Investigating British Abuses of Human Rights in the Past

Authors

History is written by the victors and thus it is slanted. I am attempting to redress some of the perspectives on historical events. Britain has accused many nations of violations of Human Rights, but what is her historical record?

BRITAIN AND THE SLAVE TRADE

Early British slaving voyages

John Hawkins is considered to be the first English slave trader. He left England in 1562 on the first of three slaving voyages. In 1563 he sold slaves in St Domingo, his second voyage was in 1564 and his final, and disastrous voyage was in 1567.

At this time British interests lay with African produce rather than with the slave trade and between 1553 and 1660 numerous charters were granted to British merchants to establish settlements on the West Coast of Africa to supply goods such as ivory, gold, pepper, dyewood and indigo. There was much rivalry on the West Coast of Africa between other European powers, especially between Portugal, Holland, Denmark and Sweden; most companies sustained significant losses. This rivalry increased once plantation slavery was introduced in the Americas.

The origins and growth of slavery in British America

In the 1640s Dutch merchants introduced sugar to Barbados and showed Barbadian planters how to grow and process sugarcane. They brought with them the knowledge and technology they had learnt from Brazilian plantations which they seized from the Portuguese in 1630. The Dutch supplied Barbadian planters with Africans, introduced plantation slavery and sold the sugar in Holland.

Sugar was an important commodity and Barbados rapidly converted from an English style of agriculture with small farms growing crops, cotton and tobacco, to a few landowners who grew sugarcane and monopolised most of the land. Sugarcane required large numbers of labourers to grow, harvest and process, and initially the planters employed convict and indentured servants from Britain and a few African “servants”.

Convict labour did not meet the growing needs of the planters however whereas the supply of African labourers by the Dutch seemed inexhaustible. So began the English involvement in the triangular trade of enslaved Africans.

Soon Barbadians were employing large gangs of African slaves and passed many laws restricting the rights of these slaves, for example classifying slaves as property. Many of these laws were copied and adapted by Britain’s other American colonies.

The development of the trade

Portugal and Britain were the two most ‘successful’ slave-trading countries accounting for about 70% of all Africans transported to the Americas. Britain was the most dominant between 1640 and 1807 when the British slave trade was abolished. It is estimated that Britain transported 3.1 million Africans (of whom 2.7 million arrived) to the British colonies in the Caribbean, North and South America and to other countries.

The early African companies developed English trade and trade routes in the 16th and 17th centuries, but it was not until the opening up of Africa and the slave trade to all English merchants in 1698 that Britain began to become dominant.

The slave trade was carried out from many British ports, but the three most important ports were London (1660-1720s), Bristol (1720s-1740s) and Liverpool (1740s-1807), which became extremely wealthy. Under the1799 Slave Trade Act, the slave trade was restricted to these three ports.

Later African companies

As the British American colonies demanded African slaves, the role of the African companies changed to supply them. From 1660, the British Crown passed various acts and granted charters to enable companies to settle, administer and exploit British interests on the West Coast of Africa and to supply slaves to the American colonies.

The African companies were granted a monopoly to trade in slaves. This monopoly was criticised by other traders, and planters complained about restricted rights, limited supplies and high prices. This encouraged illegal traders (commonly called interlopers), many of whom were from other nations, especially the Dutch. Opposition from planters, traders and manufacturers was so strong that in 1698 the monopoly was removed.

Intense rivalry, illegal traders and the loss of monopoly meant that the African settlements were not as successful as they could be. The British government intervened on several occasions to grant new charters, pass acts to improve trade, subsidise the company and eventually take over the settlements.

In addition to the African companies, other companies set up under Royal charters were involved in the slave trade. For example, the East India Company was involved in the East African slave trade but also collected slaves from the West Coast of Africa for its settlements in South and East Africa and in India and Asia.

Abolition of the British transatlantic slave trade

The abolition of the British slave trade did not only affect the trade in British and colonial based vessels, but also the supplying and fitting of vessels by British workers

for the slave trade, the manning of slaving ships by British sailors, and the insuring of slaving vessels.

Ships, which had lawfully been cleared to leave British ports before 1 May 1807, could trade until 1 March 1808. According to The trans-Atlantic slave trade database, 34 ships left Britain on or after 1 May 1807 by which it is assumed that the ships had to have received their passes for clearance before 1 May, but had to leave with sufficient time in order to trade and deliver their slaves before 1 March 1808.

The Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, along with subsequent Acts tightening up the provisions for monitoring and suppressing the trade and international treaties with European and American countries, gave Britain the role of international policeman. Following the passing of the Act, British naval squadrons were set up to patrol the coast of West Africa and the Caribbean looking out for illegal slavers. The Navy also encouraged exploration of the coastal rivers and waterways, bombarded slaving settlements, made treaties with friendly African groups and encouraged other forms of trade such as in palm oil. Britain’s diplomatic role led to treaties with slave owning and slave trading countries (such as Spain, the Netherlands and Portugal) if not to stop the slave trade at least to manage it better.

This led to the gradual suppression of the slave trade and slavery throughout the Americas and to a lesser extent in Africa, the Middle East, India and the Far East. [1]

UN HUMAN RIGHTS – VIOLATIONS With Slave Trade

ARTICLE 4 — NO SLAVERY

“No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.” [2]

British Opium Trade in the East

Opium Wars, two armed conflicts in China in the mid-19th century between the forces of Western countries and of the Qing dynasty, which ruled China from 1644 to 1911/12. The first Opium War (1839–42) was fought between China and Britain, and the second Opium War (1856–60), also known as the Arrow War or the Anglo-French War in China, was fought by Britain and France against China. In each case the foreign powers were victorious and gained commercial privileges and legal and territorial concessions in China. The conflicts marked the start of the era of unequal treaties and other inroads on Qing sovereignty that helped weaken and ultimately topple the dynasty in favour of republican China in the early 20th century.

The First Opium War

The Opium Wars arose from China’s attempts to suppress the opium trade. Foreign traders (primarily British) had been illegally exporting opium mainly from India to China since the 18th century, but that trade grew dramatically from about 1820. The resulting widespread addiction in China was causing serious social and economic disruption there. In March 1839 the Chinese government confiscated and destroyed more than 20,000 chests of opium—some 1,400 tons of the drug—that were warehoused at Canton (Guangzhou) by British merchants. The antagonism between the two sides increased a few days later when some drunken British sailors killed a Chinese villager. The British government, which did not wish its subjects to be tried in the Chinese legal system, refused to turn the accused men over to the Chinese courts.Hostilities broke out several months later when British warships destroyed a Chinese blockade of the Pearl River (Zhu Jiang) estuary at Hong Kong. The British government decided in early 1840 to send an expeditionary force to China, which arrived at Hong Kong in June. The British fleet proceeded up the Pearl River estuary to Canton, and, after months of negotiations there, attacked and occupied the city in May 1841. Subsequent British campaigns over the next year were likewise successful against the inferior Qing forces, despite a determined counterattack by Chinese troops in the spring of 1842. The British held against that offensive, however, and captured Nanjing (Nanking) in late August, which put an end to the fighting.

Peace negotiations proceeded quickly, resulting in the Treaty of Nanjing, signed on August 29. By its provisions, China was required to pay Britain a large indemnity, cede Hong Kong Island to the British, and increase the number of treaty ports where the British could trade and reside from one (Canton) to five. Among the four additional designated ports was Shanghai, and the new access to foreigners there marked the beginning of the city’s transformation into one of China’s major commercial entrepôts. The British Supplementary Treaty of the Bogue (Humen), signed October 8, 1843, gave British citizens extraterritoriality (the right to be tried by British courts) and most-favoured-nation status (Britain was granted any rights in China that might be granted to other foreign countries). Other Western countries quickly demanded and were given similar privileges.

The second Opium War

In the mid-1850s, while the Qing government was embroiled in trying to quell the Taiping Rebellion (1850–64), the British, seeking to extend their trading rights in China, found an excuse to renew hostilities. In early October 1856 some Chinese officials boarded the British-registered ship Arrow while it was docked in Canton, arrested several Chinese crew members (who were later released), and allegedly lowered the British flag. Later that month a British warship sailed up the Pearl River estuary and began bombarding Canton, and there were skirmishes between British and Chinese troops. Trading ceased as a stalemate ensued. In December Chinese in Canton burned foreign factories (trading warehouses) there, and tensions escalated.

The French decided to join the British military expedition, using as their excuse the murder of a French missionary in the interior of China in early 1856. After delays in assembling the forces in China (British troops that were en route were first diverted to India to help quell the Indian Mutiny), the allies began military operations in late 1857. They quickly captured Canton, deposed the city’s intransigent governor, and installed a more-compliant official. In April 1858 allied troops in British warships reached Tianjin (Tientsin) and forced the Chinese into negotiations. The treaties of Tianjin, signed in June 1858, provided residence in Beijing for foreign envoys, the opening of several new ports to Western trade and residence, the right of foreign travel in the interior of China, and freedom of movement for Christian missionaries. In further negotiations in Shanghai later in the year, the importation of opium was legalized.

The British withdrew from Tianjin in the summer of 1858, but they returned to the area in June 1859 (en route to Beijing to sign the treaties) and were shelled by the Chinese from shore batteries at Dagu at the mouth of the Hai River and driven back with heavy casualties. The Chinese subsequently refused to ratify the treaties, and the allies resumed hostilities. In August 1860 a considerably larger force of warships and British and French troops destroyed the Dagu batteries, proceeded upriver to Tianjin, and, in September, captured Beijing and plundered and then burned the Yuanming Garden, the emperor’s summer palace. Later that year the Chinese signed the Beijing Convention, in which they agreed to observe the treaties of Tianjin and also ceded to the British the southern portion of the Kowloon Peninsula adjacent to Hong Kong. [3]

Comments: The defying of the Emperor’s demands that the importing of opium into his Kingdom was illegal was a clear violation of the Chinese Nation’s Sovereign Roghts and also the Human Rights of her citizens. But using “gunboat diplomacy’ Britain continued to force Opium imports into China be the thousands of tons, enslaving millions of citizens to opium addiction and early death. Britain was a Drug Mafia in Asia. Britain clearly violated all decency and broke Human Rights using gunboats to force Opium on to the citizens. Yet David Cameron was so insensitive as to wear the poppy on his visit to China and refused to remove it when requested to do so. It shows his lack of historical knowledge.

Prince Charles, in his ignorance, refused to attend the Queen’s Banquet to President Xi because of his support of the Dalai Lama, a Tibetan priest who has subjugated 97% of his population to slavery and serfdom. The Dalai Lama was a totalitarian theocratic ruler and subjugated his people to the most repressive of regimes. These serfs and slaves were freed by the Government of China and the Dalai Lam fled and deserted his people in Tibet. But Prince Charles still supports this totalitarian Buddhist priest.

10 Evil Crimes Of The British Empire

MORRIS M. FEBRUARY 4, 2014

At its height, the British Empire was the largest to have ever existed. Aside from covering most of the globe, it was responsible for some of the greatest advances in engineering, art, and medicine that the world will ever know. The Empire gave us steam engines, penicillin, radar, and even television.

However, life under the British wasn’t all just incredible inventions. Alongside the good stuff the Empire did sat a whole ream of not-so-good stuff, and alongside that a whole load of other stuff so evil it’d make Dick Dastardly balk.

10The Boer Concentration Camps

We all now know about the horrors of concentration camps, but during the time of Boer Wars, rounding up tens of thousands of innocent people and detaining them in camps seemed like a stroke of genius. The British needed the South African populace under control and had the means and manpower to detain them. What could possibly go wrong?

Try just about everything. Pitched under the white hot African sun and crawling with flies, the camps were overcrowded, underequipped, and lethally prone to disease outbreaks. Food supplies were virtually non-existent, and the callous guards would dock people’s meager rations for the slightest perceived offense. The result: sickness and death spread like wildfire, killing women by the thousands and children by the tens of thousands. In a single year, 10 percent of the entire Boer population died in the British camps—a figure that gets even worse when you realize it includes 22,000 children.

But the atrocity didn’t stop there. While rounding up the Boers, the British also decided to detain any black Africans they encountered, 20,000 of whom were worked to death in slave labor camps. All told, British policy in the war killed 48,000 civilians. That’s 18,000 more than the number of soldiers lost on both sides.

NB: Clearly a breach of Human Rights.

9Aden’s Torture Centers

The Aden Emergency was a 1960s scramble to control the once-vital port of Aden in modern Yemen. Although the port had long been under British rule, a nationalist wave sweeping Yemen led to strikes, riots, and a general desire that the Brits leave as soon as possible. A desire the British decided to quell by opening torture centers.

Harsh and brutal, these centers housed the sort of horrors that would make Kim Jong-Un feel ill. Detainees were stripped naked and kept in refrigerated cells, encouraging frostbite and pneumonia. Guards would stub their cigarettes out on prisoner’s skin and beatings were common. But perhaps worst of all was the sexual humiliation. Locals who had been detained could expect to have their genitals crushed by guards’ hands, or to be forced to sit naked on a metal pole; their weight forcing it into their anus.

By 1966, an Amnesty report on these abuses had caused global outrage. Faced with international condemnation, the British apologized. They then kept right on using the torture centers for another full year.

NB: A clear breach of Human Rights.

8The Chinese “Resettlement

In 1950, the Empire had a problem. Armed Communist insurgents were trying to take over Malay and most of the population seemed willing to let them do so. Reasoning that their forces stood no chance against a hidden army that could call upon the peasants for supplies, the British hit upon an ingenious solution. Rather than fight, they’d simply imprison all the peasants.

Known as “New Villages,” the camps constructed to house Malay’s poor were heavily fortified and watched over by trigger-happy guards. Inmates were forced to do hard labor in return for scraps of food, and contact with the outside world—including family—was forbidden. Once in a village, you lost all right to freedom and privacy. At night, harsh floodlights flushed out the shadows to stop clandestine meetings. Expressing any political sentiment could get your rations docked.

But perhaps most uncomfortable of all was the racist nature of the camps. Of the 500,000 people detained during the decade-long Emergency, only a handful were anything other than ethnic Chinese. Outside the barbed wire walls, another half a million Chinese were meanwhile being deported, sent into exile, or forced from their homes. In short. it was a racist policy that harmed nearly a million people, all so the British could cut off supplies to a handful of rebels.

NB: A Breach of Human Rights.

7The Amritsar Massacre

On April 13, 1919, thousands of peaceful protesters defied a government order and demonstrated against British rule in Amritsar, India. Men, women, and children all descended on the walled Jallianwala Gardens, hoping to make their voices heard. What happened next was one of the lowest points in British history.

At 4.30pm, troops blocked the exits to the Garden and opened fire on the crowd. They kept firing until they ran out of ammunition. In the space of ten minutes, they killed between 379 and 1,000 protesters and injured another 1,100. A stampede caused a lethal crush by the blocked exits. Over 100 women and children who looked for safety in a well drowned. Rifle fire tore the rest to shreds.

When the news reached London, Parliament was so shocked it recalled the man who ordered the massacre, Brigadier Reginald Dyer. In a depressing twist of fate, the British public labeled him a hero and raised £26,000 (around $900,000 in today’s money) for “the man who saved India.” He died peacefully, convinced right to the end that his mindless slaughter had been morally justifiable.

NB: A breach of Human Rights.

6The Cyprus Internment

The big myth of the British Empire is that it nobly withdrew from its colonies when it realized the days of Imperialism were over. Yet one look at Cyprus proves the myth to be just a feel-good fairy tale. Between 1955 and 1959, the British responded to a Cyrpus rebel bombing campaign by rounding up and torturing 3,000 ordinary Cypriots.

The victims of this internment campaign were often held for years without trial and violently abused for being “suspected” terrorists. Detainees received regular beatings, waterboarding, and summary executions. Children as young as 15 had burning hot peppers rubbed in their eyeballs, while others reported being flogged with whips embedded with shards of iron. Those found guilty of rebel sympathies were relocated to London, where a UK opposition party inspection found inmates with their arms broken and jagged scars running across their necks. In short, it was an appallingly sadistic policy, one that showed the British to be even lower than the terrorists they were meant to be fighting.

NB: A breach of Human Rights.

5Crushing The Iraqi Revolution

In 1920, the newly-formed nation of Iraq was tiring of British rule. Charged with guiding the new state towards independence, the Empire had instead installed puppet leaders. turning the place into a de facto colony. Fed up with their imperial overlords, the Iraqis turned to revolution, only for the British to unleash wave after wave of atrocities against them.

First the RAF conducted nighttime bombing raids on civilian targets. Then they deployed chemical weapons against the fighters, gassing whole groups of them. But the real horrors came in the aftermath, when the victorious British decided to use collective punishment against the offending tribes.

From that point on, any tribe that caused a fuss would have one of its villages randomly annihilated. Specific orders were given to exterminate every living thingwithin its walls, from animals to rebels to children. Other villages were subject to random searches. If the British found a single weapon, they would burn the place to the ground, destroy the crops, poison wells, and kill livestock. They’d sometimes target weddings to terrorize the population. In short, the British deliberately targeted civilians in a campaign that lasted the better part of half a decade, all because a few Iraqis had dared to ask for their country back.

NB: A Breach of Human Rights.

4The Partitioning Of India

As a servant of the British Empire in 1947, Cyril Radcliffe has the distinction of killing more people with the stroke of a pen than anyone else in history. With almost zero time to prepare himself, Radcliffe was tasked with drawing the border between India and newly-created Pakistan that would split the subcontinent forever along religious lines. It was a tricky task, one that had the potential to cause massive displacement and ethnic violence even if handled carefully. Radcliffe, on the other hand, was asked to make some of the most-important decisions during the course of a single lunch.

The result was a border that made no ethnic or geographical sense. Terrified of being caught on the wrong side, Hindus in modern Pakistan and Muslims in modern India upped sticks and ran. The result was 30 million people trying desperately to escape one country or the other, a situation that quickly spiraled into mind-numbing violence.

Gangs of armed Muslims held up border trains and slaughtered any non-Muslims onboard. Hindu mobs chased and battered Muslim children to death in broad daylight. Houses were ransacked, villages burnt, and half a million people killed. It was a ridiculous waste of life, one that could have been largely avoided simply by giving the unfortunate Cyril Radcliffe enough time to do his job properly.

NB: Through lack of understand the culture of Islam and Hinduism, millions of lives were lost due to British incompetence and indifference. A breach of Human Rights.

3Exacerbating The Irish Famine

If you want to see why large parts of Ireland still despise anything remotely British, look no further than the Irish Famine. What started out as an ordinary if brutal famine soon became something more like genocide when London sent the psychopathic Charles Trevelyan to oversee relief work.

A proud Christian who believed the famine was God’s way of punishing the “lazy” Irish, Trevelyan was also a fierce devotee of Adam Smith. How fierce? Well, he passionately felt that government should never, ever interfere with market forces, to the extent that he refused to hand out food to the starving Irish. Instead, he instituted a public works program that forced dying people into hard labor building pointless roads so they could afford to buy grain. The only problem was he refused to control the price of grain, with the result that it skyrocketed beyond what the road builders could afford. Trevelyan thought this would encourage cheap imports. Instead it led to a million people starving to death.

To cap it all off, Trevelyan also launched a PR blitz in Britain that encouraged people to blame the Irish for their own poverty. Suddenly Irish emigrants looking for work found themselves unemployable and subject to violence, even as their friends and families starved to death back home. Because fate laughs in the face of justice, Trevelyan was later officially honored for his “relief work.”

NB: A breach of Human Rights.

2The Kenyan Camps

In the 1950s, the people of Kenya decided they wanted their nation back. Unfortunately, the people they wanted it back from just happened to be the same guys responsible for every other atrocity on this list. Fearing a countrywide rebellion, the British rounded up 1.5 million people and placed them in concentration camps. What happened in these camps will turn your stomach.

Under slogans like “labor and freedom” and other variations on ” Arbeit macht frei,” inmates were worked to death as slave labor filling in mass graves. Random executions were not-uncommon and the use of torture was widespread. Men were anally raped with knives. Women had their breasts mutilated and cut off. Eyes were gouged out and ears cut off and skin lacerated with coiled barbed wire. People were castrated with pliers then sodomized by guards. Interrogation involved stuffing a detainee’s mouth with mud and stamping on his throat until he passed out or died. Survivors were sometimes burned alive.

The official body count is under 2,000, but more reliable estimates place the total dead in the tens or hundreds of thousands. Most of them were civilians or children, detained on vague, trumped-up charges of aiding the rebels. And it was all for nothing. Kenya was declared independent in 1963. In using those camps, the British lost both their African outpost and their souls.

NB: A breach of Human Rights.

1The Bengal Famine

In 1943, a deadly famine swept the Bengal region of modern East India and Bangladesh. Between one and three million people died in a tragedy that was completely preventable. At the time, the extent of suffering was put down to an incompetent British government too busy dealing with a war to look after its empire properly. But in 2010 a new book came out claiming the lack of famine relief was deliberate and that the deaths of those millions had been intentionally engineered by one man: Winston Churchill.

According to the book, Churchill refused to divert supplies away from already well-supplied British troops, saying the war effort wouldn’t allow it. This in itself wouldn’t be too damning, but at the same time he allegedly blocked American and Canadian ships from delivering aid to India either. Nor would he allow the Indians to help themselves: the colonial government forbade the country from using its own ships or currency reserves to help the starving masses. Meanwhile, London pushed up the price of grain with hugely inflated purchases, making it unaffordable for the dying and destitute. Most-chillingly of all, when the government of Delhi telegrammed to tell him people were dying, Churchill allegedly only replied to ask why Gandhi hadn’t died yet.

If all this is true—and documents support it—then Winston Churchill, the British war hero who stood up to the Nazis, may well have starved to death as many innocent people as Stalin did in the Ukrainian genocide. Could the man who held out against Hitler really be capable of such an atrocity? Judging by the rest of this list, it wouldn’t be surprising. [4]

NB: A breach of Human Rights.

Comments:

Although suppressed and almost forgotten and politely unmentioned, British history is not without its skeletons in the closet. Yet Britain shamelessly shakes her finger at others who have committed less heinous crimes. I simply want to point out the hypocrisy that is being practiced and the lack of knowledge of the British people of their own history.

Reference

[1] British Slave Trade: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/slavery/pdf/britain-and-the-trade.pdf

[2] Human Rights: http://www.humanrights.com/voices-for-human-rights/human-rights-organizations.html

[3] Opium Wars: http://www.britannica.com/topic/Opium-Wars

[4] Crimes of the British Empire: http://listverse.com/2014/02/04/10-evil-crimes-of-the-british-empire/

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