Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
WEDNESDAY 30 JANUARY 2002
MP, DR CAROLYN
40. May I ask how recently the Foreign Secretary
has had contact, or the Prime Minister, with General Musharraf
to raise that particular issue?
(Mr Hain) I know that during the Prime Minister's
visit to India and Pakistan recently his agenda was largely focused
towards calming tensions and encouraging dialogue on this and
other issues. That is the most high-level contact. The Foreign
Secretary, whose own constituencypossibly even more than
yours, I do not knowhas been very much focused amongst
significant groups of his ethnic minority population, anyway a
large proportion of his total constituency, is very close to the
issue and very involved in it and wants to help in whatever way.
The difficulty at the present time is that much as we sought to
encourage dialogue between the two governments, external intervention
has not been easy or welcome, nor would it necessarily contribute
to the dialogue.
41. Is there room for the United Nations? I
know that Kofi Annan made it clear that he thought there might
(Mr Hain) The key thing is to continue to impress
upon both Islamabad and New Delhi that they talk to each other.
As we know, prior to that very, very dangerous attack on the Indian
Parliament, there was the most fruitful period of dialogue that
there had been for some time, since Prime Minister Vaj Pai took
the bus to Lahore in 1999, which was a fairly courageous thing
for him to do. Then it broke down over the Cargill incident in
which General Musharraf, as he then was, was involved and conceivably
the architect of. It was good that we got dialogue after that
period of long mistrust last year and now it has to be re-awakened.
Chairman: It may be helpful to hear at first
hand from one of the Foreign Secretary's constituents.
42. I am not one of his Kashmiri constituents,
but I do want to raise the issue of Kashmir. I have the neighbouring
constituency and a very large Kashmiri population. It struck me
that Musharraf is in a really difficult situation. I am sure he
would like nothing better than to be able to round up some of
these terror groups and the splinter groups in Kashmir on the
Pakistani line of control. Every time the Indians demand volubly
that he does so, it makes it more difficult for him to do so in
terms of his own domestic audience and I suspect the Indians are
turning the screw on Musharraf, although I notice that he has
arrested quite a number of militants. What can we do to assist
Musharraf diplomatically in the campaign against terror in Kashmir?
What can we do also, equally importantly, to make it as clear
as possible to the Indian Government that the kind of human rights
abuses which are taking place in Indian Kashmir are not only completely
unacceptable, but are by their very nature making the situation
much, much worse.
(Mr Hain) I believe that it is important that both
India and Pakistan recognise that this cannot continue to fester
away and drag on and on and on. It is easy to say that, but what
needs to be done? Yes, the Indians need to take the action we
have pressed upon them. They also need to be able to do so in
conditions where it is secure and safe. One of the problems has
been that with the terrorist attacks continuously across the line
of control, with people just getting killed by the hundreds, it
is incredibly difficult to impose the rule of law and ensure that
human rights are respected. We have to do both things and we also
have to encourage new thinking. Northern Ireland, as you know
well, was moved to its current state of relative peace by a completely
new thinking. That is needed in Kashmir as well.
43. I have had a number of interesting/robust
exchanges with the Foreign Secretary about Kashmir. The Government
line, as I understand it, is that this is an issue which needs
to be resolved bilaterally between Pakistan and India. I have
not met anybody from Kashmir who thinks that is the way forward.
Certainly the view of all Kashmiris I have met is that they want
self-determination, that yes, of course there will need to be
talks between India and Pakistan but talks between India and Pakistan
are not enough and they very strongly believe that they have a
right to self-determination. I do not follow why our Government
does not believe that they have a right to self-determination
(Mr Hain) I do not want to intrude upon the conversations
between you and your Member of Parliament. The issue is not what
an eventual solution might be in which one could conceive of it
resting on devolved power, obviously greater human rights and
freedom for Kashmiris, but I do not seeand I think the
Foreign Secretary is correct in thishow it is possible
to get to that point unless it is founded on the bedrock of dialogue
between Islamabad and New Delhi. I really do not. External intervention
is not going to be welcomed and I do not see how it can move things
44. Can we change country and move a bit further
north and look at China? I was quite interested when you said
earlier that we have moved from the critical dialogue, and we
have had some successes, to a more honest dialogue. How would
you respond in the light of that to Amnesty International's comments.
They make reference to the absence of really reliable information
on the extent of the use of capital punishment within China. They
say, "The fact that both the UK and the EU have unsuccessfully
sought such statistics for a number of years suggests that one
might question whether the dialogue is a vehicle for change".
Do you see any progress being made in getting some reliable information
out of China?
(Mr Hain) The death penalty is obviously a really
serious problem in China and I think I am right in saying that
either last year or the year before, the previous Foreign Secretary
was able to get the Death Penalty Panel to visit China.
(Dr Browne) Yes, it did.
(Mr Hain) I forget exactly what month the visit was.
We have been able to facilitate both dialogue on that and some
influence on that as well as a whole range of projects from the
rule of law, especially reforms in administrative law, human rights
education promotion and children's and women's rights. This critical
dialogue is a slow vehicle but important progress has been achieved.
The dialogue does not stop us raising human rights abuses in other
contexts. We continue to do so at every opportunity in terms of
ministerial encounters and at every level, both public and private.
In terms of achievements, if I just look at what was produced
this year, we have had two rounds of a formal process: the first
in Peking took freedom of religion as its main theme; the second
in London focused on the role of the media and the administration
of the criminal justice system. The next round is due to be held
in Peking this spring. There have been numerous ministerial exchanges,
the most recent being between the Foreign Secretary and the Chinese
Foreign Minister a few weeks ago on 17 January. What it has produced
in practical terms is co-operative programmes, including child
rights, human rights awareness, the second British law month in
Peking and Shanghai in June and July. Other progress has been
the first meeting of the Sino-British working group on human rights'
covenants and a visit by the Trade Union Congress and also a visit
by Audrey Glover, the head of the British delegation at the Human
Rights Commission in Geneva. This is hard work on both sides and
I would not claim any fantastic achievements from it, but there
are concrete achievements. The important thing here is that we
have a process of honest dialogue and progress which we did not
have beforehand and which has not been surpassed by any other
45. Having unsuccessfully worked with the Chinese
some 20 years ago trying to get them to sign up to the International
Convention on Copyright and knowing how difficult it is when you
deal with cultures which simply do not recognise certain concepts
and find them quite alien, I think what I am really questioning
is whether a process by which we simply ask for precise information,
which then puts on the table just how often the death sentence
is used in China, and something which is easily verified, may
be more productive than having discussions. I am assuming that
the Foreign Secretary, when he met the Chinese Foreign Minister,
did raise human rights as such. It is just so easy for people
to talk at each other and there is no real understanding, whereas
trying to get real facts out may be more productive in the long
(Mr Hain) Obviously we shall look at that point. We
do ask for specific information as part of the critical dialogue
and as part of our ministerial and other encounters. I do not
want to claim more than we are delivering, because that would
be neither honest nor politically sensible, but the fact that
we have a relationship which enables us to raise these issues
is a step forward, perhaps a modest one, too modest some people
might say. The only point I would makeand certainly I should
be interested in any recommendations from the Committee on how
we can improve thingsis that I have not seen a better alternative.
I have seen no other country nor any other group manage to exert
greater influence on improving human rights in China.
46. Will the British Government actually promote
the tabling of a draft resolution on China by the EU at the UN
Commission on Human Rights for 2002? As I understand it, this
was prepared by the Americans but they are no longer a member
and cannot table it.
(Mr Hain) This is quite a long-running saga. We will
do what we think is likely to prove the most successful in influencing
China. What has happened in the past few years, and I was involved
in it for a period, is a constant saga of a resolution tabled
by the US, a common position by the EU and then a no-vote resolution
tabled by the Chinese Government. The no-vote resolution always
tended to get carried and it became a fruitless stand-off which
we did not think was getting anywhere. That is why we initiated
this process of critical dialogue, which has proved to be far
more practical and far more effective.
47. The real answer in that is "Not at
the moment because you do not think it is the right way forward".
(Mr Hain) The real answer is that we are stalled deciding
with our European Union colleagues what to do in late March. We
will do whatever we think is the right way forward. May I say
that it is not because we lack courage, or because we lack determination
on this matter? It is what we think will be effective. There is
no point tabling resolutions which are continually voted down
and which do not get anywhere, it is counter productive.
48. On that test of effectiveness and prudence,
we know that the Chinese feel very strongly and very sensitively
about criticisms on the Falun Gong. Has that figured at all in
the bilateral dialogue?
(Mr Hain) Yes, it has and there are credible reports
of many thousands of Falun Gong supporters being detained without
trial for so-called re-education, which I find very ominous. It
is something we continuously raised at every opportunity with
the Chinese; I must confess to not great effect.
49. The legal exchanges which followed Lord
Howe's human rights mission in 1991 have been proceeding for perhaps
10 years, the exchanges, the dialogue. Are we able to pronounce
at all on the effectiveness of the legal initiatives in terms
of Chinese lawyers coming here, hopefully not just in the commercial
sphere but in the field of human rights?
(Mr Hain) There have been improvements, but there
is now a new opportunity for the whole relationship in China.
China has been discussing with us how we can assist with the training
of key public officials following the 11 September attack. China
stood steadfast with the international coalition which was not
something one could have predicted, given their past record. Just
as Russia is moving into a closer relationship with the European
Union, so China is and specifically with Britain. I would anticipate
that would include both legal exchanges of lawyers, not just on
the commercial side but elsewhere as well.
50. Have we brought Hong Kong, the special administrative
region, into play in terms of the ease with which those from the
mainland will be able to go and find a fully functioning legal
system still based on safeguarding human rights?
(Mr Hain) I do not know the answer to that question.
I know I am supposed to know the answer to all questions, but
I do not know the answer to that one.
(Dr Browne) Nor do I.
(Mr Hain) There you have it. Not even a doctorate
can triumph over a Master of Philosophy. I shall come back to
you on that and provide you with information.
51. I want to raise the subject of human rights
in Turkey. This is raised in the annual report. Turkey's secular
political system is guaranteed by its constitution but the effect
of that seems to be that Islamic political parties are routinely
closed down, the Kurdish language is effectively prohibited. I
was concerned and amazed to read that criminal charges have been
brought against 19 individuals accused of insulting the Turkish
state simply by attending a conference on the occurrence of rape
in custody. This is an appalling litany of human rights abuses.
What are the points of leverage which we and the European Union
have to see some prospect of genuine improvement in human rights
in Turkey over the coming 12 months to two years?
(Mr Hain) The principal point of influence is through
Turkey's application to join the European Union. As a candidate
for EU membership, Turkey must meet the Copenhagen criteria before
accession negotiations can begin, which includes stability of
institutions which guarantee democracy, the rule of law, human
rights and respect for and protection of minorities. I thought
it was quite significant that Turkey responded by publishing an
action plan and made some progress in a number of areas in September
2001. It passed a series of constitutional amendments in these
areas. There is a basis for influence and a basis for progress.
The constitutional amendments included rights such as freedom
of association and expression. I agree with you, however, that
there is an awful long way to go. We want to see Turkey in the
European Union but Turkey will have to change its human rights
and good governance record dramatically to meet the Copenhagen
52. Obviously there are other obstacles to Turkey's
application anyway, not least Cyprus. Leaving those other obstacles
aside, can I take it that there is a degree of consensus between
us and our EU partners that Turkey's human rights record must
get dramatically better before we consider an active application?
(Mr Hain) No question about that.
53. What measures are the Foreign Office taking
to promote the new Turkish translation of the Handbook on Prevention
of Torture? This seemed to be a really worthwhile initiative.
I was very pleased to learn about it but I should be interested
to know what can be done to promote it.
(Mr Hain) I think I am right in saying, that it is
in train and it will be published as soon as we can and we shall
obviously notify you about that.
54. Have the Government made any representations
in relation to the deaths of hunger strikers in Turkey?
(Mr Hain) I think we have, because we have been very
concerned about both that instance and other areas of concern
in Turkey. It is a very difficult situation. Being a NATO ally,
being an applicant for the European Union, enables us to have
a dialogue which is not always easy going but in which we can
honestly project our views. On this matter I would just say, without
wishing to exaggerate our influence, that I am always struck,
and I have been struck whether visiting the Middle East or visiting
African countries, that we are one of the very few countries,
perhaps alongside the Scandinavian ones, who do stick out our
necks in post and on the ground. It is not always the easiest
thing to do, given the range of bilateral interests including
commercial ones where British jobs are at stake. We do do it and
it wins us respect even if it is not welcomed at the time.
55. Turkey sees Mr Öcalan, the now captured
PKK leader as a terrorist, a man of blood and many in Turkey believe
that the death penalty is appropriate. What dialogue have we had
with the Turks, either bilaterally or with our EU colleagues in
respect of the fate of Mr Öcalan.
(Mr Hain) We are very concerned about it. He is a
key figure and that is something we have raised continuously and
the European Union has as well. The death penalty has been a subject
of continuous dialogue with Turkey and both the European Union
and ourselves have encouraged Turkey to reform the penal code
so that it can be brought into the kind of circumstances which
we would acknowledge as defending human rights. May I also add
something I did not mention? On the death fasts we are concerned
that more than 40 people have died during hunger fasts. We pressed
the Turkish authorities to implement prison reform in a way which
respects international human rights standards. It is not a good
record, in fact it is a pretty sorry record.
56. One of the last acts of the last Parliament
was my friend and colleague John Battle when he was Foreign Office
Minister guiding through the International Criminal Court Bill
which is now an Act. As of 31 December last year I was delighted
to see that 48 countries had now ratified the Statute of the International
Criminal Court. Sixty are required to set the court up. When do
you expect the International Criminal Court to be set up?
(Mr Hain) So far 45 countries have ratified
and we are hoping that it will be set up later this year. It is
a matter of priority for us and we want to see it established
as soon as possible.
57. I understand the number 48 comes from the
International Criminal Court website; 48, 45, we are not sure.
Not many more to go. Do you think there is any evidence that external
pressure is being applied to countries not to ratify the Statute
to set up the court?
(Mr Hain) I know that the US have been recalcitrant
58. I did not want to mention names.
(Mr Hain) It is something we regret. There is an international
tide of opinion and pressure behind it and it will happen sooner
rather than later.
59. One of the recommendations, as I recall
from memory, in the second report of this Committee into Anglo-US
relations post-September 11 was that we asked the Government,
if not to apply pressure, at least to try to cajole the United
States Government, given our very close relationship with that
Government into looking at their support for the International
Criminal Court. Do you think there is any chance they will listen
(Mr Hain) It has been a topic for constant dialogue
with them and pressure on our part. We continue to raise it. In
that respect, I have not seen any evidence that they have pressured
other countries not to ratify it. Their attitude seems to be that
it is fine for the rest of the world, but we will opt out thank
3 See evidence, p Ev 14. Back
See evidence, p Ev 14. Back
Note by witness: 52 countries had in fact ratified. Back