WEDNESDAY 30 JANUARY 2002
Donald Anderson, in the Chair
RT HON PETER HAIN, a Member of the House, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), DR CAROLYN BROWNE, Head of Human Rights Policy Department and DR NICOLA BREWER, Director, Global Issues, FCO, examined
(Mr Hain) Speculation is a dangerous thing for any Minister but obviously we shall have wanted to take account of developments there in respect of the action, detainees and other issues which concern everybody associated with it. We would also have wanted to recognise that the terrorist attack on New York and Washington created entirely new circumstances for the world upon which we have had to act.
(Mr Hain) We have been in the process of constant dialogue with the authorities in the US and a delegation of British officials did visit the Guantanamo base and were able to talk to the detainees who are British. Whether it is at that level or at the level of the Foreign Secretary talking pretty well every other day to Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington about a whole range of international issues, this included, we have been in constant contact.
(Mr Hain) First of all, I have read those reports just as members of the Committee could have and I cannot shed any further light on them. What is important here is that we distinguish basic principles rather than get into the intricacies of international law applied in the context of a battlefield situation and subsequent apprehension. The principles are clear: the individuals apprehended are alleged to be and assumed to be guilty of very serious crimes, either in Afghanistan or by association with others, members of al-Qaeda, in an international conspiracy, the most dramatic form of which we saw in the USA on 11 September. They therefore have to be treated very, very carefully and circumspectly and with exceptional security measures, especially as there is a tendency for suicide action. That is the first reality that we simply need to be constantly aware of. The second is that everybody, whatever crime they are alleged to have committed, should be treated humanely. That is a principle we strongly adhere to; we believe that the American authorities, even in the difficult circumstances in Guantanamo Bay, where there was no prior planning for such an eventuality, have also sought to adopt the same principles of humanitarian treatment.
(Mr Hain) The exact circumstances in which the individuals were apprehended and exactly what they were doing and how they might be categorised or classified or designated is highly complex because we are not dealing here with the traditional conflict between nations. In respect of al-Qaeda detainees at least, perhaps in respect of Taliban armed forces with which admittedly they were linked in some fashion, and it varied, then one could have applied traditional categories but this is a very complex matter and rather than trying to get me to define, though I am happy to answer any questions from the Committee, and to be pressed on it, exactly how I would as a non-lawyer, not as a domestic lawyer or an international lawyer, define the exact circumstances or the classification of an individual detainee is not very fruitful
(Mr Hain) Statements which have been made by the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and indeed by President Bush himself indicate quite clearly, and I am happy to report them to you, that they do want to act in a way which is consistent with the Geneva Conventions. Donald Rumsfeld said on 11 January that they have indicated that they do plan to treat the detainees in a manner which is reasonably consistent with the Geneva Conventions, to the extent that this is appropriate, and that is exactly what they have been doing. It is not for me to defend every statement which has come from Washington or anywhere else in the world uttered by a Foreign Minister, whether an American or anyone else.
(Mr Hain) I think I should defend our own Government's position and that I am very happy to do so.
(Mr Hain) Of course and that we have done.
(Mr Hain) What is important is what is happening on the ground. We sent a delegation of British officials who talked to all three of the British detainees in Guantanamo Bay. I do not say they are ecstatic about their treatment, who would be in those circumstances, but they made no complaints about inhumane treatment and the Red Cross, in line with normal accepted practice in these circumstances, is present, is able to monitor the situation, is able to make representations.
(Mr Hain) I do not think anybody is content with the situation, let alone the Americans in the sense that they would not have chosen to have to deal with these circumstances. Let us remember that we are dealing with a situation which was not planned for, where there are, according to the New York Times, currently 158 detainees held in Guantanamo Bay as of a week ago and the planned capacity, according to the Baltimore Sun of 25 January, is 2,000. The detainees in Afghanistan held by the US currently number 270 - at least that is my latest information. The BBC reported a spokesman for the US authorities, a former US Ambassador to Qatar, Kenton Keith, saying that he believed the number of prisoners to be around 7,.000 in total . These are exceptional totals in circumstances which were not planned for. I think it is quite proper that everybody cast a beady eye on the treatment of prisoners to ensure that they are treated in a humanitarian fashion and we are doing that along with the Americans themselves.
(Mr Hain) They are exceptional detainees in the sense that they have been apprehended in circumstances where al-Qaeda have been fighting the international coalition. They are assumed to be members of al-Qaeda, it is alleged some of them very senior ones. Al-Qaeda are known to be ruthless terrorists, to be prepared to commit suicide and take anybody else with them, as we saw so dramatically on 11 September, therefore they are exceptional circumstances which were not planned for and if some things have gone wrong along the way, that is perfectly natural. The Americans have insisted that they are treating all detainees in a humanitarian fashion, broadly according to the principles of the Geneva Convention. This is something we want to see and we will certainly be monitoring that.
(Mr Hain) I am quite low down the Ministerial food chain to begin to make pronouncements of that kind. We need constantly to update all our international procedures and treaties. We are now in an era of an entirely new threat from an international terrorist force which struck so unexpectedly and horrifically on 11 September. I guess we need to review all our security procedures and legal procedures to take account of these developments.
(Mr Hain) It is fairly central. Under this Government, from 1997 on, initially under Robin Cook, now under Jack Straw as Foreign Secretary, and myself having been involved over a number of years, we put human rights at the centre of our foreign policy. I think we have a very good record on that and I am happy to explore it. We always want to do better and your advice helps us to do that. The policies of the Human Rights Policy Department, which Carolyn Browne heads have been mainstream. It is not an any other business item which you get round to if you are in the South Asian department or the Africa department or the Middle East department. Human rights are constantly on your agenda. Our ambassadors and high commissioners make it a mainstream matter for them. We have had considerable interest in the allocation of human rights advisers to our posts. Initially we have two human rights advisers already in place in Kiev and Katmandu out of eight and we already have a full list in Kuala Lumpur where we are recruiting and Caracas where we are recruiting and three in Africa. This is an indication of both the success of human rights advice and in addition here in London we have diplomats on secondment to Article 19, to the Minority Rights Group and to Inter-Rights and we have human rights advisers working inside the Foreign Office from non-governmental organisations. Having worked for example with one of our officials who was recruited from Amnesty International, she brings considerable added-value to the work of the department. It is very much appreciated.
(Mr Hain) All the reports.
(Mr Hain) All the reports from Guantanamo base would have been seen by the department and it would have been second nature, because that is the way the Foreign Office works today, to make sure that human rights is at the top of our agenda. It was not always like that in the past, but it certainly is the case now and for the future. I do not say we always get it right. We try to and your observations on Guantanamo Bay or any other instances of foreign policy would be very much welcomed.
(Mr Hain) It is a key question and I shall answer it directly. It is something we constantly try to keep a balance on. If you look at the international situation, it has changed quite dramatically. Who would have suspected, for example, that Pakistan would have come out of its self-imposed categorisation as a state of concern into one which is part of the international coalition, its own human rights record not being a pretty one, being now addressed in dialogue with us and with others. We can have members of an international coalition to fight a common threat of this awful kind whilst at the same time having a full and frank dialogue including, where appropriate, pressure with individual countries, it might be Iran, it might be Pakistan, it might be others involved. That continues and it has not stood in the way. May I make one additional point? I do not see a conflict between security and individual liberty, indeed the right to life is the most basic human right and our security is enhanced by projecting concern for human rights and making sure that concern is implemented.
(Mr Hain) I do not agree with that; on the contrary, whether it was the Prime Minister's meeting with President Musharraf on the 8 January or whether it was the constant contact that the Foreign Secretary has had with Pakistan and his opposite number and our own dialogue with Pakistanis in post, we have constantly been in dialogue about human rights and we shall continue to be so.
(Mr Hain) I am not aware, to be perfectly frank.
(Dr Browne) I am not aware either.
(Mr Hain) Perhaps we could come back to you on that point.
(Mr Hain) I do not think so. We fully consulted our European colleagues on this matter. It was a matter on which we have acted in concert. None has yet derogated but that is not to say they will not. No, I do not think so, because we were dealing with exceptional circumstances here, we have acted in accord with that and that does not mean that we have somehow thrown human rights out of the window: on the contrary, our commitment to human rights, both in Britain, throughout Europe and internationally remains as steadfast as it has always been.
(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.
(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 199 it was 93 pages long, in 2002 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.
(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.
(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 elections.
(Mr Hain) Indeed.
(Mr Hain) You are making the point of principle.
(Mr Hain) I shall look at the logic of our response more carefully in the future.
(Mr Hain) I have many good friends in Botswana.
(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.
(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 last 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.
(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 funds - to be frank, ours are relatively small compared with the others - and 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.
(Mr Hain) Yes.
(Mr Hain) We shall happily look at that and perhaps discuss with the Committee how that might be helpfully done.
(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.
(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 decision - and I was present - was 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.
(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 this.
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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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 constituency - possibly even more than yours, I do not know - has 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.
(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.
(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 I 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.
(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 see - and I think the Foreign Secretary is correct in this - how 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 forward.
(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 country.
(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 make - and certainly I should be interested in any recommendations from the Committee on how we can improve things - is 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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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 criteria.
(Mr Hain) No question about that.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(Mr Hain) I know that the US have been recalcitrant on this.
(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.
(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 you.
(Mr Hain) Naturally we do not accept that argument.
(Mr Hain) We have been into the undergrowth of that argument ourselves and are quite satisfied that that concern is not well founded. I hope that there will be fresh thinking both on Capitol Hill and in the Administration. I would have thought that one of the lessons of 11 September and the threat that the world faces from groups like al-Qaeda, is that you need an International Criminal Court and when you look at the Milosovic experience and look at others, look at Foday Sankoh, for example, the rebel leader in Sierra Leone responsible for brutalising the people of Sierra Leone, people like that ought to be brought before the International Criminal Court.
(Mr Hain) No, I understand that. It is not retrospective, but I said people like that ought to be brought before the International Criminal Court. I would have thought that opinion in the US ought to see the sense and logic in that.
(Mr Hain) It is certainly something we are not going to let go of. It is something we want to see and when the most powerful country in the world is not subscribing to an international treaty like that obviously it seriously weakens it.
(Mr Hain) It may be more than we can do. The Foreign Office have compiled best practice guidelines for police forces in Britain to help tackle the problem and liaised with NGOs both here and abroad to try to provide a complete range of support for victims. Over 200 victims of forced marriages were helped by the Foreign Office's Community Liaison Unit. Clearly the attitude and practice and priority given by police forces in countries in which this odious practice operates need to be radically improved. May I also say that we have this Community Liaison Unit which has four full-time staff attached to our consular division, including an escapee of a forced marriage in Pakistan Narina Anwar who works part time advising the unit. We are giving this considerable attention and I am glad you raised it.
Mr Pope: I just want to say that quite often we tend to appear critical at these meetings, but I think that is a really good initiative and I am really pleased to hear that.
(Mr Hain) This is broadly on the EU agenda. I am afraid I cannot point to any specific instances, but it is something I will certainly follow up and perhaps notify you of.
(Mr Hain) I am not aware of suspensions.
(Mr Hain) No, I am not aware of an imminent suspension but it is always possible, given that the European Union is strongly committed to human rights and it is an important part of those partnership agreements. It is something which is constantly monitored and something on which we work constantly with the countries with whom the partnership agreements are established.
(Mr Hain) In all these agreements, we are committed as the European Union and as a member of it to greater coherence and consistency in all the internal and external policies of the European Union. It is not something which is number 25 on the agenda and sometimes falls off the bottom: it is integral to the partnership agreements. It is at the foundation of the European Union. Article 6 of the Amsterdam Treaty re-affirmed that the EU is founded on the principles of liberty, democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. These are issues which are pressed to more or less effect, with more or less success with all of the countries involved.
(Mr Hain) No, they have not and indeed following lobbying by both Britain and the European Union, a Turkmen religious prisoner Atakof was released at the end of last year. Despite the fact that the post-September 11 crisis was unfolding with Turkmenistan part of the theatre, that is something we achieved. We continue regularly to raise specific human rights concerns with all the governments concerned of central Asia, including prisoner cases, restricted media and religious restriction laws and pressing for better governance and political reform. It is another example where when we are pursuing security, human rights is a foundation for that security in any stable or long-term perspective.
(Mr Hain) First of all may I say that the Foreign Secretary will inform the House very shortly of the exact date of publication. I welcome that and I am sure that the Committee will welcome it as well. In respect of why it has taken so long, the issues are very complex and we wanted to produce an objective and balanced paper.
(Mr Hain) I do not think we knew how complex, to be perfectly frank. When we took account of the policies in other countries, the history of international concern about mercenaries, the current debate on the role of private military companies and the legal issues involved, it is quite difficult terrain. Nevertheless I think the Committee will welcome the imminent publication of the Green Paper and I hope that we will hear your views on it. No doubt a Minister will appear before you at some point to be harangued about its contents.
(Mr Hain) I welcome the opportunity to be questioned because it helps us to do our job. Would it help if I just told the Committee that I understand the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, which was meeting today on Zimbabwe, issued a strong statement condemning recent developments, issued benchmarks for the government to meet for free and fair elections but decided to defer whether or not to recommend Zimbabwe be suspended from the Commonwealth until March.
(Mr Hain) Until 1 March it appears. CMAG has also insisted that the government respond on the benchmarks and will look at it again on 1 March.
Chairman: Indeed. May I thank you for that further information. Thank you.