Conservative Party Human Rights Commission launched at Party Conference
October 2005:

The Conservative Party Human Rights Commission at a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party Conference in Blackpool in October 2005.

The fringe meeting, chaired by Gary Streeter MP, was addressed by the then Shadow Foreign Secretary Dr. Liam Fox MP, Michael Gove MP, and human rights activists James Mawdsley and Ben Rogers.

For full report on the events see article at CONSERVATIVEHOME.COM

The following are the remarks made by Ben Rogers, Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission:

“It is a great privilege to be here tonight at this launch of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission. Before I say anything else, may I say a very deep, heart-felt “thank you” to the Shadow Foreign Secretary Liam Fox for taking this initiative in establishing this organisation. I am very excited about it.

I would like now just to set the scene, set out a few themes, upon which others may build tonight.

In January 2003 James Mawdsley and I wrote “New Ground – Engaging People with the Conservative Party through a bold, imaginative and principled foreign policy”. We published it online and held fringe meetings in 2003 and 2004 at the party conference, which you can read about online.

Tonight the vision which we set out in New Ground has received a major boost. The launch of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission is, to quote Chairman Mao, a great leap forward.

Why did we write New Ground?

James and I are both involved in the fight for freedom and justice around the world – passionately, deeply, idealistically.

James has done time in jail for it.

I spend some of my time in places like this talking to people like you – and some of my time in jungles and hiding places and refugee camps with dissidents, resistance fighters, torture victims, child soldiers, refugees, women who have been raped, escaped slaves. And these are not some abstract statistics in a country far away. These are my friends, and my neighbours.

James and I are both Conservatives. We stood as candidates in the General Election. And we have both been asked, frequently: how and why can you be Conservatives, and human rights activists?

In Durham, I talked relentlessly about international human rights, injustice, poverty, oppression.

People liked it.

But not a day went by without someone telling me I was in the wrong party. There is a massive gap between what we stand for and how people perceive us.

This Conservative Human Rights Commission will help bridge that gap. It will send a signal that we are serious about standing up for the oppressed and disadvantaged. It will show what are values really are: - speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves, putting our timeless Conservative values of freedom, opportunity, the dignity of the individual, enterprise, limited government at the very heart of Conservative foreign policy.

So it is not just about morality. It is also in our electoral interest.

And our national interest. For it cannot be in the long-term national interest to let tyranny go unchallenged. Dictators do not make reliable business partners. They sow instability, reek of corruption and create poverty and environmental disaster. They spread famine and disease. Kim Jong-il, Robert Mugabe and the Generals in Rangoon have presided over economic collapse and humanitarian disaster. They threaten not only their people but their neighbours and the world. They use ‘sovereignty’ as an excuse to stop the rest of the world ‘interfering’

Sovereignty needs to be redefined. Sovereignty lies with people not governments. Sovereignty should only be respected when the will of the people is respected.

Next week I shall travel once again to the jungles of eastern Burma, and also to East Timor, the world’s newest nation whose struggle for freedom was won against all the odds.

I do so remembering a 15 year-old Shan boy I met a couple of years ago, after an eight hour trek through the jungle. He had seen his parents killed and his village burned, and had been taken for forced labour. As he looked into my eyes, he said: “Please, tell the world to put pressure on the regime to stop killing its people. Tell the world not to forget us.”

Democracy leader and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi said: “We do not accept the notion that democracy is a Western value. To the contrary, democracy simply means good government, rooted in responsibility, transparency and accountability.”

Those are Conservative values. When we sing ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, let us remember the next line: ‘Mother of the Free’. So let us Conservatives be the freedom fighters of today – and then we will earn the right to be the liberators of tomorrow.”