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John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of reports that paramilitary troops are carrying out torture and executions in Iraq with the consent of the Interior Ministry. 
Dr. Howells: We are aware of these reports and have raised our serious concerns with the Iraqi authorities at the highest levels. They have confirmed their commitment to the observance of human rights in Iraq, that such practices are contrary to Iraqi Government policy and that they are investigating. We are working with the Iraqi Government and international partners to develop respect for human rights through capacity building and awareness programmes. Helping to prevent further abuse is integral to our training of the security forces in Iraq.
Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what checks were made to ensure that the export of 20,878 semi-automatic pistols to Iraq referred to in the Second Quarterly Strategic Export Controls Report 2004 was consistent with Criterion Seven of the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports; 
(2) what checks were made to ensure that the export of 20,878 semi-automatic pistols to Iraq referred to in the Second Quarterly Strategic Export Controls Report 2004 was consistent with the UN Protocol Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts, Components and Ammunition. 
Dr. Howells [holding answer 17 March 2006]: In accordance with our normal practice, this licence application was judged on its merits against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria (the 2000 consolidation of the UK's 1997 national export licensing criteria and the 1998 EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports) taking into account prevailing circumstances at the time and other relevant announced Government policies.
Criterion One provides that the Government will not issue an export licence where to do so would be inconsistent with the UK's international obligations and commitments, which include the UN Protocol Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts, Components and Ammunition.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when his Department's investigations into the meeting held in Baghdad in January 2003 between the hon. Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson) and Dr. Rihab Taha will be completed; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: I am aware of media reports relating to the meeting referred to by the hon. Member. However, you will be aware that the Government have a longstanding policy of not commenting on intelligence matters alleged or otherwise.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he made the
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decision to put into effect the threat contained in the letter from the UK and US Consuls General to withdraw UK monitors from Jericho Prison. 
Dr. Howells: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made the decision on 8 March that a letter should be sent to President Abbas informing him of our intention to withdraw the monitors with immediate effect unless the conditions noted in the letter were met. The Consul General in Jerusalem called the President's office on four separate occasions after delivering the letter to allow an opportunity for a response. As none was forthcoming, the monitors withdrew at a time judged to provide the greatest security to our monitors.
Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the US Secretary of State since December 2005 regarding the possibility of withdrawing US and UK monitors from Jericho Prison. 
Dr. Howells: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has had no discussions with the US Secretary of State since December 2005, regarding the possibility of withdrawing. Communication between the US and UK was carried out at official level.
Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on what date the Ramallah Agreement concerning the ending of the siege of the Palestinian presidential compound and the detention of prisoners to Jericho Prison was signed by (a) representatives of the Government of Israel and (b) representatives of the Palestinian Authority. 
Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he received in the three weeks leading up to 14 March of Israeli military preparations in connection with the situation at Jericho prison. 
Dr. Howells: We received no reports of Israeli military preparations. The location of the prison allowed it to be observed by Israeli defence forces, who would have been able to monitor activity including when the monitors left the prison. The Israeli authorities were aware of our letter dated 8 March, which noted that we would have to withdraw our monitors with immediate effect if our conditions were not met.
Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether a deadline was given to President Abbas to respond to the letter of 8 March 2006 from the UK and UK consuls general. 
There was no deadline provided in the letter of 8 March, as it would have increased the security risk to our monitors. The letter noted that we would have to withdraw with immediate effect if our conditions were not met. Our consul general in Jerusalem called President Abbas's office on four separate occasions to ensure that the contents of the letter had been understood, before we withdrew on 14 March.
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On 15 December 2005, our Deputy Head of Mission in Jerusalem informed Rafiq Husseini, in the President's Office, that if, at any stage, we felt that the threat to our monitors was too great, we would withdraw them.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what recent discussions he has had with the Government of Kenya regarding (a) press freedom, (b) the intimidation of journalists and newspapers and (c) the observance of democratic values; 
(2) what assessment he has made of (a) reports of an attack by Kenyan security personnel on the offices of the Standard Media Group and (b) the implications of the attack for the entrenchment of democratic values in Kenya. 
Since the police raids on the Standard media group on 2 March, we have been actively engaged in a number of discussions with the Kenyan Government to express our continuing concern over the attacks and their repercussions for freedom of expression and democratic values in Kenya. 26 nations, including the UK, publicly condemned the raids in a statement issued on 2 March.
The Government of Kenya has yet to give a credible account of the events of 2 March. This is needed to reassure the Kenyan people that there will be no recurrence and that the Government remains committed to supporting a free press, within a vibrant democratic society. We continue to make our views known, both privately and publicly.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the Government of Libya regarding (a) the position of women within society, (b) gender equality and (c) the treatment of victims of rape and sexual violence. 
Dr. Howells: The UK has discussed with Libya, in the early part of 2005, the role of women in the work force in Libya, and as part of the assistance the UK is providing in the area of prison management, we are addressing the needs of women in prison. The UK has not raised issues of gender equality and the treatment of victims of rape and sexual violence, but we continue to encourage the Libyan authorities to improve the human rights situation in Libya. We welcome the fact that non-governmental organisations, including Human Rights Watch, have been able to visit Libya to discus these and other issues with the authorities.
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