May 20, 2019 / 4:40 PM / 8 months ago

UK appoints first international human rights ambassador

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain appointed its first international ambassador for human rights on Monday to support its work in the United Nations and promote its campaigns around the world.

Rita French will be based in Geneva and will focus on issues including modern slavery, media freedom and rights of religious expression, the government said.

“Ambassador French’s new role will be central to our work in defending human rights across the globe,” said Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in a statement.

“Standing up for human rights is not only the right thing - it helps to create a stable, more prosperous world.”

French, an economist, first worked for the government advising on tax. She served as a senior aide to Hunt during his time as culture minister, overseeing the organization of the 2012 Olympics.

Human rights groups welcomed the announcement but urged Britain to scrutinize its own record.

“The appointment of Ambassador French is an encouraging one, especially if it helps make the UK’s human rights work more principled, consistent and robust,” said Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK.

She said French would face “an immediate test” in how Britain responded to current human rights violations in countries including China and Saudi Arabia.

French will support the UK’s permanent representative in Geneva, Julian Braithwaite, and will act as the deputy permanent Representative to the U.N.

She will also work with individual countries to help them meet their human rights commitments.

Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org

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