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Mr. Straw: I commend the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his remarks in respect of Beslan.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked me whether the figure of 50,000 killed was accurate. The answer is that I cannot say, but I have seen that estimate. I can say that at least 1,200,000 have fled their homes and are currently in properly registered refugee camps. Many thousands more may be elsewhere; another 200,000 are across the border in Chad.

One of the most extraordinary experiences on my visit to the Sudan was to stand on the top of a hill to look out at the rows and rows of huts in a camp that stretched to the horizon. Some 50,000 people, the size of a medium-sized town in this country, were housed in those huts and I reflected on the fact that the refugees we know about are contained in at least 24 more such camps.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked whether what has happened amounts to genocide. The answer is that there is evidence that clearly suggests that international crimes against humanity have been committed. Just before making the statement, I discussed the issue with Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The acting high commissioner for human rights, Bertrand Ramcharan, reported to the Security Council in the spring of 2004 that there was no doubt that there had been gross and systematic violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law. Mr. Annan said to me that we were all agreed that the parties in Sudan needed to act to ensure that these violations did not continue. The Secretary-General is keeping the question of whether what has happened is genocide under very close review, and so are we. We are examining the evidence that has been made available so far to us in confidence by the US Government. Of course, I will keep the House informed on that.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman's final point was about sanctions. The international community has not backed away from the possible use of sanctions. Indeed, operative paragraph 6 of resolution 1556 plainly lays down that, unless there is compliance, the Security Council will actively consider whether to bring in the sanctions—they are called "measures"—that are provided for under article 41 of the charter. It is our intention to see that point repeated in the new resolution. What I cannot say is the point at which we can persuade other partners in the Security Council that such action needs to be taken, but I can say for certain that it is only as a result of the strength of feeling and the resolve of the Security Council expressed at the end of July that the Government of Sudan, having resisted some improvements previously, have now started to make changes that are acceptable in themselves but do not go nearly far enough and are unsatisfactory altogether in respect of the security situation outside the camps.

Mr. Clive Soley (Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend accept that the frustration and anger felt by so many people and Governments about the ineffectiveness of the Sudanese Government in this situation reflect the much wider
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problem of failing states? When Kofi Annan's high level panel reports, which I think it is due to do at the end of this year, will my right hon. Friend make that a major debate and matter of attention in this country and other countries around the world, through the international institutions, because the international community's failure to have a coherent policy towards failing states led to us wringing our hands and looking on in horror at Rwanda, intervening ineffectually in Somalia, intervening effectively in Kosovo and now, I fear, having only a marginal impact in Darfur? The international community really has to do better than that, and that high-level panel is vital to the future of foreign policy and defence for this country and for others for years to come.

Mr. Straw: I agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of this; it was the subject of an excellent pamphlet written by him recently with my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd). I offered some perhaps more modest thoughts about this subject in a speech to Chatham House last Thursday. It is crucial that, once we receive Kofi Annan's report, we really deal with this issue, and we should.

There are some structural organisational issues that we have got to handle for the UN, but the worst thing in the world for the future of the UN is to get drawn into organograms or rebranding the organisation and avoid the central conceptual issue, which is in what circumstances in the world we live in today—where the threats come from terrorists and failing states, and not normally from functioning states—the Security Council takes action and how it ensures the same resolve today to deal with these new threats as the international community had in 1945 when the UN was established.

Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): The Secretary of State cited Rwanda and Bosnia, but in respect of both the UN set up a war crimes tribunal to bring to justice those most guilty of perpetrating war crimes. Can he clarify what he meant when he referred in his statement to the international commission of inquiry to see what international crimes are being committed and by whom? Will that be conducted under the auspices of the Secretary-General of the UN and is it intended that, if those responsible can be identified, there will be a UN war crimes tribunal in respect of atrocities committed in Sudan?

Mr. Straw: The hon. Gentleman is right to say that such tribunals were set up, and are still operating, in respect of both the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Of course, roughly speaking, that was all the international community did: although it was a necessary step to take, it was too late and completely insufficient. I do not want to be there.

Our immediate concerns are security, proper supplies and humanitarian access, and a political solution. We are also concerned, as is Secretary-General Kofi Annan, about the climate of impunity. The only way to take away that climate of impunity is to ensure that there is a proper investigation of alleged crimes and a proper process after that.

The Government of Sudan have established their own national commission. If there were wider international confidence in the effectiveness of that commission, okay,
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but Jan Pronk has already made clear his concerns about its adequacy. For that reason, we are looking carefully at what wider international commissions or institutions should operate. I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the detail he needs, because that has not been decided. It is something that we are discussing with our international partners.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Coatbridge and Chryston) (Lab): In thanking my right hon. Friend for the excellent work that he is doing in a very complex situation, may I take him back to the meeting of 23–24 August when he met the President of Sudan? Were the President of Sudan and the Sudanese regime aware of the true anger in the international community, as well as in the House? What regard did he give to resolution 1556? Is there any evidence that, if a strengthened resolution is introduced, as we all hope that it will be, he will give it any regard? Was it made clear to him that, if he does not, the international community's patience is not inexhaustible?

Mr. Straw: I did everything that I could to stress to the President of Sudan the gravity of the situation and the intense concern of the international community. That is understood. Initially, there was almost a refusal to acknowledge the strength of the terms of 1556, and there were statements by the Government of Sudan that they were unwilling to implement it. After further pressure, however, not least from fellow African countries, they have said that they will implement it, and have signed up to the action plan that they put forward. They offered undertakings about what they will do in the 30-day period, some of which they have done, but by no means all. On those, above all, we must hold the Government of Sudan to account.

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con): Nobody pretends that there is an easy solution to this situation, but is it not the case that the Government of Sudan have form on this? They have form throughout the south during the civil war, in the Nuba mountains and elsewhere, and they have form on getting away with it with impunity. Furthermore, they have achieved their aim in the south to destroy the infrastructure and intelligentsia and their aim in Darfur to empty the region of black African farmers. Will the Foreign Secretary make it his policy with the international community that individuals in the Government of Sudan, from Bashir downwards, should be held responsible for their complicity in war crimes, that they will not have impunity and that they will be brought before the bar of international justice, wherever that may be, and held responsible for the awful crimes that may yet lead to the deaths of as many as 1 million people?

Mr. Straw: I have commented on the need for international investigation of those crimes. I will not anticipate the outcome of those investigations, except to say that it is clear beyond doubt that international crimes against humanity have been committed. The Government of Sudan have been engaged in peace talks in respect of the south and we are tantalisingly close to
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complete agreement, which can produce peace and stability in the south. The sense that I got when I was in Khartoum was that something was holding the Government back, which is why I have worked hard with all my international interlocutors, including Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to impress on them, as well as the Government, that if we want peace and stability in Darfur, we must make rapid progress on the peace that is available today or tomorrow, in respect of the south, through the Naivasha accords.

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