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Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the security situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and if he will make a statement. 
Ian Pearson: Pockets of instability persist in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In Ituri and the Kivus, the security situation remains fragile. Elements of the DRC army have fought each other, and civilians continue to suffer abuses by armed groups.
Despite the UN peacekeeping mission (MONUC)'s operations to disarm Ituri militias and to disrupt the activities of foreign armed groups, these militia groups continue to persecute civilians. In UN Security Council Resolution 1653, the international community condemned the activities of these groups, and pledged its support for MONUC's robust approach to protecting civilians and tackling these militia. We continue to urge regional Governments to work together to disarm these groups.
Mr. Douglas Alexander:
The European Gendarmerie Force is a multinational force from five countries (France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and the Netherlands). It is a force which is available to a number of organisations, including the EU, NATO, the UN or ad hoc coalitions. It is not an EU body. Its duties will be decided by the participating nations.
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These are enforced by checking the names and dates of birth of visa applicants against a consolidated 'warnings list', which includes all the data from the travel ban lists. Positive matches are referred for further investigation. Although none of the targeted individuals are listed as having British addresses or nationality, the information contained on the list itself is not sufficient to say that none do.
Mr. Malins: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the Governments of (a) Poland and (b) Romania on the practice of extraordinary rendition; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: Reports of extraordinary rendition were raised at the European Union General Affairs and External Relations Council on 21 November 2005, which was attended by Polish and Romanian Ministers. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary undertook, as presidency of the EU, to write to the US Secretary of State about these reports. Dr. Rice responded with a detailed statement on 5 December 2005. The issue was also discussed at a dinner of EU and NATO Foreign Ministers on 7 December 2005 in Brussels, which was attended by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.
Mr. Malins: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he supports the proposal to establish a European Union agency to monitor the observance of human rights in Europe; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander:
As agreed at the European Council of December 2003, the proposed European Fundamental Rights Agency will extend the mandate of the existing European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia. It will provide assistance and expertise in human rights issues to EU institutions and member states when they are implementing Community law. The Government are in favour of an agency with a well-defined remit and work objectives that do not duplicate the work of existing bodies, particularly the Council of Europe.
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Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of Kazakhstan following international monitors' criticism of the presidential elections held in December 2005. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander: The UK issued an EU Presidency statement on 5 December supporting the preliminary report of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) International Observation Mission on the 4 December elections. While noting that there had been some improvements in the administration of the elections in the pre-election period and that voting on the day was conducted in a generally calm and peaceful atmosphere, the report concluded that the elections had failed to meet a number of OSCE commitments and other international standards for democratic elections. The UK offered the EU's support to Kazakhstan in fulfilling its international commitments in this regard. A further EU statement was issued under the UK's Presidency on 15 December which reiterated these points and looked forward to the final ODIHR report and the opportunity to study its recommendations. It noted Foreign Minister Tokaev's statement on 5 December in which he expressed readiness to continue cooperation with ODIHR.
In a letter to President Nazarbayev of 23 December, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister urged Kazakhstan to address concerns raised about areas in which it has not yet fully met the standards of the OSCE. He noted that the UK stood ready to support Kazakhstan in undertaking future reform in order to meet these standards. Senior officials in London have delivered similar messages on a regular basis to the Kazakh ambassador in London. Our new ambassador, Paul Brummell, also talked over these issues at his first meeting with Foreign Minister Tokaev on 9 January. We will continue to discuss both bilaterally and with our EU partners, the relevant issues as appropriate in our contacts at all levels with the Kazakh authorities.
The Government remains concerned about the human rights situation in Libya. The Government welcomes recent developments such as: the opening of a dialogue between the Libyan authorities and groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch; the progress made in the joint programme, financed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Global Opportunities Fund, between the Libyan Ministry of Justice and the International Centre for Prison Studies on prison management; the abolition of the Revolutionary Courts; and the current debate in the Basic People's Congresses on the possible abolition or further restriction of the death penalty.
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Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent evidence he has received that the Libyan security services are practising torture on prisoners. 
Dr. Howells: The Government are aware of claims that the Libyan security services have practised torture on prisoners. The Government condemns the use of torture and works with international partners to eradicate this abhorrent practice.
The Government will continue to work with the Libyan authorities, as they have in the area of prison management, to encourage them to continue to move towards internationally accepted standards on human rights and the rule of law.
Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions his Department has had about possible changes to the UK's relationship with the Palestinian Authority after the Palestinian elections; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: The UK is clear that democracy means accepting the results of elections, provided they are free and fair. The Palestinian Legislative Council elections are not an exception to this principle. We look forward to Palestinian Authority President Abu Mazen appointing a Government committed to his policy of one gun, one authority, and to the vision set out in the Roadmap of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.
Hamas now has a choice to make between the path of democracy and the path of violence. The onus is on Hamas to change, in particular their approach to Israel and their approach to violence. We are watching developments closely.
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