Examination of Witnesses (Questions 800
THURSDAY 25 NOVEMBER 1999
HAIN MP, MS
800. There does seem to be a different viewpoint
expressed by Mr Von Sponeck when he appeared before this Committee
and the UN rapporteur on human rights, Mr Van der Stoel, whose
annual report we have just received. Why should there be such
a difference of opinion between them because Mr van der Stoel
concludes that the Iraqi Government is using existing available
resources to enrich itself; it has not taken full advantage of
the food and health care resources; it has ignored UNICEF recommendations;
it has been slow to distribute medicines and medical supplies;
only 48 per cent of those supplies have actually been distributed,
etcetera, etcetera. It is a very, very critical report on the
regime but of course Mr van der Stoel has not been inside Iraq
for seven years because they have refused to allow him back inside
Iraq. So I suppose a critic would say the one is inside the country
and the other is outside and it is not surprising that their views
are not compatible. Perhaps we could have your views on the difference
(Mr Hain) I think it is very disappointing that there
is not a compatibility of views especially when, for example,
we find that one quarter of all medical goods which have been
delivered to Iraq since the "oil for food" programme
began have not been distributed. These and other instances some
of which I have quoted of the money siphoned off for marble and
gold taps by Saddam Hussein, thousands of dollars spent on cigarettes
and whisky for his own entourage, should be pointed out. Mr Von
Sponeck's undoubted concern about the humanitarian suffering in
Iraq which we all share has coloured his judgment in terms of
where the future success of the policy needs to arrive at.
801. Mr van der Stoel says quite clearly that
the reason for the suffering of the people of Iraq is Saddam Hussein
whereas the UN representative inside Iraq seems to have a different
point of view.
(Mr Hain) I find it impossible to believe that anybody
could say that the reason for the suffering of the people of Iraq
is anything other than Saddam Hussein. He is responsible for it
802. I wanted to ask a very straightforward
factual question. Companies like Siemens are selling quite large
quantities of health care equipment into Iraq, as far as I can
see entirely for the use of the elite. I just wondered whether
this is because health equipment and that kind of thing come under
a general blanket form that they are alright but actually they
are going entirely to the regime. If I may also ask a rather different
question. In your earlier response about Burundi, you mentioned
Tanzania and the case of South African sanctions, the view was
taken that the suffering of a number of innocent people was worth
it for a while because of the greater good that would come out
in the end. Is there a danger that humanitarian assistance to
Iraq is simply prolonging the time for which Saddam Hussein is
able to stay in power?
(Mr Hain) If that were to be a considered assessment
we would have to look at the whole question again but, as I say,
in terms of the success of the policy we found that his threat
especially in the region has been contained in a way that it never
has been before and that is the prime reason for the success of
the policy. It is our view that under the Oil for Food which is
carefully monitored by the UN, including medicines, although there
is some leakage of the kind I have pointed out to you and you
have referred to another example, the vast majority does go to
the people of Iraq. To that extent the policy is successful in
a very imperfect and messy world.
803. You are right when you say that the people
are going to have to overthrow Saddam Hussein, but they have no
way of doing that currently. There is no democracy there, no election
procedures, and anybody inside the country who shows any sign
of opposing the regime is locked up. I worked there for a while
in 1987-88 when we did not have sanctions because we were on their
side or they were on our sideI did not understand.
(Mr Hain) It was a previous Government!
804. Exactly. And I can remember the notice
on the office notice board that said it is a law that if you criticise
the Government it is an automatic life sentence. So there does
not seem to me under the current situation that there is any chance
at all of the regime being toppled because Saddam Hussein has
got this entourage around him that protects him. He is not an
ancient manhe is 60 I guessand it could go on for
20 years. Have we got any other kind of alternative strategy than
to maintain the current sanctions regime?
(Mr Hain) I do not believe that the human spirit can
be suppressed forever and there are countless examples in recent
times, South Africa being one, brutal rulers in Eastern Europe
being another, who almost matters of months before they were toppled,
nobody could conceive of the change occurring. I think change
will occur in Iraq and when those conditions arise there will
be lots of very able democrats, as there are in Iraq, ready and
able to provide the kind of leadership which the people of Iraq
have been desperately seeking for these past two decades.
805. Most of those currently are outside the
country and you think there is a chance that an alternative regime
could be formed fairly rapidly if Saddam Hussein were suddenly
to drop of the perch for some reason?
(Mr Hain) There is huge talent in Iraq politically.
I have met some of the opposition leaders and although there is
some view that perhaps they are not a powerful force, it is very
difficult for the reasons you explained to be a powerful force
visible at the present time. I think we should do all we can to
give them political support and prepare for a situation when there
is, as there will be, a change of regime, in my view sooner rather
806. The Committee has heard in evidence that
Sanctions Committees are responsible for authorising the import
of humanitarian supplies. Whilst the FCO has stated that only
four per cent of items requested are blocked, the Secretary-General
of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, recently expressed concern
at the number of items placed on hold by the Sanctions Committee
on Iraq and the serious implications this had for the implementation
of the humanitarian programme. Furthermore, it has been estimated
that in 1998 it took 60 days for the Sanctions Committee to approve
a food contact. According to a UN report on 22 October, 23.7 per
cent of applications for the import of goods under Phase V of
the Oil for Food programme had been placed on hold, including
100 per cent of applications for telecommunications, 65.5 per
cent for electricity, 53.4 per cent for water and sanitation,
and 43 per cent for oil spare parts and equipment. The question
is what is causing this delay in the processing of applications
by the Sanctions Committee? What steps should be taken to speed
up the processing of these applications?
(Mr Hain) My information is that certainly in respect
of Britain, if I could respond in terms of our own responsibility,
that some 96 per cent of all contracts submitted to the Committee
have been approved and holds are put on less than one per cent
of "oil for food" contracts submitted to the Sanctions
Committee by the United Kingdom as you describe. This is usually,
in fact always, because either there is insufficient information
or because we have got concerns about dual use and that the particular
equipment or provisions could be used for some nefarious or threatening
purpose or because the particular contracts are for goods which
do not have a humanitarian purpose. We have 77 holds on "oil
for food" contracts which are worth about $131 million out
of a total value of all contracts of about $800 million and it
is for those reasons we hope the new resolution which we are sponsoring
with others in the United Nations Security Council will actually
speed up the question of contracts within the Sanctions Committee
807. Is there an element in war where the local
situation, maybe there are people who are locally involved and
there is a democracy in war to end the corruption in war and this
could be one of the causes as to why these applications are not
being dealt with?
(Mr Hain) I do not know, but I am open to advice,
of any corruption involved. I think it is more a concern that
particular contracts could be diverted for the use by the regime
and Saddam Hussein or have a dual-use purpose or not be humanitarian
in their objective. That is the main concern.
808. A panel set up by the UN Security Council
to report on the humanitarian situation in Iraq recommended that
a list of foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals, and medical, agricultural
and educational equipment and supplies should be drawn up and
that all such items should not require Sanctions Committee approval.
It further recommended that decisions should be made on dual-use
items within two days. It also reported that Russia is seeking
to guarantee UN approval for certain food and medical imports.
Should a standing list of goods which should be exempted on humanitarian
grounds be drawn up in order to reduce delays in the current system?
(Mr Hain) As I say, Mr Khabra, we are, through the
Security Council resolution, speeding up procedures to address
some of these concerns. The difficulty is that if you suddenly
have a blanket list, it is always possible that there could be
leakages afterwards, and indeed there have been leakages afterwards,
to support Saddam Hussein's regime which is where the problem
809. First of all, I think without being too
presumptuous, many Members of the Committee would agree with the
memorandum submitted by the FCO which does state that if diplomacy
fails, there needs to be a third choice between doing nothing
and military intervention, and I am always glad there is a third
way! However, having said that, there are very serious concerns
that sanctions obviously are not intelligent enough. We have mentioned
Burundi a couple of times this morning and certainly I was very
concerned when I was in Burundi at the British Government's tacit
acceptance of sanctions whereby, for example, medicines were exempt,
but the refrigerators which made the medicines viable were not,
which resulted in something of a conundrum, and children and indeed
adults were certainly dying as a result of that. May I thank incidentally
the Minister for agreeing to come along to the All-Party Group
on Rwanda and Burundi to discuss this matter later today, if that
is still in the diary.
(Mr Hain) Yes.
810. Anyway, moving swiftly on to the issue
of "smart" sanctions, you will be aware that the second
Interlaken Seminar on Targeting UN Financial Sanctions concluded
that consistency in national policy is an urgent priority if financial
sanctions are to be effective. My first question is what does
the Minister see as the obstacles to financial sanctions being
applied consistently by all UN member states?
(Mr Hain) The obvious obstacles are people, I dare
say even governments and their institutions, not wishing to have
their profits affected. However, we have been participating in
what is called the "Interlaken process" where the Swiss
Government has organised conferences over the past couple of years
at Interlaken to try and address these matters to target and enforce
financial sanctions and to recommend model legislation to other
countries, including developing countries, to implement them.
I think it is a question of getting them, as we have done with
the Bank of England in respect of UNITA in Angola, to try and
target assets held by dictators and others who are the target
of sanctions, to try and target them more effectively and that
is what we are working on.
811. Following on from that point, do you have
any specific ideas on the ways in which donors can help developing
countries actually build their capacity to monitor targeted sanctions?
(Mr Hain) I will take some advice from my colleague,
Tony, from DFID here, but I think it is very difficult if you
have an anti-poverty programme, which Clare Short has rightly
given DFID's priority to in terms of development aid, very difficult
then to mix that in with sanctions policing, if I can put it that
way. On the other hand, what we will want to be very clear about
is that no development aid leaked out and that is why to a number
of countries DFID only gives development aid through NGOs, through
non-governmental organisations, rather than through the regimes
which frequently syphon it off or put it to some nefarious use.
Do you want to add anything?
(Mr Faint) Not a lot, but only to say really that
under the general flag of anti-corruption measures, we do support
a number of activities around the world in the general area of
improving policing and improving customs regimes. On the latter,
we have a particularly noteworthy project in Mozambique, but I
do not think that these activities are really targeted at enforcement
of sanctions regimes, but they are really targeted at the development
of the country concerned and the reduction of poverty. I am not
sure that I can really call to mind a case where we have a programme
of this kind which is particularly relevant to active sanctions
regimes because they do not really come up in that way, so I would
agree with what the Minister says.
(Mr Hain) That is good!
812. I would say though that there are evident
examples where sanctions or the lack of a developing country's
ability to monitor them effectively has had a profound impact
on poverty reduction, and again Burundi is an example where I
saw that with my own eyes.
(Mr Hain) Sanctions of course were lifted, I think
I am right in saying, in January this year.
813. You are absolutely right.
(Mr Hain) But it was a casualty of the conflict.
814. That is right, and they were regionally-imposed
sanctions, I recognise that, but it did lead on to a rather artificial
distinction between development assistance and humanitarian assistance.
(Mr Faint) We were providing in that area humanitarian
assistance in the Burundi case of course and I think we were also
quite active in trying to resolve the issues and eventually getting
815. Exactly. Well, I shall not detain the Committee
further with discussion on that point which did throw up some
very disturbing issues regarding that artificial distinction.
Moving on, the Government, as a leading member of a number of
international organisations, the UN, the EU, the OSCE and the
Commonwealth, in that capacity, what efforts has the Government
made to pursue its objective of "smarter" sanctions
(Mr Hain) Can I just first of all briefly say that
if the Committee, and specifically in the case of the example
of Burundi, has any suggestions, I would be very interested in
them as to how sanctions in that context, what lessons we could
draw. We are, as it were, pursuing our initiative on sanctions
with a lot of other countries multilaterally. We have got the
G8 Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Berlin on Conflict Prevention
next month where this will be discussed, including the illicit
diamond trade and the trafficking of arms, and there are a whole
number of other areas in the European context. We had Foreign
Office and Customs & Excise officials participate in an expert
seminar in Bonn last weekend where we looked at ways of improving
the effectiveness of travel sanctions and arms embargoes, and
then of course there is the Interlaken process I mentioned which
is pursuing financial sanctions, so there is a great deal of work
816. Minister, could you send us the agenda
for that G8 Meeting on Conflict Prevention? As you know, this
Committee has issued a report on conflict prevention and resolution
and we would be very interested to see what is on that agenda.
(Mr Hain) I would be very happy to do that.
817. Returning to some evidence submitted by
the Treasury, the Treasury stated that, "you need to be able
to identify assets. If somebody has concealed the identity of
those assets, you will not be able to freeze them". Similarly,
in his memorandum, Mr Carver states that the sharing of intelligence
between governments appears still to be rudimentary and that there
is not enough co-operation, and this is an assertion that has
been reflected by the National Criminal Intelligence Service which
stated that they "did not have a significant role in sanctions
at all". How do you feel that the intelligence services and
their role could be enhanced in the application of financial sanctions?
(Mr Hain) I think there is quite a lot of scope for
that, especially working through the banking institutions and
financial institutions both domestically and internationally.
It is obviously extremely difficult. The National Criminal Intelligence
Service can also draw on a network of international contacts,
such as through Interpol, to pursue that. I think a lot of it
comes down to political determination, although not exclusively.
If you take Angola, for example, I think that the bank assets
that Jonas Savimbi holds in West African countries, for instance,
those governments should be held to account for them, and I think
that with concerted international work, I do not see why assets
can be moved around without anybody being able to track them,
so if the will is there, as we have even found with Nazi assets
in recent times, over such a long period, then the means can be
818. I certainly hope that we will be able to
generate political will in that area. The final question regards
evidence we heard that one strategy could be to postpone the implementation
of sanctions until an assessment had been made regarding the vulnerability
and, in particular, what those vulnerabilities might be of the
target state and any potential side-effects. If I can quote from
a memorandum from Claude Bruderlein, he said, "In instances
where urgent action is required, the Security Council should...withhold
its decision on the modalities of the sanctions regimes, such
as the list of exempted goods and services, and the mechanism
of exemptions and entrust the Sanctions Committee with the task
of elaborating these modalities". He goes on to say that,
"The Council in the case of Sudan took the decision in August
1996 to impose a UN flight ban against Sudan but postponed the
enforcement or the implementation...[to] let the experts to look
into the best ways to exert pressure... As it stands, there is
absolutely no uncertainty on the target", this is his argument,
and, "they have all the time to find the best way to escape
from the sanctions and the Council is unable to renegotiate any
aspect of the sanctions resolution. So it is up to the Council
to give itself the flexibility and the technical mechanisms to
use it and to exert pressure on the target to maintain uncertainty".
Then Claude Bruderlein maintains that "Uncertainty is the
best tool of the sanctions because they do not know what is going
to happen next". Would this suggestion, that the implementation
of a sanctions regime be suspended pending an evaluation of the
vulnerabilities of the target state, be a viable strategy?
(Mr Hain) There is an important point there, I think
we would all agree. However, I do not want considerations of "smart"
sanctions to be so meticulously smart that nothing is ever done
and it is that balance really that has to be struck. Whilst there
is a legitimate point undoubtedly there, I think, nevertheless,
the purpose of sanctions is to change situations fundamentally
and get rid of brutality, oppression, dictatorship and warmongering.
819. Is it not true that in fact a sanctions
regime to be put in place does in fact take some considerable
(Mr Hain) Of course.
1 Further information supplied by witness. See Evidence
p. 154. Back
See Evidence p. 153. Back