News from Celtic League
The general secretary of the Celtic League has written to the new United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, expressing his concern over breaches to an international covenant during the run up to the Scottish referendum on Thursday 18th September 2014.
In his letter, Rhisiart Tal-e-bot, stated that he would like to make a formal complaint to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on behalf of the Celtic League – an NGO with roster consultative status with the United Nations – about the manipulation and interference of United Kingdom State parties in the referendum campaign. In the letter the general secretary referred to several “well documented” complaints, which were: “obviously designed to ‘manipulate or influence’ the outcome – a clear violation of the HRC guidance.” The full text of the letter is set out below:
“United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
Dear United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
UK in Breach of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) regarding Scottish Referendum (Friday 18th September 2014)
I am writing to express my concern about clear breaches by the UK Parliament of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), in relation to the Scottish referendum for independence.
As you will be aware the UK has signed and ratified the ICCPR, compelling it to agree to uphold the Covenant. However, in a number of instances leading up to the Scottish referendum, UK State parties seemed to renegade on the terms of the Covenant, in relation to the accepted procedure of how referenda campaigns should be carried out.
We would like to draw your attention to Article 25 of the ICCPR and section 19 in particular, of the Human Rights Committee, General Comment 25 (57), General Comments under article 40, paragraph 4, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted by the Committee at its 1510th meeting, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.7 (1996). I have copied below the relevant section 19 in General Comment 25 (57) mentioned above for your convenience:
“In conformity with paragraph (b), elections must be conducted fairly and freely on a periodic basis within a framework of laws guaranteeing the effective exercise of voting rights. Persons entitled to vote must be free to vote for any candidate for election and for or against any proposal submitted to referendum or plebiscite, and free to support or to oppose government, without undue influence or coercion of any kind which may distort or inhibit the free expression of the elector’s will. Voters should be able to form opinions independently, free of violence or threat of violence, compulsion, inducement or manipulative interference of any kind. Reasonable limitations on campaign expenditure may be justified where this is necessary to ensure that the free choice of voters is not undermined or the democratic process distorted by the disproportionate expenditure on behalf of any candidate or party. The results of genuine elections should be respected and implemented.”
In relation to section 19 in particular, there are a number of instances where State parties actively sought to manipulate and interfere with the freedom of voters to express their choice fairly under the democratic process. Specifically, and most significantly, these actions include:
1) The UK Government (although having stated the decision was for the Scottish people) solicited foreign governments and senior officials of International bodies such as NATO and the EU to attempt to influence the process
2) UK State parties actively solicited businesses i.e. Supermarkets and banks to influence the process.
3) Three UK political parties outlined additional powers (‘The Vow’) to voters after the electoral process had started i.e. after postal ballots had been cast.
All these steps taken by the UK government and the three political parties were obviously designed to ‘manipulate or influence’ the outcome – a clear violation of the HRC guidance.
These matters are well documented and on the public record. In our view these issues form the basis of a potential complaint and that is what I would like to do on behalf of the Celtic League as a registered NGO with Roster consultative status with the United Nations.
We look forward to hearing from you soon.
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ISSUED BY THE CELTIC LEAGUE INFORMATION SERVICE The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues.