William Hague: ‘Britain must stick to its values and not retreat on issues like gay rights in Russia’

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Foreign Secretary William Hague has spoken out against anti-gay laws in Russia to say that Britain’s foreign policy must have “a conscience”, and that it is in the nature of Britain to “stand up for human rights overseas.”

The interview with the Evening Standard comes a day after it was confirmed that David Cameron will raise the issue of the Russian law banning the promotion of “non-traditional relationships”, with Russian President Vladimir Putin, when he travels to St Petersburg for the G20 this week.

Mr Hague said that Britain had “moved the dial”, on other human rights issues such as sexual violence in conflict areas, and on Russia, said: “It is important to us. Britain cannot have a foreign policy without a conscience and I don’t believe it is ultimately in the nature of British people to act without a conscience. I wrote a book about William Wilberforce and the abolition of the slave trade, which was not in the self-interest of Britain, but was right.”

He continued: “Britain is most comfortable with itself when we are saving lives, standing up for human rights overseas. So we should do that in conversation with Russia and other countries. It would say something terrible about Britain if we were reluctant to do that. We are one of the world’s oldest democracies. We are clear about our values. We must not retreat.”

President Vladimir Putin signed the law in June banning the promotion of “non-traditional relationships” toward minors, a move that has been criticised as part of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community. Other laws banning the adoption of Russian children by foreign same-sex couples, and one which enables organisations receiving funding from abroad to be fined as “foreign agents”, were also passed.

President Barack Obama is also reportedly to meet LGBT activists in the Russian city of St Petersburg during his trip to the city as part of a G20 Heads of Government meeting. BuzzFeed made the claim citing Russian LGBT activists.

Protests have taken place around the globe, including in London, as well as in Germany and Denmark, in an attempt to push G20 Government leaders to take action against anti-gay laws in Russia.

Cameron’s commitment came just hours ahead of the “Love Russia, Hate Homophobia” rally at Downing Street yesterday. Along with 32 other cities across the world, the London protest calls on world leaders at the G20 summit to condemn Russia’s anti-gay laws.

Peter Tatchell, director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, and co-organiser of yesterday’s London protest, said: “While we welcome David Cameron’s commitment to raise LGBT rights with President Putin, we also want him to put the issue on the G20 summit agenda.

“The most effective reproach to Putin would be for the other world leaders at G20 to pledge their joint commitment to LGBT rights.

“Today’s protest will let Putin know that London deplores his homophobia and demands the repeal of anti-gay legislation. We will also send a signal to Russian LGBT people that we stand with them in solidarity,” said Mr Tatchell.

Out4Russia, launched last week and allows users to lobby G20 governments into action against the Russian law.