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20 Dec 2005 : Column 2852W—continued

Maldives

Mr. MacShane: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will place in the Library public statements made by Ministers on the Gayoon regime in the Maldives. [38350]


 
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Dr. Howells: With the exception of responses to parliamentary questions appearing in Hansard, I am not aware that there have been any recent ministerial statements about the current Government of the Maldives.

Mr. MacShane: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the high commissioner in the Maldives has met Ms Jennifer Latheef. [38352]

Dr. Howells: The British high commissioner at Colombo, who is accredited to the Maldives, met Jennifer Latheef as well as other representatives of the Maldivian Democratic Party in Male on 22 September.

Mr. MacShane: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will visit the Maldives to press for the restoration of democracy in the islands. [38353]

Dr. Howells: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has no current plans to visit the Maldives. However, together with EU partners, we remain seriously concerned about the need for political reform there. We raised those concerns most recently on 12 December when the British high commissioner led an EU troika of Colombo-based heads of mission, also accredited to the Maldives, to call on President Gayoom. We will continue closely monitoring developments in the Maldives.

Morocco

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the recent arrest of Saharawi human rights activists by the government of Morocco; and if he will make a statement. [38628]

Dr. Howells: The Government are aware that several Saharawi human rights activists have recently been tried in Laayoune. Officials at our Embassy in Rabat are monitoring the situation.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make representations to the Government of Morocco on its decision to block the Association for a Referendum in Sahara Occidental website; and if he will take steps to make websites available for political activity in other countries. [38629]

Dr. Howells: In EU discussions with Morocco, the UK, as presidency of the EU, has emphasised the importance of respecting freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Morocco's record in this area is generally positive. We have not raised the specific case of the Association for a Referendum in Sahara Occidental. However, officials in our embassy in Rabat are monitoring the situation.

The Government has no plans to make websites available for political activity in other countries.
 
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Mudawi Ibrahim Adam

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will raise the case of Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, a political prisoner in Sudan, with the Sudanese Government at the earliest possible date; and if he will make a statement. [38253]

Dr. Howells: Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, chairperson of the Sudan Social Development Organisation and a prominent Sudanese human rights activist, has been detained by Sudanese authorities on several occasions, most recently in Khartoum on 8 May 2005. Our embassy in Khartoum raised this case with the acting Foreign Minister on 10 May and on 14 May. We also supported representations made by the local EU presidency on this matter. Dr. Mudawi was released unharmed on 17 May 2005 and has continued his work on human rights. Our embassy in Khartoum is in regular contact with Dr. Mudawi and last spoke to him on 14 December 2005.

Osama Bin Laden

Mr. Holloway: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has received evidence to suggest that Osama Bin Laden is still alive; and whether the UK Government have been (a) involved with and (b) informed of the drawing up of trial plans in the event that he is captured alive. [37736]

Dr. Howells: We have not currently seen evidence confirming that Osama Bin Laden is still alive, nor have we received information suggesting that he has died. It is premature to consider the possibilities for trial should he be captured alive: these would depend on, among other things, the circumstances and location of his capture.

Pakistan

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the situation pertaining to the Sangha Hill trial in Pakistan and the threats being made against Yousaf Marik; and if he will make a statement. [38627]

Dr. Howells: We deplore the unprovoked attacks against Christians in Sangla Hills on 12 November 2005. We have made representations to the Government of Pakistan on this issue and welcome the public condemnations of the violence from President Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

We are not aware that any trial is yet underway following the attacks. We understand that Yousaf Masih remains in police custody. The Imam of the local lamia mosque allegedly called for Yousaf Masih to be hanged without trial. Our High Commissioner in Islamabad has written to Pakistan's Minister for Religious Affairs to urge him to investigate this matter immediately and take strong action against those concerned.

Uganda

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reservations (a) he and (b) his officials expressed as a result of recent events in Uganda during the recent Commonwealth Heads of
 
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Government meeting in Malta concerning the offer by the President of Uganda that Kampala host the 2007 Heads of Government meeting. [38227]

Ian Pearson [holding answer 19 December 2005]: The UK remains concerned about the progress of political change in Uganda. On 18 November, the UK issued a statement, on behalf of the EU:

http://www,eu2005.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1115146994806&a=KArticle&aid=1131976425734&date=2005–11–18, outlining our concerns regarding the arrest of Dr. Kiiza Besigye on charges including treason. We continue to press for a free and transparent civilian trial. My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for International Development, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister for Africa, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, all made this clear to President Museveni at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Valletta.

The Commonwealth will keep the situation in Uganda under review in the coming months. It will be for the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Don McKinnon, in consultation with member states, to make a final decision on whether the 2007 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting should be held in Kampala.

United States

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether (a) he, (b) members of his Department and (c) members and representatives of the UK Government have (i) sought and (ii) received from the US Administration clarification concerning the application of the prohibition on the use of cruel and inhumane and degrading treatment as specified by Condoleeza Rice in her statement of 7 December 2005 to (A) non-US citizens, (B) terrorist suspects, (C) enemy combatants and (D) high-ranking members of al-Qaeda; and if he will make a statement. [38772]

Dr. Howells: The United States (US) Secretary of State's statement of 7 December 2005, available at http://www.state.gov/secretary/nn/2005/57723.htm, was clear: the US's obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which prohibits cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment, extend to US personnel wherever they are. There is no suggestion that this policy is qualified according to category of detainee.

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received from the UK embassy in Washington DC of (a) the effect of Senate Amendment 1977 to the Defense Appropriations Bill for the financial year 2006, (b) the US position with regard to the amendment and (c) the compatability of the proposed amendment and the US Administration's stated prohibition on the use of cruel and inhumane and degrading treatment as specified by Condoleeza Rice's statement of 7 December; and if he will make a statement. [38818]

Dr. Howells: The British Embassy in Washington reports on Congressional matters on a regular basis, including the recent understanding reached between
 
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President Bush and Senator McCain on language to prohibit the use of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of detainees in United States custody.


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