New data reveals West Northants Council has £28million invested in human rights abusing countries
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New data has revealed West Northants Council (WNC) has £28million invested in human rights abusing countries such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar and Kuwait.
A freedom of information (FOI) request submitted by this newspaper shows that WNC has investments in First Abu Dhabi Bank, National Bank of Kuwait and, as previously reported, the Qatar National Bank.
Council leader Jonathan Nunn said at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday night (December 20) that the issue with Qatari investment 'only cropped up because of the football [World Cup]’.
Councillor Nunn said: "Our racing teams, many who are based locally, go off to Qatar and don't take criticism. I think we've got to be really careful, given that the investment money pays for services, to allow staff to have kneejerk reactions on policy we've set. But I'm all up for reviewing it."
The FOI data shows WNC has £10million invested in First Abu Dhabi Bank via two £5million investments, which mature in February and March 2023.
Here's what Amnesty International, the world's largest grassroots human rights organisation, says about the UAE, where Abu Dhabi is based.
"The [UAE] government continued to commit serious human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, cruel and inhuman treatment of detainees, suppression of freedom of expression, and violation of the right to privacy. The right to health was partially fulfilled. The UAE continued to deprive stateless individuals of the right to nationality, impacting their access to a range of services. Courts passed death sentences and executions were reported."
WNC also has £10million invested in the National Bank of Kuwait via two £5million deposits, which are set to mature in February and May 2023.
Here's what Amnesty International say about Kuwait: "The authorities detained and prosecuted government critics under legal provisions criminalizing speech deemed offensive to the head of state. Members of the stateless Bidun minority continued to face discrimination. Courts continued to hand down death sentences; no executions were reported."
A freedom of information investigation by the Guardian newspaper revealed that WNC has this year invested a combined total of £21 million of taxpayers' money into the Qatar National Bank. WNC currently has £8million still invested in Qatar, which will mature in January and February.
Here's what Amnesty International says about World Cup hosts Qatar: "Curtailment of freedom of expression increased in the run-up to FIFA World Cup 2022. Women and LGBTI people continue to face discrimination in law and practice. The death penalty remains retained in law. Despite government reforms, migrant workers continue to face labour abuses and struggle to change jobs freely."
Opposition councillor Jonathan Harris (Brixworth) says he would like to see a move to 'socially responsible investment'.
The Liberal Democrat councillor said: "We have already raised concerns about the Qatar investments but there also human right issues with Abu Dhabi in a similar vein to Qatar, including freedom of expression, arbitrary arrests, migrant workers, climate change policies and impacts, women’s rights and sexual orientation and gender identity.
"We want to see socially responsible investment being the key determining factor in treasury investment decisions, not just those stated.”
Councillor Malcolm Longley, WNC's cabinet member for finance, confirmed the council will review its investments when they have all matured.
Councillor Longley added: “No previous concerns regarding countries with poor human rights track records were raised by opposition councillors when the full council meeting approved the investment policy earlier this year, or, so far, by the scrutiny committee where a specific ‘task and finish’ group to consider treasury management was set up."