The rule of law is a central component of the Prime Minister’s vision of the “golden thread” of factors that make open, fair and prosperous societies possible:
“What I call the building blocks of democracy [are] the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law, the rights of individuals, a free media, free association, a proper place in society for the army, strong political parties and a proper, rich civil society. These things together make up a golden thread that can be found woven through successful countries and sustainable economies all over the world” (David Cameron, 2012).
We continued in 2012 to see the impact on people in countries where the rule of law does not operate. The UK Government worked to repair this deficit, including through projects funded through the Conflict Pool and engagement on counter-terrorism. DFID is known for its groundbreaking work on electoral assistance and safety, security and access to justice. In 2011–12, the Department provided support to 16.2 million people to give them choice and control over their development and to hold decision-makers to account, helped four countries to hold freer and fairer elections and secured improved access to security and justice services for 300,000 women and girls.
Events in Syria were been particularly worrying. Arbitrary arrest, extrajudicial killings and torture have been widespread and carried out with impunity. We have provided support to the people of Syria to ensure that these acts are documented so that the perpetrators can be held to account. We have also been at the forefront of calls for the situation in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court.
The FCO’s work on criminal justice and human rights focused on promoting good practice in two areas: the abolition of the death penalty and preventing torture. We also rolled out to all government departments the Overseas Security and Justice Assistance (OSJA) Human Rights Guidance published in 2011. This guidance recognises that we often need to work with countries or institutions where we have concerns about compliance with human rights standards, but seeks to ensure that British Government assistance to foreign police, military services, judiciaries, security forces and others in the field of security and justice strengthens rather than undermines human rights and democracy. It applies to all security and justice assistance carried out by UK government departments and agencies overseas.