Liz Truss accused of delaying human rights report over criticism of Rwanda | Liz Truss

Liz Truss has been accused of holding up publication of the Foreign Office’s annual human rights report because it is likely to contain criticisms of Rwanda’s human rights record.

This year’s version of the annual assessment of how the UK views other countries’ rights records was due before the parliamentary summer recess, and is now the most delayed since the review was launched by the then foreign secretary Robin Cook 21 years ago.

Critics said the impasse could be an attempt to quash criticism of Rwanda, to which the government wants to deport migrants and asylum seekers, or because Truss is focused on the Conservative leadership race, where she is the clear favourite over Rishi Sunak.

Sunak insisted on Thursday he still has “a shot of being prime minister”, despite a new poll saying Truss has a 32-point lead as the contest enters its final fortnight.

The YouGov poll, with Sky News, found Truss had 66% of members backing her, with 34% backing Sunak, excluding don’t knows.

The former chancellor sought to reinvigorate his campaign with another flurry of policy announcements, centred around a plan to improve NHS dental services, including a programme of “early intervention” checkups in primary schools.

During the leadership contest, Truss has said she supports and would extend the controversial Rwanda policy.

Court papers arising from proceedings to block the plan have showed that the UK’s high commissioner to Rwanda warned against scheme because the nation “has been accused of recruiting refugees to conduct armed operations in neighbouring countries”.

The delayed Foreign Office rights report would be expected to include further criticism of Rwanda. The last edition, published in July 2021, said that “critical voices continued to face heavy restrictions” in the country. It also condemned the death in police custody of a reconciliation activist, Kizito Mihigo.

There were regular case studies on Rwanda in all the reports from 2011 to 2014, with criticism of abuses and restrictions.

Lord Wood of Anfield, a Labour peer and member of the Lords international relations committee said: “At best, this is another example of how the business of government has ground to a halt while Liz Truss is engaged in her acrimonious contest with Rishi Sunak. At worst, I suspect it is a cynical attempt by the foreign secretary to delay scrutiny over what the report says about Rwanda. Either way, there is no good reason for this unprecedented delay.”

In July, the Foreign Office told the Labour MP Tulip Siddiq that the report covering global human rights in 2021 would be published before the start of the recess.

The report, reflecting the UK view of human rights reports in the previous calendar year, has normally been published between March and June. Under Labour it was occasionally published even earlier, at the close of the year it covered. On Thursday night, a spokesperson for the Foreign Office said: “We will publish the annual human rights and democracy report in due course.”

Interviewed on Thursday on ITV’s This Morning, Sunak said he “definitely” had a chance of winning the contest, despite Truss’s poll leads.

Unlike Sunak, Truss has generally avoided longer-form TV interviews during the campaign. This Morning co-host Rochelle Humes said the programme had “reached out” to Truss, but without success.

Truss has now agreed to be interviewed by Nick Robinson on BBC1, the corporation said. However, this will happen on 30 August, just three days before the close of voting.

Ahead of Friday’s ninth hustings event in Manchester, Truss’s campaign confined itself to a brief announcement about a “vision for the north-west”, which largely rehashed existing policies such as better rail links and more devolution.

In contrast, Sunak sought to tackle the crisis of access to NHS dentists, in an announcement referencing a recent BBC investigation which found that 90% of NHS dental practices are not accepting new patients.

As well as a pilot scheme for dental checkups inside primary schools, Sunak said he would ringfence funding for dentistry within the NHS, with a requirement for health commissioners to show they are providing wider access to dentists, using mobile clinics if needed.

Sunak also pledged to reform NHS contracts for dental work to try to stop so many dentists moving to private-only work, make it easier for overseas dentists to register for NHS work, and allow staff such as dental nurses and hygienists to do more work on routine treatments.

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