Examination of Witnesses (Questions 760
THURSDAY 25 NOVEMBER 1999
HAIN MP, MS
760. One of the other areas that has struck
me during this investigation is the sheer viciousness of some
regimes in that they undermine sanctions by punishing their people
and although we have looked for ways of giving humanitarian exemptions
we have not always been that successful. Has the Foreign Office
had any further thoughts on how we can protect the most vulnerable
people in a regime from the regime itself when we impose sanctions?
(Mr Hain) We have and it is an important question
which I know exercises the Committee as it does Ministers and
officials in the Foreign Office and in DFID. If we take the Federal
Republic of Yugoslavia, for example, members will have seen that
there is, as it were, an energy for democracy exemption from the
sanctions, if I can put it that way, with convoys of oil right
now going into two states in Yugoslavia which are controlled by
761. Is that a specific exemption? Oil of all
kinds is embargoed, is it not, to Serbia, if we may call it that
(Mr Hain) Yes.
762. And this is a specific exemption for heating
oil to parts of Serbia?
(Mr Hain) It is the opposition-run municipalities
of Nis and Pirot which are specifically to receive heating oil
and energy assistance because we are very well aware of the freezing
winter setting in and also of the fact that those areas are opposed
to Milosevic's brutal rule. That is a clear example where we are
able to address humanitarian relief where we can but also there
is, as it were, an advantage in being opposed to a dictator's
763. This is sanctioned by the UN?
(Mr Hain) It is an overall UN sanctions regime.
764. It is sanctioned by the United Nations
(Mr Hain) These are European Union sanctions.
765. They are not UN sanctions?
(Mr Hain) No, they are European Union sanctions. I
apologise if I misled the Committee on that point. This is an
agreed policy decided by the European Union.
766. So they have decided on this exemption.
(Mr Hain) Indeed, that is actually happening this
week, the lorries are going in.
767. I saw the pictures of lorries lined up.
How do we describe this? Is this a humanitarian effort or a political
effort or both?
(Mr Hain) It is a humanitarian effort but we are able
to deliver it because of the added opportunity of a political
bonus and a political factor too in that we are not giving support
to Milosevic and the regime that surrounds him; we are actually
rewarding those who are opposed to his brutal rule.
768. You see the difficulty we are getting into
(Mr Hain) Of course.
769. Because the humanitarian effort has traditionally
been one given regardless of who is in charge of that particular
area. It is for humanitarian relief and therefore relief of the
suffering of people. This is quite different, is it not? This
is the relief of some people whom we wish to support so it must
be categorised as political.
(Mr Hain) There was always an humanitarian exemption
to the oil embargo in the case of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
770. So we can supply it to Belgrade then?
(Mr Hain) If what you are saying, Chairmanand
I do not object to this line of enquiry at all because it is an
important issuethat the world is a messy place and sanctions
need to be applied and exemptions organised in a way that allows
us to maximise humanitarian relief whilst at the same time achieve
the change which ultimately will be for the benefit of the people
in humanitarian terms of getting rid of oppressive policies or
changing them in some final way, then that is something to be
771. It is certainly changing the normally accepted
definition of humanitarian relief, I am sure you will agree.
(Mr Hain) What it is saying is humanitarian relief
always has to be looked at in the context of what it is possible
to deliver. For instance, some of the considerable amounts of
humanitarian relief applied under the "oil for food"
programme in Iraq under the United Nations sanctions has been
siphoned off by the regime. Do we therefore not supply it? There
are constant questions and judgments to be made here but in this
particular case we wanted without in any way allowing Milosevic's
regime to be further sustained to give humanitarian relief where
we could in freezing winter conditions.
772. Let us put it this way; there are 800,000
refugees in Serbia apart from the normal inhabitants of Serbia
who are suffering from a) lack of power because of the NATO bombing
and from b) lack of fuel to heat themselves in the absence of
electricity because of the European Union sanctions and the bombing
of bridges over the Danube, and surely humanitarian relief in
those circumstances should go to all those people who are lacking
in warmth and may die from hypothermia wherever they are in Serbia?
That would be the humanitarian objective but you are saying that
is not your objective; your objective is simply to help those
who you think may help you.
(Mr Hain) No, if I may say so, that is a very pejorative
way of putting it. Our objective is to maximise humanitarian relief
and indeed there have always been humanitarian exemptions to sanctions
and the European Commission Humanitarian Office actually provided
humanitarian aid in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, but what
we do not want to do is undermine the whole of European sanctions
by provision of aid in such a way that it is raked off by President
Milosevic and his regime or Army or security forces who have terrorised
the people in the area under his control and neighbouring regions.
We do not want to do that and this is a clear-cut example where
we can maximise humanitarian relief and minimise leakages of support
which sustain a brutal regime.
773. How can you be certain that this heating
oil delivered to the municipalities which you regard as worthy
of your support does not get taken over by Milosevic's regime?
(Mr Hain) I am sure the Committee will appreciate
that we are not in a perfect world and nothing is absolutely watertight
and nothing can be 100 per cent certain but the European Union
has taken a judgment, which I support, that this is an initiative
which is worthy of our support and one which we ought to progress.
774. Does that mean that in certain situations
political considerations take precedence over humanitarian objectives
no matter what the consequences are to the ordinary people?
(Mr Hain) As a general question nobody takes political
decisions, certainly not this Government, regardless of the consequences
to ordinary people. I remember exactly the same argument being
used in terms of sanctions against South Africa, that black people
would suffer if you boycotted. For example, those who worked on
the Cape wine fields would suffer, black people often in exploitative
conditions, if there are embargoes on South African wine.
775. But we did not condone apartheid at that
(Mr Hain) The point I am making is that those of us
who were strongly supportive of sanctions against South Africa
and who eventually were vindicated by the change that occurred,
always had it argued against us that black South Africans would
suffer (and undoubtedly some did) but we always in response to
your general question as a matter of principle consider the humanitarian
impact of any sanctions before sanctions are undertaken and if
the imposition of sanctions had a disproportionate effect in terms
of humanitarian consequences or negative humanitarian consequences
that would be taken into account and might possibly or would probably
block the progression of sanctions.
776. This whole business of innocents suffering,
it is not just within that particular state. I am thinking of
instances like Burundi where if you are going to make sanctions
effective there may be suffering occurring in neighbouring states
and the issue comes upand I am wondering what the Foreign
Office's thought is on thisof whether some form of compensation
could be paid to those who are in neighbouring states to them
so that they do not suffer so that they can play their part in
making those sanctions effective. Has the Foreign Office had any
thoughts on the issue of compensation for neighbouring states?
(Mr Hain) I realise it is an issue which is an important
one as part of all this debate. In the South African context a
country like Tanzania suffered very badly through taking a strong
stand against the apartheid regime and it was never compensated
for that. It is very difficult to envisage how there might be
straightforward compensation as part of the sanctions policy,
however the international financial institutions when deciding
on how they might support particular countries in the various
ways they are able to, take account of the impact on their economies
of neighbouring disputes and other factors. So I think there is
a mechanism to at least address the problem, if not in the exact
direct causal way that might be suggested.
777. Which is what is happening in the case
of Kosovo with Macedonia and Albania and so on.
(Mr Hain) Indeed.
778. But again that is a European example where
we seem to have given more priority to compensation there than
we have in an African context. I am not aware that in any African
situations that there has been any compensation paid or compensation
considered or that the international financial institutions have
(Mr Hain) I think that my Honourable Friend mentioned
the example of Burundi which has been desperately affected by
the conflict in the Great Lakes region. I think this is a matter
that international financial institutions will want to address
in an African context as elsewhere.
779. Let me finally return to the question of
the analytical capacity of the UN Secretariat. If we are going
to have "smarter" sanctions we have got to have "smarter"
people applying those sanctions. We cannot just do it in a blanket
way, set up mechanisms and leave them to go on. It certainly seems
to me, having looked at this issue, that we need a building up
of a UN capacity or some capacity that is looking at the impact
of sanctions and tweaking them, adjusting them in the ways that
you were suggesting earlier. What are your thoughts on that?
(Mr Hain) I am very sympathetic to that point of view
and I would be very interested in any recommendations from the
Committee to that effect. I think in the case of Angola, Ambassador
Fowler is certainly a very "smart" person for whom I
have the highest admiration, his dedication is unquestioned, but
he is more frustrated by the lack of "smartness" amongst
the international community and the countries that have voted
for the sanctions that he is seeking to implement. I know that
the Department for International Development in collaboration
with the UN Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs is
committed to strengthening the analytical capacity of the UN Secretariat
so it can make progress on those sorts of issues.