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Dr. Howells: The human rights situation in Bangladesh is not good and appears to be deteriorating. We have serious concerns about reports of extra-judicial killings and torture by the Rapid Action Battalion and the civilian police. The persecution of religious and ethnic minorities, including the Ahmadiyyas, Hindus and Christians and indigenous groups is also a serious issue. We also have ongoing concerns about use of the death penalty and legal and penal systems that do not have the appropriate probity or capacity and about the safeguarding of women's and children's rights along with those of the disabled and other vulnerable groups.
During my visit to Bangladesh in November 2005, I underlined the UK's commitment to support human rights in Bangladesh during discussions with senior government representatives, human rights campaigners and representatives of religious and ethnic minorities. I also drew attention to this in a widely reported speech.
We accord human rights related work a very high priority in Bangladesh. The British high commission in Dhaka is actively engaged in promoting human rights in Bangladesh and raises human rights issues with the Government of Bangladesh on a regular basis. They have frequent contacts with human rights non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and provide funding to NGOs for human rights based programmes.
Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of Bangladesh concerning the security of high commission staff following the attempt on the life of the British high commissioner. 
Dr. Howells: The security of staff is a top priority and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) makes every effort to manage the risk and fulfil its duty of care to all its staff world-wide. Since the grenade attack in Sylhet in May 2004 in which the British high commissioner was injured, we have taken every available opportunity to stress to the Government of Bangladesh the importance of bringing the perpetrators to justice, not least for the relatives of those who tragically died. It is obviously vital for the Government of Bangladesh to conclude credible investigations into this, and other attacks, as soon as possible.
Most recently, during my visit to Bangladesh in November 2005, I spoke to senior members of the Government of Bangladesh about our concern at the failure so far to bring the perpetrators to justice. Before that on 4 October 2005, Sir Michael Jay, permanent under secretary at the FCO raised this with his direct counterpart Mr. Hemayetuddin. The high commissioner in Dhaka and other officials continue to raise the case on a regular basis at senior level with the Government's representatives.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the Government of Brazil on (a) reform of the police service, (b) extra-judicial killings and (c) respect for human rights. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander: The Government regularly raises with the Brazilian Government, bilaterally and with our European partners, the importance we attach to human rights, including police reform and tackling extra-judicial killings. The then Under-Secretary of State responsible for relations with Latin America, my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Bill Rammell) raised human rights issues with the Brazilian Government at the UK-Brazil High Level Political talks in February 2005 and our ambassador in Brasilia discussed these issues with senior members of the Brazilian judiciary and Ministry of Justice at a seminar in Brasilia funded by the British Government in December 2005.
Although serious abuses of human rights continue to take place in Brazil, we believe that the Brazilian authorities recognise the scale of the problem. Combating extra-judicial killings by law enforcement officials is a priority for Brazil's Sub-Secretariat for Human Rights. In addition, the Government support various projects with Brazilian partners to combat torture and improve the police and penal system. Our work enjoys the full support of the authorities both at local and federal level. We will continue to work with the Brazilian authorities and with Brazilian civil society to help address the various root causes of these problems.
Ian Pearson: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary last discussed this issue, with the US Secretary of State, in May 2005. We have since established an EU-US Strategic Dialogue for discussion of security issues in East Asia.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of China about its persecution of practitioners of Falun Gong. 
Ian Pearson: We continue to raise human rights abuses against Falun Gong practitioners with the Chinese Government, for example at the UK-China Human Rights Dialogue in June 2005, and among individual cases of concern on which we have sought responses from the Chinese authorities. Cases of Falun Gong practitioners were also raised at the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue in October 2005.
Ian Pearson: The Government urge China to end the use of torture. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister raised the visit to China of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, with Premier Wen Jiabao at the EU-China summit in September 2005. The EU, under the UK Presidency, raised the use of torture at the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue in October 2005. The issue was also discussed at the EU-China seminar on the ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in December 2005, and at the UK-China Human Rights Dialogue in June 2005. We have raised individual cases of alleged torture with the Chinese Government, most recently in Beijing in December 2005. We will continue to raise this issue with the Chinese authorities.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the statement by Bolivian Presidential candidate, Evo Morales, that he will lift the ban on coca cultivation in the Chapere region. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander: It is for the new Bolivian Government to establish the overall direction of policy on coca cultivation but the UK hopes Bolivia will continue to respect international agreements already committed to. Where possible, we hope to continue to assist the Bolivian Government in its efforts to tackle drug trafficking.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreignand Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo on its proposed constitutional referendum. 
The referendum on the new Congolese constitution took place on the 18 and 19 December 2005. Prior to the referendum, the UK, together with EU partners, pressed the Congolese authorities to work
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towards a peaceful and successful outcome. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development emphasised this point during his November visit to the region.
We have congratulated the Congolese authorities on the referendum's successful completion. We continue to urge the Congolese Government and National Assembly to complete parliamentary consideration and ratification of the draft Electoral Law. This will maintain the momentum of the political process and ensure that the envisaged timetable for elections before 30 June 2006 can be met.
Ian Pearson: The UK continues to support the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) (MONUC), which is working with the DRC armed forces to demobilise militias. MONUC has already demobilised 17,500 former combatants and repatriated over 13,000 foreign combatants. The process has slowed in recent months and we continue to press the DRC Government to accelerate its efforts to disarm militias and integrate all combatants into the national army or civilian life.
The UK has committed £25 million to the Multi-Donor Regional Programme for Disarmament, Demobilisation, Repatriation, Rehabilitation and Reintegration. We have also contributed two of the eight officers in the EU's Security Sector Reform Mission, which offers advice and assistance to the Government in integrating rebel factions into a unified army prior to elections.
Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what monitoring of the recent referendum in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was undertaken by UK representatives; and if he will make a statement. 
Ian Pearson: The EU sent an official Electoral Observation mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. UK representatives from the British embassy in Kinshasa also observed the constitutional referendum across the country on 18 and 19 December 2005. Despite the logistical challenges of organising a referendum in such a vast country, it took place in a largely peaceful and positive atmosphere, and the turnout was high.
We welcome the outcome of the referendum: the strong endorsement of the draft constitution underlines the desire of the Congolese people for completion of the transition to full democratic government as soon as possible.
The human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) remains poor. Years of conflict, exacerbated by corruption, illegal exploitation of resources, the collapse of the state
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and chronic poverty, have led to human rights violations and abuses of humanitarian standards by all sides.
The UK continues to remind the DRC authorities of the need to protect the rights of all vulnerable groups and to bring to justice all perpetrators of abuse. An EU-led Security Council Resolution on the DRC, adopted at last year's UN General Assembly, makes clear that the DRC Government must take action to improve human rights conditions, through better command and control of the armed forces, improved freedom of expression and better protection for human rights defenders.
The DRC is undergoing a process of political transition, which is expected to culminate in the electionof a fully democratic government by mid-2006. This should provide the framework for sustained improvements in the human rights situation.
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