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In debating the immediate military and sanctions priorities, it is essential, as the Foreign Secretary has said, not to lose sight of the broader international contributions that are necessary. The political process in Darfur needs to be completely renewed if there is ever to be a lasting settlement. The work of the envoys needs everyone’s support, backed up by serious measures. The European Union and the British Government must play their part in all this. The EU’s High Representative,
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Javier Solana, has already indicated that the EU is “open to consider” further sanctions. That is not enough.

By the time of the European Council later this month, the EU needs to agree a further, substantive and targeted sanctions package that complements President Bush’s announcement last week. The Prime Minister has said that we should pursue sanctions at the UN level, and I certainly endorse that view. Given the role of Russia and China in Sudan, however, it is not at all certain that further UN sanctions will or can be imposed. There is precedent for such EU action. Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burma are all examples of the EU having imposed sanctions ahead of, or in the absence of, United Nations measures. Therefore, if agreement cannot be reached there quickly, the implementation of EU sanctions must go ahead.

There is now a great expectation among our constituents and across the world that something will be done about the continuing desperate situation in Darfur. To many, it is clear that the Government of Sudan are committing genocide. We can debate the technicalities, but, certainly, there appear to be countless acts committed with the

as article 2 of the convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide puts it. Whatever the debate on that, it is clear that we have a moral duty to act and to do so now. The Foreign Secretary was right to say that the international community has failed Darfur. She also mentioned the newly established responsibility to protect, as put forward in the United Nations. If that is to be anything more than a high but meaningless principle, it must surely be put into effect in Darfur.

6.31 pm

Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): I very much welcome the decision to hold this debate in Government time, much as I deplore the fact that such a debate is necessary. We are debating the tragedy of Darfur, a current humanitarian catastrophe—perhaps the greatest current humanitarian catastrophe—and, indeed, a genocide. International efforts have failed to make the necessary impact, and if the debate is about nothing else, it must be about both exposing what is happening in Darfur and considering what further actions could be taken internationally and the possible role of our Government in that.

The history of Sudan is complex and difficult. Today’s debate, however, focuses on Darfur. We should remember that since 2003, following rebel action, the Sudanese Government decided to embark on aerial bombardment of Darfur, and to arm the nomadic Arab militias, the Janjaweed, to dispossess the people of Darfur. Riding on horses and camels, they have inflicted murder, dispossession and rape. The consequence has been 400,000 dead, 2 million displaced people and an estimated 4 million people dependent on international aid, with more than 200,000 Darfuris now refugees in Chad.

The Aegis Trust, which has done so much to publicise the atrocities of Darfur, has referred to the

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The victims of that slaughter and rape have included many women and children. The women must choose whether they dare go out to gather firewood or food, as they face the risk of repeated rapes, which the perpetrators are allowed to carry out with impunity. It is deplorable, and amazing, that those atrocities, which have taken place over the past four years, have until recently received little publicity to capture the public imagination. I wonder where are the marches, meetings and rallies demanding action to stop such abominations.

Sadly, as we know, the carnage continues. The causes of the conflict are many, but they include the marginalisation by those from the north, who are of mainly Arab ethnicity, of Darfur’s mainly black African majority, who feel that they do not have a fair deal. Other causes include disputed claims to scarce resources by various groups, and a background of long civil war, to which reference has been made during the debate. Clearly, the actions taken internationally have been ineffective. Efforts have been made, but the problem continues. Actions have included the presence of the African Union protection force—AMIS—the Darfur peace agreement, United Nations Security Council resolution 1706, and the involvement of the International Criminal Court, which has indicted a Sudanese Government Minister and his assistant.

The killing continues, and as we heard from my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr. Clarke), the recent Amnesty International report spells out in graphic detail the continuing murders, pillage and rapes. The question before us must be: what needs to be done, and who should take that action? Clearly, new, stronger and more targeted action is needed. Stronger action is needed to persuade or, if persuasion is not possible, force the Sudanese Government to permit the AU-UN force to operate. They have agreed that such a force can operate, but have failed to carry out their promises.

Engagement with the political process, if that is possible to achieve, is also needed to bring in all the rebel groups. Perhaps that can be done through AU-UN mediation. A more effective, stronger arms embargo is of extreme importance. Stronger, more focused sanctions are needed, perhaps against the Sudanese Government, and particularly on the petroleum sector, which provides the Sudanese Government with their main revenues to support the Janjaweed. We should also look again at sanctions on the businesses conducted by the ruling National Congress party, because those businesses provide the revenues to fund much of the conflict. We should consider travel bans and freezing the assets of individuals who have been identified as guilty of atrocities.

The implementation of a no-fly zone over Darfur should be pursued to prevent the aerial bombardment of displaced people. Reference has been made to the role of China and Russia, and more attention should be given to that. The position taken by China in particular, in pursuing its own interests at the expense of the lives of many people in Darfur and Sudan, should be given more exposure. The UN has a responsibility to protect, and while sanctions are certainly the preferred method to resolve this dreadful conflict, the UN must consider that responsibility, which would include seeking the consent of the Chad Government to deploy a rapid
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reaction force on their borders with Sudan, as well as considering what other measures might be needed to bring peace.

Those are just some of the measures necessary to try to resolve a conflict that is ongoing and costing so many lives. There may be others, but if we consider those measures alone, we can see that the European Union and the United Nations need to become more involved, focused and active in trying to bring about change.

At the beginning of my contribution, I commented that I was concerned and disappointed that little public attention has been given to this ongoing and dreadful conflict. I commend and compliment the Aegis Trust, which, over the years, has done much to bring the enormity of what is happening to public attention. I also commend the campaigns on Darfur that are being conducted by the National Union of Students, particularly the work being done by the Liverpool guild of students. Those campaigns have taken the form of holding public meetings to publicise what is happening and lobbying a wide range of people, including Members of Parliament, to ask for more action to be taken. It should be noted that while perhaps those who should have been doing more have not done so, the NUS, the Liverpool guild of students and others throughout the country have done what they thought was possible. They should be commended for that.

Tony Baldry: One of the many obscenities in relation to Darfur—it has been highlighted by the Aegis Trust, which has done excellent work—is that mass killing of a particular racial group is classed as genocide, but if it is not aimed at a particular racial group, as the international community under international law seems to say is the case in Darfur, it is not classed as genocide and is therefore seen by the international community as being a lower order of crime. What is happening in Darfur is as terrible as if it were genocide. The fact that it does not fit into some convenient legal definition should not make it any less terrible a crime than happened in the holocaust with Jews or others.

Mrs. Ellman: What is happening in Darfur is indefensible and unacceptable, and we should not only be appalled by it but be ready and willing to take action to stop it. Arguably, it is indeed genocide—but whatever label is attached to it, it is unacceptable and something that we need to act on.

I think that all of us here today can agree that the status quo is unacceptable, and that what has happened internationally so far has not been sufficient. I call on our Government to continue the good work that they have been doing and to take the lead in intensifying international efforts to bring peace to the people of Darfur, to stop the killing, and to allow the country of Sudan to have a prosperous future for all its people.

6.42 pm

Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): This is a much needed debate. It is one of those many occasions when I feel sorry that the Chamber is organised in a confrontational way with Benches on either side, because I suspect that
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this is one of those subjects where the whole House agrees on the main issues, and should be seen to be trying to muster support.

Those of us who have visited Darfur—many in the Chamber have done so—can give witness and testament to what they have seen. As has been well documented and reported the humanitarian crisis is awful and continues to get worse. That is clear from all the representations that we are receiving from non-governmental organisations such as Save the Children and Christian Aid.

I want to use this opportunity to raise some broader concerns about intervention in support of humanitarian assistance. The Foreign Secretary spoke about the responsibility to protect. That is a concept that the Prime Minister first developed in a speech in Chicago a few years ago, for which he must take great credit. As the Foreign Secretary said, the UN resolution on Darfur was the first time that the concept had been introduced into international law. However, there is no logic in the implementation of the responsibility to protect; it is implemented largely on an ad hoc basis and there has never been any consistency. Every time we have had an international humanitarian crisis, whether in Kosovo, Sierra Leone or wherever, intervention has taken place on a somewhat ad hoc basis with a different combination of players. That is partly a consequence of political will and partly of the fact that intervention often has to be military intervention, and very few countries have the necessary military lift capacity to intervene effectively in that way.

Last week the Prime Minister was in Sierra Leone, rightly receiving plaudits for what the UK had done in leading the intervention in Sierra Leone to bring an end to the conflict and killings there. We were able to do so largely because the UK had the necessary military capacity. One of the difficulties with Darfur was that the UK and the US found themselves so involved in Iraq that there was no question of military intervention in Darfur, even had that been thought to be the appropriate response. However, I cannot understand why the international community has not imposed a no-fly zone on Darfur. We know that a no-fly zone works effectively, as it did for a considerable period in protecting the Kurdish community in northern Iraq before military intervention by the coalition.

As one of those who voted against the war in Iraq, I suggest that if the UN Security Council does not operate effectively as an international law-making body there will be an increasing tendency for coalitions of the willing to act outside the parameters of international law, because they will see that as the only way in which they can take action. We are dependent on the effectiveness of the Security Council, which is in turn dependent on every one of its members, including Russia and China. It is a matter of record that Russia and China have been exporting defence equipment to Sudan. The 2005 trade figures show that China sold $24 million-worth, and Russia sold $21 million-worth, of military equipment to Sudan. Some 90 per cent. of Sudan’s exports are to China.

Pete Wishart: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that China cannot have it both ways? It must sign up to being part of the solution in Sudan. If it fails to do so, we should be thinking about sanctions on China. In a few years’ time, it has the Olympic games. Surely we
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should raise the spectre of that to ensure that we get its full co-operation in securing a deal on Sudan.

Tony Baldry: I entirely agree that China is a major key to this. Indeed, some 100 US Congress Members recently sent a strongly worded letter to China’s President saying that the Beijing 2008 Olympic games could be affected if China fails to try to halt the bloodshed in Darfur. Our colleagues in Congress said:

The all-party group on China, of which I happen to be a vice-chairman, is the largest all-party group in the House after the all-party group on America. It behoves us to try to exert what influence we can on China. The Olympic games are coming up. China maintains that the 21st century will be the century of Asia. If it believes that, it behoves it to take a much greater lead in international affairs, in peacekeeping, and in seeking to establish a way forward whereby the Government of Sudan cannot veto what is happening in Darfur.

Last week, President Bush announced that the United States would be looking to take tougher sanctions against Sudan. Interestingly, China and Russia immediately signalled opposition to US proposals for tabling a fresh UN Security Council resolution, expanding an embargo on arms sales to Sudan, and establishing a no-fly zone over Darfur. I would have thought that an embargo on arms to Darfur and a no-fly zone were no-brainers for the whole international community. The fact that neither Russia nor China is willing to support a no-fly zone or an arms embargo is a matter of considerable concern.

It is a matter of record that China and Russia have never vetoed sanctions, but the US and the UK have not suggested them because of the likelihood of a veto. I do not criticise the Foreign Secretary for that, but one can see the equivocation of Foreign Ministers, who know in their heart of hearts that a solution such as a no-fly zone would be useful, but recognise that it is unlikely to get passed and therefore ponder whether it is better to propose it, with the risk that it could be voted down, or not to suggest it.

China’s attitude has changed slightly. It has appointed a special envoy to Darfur and it backs the peacekeepers. I suspect that that is born of a mixture of economic self-interest—safeguarding Chinese investments in Sudan—and, more interestingly, an anxiety that the Beijing Olympics could be overshadowed by the accusation that China is bankrolling genocide. Human rights groups, including Amnesty and Human Rights Watch—as I have already said, the US Senate has done this too—have used the link between the Olympics and the position in Darfur as a mechanism to make China move. I understand that when Lord Hannay recently spoke to the Conservative party Human Rights Commission, he made it clear that he believed that pressure from groups such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch had caused China to make some movement. China is a large part of the key to progress in Darfur—90 per cent. of Sudan’s exports are to China.

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Our recent focus has been on the make-up of the peacekeeping mission to Darfur. The problem is that there is no point in having a peacekeeping mission unless there is a peace to keep. To date, there has been no peace to keep, and that is unbelievably frustrating. Five peace deals have been started for Darfur, and they all have shorthand names. Talks have been held in Libya and Eritrea, and there is now a new United Nations deal, led by the special envoys, with US and UK backing, but no process has yet been completed. The international community needs to get behind one of those peace plans—I hope that it is the UN peace plan—and reach a deal, as happened in southern Sudan. In southern Sudan it took 10 years, but the people of Darfur simply have not got 10 years.

John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): They will be wiped out.

Tony Baldry: My hon. Friend is right. We must get behind one peace plan.

As Jeffrey Sachs makes clear, we must also focus on genuine economic development in Darfur. Millions of people cannot be left permanently in camps. One of my most precious memories from the time when I was fortunate enough to chair the Select Committee on International Development and we went to Darfur is a tool box made out of an aid can from USAID. A blacksmith in one of the camps managed to turn the can into a tool box. Even in the most grim circumstances, human effort, enterprise and endeavour was continuing. He had set up a small blacksmith’s workshop and was making lock-up boxes in which people could keep their possessions. Millions of people cannot simply be kept in camps and fed by the international community without proper development. Jeffrey Sachs therefore makes an important point about the need for development.

It should not go unnoticed that Charles Taylor’s trial started this week. That is especially important because I believe that it is the first time that a Head of State has been brought before the international community to stand trial for crimes against humanity. Hitler managed to commit suicide, so we were not able to get him. It was previously believed that Heads of State were sovereign exemptions. That should send a clear message to the Government of Sudan that no one in Africa, or the rest of the world, is ultimately immune from prosecution by the international community for crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): Let me remind the hon. Gentleman that since the Pinochet judgment in the House of Lords, Heads of State have no immunity under British or international law.

Tony Baldry: We are happily in accord. However, I suspect that many African or other Heads of State would not take much notice of the High Court in the UK, whereas they will take notice of a UN-backed international war crimes tribunal. We should make every effort to remind people in Khartoum that they are liable to be tried for international war crimes if they persist with their actions.

I personally suspect that Her Majesty’s Government are doing all they humanly can to bring pressure to bear on the international community. I do not believe
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that the subject divides the parties in the House. However, we must work out how we can be fleeter of foot in bringing pressure to bear on other international players, not least China and Russia, to start playing a better role in the Security Council, and thus help create an international order in the 21st century that highlights and reflects the responsibility to protect that the whole international community shares.

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