JERSEY should avoid ‘cosying up’ to governments with ‘dodgy human-rights records’, a politician has warned after the External Relations Minister went on a five-day business trip to the Gulf states.
Reform Jersey leader Sam Mézec spoke after Deputy Philip Ozouf began a visit to Dubai, to participate in the 10th World Government Summit at the invitation of the UAE.
While in the region, Deputy Ozouf is also due to meet representatives from the State of Qatar and Kingdom of Bahrain to discuss relations between the countries and Jersey, and opportunities for future co-operation.
The visit comes just months after the controversial Qatar World Cup, where the country’s human-rights record, treatment of migrant workers and stance on homosexuality came under the global spotlight.
Deputy Ozouf recently agreed to pause an international agreement between the Island and the UAE until a Reform Jersey proposition is debated.
The proposal called for bilateral investment treaties to be considered and voted on by the States Assembly in future.
Speaking about Deputy Ozouf’s trip, Deputy Mézec said ministers should first establish a clear human rights stance before conducting such visits.
‘In our system, governments don’t really get elected with much of a clear platform about what they stand for.
‘Have the people of Jersey really voted for governments that cosy up with regimes with dodgy human rights records? I don’t think anyone has ever gone to the ballot box and gone “yes, I want us to cosy up to these people”,’ he added.
‘He [Deputy Ozouf] needs to be a lot more robust about what he’s personally doing about human rights engagement with these countries.
‘Whatever our engagement is with countries like that, we should not be taking part in positive publicity for them,’ he continued, arguing that this included pictures of ministers ‘shaking hands with people who have pretty dreadful [human rights] records’ and issuing press notices ‘saying what an honour it is to meet them’.
Deputy Moz Scott, who chairs the Economic and International Affairs Scrutiny Panel, said: ‘As a Deputy I do think one has to be mindful of dealing with certain jurisdictions, the extent to which they can assist the Island and their human rights records.’
In a statement, Deputy Ozouf said: ‘The summit is a significant gathering of international political leaders and global institutions and it is important that Jersey takes part in discussions that could shape our collective future.
‘With regards to Jersey’s position on human rights, a comprehensive discussion took place on 22 September 2022 during the in-committee debate in the States Assembly over the Common Policy for External Relations.’
He added that he would continue to ‘promote and respect human and labour rights throughout my external relations work’.
‘This week, these matters have been and will continue to be raised, in co-ordination with UK counterparts.
‘Jersey’s relationships with the Gulf States matter: many Jersey businesses are represented in the region and Jersey professionals provide world class services.
‘I believe that these strong relationships allow us to promote and protect Jersey’s values in an effective way.’