The Personal Touch: How Britain’s Values-based Diplomacy Can Champion Dissidents Around the World

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The Personal Touch: How Britain’s Values-based Diplomacy Can Champion Dissidents Around the World

5th July 2022 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

The British Government has prioritised support for human rights and the rules-based international system. This recognition of the importance of values at the centre of foreign policy is being stress-tested by the actions of unscrupulous and autocratic governments overseas, who are increasingly resorting to mass repression and the flouting of international law to secure their objectives, whether it is invading Ukraine in the case of Russia or the crushing of freedom in Hong Kong by China.

In response to the new threats to liberty comes a new generation of dissidents. They acknowledge the risks of opposition but use modern communication to speak to their countries and openly oppose the strictures of the regimes that seek to crush them. But dissidents like Alexei Navalny, Vladimir Kara-Murza, Rahima Mahmut, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and Nathan Law – some in jail and some exiled – need our help. These brave campaigners deserve our endorsement of their struggle, as well as an international platform that highlights their message back home and acts as a powerful rebuke to those who wish to silence them.

The FCDO’s “Human Rights & Democracy” progress report gives a thorough account of the country’s commitment to the national and multi-lateral machinery of human rights, and an assessment of progress in the 31 “human rights priority countries”. But is this rhetorical and procedural commitment enough?

In the past, leaders like President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher put human rights on the table in their engagement with autocrats, even though it was uncomfortable, and used their official office to give platform and endorsement for freedom-fighters around the world. This made a big difference. We need to relearn these skills for the modern era.

By kind invitation of Lord Bethell, the Henry Jackson Society is pleased to invite you to this event, where the speakers will be unpicking the complexities of an emotionally-engaged government commitment to championing human rights on the world stage, and making nuanced recommendations that benefit the long-term national interests of the country. The event will also launch a policy report on the same subject for further consideration.



Lord Bethell is a British parliamentarian with a strong history of support for those fighting oppression. He has worked in the US Senate, the European Commission, as a supporter of the Conservative Party and for UK thinktanks. He served as Minister for Health during the pandemic and as a Whip in the House of Lords. He is a member of IPAC and the Conservative Research Group on China.



Bill Browder was the largest foreign investor in Russia until 2005, when he was denied entry to the country and declared “a threat to national security” for exposing corruption in Russian state-owned companies. In 2008, Mr. Browder’s lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, uncovered a massive fraud committed by Russian government officials that involved the theft of US $230 million of state taxes. Sergei testified against state officials involved in this fraud and was subsequently arrested, imprisoned without trial and systematically tortured. He spent a year in prison under horrific detention conditions, was repeatedly denied medical treatment, and died in prison on November 16, 2009, leaving behind a wife and two children. Since then, Mr. Browder has sought justice outside of Russia and started a global campaign for governments around the world to impose targeted visa bans and asset freezes on human rights abusers and highly corrupt officials.



Benedict Rogers is a British human rights activist and journalist based in London. He is a member of the advisory group of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) and an advisor to the World Uyghur Congress. Benedict is also the Chief Executive of Hong Kong Watch and Senior Analyst for East Asia at Christian Solidarity Worldwide. He regularly briefs senior Government ministers and officials, UK members of parliament, the European Union, United Nations officials, US Congressional offices and the State Department on human rights and freedom of religion in Asia. Benedict has also testified in hearings at the House of Commons, the European Parliament, the National Diet of Japan and the United States Congress. He is a regular contributor to international media, including The Wall Street JournalInternational Herald Tribune, and The Huffington Post.



Katherine Thompson is a Research Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society. Prior to joining HJS, Katherine served as the lead policy staffer on national security for U.S. Senator Mike Lee. In her role, Katherine advised Senator Lee on matters relating to foreign policy, national defense, and intelligence. She has also previously worked for the Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C. as Assistant to the Vice President of Policy Promotion, working to bring public policy research to Congress, the Executive Branch, coalition allies, and young leaders. Katherine holds a Bachelor of Arts in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from the King’s College NYC.





The Henry Jackson Society was pleased to launch a report on what the UK can do to help dissidents worldwide. The report was authored by Lord Bethell and Dr Helena Ivanov. Dr Alan Mendoza began the discussion by introducing the speakers and the topic of the conversation. Benedict Rogers mentioned the time he had spent in Hong Kong, as well as his subsequent banning from entry. He spoke about the unwillingness of states to meet with figures such as the Dalai Lama for fear of backlash from China and how such approaches need to change. Bill Brower spoke about his personal experience as a dissident, and how the arrest and subsequent murder of his lawyer Sergei Magnitsky spurred him to become an activist for the rights of dissidents everywhere. This story was juxtaposed by his account of reluctance from the UK and US governments in helping his cause. Lord Bethell concluded the discussion by insisting that the UK, as a reliable partner to those who uphold human rights and democracy, should continue supporting democratic values around the world. All speakers answered a series of questions on realpolitik, economic sanctions and government rhetoric.




Committee Room 3A, House of Lords
London, SW1A 0AA United Kingdom
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Lord Bethell, Bill Browder, Benedict Rogers, Katherine Thompson


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