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Tom Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he visited the wall now being built by the Israeli authorities on Palestinian land on his recent visit to Palestine; and if he will make a statement. 
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary saw parts of the barrier being constructed around Jerusalem during his visit to Palestine on 25 November. He raised the issue of the barrier in his meeting with the Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom on 24 November. He expressed this Government's view
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that while Israel has a legitimate right to defend itself against terrorist attacks, construction of the barrier on occupied land is unlawful. Lasting security can only be delivered by a negotiated settlement, not by unilateral measures such as the barrier.
Sir Paul Beresford: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the reasons are for the proposed closure of the British embassy in Madagascar; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Mullin [holding answer 17 January 2005]: As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary stated on 15 December 2004, Official Report, columns 13740WS, we are making changes to our overseas network to reflect changing demands and challenges and to ensure the UK has a cost-effective and flexible network of overseas representation. This involves the closure of several diplomatic posts including the British embassy in Antananarivo.
This is in no way a reflection on the current Government of Madagascar or on the quality of our bilateral relations. We will work with the Government of Madagascar to establish alternative forms of British representation.
Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what support and guidance his Department provides to parents or legal guardians who have travelled abroad to locate missing children aged 16 to 18-years-old in (a) Spain, (b) other EU countries and (c) non-EU countries. 
Mr. Mullin: Responsibility for locating children overseas lies with local police forces. Consular staff in overseas posts provide consular assistance to parents where they can, irrespective of the age of their children. Additionally, consular directorate in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London liaises closely with parents travelling overseas to locate children. They can provide advice about travel and accommodation, and, where necessary, details of English speaking lawyers. Consular staff often have contacts with local police and appropriate non-governmental organisations that they will use to assist British nationals overseas as appropriate.
Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the North Korean Government concerning the safety of Park Yong-Choi, following his repatriation from China in October 2004. 
Mr. Rammell: We have raised Mr. Park's case with the North Korean authorities at official level, both in London and Pyongyang, seeking confirmation of his safety and well-being. We await their response.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will raise with the Governments of China and North Korea the case of Mr. Park Yang-Choi, who has been forcibly repatriated from China to North Korea. 
Mr. Rammell: We have raised Mr. Park's case with the North Korean authorities, seeking confirmation of his safety and well-being, and we await their response. We also supported an EU demarche to the Chinese authorities on Mr. Park's case last year.
Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether it is his Department's policy that all parliamentary written answers given by his Department should be displayed on the Department's website on the day of answer. 
John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the UN on the publication of the Third UN Human Development Report on the Arab World. 
Mr. Rammell: My right hon. Friend the Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean discussed the Arab Human Development Reports and follow-up action with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in November last year. While drafting and publication of the reports is the responsibility of their Arab authors and the UNDP, the UK welcomes the reports' focus on the changes needed in the region to ensure sustainable political, economic and social development. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is supporting a number of UNDP programmes that help implement the recommendations contained in the reports.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the Government of Uzbekistan about securing greater independence of the country's judicial system. 
"take the necessary measures to establish and ensure the independence of the judiciary in the performance of their duties in conformity with international standards, notably the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary".
In 2004 the UK funded an Electronic Court Reporting Project implemented by the American Bar Association CEELI, a public service project supporting the independence of the judiciary. It was preceded by a study tour to the UK by Uzbek judges.
We engaged in extensive trial monitoring during the terrorist trials of July to October 2004, which gave lawyers the confidence to put forward strong cases for their clients, gave the defendants the confidence to speak more openly and ensured that trials were conducted with a greater degree of openness and fairness. As a result, we believe that those on trial who were convicted received lower sentences than otherwise might have been expected.
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Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the Government of Uzbekistan about (a) permitting the registration of independent political parties and (b) participation by independent candidates in future parliamentary elections. 
We lobbied the Uzbek authorities throughout 2004 on the registration of independent political parties. The UK, together with EU partners, met Foreign Minister Safayev on 11 November 2004 and urged progress towards international election standards and the registration of independents for more credible elections.
"the fact that opposition groups were not allowed to register undermines the credibility of any claims that these were democratic elections. A democratic process, political pluralism and respect for the rule of law are essential for long-term stability and economic prosperity in Uzbekistan and will provide a more secure environment for the country and the region as a whole".
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the extent of implementation by the Government of Uzbekistan of the recommendations by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. 
Recommendation B: Definition of Torture. The Supreme Court resolution 17 of December 2003 defined torture. The definition is that of the UN Convention Against Torture. The definition is not yet on the statute. The Interior Ministry (MVD) has told us they are prosecuting officials in accordance with the new definition anyway.
Recommendation E: Independent investigation of all allegations of torture. This recommendation says all allegations should be independently investigated. The Uzbek authorities permitted independent investigation of the death in custody of Andrei Shelkavenko in May 2004 and in January 2005 have agreed to allow a US pathologist access in the investigation of the death in custody of Samandar Umarov. Torture was disproved in the Shelkavenko case. But there are still many more cases of alleged torture which are not yet being independently investigated.
Recommendation O: Training for law enforcement agents regarding rights of those deprived of liberty. This has improved through projects implemented by the UN Development Programme and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe with MVD investigators and the penitentiary system.
We recently received an update on activities implemented under the Uzbek National Action Plan on Torture through which Uzbekistan intends to carry out the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur. We are looking at this latest update with our EU partners to consider how we can work with the Uzbek Government to achieve further progress.
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Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with his counterparts in the European Union about the Partnership and Co-operation agreement with Uzbekistan and recent information on the country's record on human rights, democratisation and economic reform. 
Mr. Rammell: The Partnership and Co-operation agreement (PCA) states that respect for democracy and human rights and progress towards economic freedom constitute essential elements of the EU-Uzbekistan relationship. The EU Co-operation Council meets annually at ministerial level to supervise the implementation of the PCA and to examine any major issues arising within the framework of the agreement.
The last Co-operation Council took place on 27 January 2004 during which the presidency and Commission stressed to the Uzbek delegation the importance of economic and political reform and positive developments on human rights. The next Co-operation Council under the Luxembourg presidency is scheduled for 1 February 2005.
EU heads of mission meet regularly in Tashkent between themselves and with the Uzbek authorities to discuss how best to encourage the development of these themes. On 7 January 2005, at a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Ganiev, the Uzbek ambassador to Belgium, and the Uzbek ambassador designate to the EU and NATO, Vladimir Norov, the EU again highlighted the need for economic liberalisation and progress towards democracy and improved human rights.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the appropriateness of TACIS funding for projects with the Uzbekistan Parliament. 
Mr. Rammell: The UK raised concerns about initial European Commission TACIS funding proposals for Uzbekistan for 200506. We considered that they did not take sufficiently into account the country's poor record in meeting EU objectives of respect for democratic principles and human rights. In response to these concerns the Commission made clear in its Indicative Programme that the TACIS Central Asia Programme would take into account democratic principles and human rights when determining the final budget allocations.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the European Union about the scope for increased funding of projects in Uzbekistan which focus on (a) grass roots development, (b) poverty alleviation and (c) education. 
Mr. Rammell: We have supported the poverty reduction focus of recent TACIS action programmes for central Asia, especially track 3 of the programmes. This is a pilot poverty reduction scheme seeking to help the most vulnerable groups. It aims to link relief with rehabilitation and longer-term development. Particular attention is given to promoting civil society involvement. Substantial increases in funding for this component have been proposed. Track 2 also provides assistance to developing the education sector.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what representations he has made to the Government of Uzbekistan about the rejection of the applications for registration by (a) the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, (b) the Mazlum Human Rights Group, (c) Mothers Against the Death Penalty and Torture and (d) Democracy and Law; 
(2) if he will urge the Government of Uzbekistan to revise Cabinet of Ministers internal decree No. 523 in order to decrease the level of control over the activities of international non-governmental organisations; 
(4) if he will urge the Government of Uzbekistan to revise Cabinet of Ministers decree No. 56 and other internal documents to reduce the level of Government control over financial assistance for non-governmental organisations; 
Mr. Rammell: Both bilaterally and with EU partners, we have regularly and repeatedly drawn our deep concern about the NGO climate in Uzbekistan to senior level attention within the Uzbek Government. In a letter to Uzbek Foreign Minister Safayev of November 2004, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary reminded him that
The EU, supported by the UK, issued a letter in December 2004 to Foreign Minister Safayev, which raised the repeated refusal to register Mothers Against the Death Penalty and Torture despite international recognition for its leader Tamara Chikunova.
We are aware of the constraints placed upon the NGO community in Uzbekistan by the Cabinet of Ministers' decree No. 56 and internal decree No.523. It has been and will continue to be a fundamental aspect of our policy towards Uzbekistan to press for a freer environment in which the local and international NGO communities and journalists can work.
In February 2004 the EU addressed a letter to the Minister of Justice, Mr. Polvon-Zoda, expressing concern that the government requirements for the registration of NGOs would prevent organisations such as Human Rights Watch, International Crisis Group and the Institute for War and Peace reporting from working and publishing. We will continue to stress the importance of putting in place procedures to allow the registration of both domestic and international NGOs.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what inquiries he has made about (a) the well-being and (b) the treatment in prison of Ruslan Sharipov in Uzbekistan. 
Mr. Rammell: The journalist and human rights activist Ruslan Sharipov was arrested on 26 May 2003 on suspicion of having committed homosexual acts. He was subsequently tried and sentenced to five and a half years in prison.
The UK and others followed the case closely and believe that the serious allegations made against Ruslan Sharipov may have been politically motivated. Concerned by the charges and his possible treatment in prison, the EU, supported by the UK, raised the Sharipov case with Foreign Minister Safayev in January 2004.
In early 2004 he was transferred to an open prison and had his sentence reduced from four to just over three years. In March he was released on probation but was effectively under house arrest. In June he was due to be sent to Bukhara for the continuation of his sentence. Instead, he absconded to Moscow where he spent several months. In October he was granted asylum by the US.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what inquiries he has made about the whereabouts of A. Mahmudov, a member of Tanlov Erk's youth wing in Uzbekistan, who was arrested on the Kazakh border in October 2003. 
Mr. Rammell: We have recently learned that in addition to Mr Mahmudov, Tanlov followers Bakhodir Kambarov and Zakir Umarov have also been arrested and detained in Chirchik and that their relatives have subsequently been ordered to tell the Tanlov management (based abroad) to close the Tanlov website and cease Tanlov activity.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what inquiries he has made about the case of Moydijan Kurbanov, the head of Birlik in Jizzakh province, Uzbekistan, who was arrested in February 2004 and later released on remand. 
Mr. Rammell The UK together with Germany and the Netherlands, has closely followed the case of Muhiddin Kurbanov, the Chairman of the Birlik Party for Jizzak Oblast and the Chairman of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan in Zarbdor District of Jizzak Oblast.
Following his arrest a representative from our embassy in Tashkent and a German colleague met Kurbanov to examine the details of the case. We also spoke on his behalf with Deputy Prosecutor of Jizzak province Tuichi Khaitaliev, who intimated there would be a positive outcome to the trial.
Kurbanov was sentenced on 12 April to three and a half years in prison. The UK, Germany and the Netherlands (as monitors) jointly wrote to Foreign Minister Safayev and the Prosecutor General regarding the case and Kurbanov's appeal, asking that Kurbanov not be detained prior to the appeal.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will urge the Government of Uzbekistan to conduct a review of law enforcement agencies in order to (a) decrease their numbers and (b) ensure political control over their activities. 
Mr. Rammell: It is for the Uzbek Government to decide on how it wishes to run its law enforcement agencies. The UK stands ready to offer advice and expertise should the Uzbek authorities ask. We have had discussions with the Uzbek law enforcement agencies on issues such as serious crime, organised crime, international terrorism, people trafficking and illicit drug trafficking. We are working with the Uzbek Government on a Memorandum of Understanding between our respective law enforcement agencies on these issues.
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