|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the effect on the security situation in Democratic Republic of Congo of militia activity associated with the cross-border conflict with Rwanda; and if he will make a statement. 
Ian Pearson: The security situation remains fragile in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), particularly in Ituri and the Kivus. The UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC has carried out joint operations with Congolese military to disrupt the activities of foreign armed groups, including Rwandan Hutu militias. But these groups continue to persecute civilians. There are no recent indications of cross-border conflict with Rwanda or any of the DRC's neighbours.
We continue to urge regional governments to work together to resolve the issue of the foreign armed groups and to respect all states' territorial integrity. The recent UN Security Council Resolution 1653 reinforced this message. And the US-facilitated Tripartite Plus mechanism provides a forum for disputes to be resolved diplomatically.
Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with (a) members and (b) representatives of the governments of (i) Ecuador and (ii) Colombia concerning the alleged incursions by Colombian military planes into Ecuadorian airspace since November 2005; what assessment his Department has made of the implications; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander:
We are aware of the incidents in question. Our ambassador in Bogota discussed the alleged incursions by Colombian military planes into Ecuadorian airspace with the Colombian Minister of Defence at the time of the incident. The Colombians
20 Mar 2006 : Column 80W
informed us that they intended to investigate the alleged incursions. Our embassy in Quito has not discussed this issue with the Ecuadorian Government. We consider this to be a bilateral issue between the two governments and hope that, in the interest of preserving regional stability, they will be able to resolve the matter amicably.
Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs under what (a) circumstances and (b) rules the EU flag is flown from official UK diplomatic premises in (i) EU member states and (ii) non-EU countries; and in what ways the relevant rules or guidance have been amended over the last 10 years. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander: Our overseas missions may fly the EU flag at their discretion, but only alongside the British diplomatic, consular or, in Commonwealth countries, Union flag with the British flag having precedence, and only where circumstances (e.g. local custom and protocol) permit.
Last year, before the UK's EU presidency, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office issued guidance to our overseas missions on flying the EU flag during the presidency. UK missions in EU countries were asked to fly the EU flag, but only where the existence of a second flag pole allowed it to be flown alongside the Union flag. UK missions in non-EU countries were encouraged to fly the EU flag where local circumstances permitted.
In 2004, guidance was issued decreeing that, where flown, the EU flag would be half-masted whenever the Union flag was half-masted.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has held with the Government of India on forced sterilisations in that country; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: The Foreign and Commonwealth Officehave not held any recent discussions with the Government of India on this issue. However, the India country office of the Department for International Development had discussions with the Government of India on population stabilisation issues in February 2006, in the context of the multi-donor review mission of the Reproductive and Child Health Programme, phase-2.
India is currently a member of the Commission on the Status of Women and has signed the Convention to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women. The Convention is the only human rights treaty, which affirms the reproductive rights of women. Under the convention India has an international obligation to promote this issue.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the merits of the case for expanding the G8 to include India. 
Dr. Howells: Invitations to non-G8 leaders to attend G8 summits are made at the discretion of the rotating Presidency. As part of outreach at the Gleneagles summit, the UK invited the Indian Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh to discuss the global economy and climate change.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of reports that death squads are operating in Guatemala. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander: The Human Rights situation in Guatemala has improved since the 36-year civil war was brought to a close in 1996 by the Peace Accords. However, we have serious concerns about growing organised crime, the activities of gangs, called maras, and the impact of these developments on the human rights situation in the country. Our embassy in Guatemala City works closely with human rights organisations to substantiate reports of human rights abuses. We actively raise awareness of cases with the Guatemalan authorities, particularly attacks on human rights defenders and the increasing violence against women. We press for all incidents to be investigated thoroughly.
Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the use of Osh as a transit hub for human traffickers in Central Asia; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander: We read with concern a report in April 2005 by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) on People Trafficking in Central Asia which suggested that Osh, in Kyrgyzstan, appeared to be a focal point for human trafficking in the region. Given the clandestine nature of human trafficking, it is difficult to identify with certainty the routes used by human traffickers, but the limited evidence available to us does not point to trafficking from Central Asia being a problem that directly affects the UK. Nonetheless we deplore this vile crime wherever it takes place and we will continue to work with EU partners and others to combat it.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has taken recent action to urge the Government of Indonesia (a) not to execute and (b) to release (i) Fabianus Tibo, (ii) Dominggus Da Silva and (iii)Marinus Riwu; and if the Government will seek a demarche by the European Union to the Indonesian Government on the issue. 
On 14 November 2005, as EU President, we approached the Government of Indonesia to express the EU's regret at the decision to carry out the executions, and asked them to refrain from carrying out the executions and to consider the abolition of the death penalty.
20 Mar 2006 : Column 82W
In January there were three further EU de"marches, with the Minister of Law and Human Rights, with the Attorney-General, and in a note to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
We will continue to press the EU to look for further opportunities to raise this matter with the Indonesian Government.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps are being taken by his Department to engage with the democratic opposition in Iran. 
Dr. Howells: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London and our embassy in Tehran maintain contact with a wide range of Iranians in many different fields. We are seriously concerned about human rights and political freedoms in Iran. Ministers and officials raise our concerns frequently with the Iranian authorities. We also take action through the EU, and in United Nations fora. We maintain a dialogue with those inside and outside the Iranian Government who are working to support reform and the rule of law. As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said in a speech at the International Institute of Strategic Studies on 13 March,
We will not take sides in Iran's internal political debatesthese are for Iranians to resolve and they are perfectly capable of doing so themselves. Given their history, Iranians are understandably sensitive about any hint of outside interference. But this does not mean that we should stop standing up for principles of human rights and fundamental freedoms which we hold dear to ourselves and which so many Iranians aspire to: freedom of speech; transparent, genuinely democratic and accountable government; respect for the rights of minorities and women; an independent judiciary".
Ministers and officials have no contact with an organisation proscribed under the Terrorism Act, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), which purports to be a democratic opposition movement, nor with the National Council for the Resistance of Iran, a group with which it has close links. The MEK has been responsible for numerous attacks resulting in many deaths. Its claims to be a democratic party are hard to square with a history of violence and its authoritarian nature, and it has virtually no support inside Iran.
Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the Saudi Government concerning the security situation in Iran. 
Dr. Howells: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has frequently discussed Iran and the regional security situation with Saudi interlocutors, including when he met His Royal Highness Prince Saud on 17 January.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|