Previous Section Index Home Page

27 Feb 2006 : Column 306W—continued

Kenya

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what assessment he has made of the progress of anti-corruption programmes in Kenya; [52190]

(2) what recent assessment he has made of the level of corruption in Kenya. [52191]


 
27 Feb 2006 : Column 307W
 

Ian Pearson: We remain concerned about the level of corruption in Kenya. The dossier submitted to President Kibaki by John Githongo, the ex Permanent Secretary in the Office of Governance and Ethics, which details alleged corrupt practices, represents a moment of truth for the Kenyan Government in the fight against corruption. We note that three ministers have since resigned. We urge the Kenyan authorities to investigate fully and diligently the claims contained within the dossier and, where evidence of wrongdoing is established, ensure that firm and appropriate action is taken against those involved.

Land Mines

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what sanctions are available under international agreements to take action against those countries that continue to lay land mines. [51720]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The Ottawa convention, to which the UK is a signatory, bans the use of anti-personnel land mines. However, there is no formal provision for sanctions under the Ottawa convention or any other international agreement against countries which continue to lay anti-personnel land mines.

Mr. Victor Bout

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 9 February 2006, Official Report, column 1335W, on Mr. Victor Bout, what discussions he has had with the US authorities on this matter; and if he will make a statement. [52383]

Dr. Howells: No Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister has discussed with US authorities the specific matter of whether to include Mr. Victor Bout on a list of those subject to UN sanctions for arms trafficking. However, in discussions at the UN in 2003 and 2004, UK officials pressed strongly to ensure that Mr. Victor Bout was included among those subjected to a travel ban and assets freeze pursuant to UN Security Council Resolutions 1521 and 1532. These discussions took place between the UK and other Security Council partners, including the United States.

The travel ban and assets freeze were applied to Mr. Bout for dealing in arms in contravention of the arms embargo on Liberia, and for supporting members of the former Liberian regime of Charles Taylor in their efforts to destabilise Sierra Leone and gain access to illicit diamonds. The UK continues to support these measures against Mr. Bout.

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 9 February 2006, Official Report, column 1335W, on Mr. Victor Bout, whether any (a) Minister and (b) official has had discussions on this matter. [52539]

Dr. Howells: In discussions at the UN in 2003 and 2004, we pressed strongly to ensure that Mr. Victor Bout was included among those subjected to a travel ban and assets freeze pursuant to UN Security Council Resolutions 1521 and 1532. These discussions took place at official level.
 
27 Feb 2006 : Column 308W
 

The travel ban and assets freeze were applied to Mr. Bout for dealing in arms in contravention of the arms embargo on Liberia, and for supporting members of the former Liberian regime of Charles Taylor in their efforts to destabilise Sierra Leone and gain access to illicit diamonds. The UK continues to support these measures against Mr. Bout.

Nigeria

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make representations to the Nigerian Government about the decision of Kano members of parliament to burn the Danish and Norwegian flags. [51544]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: My right hon. friend the Foreign Secretary discussed a wide range of issues of common concern when he met President Obasanjo and the Nigerian Foreign Minister in Abuja on 14 February, including relations between the EU and the Muslim world.

We are aware that Danish and Norwegian flags were burnt by members of the Kano State House of Assembly, and we condemn such actions. We understand the offence caused to many by the publication in European newspapers of caricatures depicting Islamic religious figures and regret this. But any acts of violence over this issue, including attacks directed against Danish and Norwegian personnel and property, are unacceptable. It is incumbent on us all to act responsibly to calm the situation. We support action by the Danish and Norwegian Governments, and other international leaders, to resolve the issue.

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of political instability in Nigeria. [52174]

Ian Pearson: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary visited Nigeria from 13–15 February and had the opportunity to discuss a wide range of issues concerning Nigeria with senior Nigerians, including President Obasanjo. Free and fair elections in 2007 are a central part of the important reform process.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary also visited the Niger Delta and discussed with the Government, commercial and civil society representatives the causes of the instability in the region. He commended President Obasanjo's determination to find a peaceful solution to the problems in the Niger Delta. The UK will continue to work with the Nigerian Government and other key players to promote better security and sustainable development in the Delta and elsewhere in Nigeria.

North Korea

Mr. Clegg: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the number of (a) political activists and (b) journalists detained in (i) Iran and (ii) North Korea. [54213]

Dr. Howells: We are deeply concerned at the situation of political activists and journalists in Iran. The Iranian authorities impose significant restrictions on freedom of expression. Numerous prisoners of conscience, such as
 
27 Feb 2006 : Column 309W
 
Akbar Ganji and his lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani, remain in detention. In addition, many journalists and webloggers have been held in the past year, including Mojtaba Saminejad and Arash Sigarchi. We are unable to produce reliable estimates of the total numbers who have been held, and the Iranian authorities do not issue official statistics. In addition to those who have been detained, many journalists and human rights defenders have been intimidated. Ministers and senior officials have pressed the Iranian authorities on many occasions to address international concerns in this area.

Evidence of human rights violations in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is difficult to validate given the closed nature of the DPRK regime. This is why the UK and the rest of the international community continue to press the DPRK to engage with United Nations human rights mechanisms and allow international monitors to inspect prison camps.

Mr. Clegg: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the human rights situation in (a) Iran and (b) North Korea. [54214]

Dr. Howells: In Iran, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms has deteriorated over the past few years. International NGOs report that more juvenile offenders were executed in 2005 than in any recent year. The unelected Guardians Council disqualified large numbers of candidates from standing in parliamentary elections in February 2004 and the presidential election in May 2005. Freedom of expression and freedom of association have been seriously restricted, and human rights defenders, journalists, trade unionists and members of religious and ethnic minorities have been detained for peacefully expressing their political views. Ministers and officials press the Iranian authorities on these concerns very frequently, both bilaterally and through the European Union (EU). All EU member states co-sponsored a resolution on human rights in Iran at the United Nations General Assembly in December 2005.

We also share the international community's serious concerns about reports of human rights violations in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on human rights in the DPRK in November 2005 by a large majority. Together with our international partners, we continue to request the DPRK authorities to allow independent monitors access to the country to verify or disprove reports of violations.

We raise human rights issues regularly with the DPRK authorities via our embassy in Pyongyang and the DPRK's embassy in London. During his visit to Pyongyang in September 2004, my hon. Friend, the former Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Bill Rammell, urged the North Korean authorities to allow a visit by the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the DPRK, which they continue to refuse to do. In his January 2006 report on the human rights situation in the DPRK, the Special Rapporteur noted major challenges in regard to the rights to food and to life, the rights to security of the person and to humane treatment, the rights to freedom of movement, asylum
 
27 Feb 2006 : Column 310W
 
and refugee protection, and various political and other rights such as self-determination and freedom of expression, association and religion.

Mr. Clegg: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the status of the Joint Statement of the Six Party talks on North Korea issued on 19 September 2005. [54221]

Ian Pearson: We welcome the confirmation in the 19 September 2005 statement by the participants in the Six Party Talks process of the Government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's (DPRK) commitment to the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. We urge the DPRK to resume engagement in the Six Party Talks at an early date, so as to implement the commitments set out in the 19 September statement.

Mr. Clegg: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (a) what assessment he has made of Korea's nuclear weapons programme and (b) transfer of nuclear technologies. [54222]

Dr. Howells: The Government have, for some time, had serious concerns about the nuclear programme and nuclear weapons ambitions of the Government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). We take every opportunity to raise these concerns in our dealings with the DPRK Government.

The DPRK claims to have reprocessed the 8,000 spent fuel rods removed from the 25 megawatt reactor at Yongbyon in 1994. If these claims are true, the DPRK could have extracted sufficient plutonium for up to seven nuclear warheads.

We also believe the DPRK is pursuing efforts towards production of highly enriched uranium, based on centrifuge enrichment technology which the Pakistani scientist AQ Khan has admitted supplying to the DPRK. We have no evidence that the DPRK has transferred its nuclear technology to any other state.


Next Section Index Home Page