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6 Feb 2006 : Column 774W—continued

Ivory Coast

Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the political situation in the Ivory Coast. [48743]

Ian Pearson: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) on 26 January 2006, Official Report, columns 2240–241W. Talks continue in New York on targeted UN sanctions against individuals blocking the peace process. The UK strongly supports their imposition.


Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to the Government of Kazakhstan on bringing its laws and practices on due process and freedom of expression into line with international standards. [47296]

Mr. Douglas Alexander [holding answer 2 February 2006]: Freedom of expression is a fundamental right and recognised under international law. It is also vital to the development of a modern society. Both bilaterally and alongside our EU partners we reminded the Kazakh Government throughout 2005 that the credibility of their bid for the chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 2009 rests on the soundness of their commitment to continue
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political reforms and comply fully with all OSCE undertakings and standards, which include those on freedom of expression. On 10 and 17 November 2005 the UK as presidency of the EU, issued statements expressing deep concern about reported harassment of opposition parties and restrictions on freedom of the media, particularly with regard to printing and distribution and circulation seizures of independent newspapers during the presidential election campaign. These concerns were reflected again in the EU presidency statement which the UK issued immediately following the presidential elections in December 2005.

Kazakhstan's ratification of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in December 2005 and the release of opposition leader Galymzhan Zhakianov in January 2006 are two recent positive steps taken by the Kazakh authorities in relation to due process and freedom of expression. The EU OSCE statement on 19 January 2006 welcoming his release reiterated calls for Kazakhstan to respect its international commitments on ensuring freedom of expression.

When he met Foreign Minister Tokayev following the presentation of his credentials on 9 January, our newly accredited ambassador to Kazakhstan, Paul Brummell, assured the Foreign Minister of the readiness of the British Government to work with Kazakhstan to promote the human rights agenda across its whole spectrum. In the current financial year the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has invested approximately £20,000 in projects relating to freedom of expression, including legal support for independent media, the introduction of jury trials and training of judges.

We will continue to raise, both bilaterally and with our EU partners, the importance of freedom of expression in Kazakhstan and look for opportunities to provide suitable assistance.


Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the operation of the Small Grants Scheme in Madagascar. [48572]

Ian Pearson: The Small Grants Scheme in Madagascar was discontinued when the British embassy closed in August 2005.

Middle East Peace Process

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on Iran's approach to the Middle East Peace Process. [48763]

Dr. Howells: We have long-standing concerns that groups seeking to undermine the Middle East Peace Process through violence draw support from inside Iran. We have called on Iran to renounce all links to groups using terror and violence, and support a solution to the Palestinian question based on the principle of two states living side-by-side in peace and security. The EU has said that progress in its relations with Iran will depend on action by Iran to address the EU's political concerns, including in the areas of Iran's approach to terrorism and its attitude to the Middle East Peace Process.
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President Ahmadinejad's recent comments calling for Israel to be 'wiped from the map' were unacceptable. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has condemned them unreservedly. The Palestinian Authority has also rejected them and said that the focus should be on adding Palestine to the map, next to Israel.


Greg Mulholland: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the recent reports of human rights violations in Nepal. [49088]

Dr. Howells: The UK has made repeated statements deploring human rights violations by both the Nepalese security forces and the Maoists. We have been deeply troubled by the Maoists' decision to end their ceasefire and by their return to violence. In January 2006 the Maoists carried out over 40 bomb attacks, 350 kidnappings, and engaged in 70 clashes with security forces. This has resulted in large numbers of deaths and injuries amongst the royal Nepalese Army, the police and civilians. We have also been gravely concerned by human rights abuses carried out by the security forces and by the Government's infringements of civil liberties and democratic freedoms, and by the arrest of a large number of political party leaders and activists.

In response to events in January, the UK has joined the EU in issuing a statement available at:

in which we said:

Greg Mulholland: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what support his Department (a) is giving and (b) plans to give to Nepalese (i) human rights agencies and (ii) aid organisations in (A) India and (B) the United Kingdom to assist the restoration of constitutional democracy in Nepal. [49245]

Dr. Howells: The UK does not support or plan to support any Nepalese human rights agencies or aid organisations in India or the UK to assist the restoration of constitutional democracy in Nepal.

However, the UK has supported a number of civil society and human rights organisations in Nepal on a wide range of issues for several years. As part of the Global Conflict Prevention Pool (GCPP) Nepal strategy, the UK has funded several local and international organisations since 2002. These have included the Nepalese National Human Rights Commission and the
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International Committee of the Red Cross. The largest single contribution to any such organisation has been to the UN human rights monitoring operation under the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to which we have contributed over £800,000. The GCPP also funds the Nepalese human rights non-governmental organisation (NGO) called Advocacy Forum. The Embassy's Small Grants Scheme also funds a number of small indigenous NGO groups. Our assessment is that we will continue to need to strengthen civil society and human rights organisations for the foreseeable future and we are intending to maintain our support under the GCPP.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office does not fund any aid organisations but the Department for International Development runs a bilateral aid programme to Nepal worth £36 million in 2005–06.

Greg Mulholland: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to the government of Nepal about (a) detention of political leaders, (b) suppression of the media and (c) human rights violations. [49246]

Dr. Howells: Following the arrest of party leaders, political activists, members of civil society and human rights defenders on 19 and 20 January, I summoned the Nepalese Ambassador to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to explain his government's actions to senior FCO officials. I urged the Government of Nepal to release all of the political prisoners detained in the most recent round up of activists and party leaders.

I also issued a statement in which I said,

The full text is available at:

The UK joined EU partners in issuing a statement, available at:

expressing concern about the most recent round of arrests and of the infringements on human rights and democratic freedoms. In that statement we called on the King, the Government of Nepal and the security forces to immediately restore all political and civil liberties, release political prisoners and human rights defenders, and ensure that political and civil rights, including freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, can be exercised peacefully.

We are encouraged to note that some of the party leaders who were detained have now been released. But there are approximately 250 political activists still in detention in Kathmandu and another 250 outside. This includes one of the top party leaders who remains under house arrest.

The UK has made a number of representations to the Government of Nepal about restrictions on the media and abuses of human rights over the last year. During the UK's presidency of the EU, we led a senior officials level
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EU Troika visit to Nepal, in which we raised these issues and publicly urged the government and security forces to respect human rights and to use security legislation with utmost caution. In response to the arrests in January the EU demarched the Nepalese Foreign Minister on 27 January calling for the immediate release of recently detained political prisoners.

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