Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum from Rt Hon Peter Hain, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

  On 30 January I gave oral evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee on the Government's Annual Human Rights Report. I enclose some further information on a few questions raised by you, and other members of the Committee, as promised.

(Q.65)  Forced Marriage

  Referring to the tragic case in Sweden recently, the Chairman asked if there was much attempt at co-ordination of EU policies in terms of countries in which forced marriages are an issue.

  A:  As the FCO's Annual Report on Human Rights highlights, the UK is among leaders in Europe in developing a coherent approach to forced marriage. The FCO Consular Division's Community Liaison Unit plans to approach the authorities in certain Scandinavian countries, where forced marriage is a significant problem and where some work is underway, with a view to sharing knowledge and expertise. We are keen to pursue international co-operation wherever appropriate, including further EU co-ordination on this issue.

(Q.52)  Handbook on the Prevention of Torture

  Greg Pope asked what measures the Foreign Office was taking to promote the new Turkish translation of the Handbook on Prevention of Torture.

  A:  The FCO translated the Torture Reporting Handbook into Turkish in March 2001. It has been widely promoted in Turkey and copies have been sent to Turkish government agencies and NGO's in Turkey. We have distributed over 30,000 copies of the handbook world-wide in six languages and several thousands more have been downloaded from the Internet. I enclose a copy of the Turkish handbook for Mr Pope.

(Q.50)  Hong Kong

  The Chairman asked about the functioning of the legal system and safeguarding of human rights in Hong Kong.

  A:  It is always recognised that the rule of law in Hong Kong would be key to the success of "One Country, Two Systems". The principles of independent judicial power and final adjudication, which are enshrined in the Joint Declaration, are integral to Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy and underpin confidence in the judicial process there. They are also of paramount importance to Hong Kong's future success and pre-eminence as an international business and financial centre. It is clearly important that these key principles should continue to be upheld in the future.

  We take the view that the continuing exposure of young Chinese lawyers to UK and Hong Kong legal systems, and the promotion of legal practice according to Common Law, will help promote the development of the rule of law in the mainland.

(Q.18)  European Convention on Human Rights

  Greg Pope asked if any of our European Union partner countries had derogated from the European Convention on Human Rights and, if they had not derogated, why did the UK need to.

  A:  As I mentioned during the FAC briefing, we consulted closely with EU colleagues when preparing our derogation. None of them has derogated so far, and that is a matter for them. Our decision was based on our own legal and political assessment. The government judged that the UK was facing a public emergency and that making provision to detain suspected terrorists who were a threat to national security, pending our attempts to remove them, as a necessary and proportionate response to that emergency.

  The Government has made clear in the UK and abroad that the decision to seek a limited derogation from Article 5 of ECHR in no way represents a diminution of its commitment to international human rights standards.

Rt Hon Peter Hain
Foreign and Commonwealth Office

14 February 2002

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