Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from Amnesty International UK


  1.  The 11 September attacks on the United States of America, have produced significant implications for human rights. However, as the FCO's Human Rights Annual Report 2001 was completed before the attacks took place, Amnesty International will seek another opportunity to convey to the Committee its concerns about the post-11 September human rights environment.

  2.  Amnesty International welcomes the publication of the FCO's Human Rights Annual Report 2001. The practice of producing an annual report contributes to a wider and deeper understanding of human rights activities and policies. It provides an opportunity for the FCO to explain issues in greater detail than may be possible in the speeches of ministers or departmental press releases.

  3.  It is clear from the report that the FCO's human rights activity includes many examples of good practice. Without an annual report, it is unlikely that such examples would reach the public domain in a comprehensive and coherent manner.

  4.  This year's annual report was published in September, somewhat later than in previous years. This aroused initial concern that the change of leadership at the FCO might have affected the department's commitment to this report. Amnesty International was therefore pleased to note that when it did arrive, it matched the significantly improved standards reached last year. We hope that this means that production of the report has taken firm root in departmental practice.

  5.  We are similarly pleased to note that the General Election has not altered the Foreign Affairs Committee's wish to hold an annual inquiry into the FCO's human rights work. We regard this as essential scrutiny of a vital area of UK foreign policy.


  A.  Amnesty International welcomes the publication of FCO Human Rights Annual Report 2001 and we hope that next year's publication attains the same standards of presentation and content.

  B.  We welcome the Foreign Affairs Committee's inquiry into the FCO's Human Rights Annual Report 2001 and hope that this is now embedded as an important feature of the parliamentary year.


  6.  The report quotes Robin Cook's speech in March 2001, in which he said "I want to make the FCO's commitment to human rights irreversible. The best way to secure that is by changing its culture" (p 6). Chapter 2 highlights a number of initiatives to mainstream human rights including through training, secondment of staff to and from NGOs, and the placing of human rights advisors in UK missions.

  7.  In this context, one should mention the Human Rights Project Fund (HRPF). Because UK missions are a principal vehicle for project applications, the provision of HRPD assistance not only has a positive effect on the recipients, it also develops practical familiarity with human rights projects within the UK's overseas missions. We therefore believe HRPF should be maintained at least at its current level and that there might be a good case for additional funding.

  8.  However, mainstreaming human rights requires clear leadership from the top, including the Secretary of State, his ministers and the most senior civil servants.

  9.  This session's Queen's Speech included a commitment to "work to encourage universal observance of human rights, including throughout the Commonwealth". In his first major speech as Foreign Secretary on 22 June, Mr Straw said that the government would "continue to uphold the values which underpin our own security and prosperity, and that of our allies—human rights, democracy, fundamental freedoms to which every human being is entitled—and we shall use our influence in the world to help confront tyranny, oppression, poverty, conflict and human suffering". These references were welcome and we hope that in 2002, the Foreign Secretary will elaborate in more detail his commitment to human rights and his priorities for the FCO's work in this area.


  C.  We welcome initiatives to mainstream human rights throughout the FCO.

  D.  We believe that HRPF provides an important contribution in this respect, as well as being a useful form of support to many human rights organisations.

  E.  Efforts to mainstream human rights must be supported by clear commitments at the top. We therefore hope that next year's annual human rights report will refer to a significant speech from the Secretary of State, spelling out his principles and priorities for UK human rights policy.


  10.  After the inquiry into last year's FCO Human Rights Annual Report, the Committee and the Government exchanged views on the presentation of human rights concerns in individual countries. The structure of this year's report is basically the same as its predecessors. However, more countries appear to be examined than in previous years.

  11.  It is also interesting to observe, by way of an example, that the treatment of Indonesia is more comprehensive than the hopelessly inadequate assessments contained in some past reports. This year's description notes that "serious human rights problems remain" despite encouraging progress. Importantly, it notes that "[s]erious human rights abuses continue to be committed in the context of inter-religious and inter-ethnic conflict, with the police and military often unable or unwilling to respond. There have also been instances where rogue elements among the security forces have actively fomented trouble". Following massacres in Borneo in February 2001, the response by security forces was "culpably slow". The few investigations into human rights abuses that have taken place have "failed to result in credible judicial processes. Where trials have taken place involving the police and military, senior officers have been spared at the expense of junior ranks". (p 16)

  12.  These are important points. In the past, the UK Government has been slow to acknowledge the direct involvement, collusion or culpability of security forces in human rights abuses, particularly in those countries perceived as primary markets for UK strategic exports.

  13.  The Indonesian government remains reluctant to hold the perpetrators of human rights violations to account. The President has so limited the jurisdiction of an ad hoc human rights court on East Timor so that it is unable to consider the vast majority of crimes committed after the independence ballot. The Indonesian authorities have also consistently refused to co-operate with the investigation of serious crimes by the UN Transitional Authority for East Timor. The UK must continue to raise these issues bilaterally and in multilateral fora, in particular at the forthcoming session of the UN Commission on Human Rights.

  14.  Throughout Chapter 1, a number of initiatives are identified to demonstrate the progress being made by the various countries. For example:

    —  in Croatia, a "legislative reform programme was unveiled offering reform of the state media and the facilitation of the return of Croatian Serb refugees" (p 7);

    —  the Turkish government, to prepare for EU accession negotiations, has adopted a National Programme for the Adoption of the Acquis. This "includes proposed measures to tackle the EU's main concerns about Turkey's human rights record" (p 10); and

    —  in Colombia, the UK Government is "providing practical support to the Colombian authorities to tackle the problem of collusion between elements of the Colombian Armed Forces and paramilitary forces" (p 22).

  15.  These and the other initiatives and progress indicators set out in Chapter 1 should be revisited next year. The Government should describe their progress and their practical impact. Not all will be delivered and not all will have the intended effect, but Amnesty International believes that the analysis will assist a year-on-year assessment of progress.


  F.  Although it is based on the same structure as 2000's edition, the Human Rights Annual Report 2001 has, to a degree, improved its consideration of the situation in specific countries.

  G.  The UK must continue to press Indonesia to improve its human rights situation and to address the culture of impunity; this should be raised at the forthcoming session of the UN Commission on Human Rights.

  H.  Where the report highlights positive developments and initiatives in a particular country, we hope that next year's report will provide an update of their progress and impact.


  16.  The government appears to view critical engagement as its policy of choice in dealing with countries facing significant human rights challenges. There are potential advantages to policies of critical engagement and the establishment of structured human rights dialogues with other governments. However, the potential dangers are also clear, not least the possibility of their use as a fig leaf for "business as usual".

  17.  The Foreign Affairs Committee has repeatedly sought an explanation of the criteria for pursuing a critical engagement policy with other countries. The Government has consistently rejected this. We believe that this is unfortunate and that broad criteria should be established. The success of any policy should be measured in terms of its effect and whether it achieves its objectives within an envisaged time. This clearly depends on the partner government's willingness to listen, talk, acknowledge problems and take remedial action. It therefore follows that relevant criteria or principles might include:

    —  human rights dialogues cannot be sustained with governments who refuse to accept problems or where discussions are marked by obfuscation over a sustained period of time;

    —  they must seek shared analysis of problems leading to concrete objectives for change;

    —  there must be an expectation that some improvements can be achieved in a specified timescale;

    —  they must be characterised by transparency with both sides willing to publicly acknowledge problems and set out the measures intended to address them.

  18.  The most widely noted example of a human rights dialogue is that between the United Kingdom and China. The report spells out that one objective is to bring about an end to capital punishment and in the meantime to obtain meaningful statistics on the use of the death penalty. The fact that both the UK and EU have unsuccessfully sought such statistics for a number of years suggests that one might question whether the dialogue is a vehicle for change.

  19.  It should also be noted that an increasing number of countries have entered into bilateral human rights dialogues with China. Within the European Union at least, governments should endeavour to co-ordinate their bilateral dialogues to maximise their impact and minimise wasteful duplication.


  I.  We remain concerned that human rights dialogues might become ends in themselves; we again recommend that the FCO set out the broad criteria or principles that underpin its human rights dialogues.

  J.  EU member states should endeavour to co-ordinate their bilateral human rights dialogues with China.


  20.  Amnesty International is pleased to note that significant attention has again been paid to the contribution of other departments to the promotion and protection of human rights—at home and abroad.

Export Credits

  21.  Whilst the report highlights some positive examples of joined up government, there have also been instances where interdepartmental communication has been notable by its absence. One example was exposed by the International Development Select Committee, through its tenacious inquiries into potential export credit support for a UK contractor in Turkey's Ilisu Dam project.

  22.  Amnesty International does not wish to cover in detail what is already well trodden ground but we believe that both the FCO and the DTI merit criticism for their failings. The lesson to be drawn is of the need for the FCO to provide a comprehensive human rights analysis of projects on its own initiative. The Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD) and the DTI should step beyond their apparent role as passive consumers of human rights assessments from other departments. They must take a far more proactive approach to seeking relevant information, including from non-government sources.

  23.  Amnesty International is pleased to note that the ECGD's mission and status review has led to a statement of business principles that indicate greater attention to the environmental, social and human rights impacts of projects. However, we note that it is not clear in what circumstances projects that may contribute to human rights violations might be deemed acceptable. It is also not clear what the outcome would be if ECGD's attempts to "press for reform" are unsuccessful.


  K.  Amnesty International welcomes the continued attention to "joined up government" in this FCO human rights report.

  L.  Amnesty International welcomes the tenacious work undertaken by the International Development Select Committee on the Ilisu Dam project and believes that it exposes significant failings in both the DTI and the FCO. In future, the FCO must proactively supply, and the ECGD proactively seek, comprehensive human rights assessments.

  M.  The Government should spell out in detail the screening procedures used by ECGD to determine whether a project may reasonably be assumed to contribute to human rights violations. It should also indicate what actions would be taken when ECGD's dialogue with a company fails to produce a significant improvement in a project's social, environmental and human rights impact.


  24.  Amnesty International welcomes the introduction of the Export Controls and Non-Proliferation Bill. The organisation has provided detailed comments on this, including to the Quadripartite Select Committee (QPC). We would like to commend the QPC as an important exercise in "joined up scrutiny". Our recommendations for strong legislation are available to the Committee on demand.

  25.  The FCO's Human Rights Annual Report 2001 also notes that in December 2000, EU Member States agreed a list of non-military items which should be subject to EU export controls for human rights reasons. The European Commission is presently developing a Community instrument in this area. Amnesty International believes that the UK Government should use this opportunity to press for a complete ban on the export of torture equipment. An EU common control list is important given discrepancies between Member States' policies in this area. We believe that the instrument should cover all arms and security equipment, servicing and training and the provision of personnel.

  26.  We note with satisfaction the UK's unilateral initiative to ban the export of torture equipment from UK soil. However, we believe that the powers provided in the Export Controls and Non-Proliferation Bill should be used to achieve a ban on the brokering and trafficking of this category of equipment by UK citizens. We also believe that the ban should be extended to cover the promotion and marketing of such equipment.


  N.  The new export controls legislation should be used to achieve a ban on the brokering and trafficking of torture equipment by UK citizens. We also believe that the ban should be extended to cover the promotion and marketing of such equipment.

  O.  The Government should work for the swift adoption of a European Community instrument to establish a common control list of non-military items. This instrument should cover all arms and security equipment, servicing and training and the provision of personnel. The Government should use this opportunity to achieve an EU ban on the export, transhipment, brokering and promotion of torture related equipment.


  27.  Amnesty International is pleased that John Battle underlined at last year's UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) that the UK would always agree to requests for visits by UN special rapporteurs and other mechanisms of the Commission (see p 23). This sets an example which other countries should follow.

  28.  On page 42, the FCO observes that most countries "will go to considerable lengths to avoid the embarrassment of being criticised by the rest of the international community". Consequently, the CHR is "an opportunity to remind all UN states of their obligations to adhere to international standards". The resulting conclusion is that the process of tabling, co-sponsoring and speaking in support of resolutions is an important means of putting pressure on other governments to improve respect for human rights in their countries.

  29.  The European Union has been active in promoting country resolutions. Nevertheless, we remain mystified by its refusal in past years to co-sponsor the draft resolution on China tabled by the USA. Although China usually prevents discussion of any resolution through a procedural device, the act of co-sponsoring a resolution is an important way for the EU to express concern. The USA is not a member of the CHR for 2002, Amnesty International therefore believes that the EU should take responsibility for tabling a draft resolution.

  30.  Last year, the CHR did adopt a strong resolution on the situation in Chechnya for the second year running. Amnesty International was particularly pleased that it called for credible and exhaustive investigations into alleged violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

  31.  However, we remain concerned that such investigations are still not taking place and that both sides have continued to abuse human rights since last year's CHR session. The comments of Gerhard Schroeder during a joint press conference with the Russian President in Berlin on 25 September are therefore concerning. He said: "as regards Chechnya, there will be and must be a more differentiated evaluation in world opinion."

  32.  Russia's record on compliance with the 2001 resolution must be thoroughly examined in 2002. If Chancellor Schroeder's remarks indicate willingness within the EU to soft-pedal on human rights in Chechnya, the United Kingdom should play a leading role in resisting such attempts.

  33.  The UN Commission on Human Rights should also examine the situation in Zimbabwe. Various bilateral and multilateral initiatives have not produced an improvement in the human rights situation and President Mugabe has previously noted that the EU (and US) has not put its case before the United Nations. The CHR session provides an opportunity for discussion at the UN's primary human rights body.

  34.  In previous years, the CHR has addressed the situation in Israel and the Occupied Territories and in Colombia. Given the deteriorating human rights situations over the past year, they must remain on the agenda. We also hope that the EU will press for Saudi Arabia to be the subject of a resolution. The CHR has never discussed the situation in that country, despite systematic and widespread human rights violations.


  P.  We believe that the Government should urge other countries to follow its example of undertaking to agree to any request for a visit from UN Special Rapporteurs or other mechanisms of the UN Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

  Q.  Amnesty International believes that the EU should table a resolution on China at the forthcoming CHR session.

  R.  The UK should ensure that Russia's compliance with last year's resolution on Chechnya is carefully examined. In the absence of credible and exhaustive investigations into allegations of abuses of international humanitarian law and human rights, a further resolution should be tabled.

  S.  The situation in Zimbabwe should also be discussed, given the failure of various bilateral and multilateral initiatives to achieve progress.

  T.  Israel and the Occupied Territories should remain on the agenda and the CHR should address the systematic and widespread human rights violations in Saudi Arabia in public session.


  35.  At the UNCHR session in 2001, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, announced her resignation, citing the difficulties of working within the UN system. Over recent years, the demands on her office have grown substantially and there has been no parallel growth in resources. Although she agreed to remain in post for another year, the problems she encounters demand urgent attention.

  36.  The FCO Human Rights Annual Report 2001 details welcome voluntary contributions to OHCHR activities from both DFID and the FCO. However, we are particularly pleased to note the FCO's assertion that her office "needs more secure funding so that it can plan better" (p 45). In his statement to the UNCHR (Annex 2, p 135), John Battle stated that:

    The UK values the work of the human rights treaty monitoring bodies as a cornerstone of the UN's human rights system. Support for these bodies, and the CHR's mechanisms, as core functions of the High Commissioner's Office, should be priorities for UN regular budget funding.

  37.  Amnesty International agrees and hopes that the UK government will lead efforts to ensure that the office receives the regular budget funding it deserves. We hope that next year's Human Rights Annual Report will include a description of how the Government has sought to achieve this goal.


  U.  The UK government should play a leading role in efforts to ensure more secure funding from the UN regular budget for the functions of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.



  38.  The FCO report highlights the EU's enlargement process as an opportunity to achieve real and lasting respect for human rights in the candidate countries. It notes that Turkey, like other EU candidates, must meet the political criteria for membership before accession negotiations can commence. The report notes that Turkey has adopted a National Programme for the Adoption of the Acquis, to achieve this.

  39.  Reform initiatives are clearly welcome. Nevertheless, human rights violations persist in the country. Freedom of expression and of association have come under particular pressure during 2001 in the wake of the serious prison disturbances in the country. Allegations of torture remain widespread. It is therefore of crucial importance that all EU institutions and member states press for meaningful action to address violations and closely scrutinise the detailed implementation of Turkey's reform programme. This should include careful, ongoing assessment and transparent reporting of the human rights situation on the ground.

Human rights clause

  40.  The human rights clause contained in EU agreements with third countries was the subject of exchanges between the Committee and the Government last year. The Committee had expressed concerns about apparent unwillingness to contemplate invoking this clause. In answer, the government noted that the suspension of an agreement was a genuine policy option but stated that maintaining the agreements "and so a full political dialogue" preserves EU leverage.[12]

  41.  This would be persuasive if political dialogue does include significant and concrete discussions on human rights. Amnesty International is not convinced that the past operationalisation of the human rights clause and the conduct of political dialogue provide grounds for optimism in the future.

  42.  As each member state has to ratify agreements, such as those arising from the "Barcelona process" with Mediterranean countries, national Parliaments can scrutinise such agreements. We believe that Parliament should take a much closer interest, including by referring back to past operationalisation of the human rights clause.


  V.  The EU should continue to scrutinise the human rights of candidate countries. The institutions and member states should press the Turkish authorities to bring about a lasting improvement in the human rights situation there, including through close and comprehensive scrutiny of reform implementation and the situation on the ground.

  W.  The UK government should play a leading role in ensuring that the EU's political dialogue with third countries pays particular attention to human rights.

  X.  Parliament should enhance its scrutiny of EU agreements with third countries.


  43.  In July 2001, the UN convened a conference on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. This aimed to agree a programme of action containing recommendations to governments. Amnesty International welcomed the initiative and we acknowledge the active and constructive role played by the UK within the European Union and the wider international community during preparations for the conference.

  44.  The EU is to be commended for identifying the importance of regulating the brokering of weapons. As Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel noted when addressing the conference on 9 July 2001, "[b]rokering is a major problem in the context of the illicit trade in small arms. For this reason we consider a legally binding instrument to be necessary".

  45.  Nevertheless, the Programme of Action adopted by the conference is disappointing. The EU, Canada and Norway pressed for an agreement that small arms should not be exported where there is a real risk that they will be used to violate human rights or fuel foreign aggression. A number of other governments, including the USA, China, many members of the Association of South East Asian States, the Arab Group and South Africa blocked such moves.


  Y.  The government should continue its strong advocacy for stronger international control on the transfer of small arms.


  46.  Amnesty International believes that the government should also be paying similar attention to the issue of mercenaries. The UK has a long history of supplying mercenaries, training and other military and security services. Legislation relating to mercenaries was passed in 1870 and is clearly outdated.

  47.  In 1998, Baroness Symons told the House of Lords that the government was "examining a number of options for national domestic regulation of so-called private military companies operating out of the United Kingdom".[13] In April 1999, the Secretary of State announced that the government would produce a paper, as recommended by the Foreign Affairs Committee.

  48.  Amnesty International shares the frustration expressed by the Committee in past reports at the Government's failure to produce its promised green paper on mercenary activity. We agree with Enrique Ballesteros, the UN special rapporteur on mercenaries, who described the failure to publish a consultation paper as "a deplorable backward step".[14]


  Z.  The government merits condemnation for its failure to deliver a consultation paper on regulating mercenary activity. This should now be regarded as a priority.


  49.  Chapter 5 of the report highlights the government's support for corporate social responsibility. It describes useful initiatives that aim to educate companies and help them to develop human rights policies.

  50.  However, on their own, they do not provide sufficient incentive for companies to change their practices. There is a divergence between society's expectations and the behaviour of companies with regard to human rights. This gap lends impetus to anti-corporate sentiments.

  51.  Companies should not only be accountable for serving their shareholders' interests, they should also be accountable for their impact on all those affected by their activities. This will require changes in corporate governance and the establishment of a regulatory framework that enforces compliance.

  52.  Amnesty International regrets the Company Law Review Steering Group's rejection of a "pluralist stakeholder" approach. This would have imposed on company directors a duty of care towards all those affected by a company's global operations. The review also rejected a proposal that companies should be required to provide information about the social and environmental impact of their operations in their annual report. Amnesty International believes that if companies were required to provide such details of their activities, and those of their subsidiaries and partnerships, they would be more accountable for their conduct and give affected communities, investors and other stakeholders greater opportunity to influence corporate policy.


  AA.  The government should revise company law to provide that company directors have a duty to consider the interests of all those affected by their companies' operations, globally.

  BB.  The government should require companies to report on the social, environmental and ethical aspects of their activities in their annual reports.


  53.  Chapter 5 defends the universality of human rights. This is welcome. So is the attention paid to "honour crimes". This practice, where women are killed or injured, usually by male relatives, for having broken a taboo and "dishonoured" the family, still continues in too many countries.

  54.  The government's rejection of any justification for "honour crimes" is clear and strident. Its co-sponsorship of a resolution on "honour crimes" at the UN General Assembly indicates a willingness to pursue this matter internationally. Encouragingly, the chapter has also named the countries where these crimes are most prevalent. Amnesty International hopes that this interest will be maintained and that next year's FCO annual report will contain further information on FCO initiatives. In particular, we hope to see an update of steps taken in third countries to eliminate honour crimes and the representations made by the UK government to this end.


  CC.  The government's strong condemnation of "honour crimes" is welcome. It should continue to confront this issue. Next year's report should contain further details of initiatives, obstacles, achievements and impact.


  55.  Chapter 6 begins with an affirmation of the "universal" value of justice. It describes impunity as "a disaster on both personal and societal levels". Indeed, some crimes are so serious that the international community has an interest in ensuring justice and denying impunity. The Rome Statute for an International Criminal Court is a testament to this principle.

  56.  Amnesty International is pleased that the UK has now ratified the Rome Statute, fulfilling the government's commitment to be amongst the first 60 countries to do so.

  57.  Ratification by the UK required the enactment of primary legislation in both Westminster and Holyrood. This went beyond the minimum requirements of the Rome Statute. Amnesty International is pleased that it provides an expedited process to respond to the ICC's requests for the arrest and transfer of indictees. The legislation also envisages the possibility of ICC convicts serving their sentences in UK jails.

  58.  However, we are disappointed that the jurisdiction of UK courts only applies to crimes committed on UK territory or by UK residents. "Resident" has an uncertain definition in UK criminal law. The possibility remains that those suspected of "ICC crimes" could visit the UK, perhaps for an extended period, without falling under the jurisdiction of domestic courts. Greater clarity would have been achieved by providing for jurisdiction over all persons present in the UK.

  59.  Section 23 of the ICC Act contains perhaps an even more serious weakness. This allows the Secretary of State to intervene in any case where diplomatic or state immunities apply and order that no proceedings be taken to transfer the individual in question to the ICC. This could apply even if the country that originally conferred it waives immunity. The government has failed to suggest when such discretion might be necessary.

  60.  Despite these shortcomings, the ICC legislation and the UK's ratification of the Rome Statute are significant achievements. The next challenge is to make the ICC a success and ensure that the Statute is widely ratified.

  61.  This will require active diplomacy and might lead to disagreements with the United States of America. It is clear that the USA will not ratify the Rome Statute in the short-to-medium term. However, it is uncertain whether Washington will actively oppose the court and use its influence to dissuade other countries from ratification. The UK, with partners in the EU and beyond, must therefore work to maintain the ICC's integrity and, if necessary, counter US lobbying.


  DD.  The government should amend the ICC Act and the Scottish Executive should amend equivalent parts of the ICC (Scotland) Act to a) provide for domestic courts to have jurisdiction over all persons present in the UK; and b) eliminate the discretion provided to the Secretary of State in Section 23(4) of the Act.

  EE.  The government should work with other countries to maintain the integrity of the Rome Statute and encourage its wide ratification.

  FF.  The government should seek to ensure the success of the ICC by:

    —  ensuring that the ICC is adequately resourced;

    —  providing relevant evidence, including evidence acquired through intelligence;

    —  acting on any request to arrest and transfer individuals indicted by the ICC;

    —  ensuring the investigation of suspects falling, or likely to fall, under the jurisdiction of UK courts.


  62.  Since their establishment, Conservative and Labour governments have both supported the International Criminal Tribunals for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and for Rwanda (ICTR). Aspects of the current government's support are described in Chapter 1.

  63.  The surrender of Slobodan Milosevic to ICTY in June 2001 is a welcome development and ICTR has taken significant steps to overcome earlier difficulties and has established its credibility. UK support for the tribunals must be maintained.

  64.  On page 9, the FCO report describes the UK's support for a Special Court for Sierra Leone to deal with the most serious past human rights abuses. The section notes that the court will be funded from voluntary contributions and states that the UN Secretary General "has decreed that there are now sufficient funds to take the next steps in setting up a UN Sierra Leone Special Court".

  65.  This sentence implies that the decision to fund the court from voluntary contributions has been uncontroversial and unproblematic. This is not the case.

  66.  The court's present budget of $57 million for three years (with $16.8 million required for the first year) is a dramatically reduced figure from the $114 million originally envisaged for the operation of the court over three years. This adjustment became necessary after it was soon realised that voluntary contributions could not match the original figure.

  67.  Although the FCO is correct in reporting the Secretary-General's affirmation that the next steps in the court's establishment could be taken, it fails to report other aspects of his 31 July letter to the Security Council. This also noted that there was still a shortfall of $1.8 million in pledges for the first year of operation and of $19.6 million for the second and third years. He went on to state that "I remain conscious of the difficulties inherent in securing funding on the basis of voluntary contributions. I therefore reserve the right to revert to the Council at any time in the course of the operation of the Special Court and ask it to consider alternate means of financing the Court".[15]

  68.  On 8 November, a press statement from the Security Council President noted that "additional funding was still required for establishment of the Court".[16]

  69.  The UK deserves praise for its actions to support peace in Sierra Leone. It is therefore regrettable that the FCO report failed to convey the difficulties that have been a consequence of the UN Security Council's decision to fund the court through voluntary contributions.


  GG.  The government should continue to urge other governments to make voluntary contributions. It should also indicate its readiness to reconsider the means of funding the court should this be requested by the UN Secretary-General.


  70.  Despite being banned by international agreement, torture persists around the world. Between 1997 and 2000, Amnesty International received reports of torture and ill-treatment by state officials in more than 150 countries. We therefore welcome FCO initiatives in the fight against torture.

  71.  We congratulate the European Union on its April 2001 Guidelines to EU Policy Towards Third Countries on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment. The Union must now implement the guidelines.

  72.  For the past 10 years, the international community has been attempting to agree an Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture. This would establish a sub-committee of the Committee Against Torture to carry out external inspection of places of detention. The negotiations are difficult but we are encouraged by the government's support for a strong optional protocol.

  73.  Amnesty International believes that five principles are fundamental to an effective protocol:

    —  the sub-committee should have a standing invitation to visit the territory of any state party to the protocol;

    —  it must be guaranteed unlimited access to all places of detention and to all detainees, with the right to conduct interviews in private;

    —  if a state refuses to co-operate or partially releases the sub-committee's report, the Sub-Committee must be able to make a statement or to publish its report;

    —  reservations must not be allowed to the protocol;

    —  national legislation must not be used to limit or restrict the work of the sub-committee.

  74.  A weak optional protocol would provide a cover of credibility for some governments and so might be worse than no agreement at all. The UK must therefore refuse to agree a weak text.


  HH.  The FCO should continue to accord a high priority to the fight against torture and should develop further initiatives to contribute to this struggle.

  II.  Within the EU, the UK should work for the effective implementation of the Guidelines to EU Policy Towards Third Countries on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment.

  JJ.  The government should maintain its support for a strong Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture; it must not agree a weak text.


  75.  Amnesty International welcomes the government's continued opposition to the death penalty, expressed bilaterally and through the EU. We also welcome the FCO's announcement, in February 2001, that the UK now expresses its opposition to the imposition of the death penalty on UK nationals whenever it feels that representations are appropriate, from the moment it becomes a possibility. This replaced the previous policy of awaiting completion of the judicial process.


  KK.  The government's active opposition to the death penalty is welcome and should be maintained.

12   Eighth Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee, Session 2000-2001, Human Rights Annual Report 2000: Follow up to Government Response-Response of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, July 2001, Cm 5216, paragraph 10. Back

13   Lords Official Report 30 June 1998, Col. WA65 Back

14   Financial Times, 18 April 2001. Back

15   S/2001/693. Back

16   16 SC/7202. Back

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