Gay MEP Michael Cashman has defended Labour’s record on gay rights abroad, saying that the party remains “concerned” about the situation for LGBT people in Iraq.
This week, gay asylum campaigner Paul Canning accused the party of “shunning” gay Iraqi asylum seekers and failing to mention the country in its international gay manifesto.
His comments coincided with an Amnesty International report which accused the UK of breaking international laws on returning vulnerable asylum seekers, including gays, to dangerous parts of Iraq.
Amnesty accused the UK, along with several other countries, of forcibly returning “scores” of Iraqis to dangerous areas in the country, despite reports of gay men being targeted by militias.
Mr Canning, writing for PinkNews.co.uk, also claimed Labour had created a “pogrom” situation for gays in Iraq.
He wrote: “Saddam wasn’t systematically hunting people down because they were lesbian, gay or transgender. That started after the invasion.”
Today, Mr Cashman pointed to Labour’s record on the issue and said the party was continuing to work with groups such as Iraqi LGBT.
He told PinkNews.co.uk: “No British government has done more to tackle discrimination and promote equal rights for LGBT people than this Labour government.
“We are proud to support the campaign within the UN for the universal decriminalisation of homosexuality. It is abhorrent that countries exist which consider it a crime punishable by death.
“Labour’s LGBT International Manifesto has been criticised for not mentioning Iraq. Let’s be clear about this – homophobia exists in every society and every state. There is no fixed list of ‘homophobia free’ states. The manifesto mentions a number of states for which there are particular concerns. That does not mean that there are no concerns elsewhere.
“We remain concerned about the situation in Iraq. That is why we continue to make representations on behalf of individuals like Mr Ali Hili who, as founder of Iraqi LGBT, has worked with the Foreign Office and campaigns against LGBT persecution in Iraq.
“No civilised society condones or supports discrimination and, while it continues to exist, it is right to that we should all remain impatient and be critical of states and institutions that do nothing to address it.
“But the fact remains that this Labour government has led international efforts to tackle discrimination and promote equal rights. Labour is also at the forefront in Europe, not only shaping the EU institutions but shaping attitudes as well.”
Mr Cashman added: “It is a regrettable that some people appear to be critical of Labour for producing an International LGBT Manifesto. Perhaps they should be asking why other parties have not published one.”