Examination of Witnesses (Questions 738
THURSDAY 25 NOVEMBER 1999
HAIN MP, MS
738. I think we have to get on straightaway
with our discussions this morning because I believe, Minister,
you have to leave at 12.15. Is that right?
(Mr Hain) Chairman, I would not want
to prevent you grilling me because of that target but if that
were convenient that would be ideal.
739. We do not wish to grill you; we just wish
to know what you are doing. Can I formally welcome you to the
Committee and thank you very much for coming this morning. This
is a subject of course in which we as the International Development
Committee are very interested because of the humanitarian problems
with sanctions which have emerged, notably in Iraq but elsewhere,
and we want to examine and we have been examining, as your officials
will have told you, the policy that the United Kingdom is adopting
and how we can focus our sanctions so that they do not affect
the poorest people in a country and that those people in particular,
and others, do not suffer as a result of actions taken by their
(Mr Hain) I appreciate that. Could I first of all
thank you for giving me the opportunity to appear before you and
introduce Tony Faint on my left who is Director of Balkan Affairs
within the Department for International Development but also has
responsibility for sanctions and its humanitarian consequences;
and Ros Marsden who is Head of our United Nations Department at
the Foreign Office. I would just mention that my voice might disappear
half way through so if you see me reaching for a cough sweet,
that is the reason.
740. I hope it does not. I think we will start
straight on into the questions then so that we can cover the ground
that we need to. The Government has recently made the full text
of your review of sanctions available to the Committee on a confidential
basis. We would like to know will this be published in the future.
We asked this of your officials and they told us to ask it of
Ministers so we are.
(Mr Hain) It is not our intention to publish it. It
contains a great deal of frank information, as you will have had
the opportunity to see, about our colleagues in the international
arena, their attitudes to things and our assessment of their commitment
on sanctions, therefore we do not see any advantage in either
accountability or public debate terms in publishing it, certainly
not in the form in which it was given to you.
741. Will you be keeping the sanctions policy
under review or was the recent review a one-off process which
will not be followed up?
(Mr Hain) It is my view that it should constantly
be kept under review although not necessarily in the full bureaucratic
form that it was done so comprehensively in this instance. We
would always want to know if a sanctions policy (and in particular
the "smarter" sanctions which were recommended by the
report that came from the review) was actually working and what
its consequences were. I think it is a question of constant review
rather than formal, bureaucratic review.
742. Will future reviews or part reviews be
announced so that non-governmental sources could contribute to
(Mr Hain) The answer to that is yes, if there was
a formal review, but as a matter of course we have very close
relationships with non-governmental organisations and we welcome
constant input from them on our policy on sanctions specifically
and on a range of other matters. We have secondees from some NGOs
working within the Foreign Office and we also have placements
with NGOs to create a dialogue. I meet NGOs regularly in my capacity
as a Minister bilaterally or in small groups and in forums that
743. We understand that the Government did not
invite outside contributions when they were undertaking the review
in the first place but perhaps that is the reason why you did
not invite views. I suppose non-governmental organisations should
be in constant contact with you. Is that what you are saying?
(Mr Hain) Yes, although I would not want them to feel
in any way that they had been excluded from the debate. It was
necessarily an internal Whitehall matter that we pursued this.
We pursued it with that in mind but I am very open and indeed
very much welcome NGO input because they often have an expertise
and a view from the ground which it is not possible to have here
744. To what extent are the commercial considerations
taken into account when deciding whether to impose sanctions against
a given regime? For example, the impact of proposed sanctions
on the United Kingdom manufacturing industry or financial institutions?
(Mr Hain) Commercial considerations are naturally
part of the backdrop but the main issue is whether specific sanctions
such as flight bans for example or visa bans on repressive regimes
or their officials, are effective, and I think it is a question
of effectiveness rather than that a large country, for example,
has a particular trading influence with Britain and therefore
sanctions are not appropriate, whereas a smaller country may be
less important to us economically and therefore sanctions can
safely be applied. It is not that kind of choice. It is whether
sanctions will be effective in achieving the objective which we
have set ourselves.
745. This brings us to the objective of sanctions
and I would like you to answer what you think they are likely
to produce or aimed at producing. It seems to me that they are
a product of the Western democracies' mindset that if you put
sanctions on people it will starve them or make them cold or make
their heating extremely expensive and therefore they will blame
it on their Government and they will revolt against their Government,
but do you set out with that objective and what is the thinking
that makes you think that sanctions are an effective instrument?
(Mr Hain) It depends of course on the particular country
in question but the objective of sanctions is to change the regime
on questions of policy, as it successfully did in the case of
South Africa, as it successfully did in the case of Nigeria more
recently, and as it has successfully done (as we have seen only
this week) in the case of Libya. Those were three examples where
sanctions have been highly effective. There was some, if you like,
effect on the indigenous population, collateral damage, if you
like to put it that way, but overwhelmingly in those three cases
the end objective, which was to change the regime's policy succeeded.
In the case of Nigeria of course it had the additional bonus of
completely changing the regime or its nature from an unpleasant
military dictatorship and an oppressive and brutal one towards
a government which now professes to have the interests of its
people at heart.
746. I thought the military dictator in Nigeria
obliged us by dying! I did not think it was anything to do with
the sanctions policy.
(Mr Hain) He did oblige us by dying! That was an additional
bonus! The sanctions policy had very effectively put so much pressure
on him particularly, and his notorious regime, that I suspect
his fall would have been sooner rather than later in any case.
747. I think we are going to come to some more
detail on your claims on those three regimes as sanctions that
are successful but we will come on to that later. Can we look
briefly at Angola. The Chairman of the Angola Sanctions Committee,
Ambassador Fowler, came to see us and gave oral evidence. He told
us in evidence how he had sought to establish two expert panels,
one examining arms imported into Angola, the other examining the
sale of diamonds. The Department of International Development
has told us that they have contributed $300,000 US towards these
panels. Do you think it is appropriate that this funding is being
drawn from the Department of International Development's budget
given that there is no direct humanitarian objective for these
panels? Would the money not have been better drawn from the budget
of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office?
(Mr Hain) First of all, if I can be quite frank with
you, the Department for International Development has a lot more
money than the Foreign Office.
748. Yes, we have noted that.
(Mr Hain) In various respects. To be more serious,
Chairman, the humanitarian consequences of the presence of brutal
wars in Angola and particularly the role played by UNITA and its
leader Jonas Savimbi have enormous humanitarian consequences,
some of the most catastrophic humanitarian consequences anywhere
in the world, as I have seen for myself; homeless people, starving
people in the middle of a country which is agriculture rich and
it is for that primary reason that the Department for International
Development has found itself able to very generously contribute
to Ambassador Fowler's sanctions work.
749. Have these panels reported yet?
(Mr Hain) They are in regular operational mode and
they make interim reports from time to time but we are still awaiting
a fully public report from the panels. I have met him in New York
myself and we are in regular contact with him both through DFID
and the Foreign Office and in the Foreign Office we have been
and will be (in the case of Angola specifically) supplying what
information we have been able to glean which I have given an extra
priority to since I became a Minister of State at the end of July.
750. Because if you can stop Savimbi getting
money from his diamonds when they are sold in Europeand
it should not be impossible to do thatwe might make some
progress, might we not?
(Mr Hain) I agree Chairman and that is why I very
much welcome the announcement by De Beers the major international
diamond traders that they are no longer buying diamonds from Angola,
specifically not from UNITA-controlled areas, although it is very
difficult given the cross-trading between UNITA and government-controlled
areas, often in exchange for arms which are then turned against
the Angolan Government's Army. It is very difficult to distinguish
"clean" diamonds from "blood" diamonds, if
I can put it that way, in Angola. I very much welcome De Beers
decision and I want to see other diamond traders following their
lead. We are also in discussions with diamond trading centres
especially Antwerp and Tel Aviv about how they can contribute
to this process. There are two other in some ways more important
aspects to the sanctions which we want to tighten on UNITA and
Jonas Savimbi its leader in particular. The first is fuel supplies.
There are up to two or three transport planes a day flying into
UNITA-controlled areas with barrels of fuel. There are also regular
supplies of munitions and small arms coming in mainly by air but
sometimes by lorry and we want those stopped because we think
he has probably got enough money from alluvial diamond sales,
hundreds of millions of dollars of it, to continue to finance
the war but his life blood is fuel and munitions and arms.
751. Just one question on the De Beers undertaking.
You distinguished between "blood" diamonds and "clean"
diamonds. Obviously I imagine that somebody who knows his diamonds
can tell where the diamond comes from, ie somewhere in Angola
but presumably the legitimate Government of Angola also sells
diamonds, does it not?
(Mr Hain) It does indeed.
752. So the problem is how do you tell who is
(Mr Hain) That is indeed the case which is one of
the reasons why I fully understand why De Beers took a decision
simply to block the whole lot.
753. They have blocked the whole lot, have they?
(Mr Hain) Indeed and they explained to me that it
is possible, I think I am right in saying, to identify the diamond
source before they are cut quite narrowly down almost to the particular
diamond field in question so it would be possible to distinguish
between a UNITA diamond and a government diamond.
754. Like vintage Bordeaux or something like
(Mr Hain) Well yes, but once they are cut they are
then mixed up.
755. Then you cannot.
(Mr Hain) Which is why the international certification
regime which we are exploring is an objective we want to see but
it is quite a difficult one to achieve. Can I add briefly one
other point, that we have evidence that UNITA trades its diamonds
across the frontline to members of the Angolan Army also involving
corrupt officials within the public administration and that is
compromising not just the Government of Angola in this respect
but it is compromising any attempt to isolate UNITA's blood diamonds
from the rest which is why I think De Beers' position is the only
one and I think all diamond traders and all countries should put
a very strict embargo on all diamonds coming from Angola because
you cannot distinguish in the end between good and bad diamonds
in the end for this reason.
Chairman: Tony Worthington wants to come in
756. Do you not find it extraordinary how under-resourced
the Sanctions Committees are? Here we have Ambassador Fowler who
has set up two expert panels and this was very much an innovation
but how on earth can the UN enforce sanctions unless it has got
a brain and a research capacity and an ability to target sanctions
in a much better way than previously?
(Mr Hain) I think, Chairman, that is a very, very
good question and I know from my own personal discussions with
Ambassador Fowler whom I rate very highlyhis commitment
and dedication on this matter are without questionthat
he is extremely frustrated not just with the question of UN resources
behind him but more with the lethargy there has been internationally
on behalf of the very same governments who vote for Security Council
resolutions empowering him, amongst others, to take action against
UNITA actually to come forward with the intelligence, the action
to stop the supplies coming in and the diamonds going out. I do
not want to detain the Committee but until I actually asked in
the Foreign Office for a real priority to be given to this I think
there was a sense that life is moving along, we are getting what
we can and I know Ambassador Fowler felt that he had not had the
co-operation of neighbouring African governments who I think on
the one hand vote for resolutions and on the other hand some of
their officials and their businesses and their transport operators
are meanwhile providing the very fuel and munitions which Savimbi
757. We can all understand the difficulties
controlling the movement of diamonds in Angola and the difficulties
as well about small arms that they are very accessible to people,
but we hear about 50-tonne tanks being flown in and this not being
held up to international scrutiny and international blame. We
would know where they came from. Is this an example of which you
are talking really that this whole area needs much more energy
and much more attack by the international community?
(Mr Hain) I very much agree with that point by my
honourable friend that the international community has not given
sanctions the teeth that they need and yet the most frustrating
thing for me about this is that it can easily be done. We know
of Ukrainian pilots often on Ukrainian registered planes that
fly the fuel and munitions in and ships from Eastern Europe often
from the Ukraine coming in through Dar es Salaam and perhaps Mombasa,
consignments which, as it were, have a destination for perhaps
Zambia that then seem to find their way through to UNITA. We know
of transport planes that take off, Ilyushins some of them, with
Ukrainian and South African pilots, and others which change their
flight schedules mysteriously and land at an airstrip in UNITA-controlled
Angola. This is not acceptable and the UN's reputation and the
reputation of all of the countries that have signed up to the
resolution both in the region and internationally are being called
into question by the lack of effective action.
758. Can I turn to another very difficult area
which is about exit strategies with sanctions where there is this
tension between isolating a regime and at the same time maintaining
contact with a regime in order to work a way to normalise relationships.
Can you talk about exit strategies and particularly exit strategies
(Mr Hain) We saw a clear exit strategy in the case
of Libya. Sanctions, apart from an arms embargo, which were applied
and which were very effective were suspended when Libya complied
with the international community's objectives in respect of Lockerbie
and the compensation, as we saw announced this week, for WPC Fletcher's
family but in respect of Iraq we are at the present time actively
promoting a new UN Security Council resolution and we have been
doing so for months now in order to provide on the one hand extra
humanitarian relief which is desperately needed and on the other
hand the ability to have sanctions suspended on a specific ring-fenced
basis in response to compliance with arms inspection and destruction
of weapons of mass destruction by the regime. If that resolution
is adopted, and it really needs to be adopted by the end of next
week, I will come back to that if you wish, Chairman, it does
provide for Iraq to comply with the international community's
wishes and for sanctions then to be suspended and, who knows,
in the future ultimately lifted provided that Saddam Hussein's
regime is in full compliance with United Nations' policy.
759. Can you come back to the point you were
going to come back to?
(Mr Hain) Yes, with your indulgence, Chairman. We
have worked incredibly patiently (and Foreign Office officials
have been outstanding both based in New York and based here) with
our colleagues in the Permanent Five to get a unanimously backed
resolution. We are very, very close to it, and have been tantalisingly
close to it for periods over the last few months but I think the
time has come when that has to be put to the UN Security Council
within the next ten days or so or else the whole effort is going
to run into the sand. I think it is up to all of the Permanent
Five countries now to realise that their individual concerns have
been met and they need in the interests of progress and peace
and humanitarian relief in Iraq to sign up to it and let's get
the whole thing moving.