrictions.
Lord Wood of Anfield, a Labor peer and member of the Lords International Relations Committee, said: ‘At best it’s another example of how the business of government has come to a standstill as Liz Truss is engaged in his acrimonious contest with Rishi Sunak. At worst, I suspect this is a cynical attempt by the foreign minister to delay consideration of what the Rwanda report says. Either way, there is no valid reason for this unprecedented delay.
In July, the Foreign Office told Labor MP Tulip Siddiq that the report covering human rights around the world in 2021 would be published before the start of the recess.
The report, reflecting the UK’s view of the previous calendar year’s human rights reports, was normally published between March and June. Under Labour, it was sometimes published even earlier, at the end of the year it covered. On Thursday evening, a Foreign Office spokesperson said: ‘We will publish the annual report on human rights and democracy in due course.
Asked on ITV’s This Morning on Thursday, Sunak said he “definitely” had a chance of winning the competition, despite polls by Truss.
Unlike Sunak, Truss generally avoided longer television interviews during the campaign. This Morning co-host Rochelle Humes said the program had “reached out” to Truss, but was unsuccessful.
Truss has now agreed to be interviewed by Nick Robinson on BBC1, the company said. However, that will happen on August 30, just three days before the polls close.
Ahead of Friday’s ninth election campaign in Manchester, Truss’ campaign was limited to a short announcement on a ‘vision for the North West’, which largely overhauled existing policies such as better rail links and more devolution .
By contrast, Sunak sought to address the crisis in access to NHS dentists, in an announcement referencing a recent BBC survey which found that 90% of NHS dental practices are not accepting new patients.
As well as a pilot scheme for dental checks in primary schools, Sunak said he would limit funding for dentistry within the NHS, with health commissioners required to show they offer a wider access to dentists, using mobile clinics if necessary.
Sunak also pledged to reform NHS contracts for dental work to stop as many dentists turning to private work, to make it easier for foreign dentists to sign up for NHS work and to allow staff such as dental nurses and hygienists to do more work on routine treatments.