Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20
WEDNESDAY 30 JANUARY 2002
MP, DR CAROLYN
20. Can you give a firm assurance to the Committee
that the events of 11 September and the need to keep coalition
partners on board has not led to any lessening in our pressure
for human rights in the countries which deserve it?
(Mr Hain) I do not believe so. But we are not perfect
and the world is a difficult place in which to operate at the
present time. I do not want to pretend that in every discussion,
with every Minister or official, with one of the countries involved,
human rights are necessarily mentioned in every conversation.
That would be impracticable and security has been such a concern.
We are very conscious that the human rights agenda must not be
made subsidiary. Indeed what would be the point of having a formidable
and successful reaction to an international terrorist threat,
as it has so far been and must continue to be, if human rights
were ridden roughshod over in the course of it? We should be defeating
the objective, which is to create a world which is safe, in which
freedom and individual liberty is respected.
21. May I take you to the report itself and
the way it is organised and structured? Going back in the history
of the Committee, there seems to have been a slight divergence
of views on how it is best structured, whether it should have
broad headings with overviews or a country by country list with
the headings alongside. I understand that in the last Foreign
Office response to the Committee's report Botswana was listed
in the examples as to why the current structure was best. Given
Botswana's record both on the death sentence and freedom of expression
has not improved at all, I am surprised that it is not specifically
mentioned in the current edition of the report. It rather makes
the Committee's case that the country by country approach actually
allows us to see whether progress has been made.
(Mr Hain) I understand that and I should like to explore
it a little more with you. We have to decide on priorities. If
you look at the way in which the report has evolved over the years
since we have been in power, because it did not exist before,
in 1998 it was 55 pages long, in 1999 it was 93 pages long, in
2000 it was 174 pages and this current one is 187 pages. So it
has been getting more comprehensive by the year, partly under
your own recommendations as a Committee and guidance and assistance
and advice and partly because we wanted to make it comprehensive.
We have responded to points which have been made by Amnesty International
and others as well. There is a limit, given Foreign Office resources,
as to how big this can go and I am inclined to say that we have
reached pretty well close to that limit. I should like Dr Browne's
department and her officials to be concentrating on promoting
human rights abroad and projecting policy and getting it right,
because it is difficult stuff with a lot of countries, rather
than producing a bigger and more comprehensive report, especially
when, as the Committee will be aware, there are many other reports
in the international arena. Amnesty for example, the US State
Department and Human Rights Watch do have much more in-depth country
by country reports which we draw upon freely. That is a better
way to do it. It is better that we approach it in a thematic and
analytical way. I realise this is one of the recommendations we
have not accepted, but we have accepted most of the others and
that is the best way to go about it.
22. With something as fundamental as the existence
of the death penalty, I do not see that a simple list of the countries
which would show us which countries still have it would be a problem.
More particularly, there is a danger when a country is specifically
mentioned one year and an issue is raised and it is then omitted
in subsequent years, that it could actually be seen as a negative
endorsement, saying we feel it is no longer priority and things
have improved. The omissions would actually send out the wrong
(Mr Hain) I understand that point. May I just say
by way of response that the death penalty is retained in 86 states
and we have further information in Amnesty International's reports
and particularly on its website which is referred to on page 91.
I am quite happy to look at including in the next report a list
of the countries which do have the death penalty so that that
information is available in easily digestible form for the Committee.
23. I am more concerned about the fact, to take
Botswana, that we mention it one year and then it is not mentioned
even though things have not changed, that we do give the impression
or it could be used as an indication that things have got better.
It sends out the wrong signals. That is what I am more concerned
(Mr Hain) I take your point but we do need to get
Botswana which featured in previous Committee hearings, which
is not to say it should not in this one ... We have a pretty good
record overall in Africa on human rights and democracy and free
24. In many ways Botswana is a model for the
(Mr Hain) Indeed.
25. I would not have chosen Botswana, I would
probably have been more interested in why Swaziland was excluded.
(Mr Hain) You are making the point of principle.
26. Botswana was the Foreign Office's own illustration
of why that format was appropriate in their response to the Committee.
I do have to say in terms of a southern African context that Botswana
is the least of my concerns.
(Mr Hain) I shall look at the logic of our response
more carefully in the future.
27. That is an interesting point.
(Mr Hain) I have many good friends in Botswana.
28. May I look further at this idea of the thematic
content of the report as opposed to listing country by country?
Does the department have a criterion which it uses for including
reference to a certain country? We have been pressed by other
bodies to raise issues, particularly in relation to Swaziland
and Singapore and the United Arab Emirates which are not included
within the report, even though there have been references to us
that perhaps there are human rights issues in those countries.
Is it that they are not included because the British Government
have had no direct involvement with those countries in raising
issues with them or the issue has not been raised with the department?
Or is it simply that you chose not to include them either because
of the size of the report or the pressure?
(Mr Hain) No, it does not imply at all that we have
not had contact with the countries concerned over human rights
or on the other hand that we are seeking to bury it in some way.
On the contrary, we need to concentrate on where we see the priorities.
We have human rights dialogue with virtually every country in
the world at one level or another.
29. Are there any particular successes which
can be attributed to the Government's human rights policy over
the year covered by this report?
(Mr Hain) If I just go back a little further than
that and then focus specifically on the past year, there would
be 11 major achievements which I think we can point to with some
pride as a Government. We have acted to defend human rights in
Sierra Leone, where we have saved that country from awful atrocities,
in Kosovo to halt systematic ethnic cleansing and enabling the
most rapid refugee return in the post-war history of Europe. We
acted in Afghanistan contributing to an end to the Taliban regime
and the restoration of civil rights, especially for women and
girls; a lot more to go there but we have been very robust there.
Perhaps of particular interest in the last three to four years
we have supported over 500 human rights projects in more than
90 countries, about £17 million of expenditure involved.
We have a stricter code for arms sales and over the past year
we were able to ratify the International Criminal Court with the
Bill coming through. That is a major achievement in which Britain
played a leading role. We have lead the global campaign against
torture, we abolished the death penalty in 1998 and have lobbied
worldwide for its abolition and last year we helped over 200 victims
of forced marriage, simply last year, and assisted the repatriation
of over 50 victims. We were responsible for initiating the so-called
Kimberley process to certify rough diamonds which have been responsible
for the trade in arms and the decimation of the population of
Angola and Sierra Leone and to some extent the Congo. Finally,
we funded to the tune of more than half a million pounds the BBC
World Service educational series which has informed 123 million
people in 13 languages about their rights over the past year.
That is a record which we constantly seek to improve upon but
we can point to 11 concrete achievements, some of which were specifically
30. We shall come back to one or two of those
if time allows, especially the International Criminal Court and
forced marriages. By the same token, are there any areas where
the Government's policy might not have worked as you would have
wished in respect both of successes and perhaps areas where things
might not have worked as you wanted them to? Have you changed
policy in any of those areas as a consequence throughout the year?
(Mr Hain) When we are talking about dialogue with
countries which do not have a tradition in which human rights
have featured very highly or a culture of the kind which we have
and which is taken for granted pretty well in Europe, it is very
difficult, it is heavy lifting, but nevertheless we have not shrunk
from it. For example, take China, which we may want to come back
to, we have instituted a relationship of critical dialogue with
China and I am happy to go into what I think are the successes
of that and what have been the failures of it, but the important
point is that we have managed to get a relationship of honest
dialogue where previously there was no dialogue; a kind of shouting
match took place, and we have learned from each other and there
have been some advances; not as much as we should have liked.
That is true for a number of countries. I could go into them individually
if you wish me to.
31. We shall come onto individual countries.
One or two very narrow questions. As I understand it, from April
2001, the conflict prevention fund has now been merged into-inter-departmental
conflict prevention pools. Will the department be able to provide
information on the inter-departmental conflict prevention pools
in future reports in the same way as it has provided information
this year on the conflict prevention fund?
(Mr Hain) I shall happily do that. It has been quite
a ground-breaking initiative in joined-up government, to repeat
that over-used phrase, in the sense that with the Ministry of
Defence, the Department for International Development and ourselves,
with the Treasury also involved, providing extra money to buttress
it and underpin it, we have been able to pool our fundsto
be frank, ours are relatively small compared with the othersand
take a more coherent approach. If we take something like peace-keeping
in Sierra Leone for example, there is not a lot of point having
bits of money coming in individually when we can pool it and proceed.
I shall happily provide information on that.
32. It is obviously important for us that we
can track developments and compare like with like so far as possible.
(Mr Hain) Yes.
33. My other question refers to page 145 and
the two graphs which you are looking at on the Human Rights Project
Fund, which is quite a colourful page but with very little further
information included. Although it is a little bit of a criticism,
is it possible that the department could look at providing more
information in relation to that fund rather than just the two
(Mr Hain) We shall happily look at that and perhaps
discuss with the Committee how that might be helpfully done.
34. And in particular the various projects and
whether they have been completed.
(Mr Hain) Indeed. In the first instance if we wrote
to the Committee and provided the information comprehensively,
then we could discuss what might go into the next annual report.
I would just point out that additional details on the global pool
are on the website, details of which are given on page 144, opposite
the coloured bar charts. The same goes for the Africa pool also
and the Africa website details. There is probably as much information
as you can cope with there on those websites.
35. Zimbabwe has been in the news quite a lot
recently. In relation to the report, what leverage can the Government
exert over other African countries to help persuade them to take
a consistently robust stance against human rights abuses in Zimbabwe?
(Mr Hain) As you will be aware, the Commonwealth Ministerial
Action Group has been meeting for most of the day. I think it
was due to conclude about the time I came in to give evidence
to you. I am not sure whether it has or has not. We shall know
the outcome of that. We have been very concerned all along, both
the previous Foreign Secretary and the Foreign Secretary today,
to make sure that President Mugabe was not able to isolate Britain
as the bad man having a go from his own old colonial past. On
the contrary, he has wilfully sought to misrepresent the situation
in that the European Union together took a very tough stand on
Monday, unanimously. The actual decisionand I was presentwas
taken in about five minutes. There was no dissent from it and
very welcome and targeted sanctions are to be applied from this
weekend if international observers, including European ones, are
not let in by President Mugabe, which he has previously refused
to do, and to liaise constantly in dialogue with our African colleagues
and friends. That is why the Foreign Secretary went to Abuja in
December to meet other Commonwealth colleagues, including the
Nigerians. We are constantly in touch with the Botswanans, who
chair the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group. For me, hailing
from that part of the world, the tragedy has been not only the
events in Zimbabwe, but the inability of Zimbabwe's southern African
neighbours to exert any more influence on President Mugabe than
we have been able to do. The consequences have been catastrophic
for the region. The rand has devalued by something like over 40
per cent in the past year and unfortunately this was all too predictable.
Indeed I personally warned over a year ago that the whole of southern
Africa was going to suffer and we were concerned about this. The
Prime Minister was concerned that if there was no ability to influence
events in Zimbabwe, then countries like South Africa, which ought
to be attracting international investment from the world over
because they have very attractive macro-economic policies have
suffered from an investment drain as a result of the chaos and
bloodshed and tyranny which President Mugabe has unleashed on
the people of Zimbabwe.
36. Good news obviously that it took five minutes
for the Council of Ministers to decide on their course of action,
but if a leader like Mugabe consistently ignores the opinions,
views and pressures of international partners, of local partners,
of countries in the region, is there much we can actually do about
it? We can complain and we can pass resolutions and we can agree
in five minutes in the Council of Ministers, that what President
Mugabe is doing is entirely wrong, and we can condemn him, but
if he just says he is sorry but he is taking no notice of anybody,
and he will do what he thinks is best for his country, is there
any more we can do, or any more even countries in the region can
do to force him to listen to democracy?
(Mr Hain) There is more that we can do and that is
what we are doing. The European Union will impose targeted sanctions
on the assets of the ruling elite, a travel ban and take other
measures as necessary. We hope that the Commonwealth will agree
to suspend Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth unless the situation
changes dramatically because there must be very real concern now
as to whether any election, with or without international observers
in Zimbabwe, could be free and fair. All we want it to be is free
and fair. It is up to the Zimbabwean people to choose then. Given
the kind of legislation which President Mugabe is trying to bring
in, which was denounced by Eddison Zvobgo, for example, who was
head of the Parliamentary Legal Committee, as the most calculated
and determined assault on their liberties in the 20 years he served
as a Cabinet Minister. This is a Zimbabwean Zanu-PF member, not
a British Foreign Minister from the old colonial power saying
Mr Hamilton: Even that voice of old colonialism,
the BBC, has given us a very, very clear idea of exactly what
Mr Mugabe is trying to do.
37. How do you read the low-key approach of
President-Mbeki, who could presumably, because of the considerable
debts owed by Zimbabwe to ESCOM for power supplies, have a stranglehold
in terms of his effect of pressure on Zimbabwe if he so willed?
(Mr Hain) All I would say on that is that the constructive
engagement which members of the Southern African Development Community
have sought to bear on Zimbabwe and its president has failed abjectly,
just as the pressure that international opinion more widely, ourselves
included, has failed. I include within that the Americans and
the Europeans because we have all been at one. I am very struck
by the same frustration, the same exasperation, the same anger,
that we all feel at President Mugabe's tyrannical actions. I find
that it is shared by African leaders, including presidents I have
personally discussed the matter with over the last few years,
and the Foreign Secretary will confirm exactly that.
38. But only those regional powers have the
effective levers which could bring about change within Zimbabwe.
(Mr Hain) That is true and there are lessons to be
learned here for the regional forces of Africa and elsewhere in
the world. If we are talking about Africa for a moment, when you
look at the way the Zimbabwean crisis has escalated virtually
beyond control, impacting upon the whole region, SADC will want
to reflect on this and decide whether its own mechanisms for influence
need to be toughened up.
39. May I move us on to another region which
is causing some concern in the international community and indeed
was raised by Kofi Annan when the Committee visited New York to
conduct its recent inquiry into our Anglo-US relations following
11 September and that is Kashmir. Those of us who represent substantial
numbers of British citizens of Kashmiri origin will know that
this is a subject which raises a lot of interest amongst those
communities, but it is a subject which does not get very much,
or until recently has had very little coverage, in both our press
and the international press. In your Human Rights report on pages
67 and 68 you do mention the situation in Kashmir. You say, "In
response to violent attacks by militants, Indian security forces
have pursued a heavy-handed counter-insurgency policy. The people
of Kashmir continue to suffer serious human rights violations
from which they have little opportunity for redress". I am
sure many of my constituents of Mirpuri origin would agree with
that. Obviously since this report was written the situation has
escalated and has got considerably worse so that we read in the
press now that there is the strong possibility of conflict in
the region over Kashmir, indeed many think that the source of
a potential serious conflict in the future could well be Kashmir
rather than the Middle East or any of the other world's hotspots.
What can we do and what in your opinion can the Government do
to try to separate the parties in this conflict, to try to bring
about the kind of solution which I know many British people of
Kashmiri origin would want and that is a free and fair referendum
in that region?
(Mr Hain) Like you we remain very concerned about
the human rights situation in Kashmir. I have personally discussed
it with Indian Ministers when I visited India in November 1999
and then again in November 2000. We have similarly expressed in
robust terms our strong criticism of the way in which cross-border
terrorism comes from the Pakistan side, in the past certainly
with the active connivance and complicity of the Pakistani Government
and its intelligence agencies, perhaps less so now, we hope. I
agree that a resolution of the Kashmir conflict is an imperative.
It is potentially one of the three or four most dangerous hotspots
in the world, given also that Pakistan and India are both nuclear
powers. We have to continue to impress upon everybody, whether
on the Indian authorities the benefits of greater transparency
and the importance of investigating human rights abuses, and urging
them to allow greater access to Kashmir, including to international
human rights organisations or for United Nations rapporteurs on
the one hand, or on the Pakistani authorities a very firm message
that terrorist incursions across the line of control, which make
it very difficult for the Indians to establish normal relations
on their side of the line of control, that those incursions are
completely unacceptable and must be stopped.