The European Council decided in December 2003 to extend the remit of the Vienna-based EU Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) to become a human rights agency. In December 2004, the European Council called for further implementation of this decision.
In October 2004, the European Commission published a communication in order to seek the views of member state Governments and civil society on the agency. In January 2005, the UK Government
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published its response to the communication, which is available at
Although the Government publish the title, membership and terms of reference of cabinet committees, it has been the practice of successive governments not to disclose when they meet or the details of their proceedings, including the dates they meet.
Ian Pearson: Since the comprehensive peace accord was signed in August 2003, fighting in Liberia has ended. The United Nations Mission in Liberia has established control of the country; disarmament of ex-combatants has been completed; and the country is preparing for elections in October. Progress has been positive, but further steps must be taken towards improved governance and economic accountability within the National Transitional Government of Liberia.
Ian Pearson: Representatives from the British high commission in Abuja regularly raise incidents of ethnic unrest in Nigeria with the relevant federal and state authorities. Specific initiatives we are supporting to address ethnic tension include funding the work of Coventry Cathedral's International Centre for Reconciliation to decrease violence in Plateau State, and working with the Nigerian Presidential Implementation Committee to put in place their recently agreed strategic conflict assessment.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last met the Russian Foreign Minister to discuss (a) legal reform and (b) judicial independence in Russia. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander
[holding answer 20 June 2005]: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary talked about the independence of the judiciary in Russia
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with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov when they met in London on 1 March this year. The Foreign Secretary and Mr. Lavrov also discussed the state of human rights and democracy in Russia in the context of Russia's membership of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. More recently my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister discussed the present state of Russia and its future development, including judicial reform, with President Putin in Moscow on 13 June.
We have made clear the importance we attach to the rule of law and its impact on investor confidence through our regular Ministerial as well as Embassy contacts with the Russian Government. These contacts include a bilateral human rights dialogue with the Russian Government. The latest round of talks was held in Moscow on 23 May 2005. Discussion included questions about progress on judicial reform in Russia as well as opportunities for building on on-going project work in the area of penal reform.
We are also engaged, with our European partners, in biannual EU-Russia human rights consultations. The first session of consultations took place in Luxembourg on 1 March 2005. The next round of consultations is scheduled to take place under the UK presidency of the EU on 8 September 2005.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what further reforms relating to the rule of law in Russia the UK would require to be put in place before agreeing to Russia being accepted as a member of the World Trade Organisation. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander [holding answer 20 June 2005]: The European Commission leads on World Trade Organisation issues on behalf of EU member states. WTO accession negotiations between the EU and Russia were concluded in May 2004. Russian WTO membership is now pending the successful conclusion of negotiations with other WTO members.
Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Burundian authorities on the deportation of Rwandan asylum seekers; and if he will make a statement. 
Ian Pearson: We have spoken to both the Burundian and Rwandan Governments to remind them of their obligations under relevant international law, particularly the principles set out in the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1974 Organization of African Unity Convention, to which both countries are signatories. We have urged both Governments to co-operate fully with staff of the UN high commission for refugees and other UN agencies.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions his Department has had with the Home Office regarding Sudanese refugees facing torture in Sudan. 
We hold regular discussions with the Home Office regarding the status of Sudanese refugees who could face torture in Sudan. The Foreign and
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Commonwealth Office provides regular updates and responds to specific requests from the Home Office on the situation and conditions in Sudan, which inform asylum caseworkers' decisions.
Our embassy in Khartoum, both bilaterally and as part of the EU-Sudan dialogue, makes regular representations to the Sudanese Government on the need for it to abide by international humanitarian law, including international human rights treaties. We have also committed £7.2 million for a programme to reform the Sudanese judicial sector and ensure it complements Sudan's international human rights obligations, including by ratifying and implementing the UN Convention Against Torture.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what assessment he has made of the statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that the Janjaweed have operated with impunity and in close co-ordination with the forces of the Government of Sudan; 
Ian Pearson: On 7 May 2004 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a report in which he outlined his concerns that Janjaweed militias were operating with impunity and in close co-ordination with the forces of the Government of Sudan (GoS).
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1556, passed on 30 July 2004, demanded that the GoS disarm the Janjaweed militias and apprehend and bring to justice Janjaweed leaders responsible for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. We have made clear to the Government that we expect it to tackle the climate of impunity and to comply with this Resolution, and all other commitments it has made.
On 31 March 2005, the Security Council also passed resolution 1593, which we sponsored, referring the situation in Darfur to the International Criminal Court. We are pressing the GoS to co-operate in full with the court.
Only a political solution to this conflict will create the necessary conditions for long-term peace and a sustainable disarmament process in Darfur. We therefore welcome the resumption, on 10 June, of the Abuja peace talks for Darfur. A UK Observer is attending the talks.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans are being developed (a) to return the displaced people of Darfur to their homes and (b) to provide them with security. 
Improving the security situation is key if those who have been displaced are to return to their homes. We are pressing the GoS to ensure the safety of its civilians and improve the security situation there, but the African Union (AU) mission also has a key role to play.
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We welcome the planned expansion of the AU mission to over 7,700 personnel and have allocated £19 million in support of this. Where AU troops are deployed, they have helped create the necessary conditions for some Internally Displaced Persons returns. For example in Labado and Khor Abeche the AU presence has, according to the UN, enabled 15,000 and 4,500 people respectively to return to their homes. The additional troops will enable the AU to provide greater geographical coverage in Darfur, and a more permanent presence in areas where it is already deployed.
Ian Pearson: The Government of Sudan (GoS) signed the Abuja Security Protocol on 9 November 2004, which commits them to refrain from all hostile military overflights over Darfur. Under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1591, the African Union (AU) is requested to monitor compliance by GoS with this commitment. We continue to make clear to both the GoS and the rebels that they must abide fully by the commitments they have made, and the UN Security Council Resolution.
In early February the GoS announced that they would remove their Antonov aircraft from Darfur and refrain from hostile use of aircraft there. The Antonovs appear to have been withdrawn. Although helicopter gunships remain in Darfur, the AU and the UN Secretary-General report that the Government has not conducted any air attacks since January.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which international organisation is funding the airlift of African Union troops into Darfur; and if he will make a statement. 
Both NATO and the EU are committed to supporting expansion of the African Union's (AU) mission in Darfur and are considering, in response to AU requests, assistance across a range of areas, including support for the airlift of AU troops into Darfur. Neither the EU nor NATO has yet made formal detailed offers of assistance to the AU. but both organisations are expected to play a role in co-ordinating offers from their members of aircraft and funds to support the airlift of AU troops. In this context, the UK will providesubject to AU requirements and other donors' contributionsfinancial assistance to support the airlift, co-ordinated by NATO, of up to three battalions.
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