Previous Section Index Home Page

5 Nov 2008 : Column 484W—continued


5 Nov 2008 : Column 485W

We are working within the Department, across Government and with the Third Sector to deliver these policies and new commitments.

Ex-servicemen: Military Decorations

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps the Government is taking to ensure that all those eligible for Veteran’s Badges are claiming their entitlement. [232980]

Mr. Kevan Jones: All those leaving the services now receive their HM Armed Forces Veterans Badge in their service leavers’ pack. For those not receiving the badge in this way, the details of eligibility and the application process are advertised on the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency website:

The badge has also been publicised through Government and ex-service organisation publications and through local and national press articles featuring coverage of badge presentation ceremonies held by Government and external organisations. We are also promoting badge presentation ceremonies as a part of next year’s British armed forces and Veterans Day events. The position is kept under review, including considering opportunities to provide further publicity for the scheme.

Between May 2004 and 31 October 2008 over 674,000 HM Armed Forces Veterans Badges have been issued.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Chad: Internally Displaced Persons

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on incidents involving sexual violence in internally displaced persons’ sites and refugee camps in eastern Chad; and when he last raised this matter with the government of Chad. [226080]

Gillian Merron: The recent report of the UN Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Chad (August 2008) highlights the prevalence of rape and other grave sexual violence in Chad. Both armed groups and community members are reported as perpetrators of such violence. Most reported cases concern attacks and rapes of girls carrying out domestic activities outside Internally Displaced Persons sites. However, stigmatisation and taboo mean that the true extent of the problem is not known, although anecdotal evidence suggests that it is widespread. The report of the UN Secretary-General states that the Chadian Government have not been able or willing to prevent rape and ensure child protection against sexual violence.

We have not raised this issue directly with the Chadian Government. We do, however, support multilateral efforts to address sexual violence in Chad. For example, the UK is a member of the UN Working Group on children and armed conflict. The Working Group is finalising a letter to the Government of Chad, urging them to address impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence.


5 Nov 2008 : Column 486W

Commonwealth: Asylum

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his policy is on whether Commonwealth states whose subjects frequently request asylum in the UK on grounds of political persecution should be suspended from the Commonwealth. [227833]

Gillian Merron: The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) deals with member countries that are judged to have violated the Harare Declaration, which lays down the Commonwealth’s fundamental political values. CMAG assesses the nature of any infringement and recommends measures for collective Commonwealth action. CMAG can recommend suspension from the Councils of the Commonwealth as one of those measures, though this has not historically occurred as a result of asylum claims relating to a member of the Commonwealth.

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions UK diplomats have had with the Governments of Commonwealth countries on claims for asylum on political grounds by people from those countries. [227835]

Gillian Merron: We have regular discussions with Commonwealth countries about a range of issues, including human rights, which can have an impact on asylum claims. Individual asylum cases are dealt with on a case by case basis, and in confidence. We do not discuss them with other Governments. All asylum seekers are treated the same regardless of which country they come from. The key concern in all cases is the risk to the individual on return to their home country.

Guinea: Human Rights

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the level of human rights abuses in the Republic of Guinea. [228216]

Gillian Merron: In September 2008, EU ambassadors in Guinea reported on the human rights situation ahead of an Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement mission to the country. The Article 96 mission will shortly be reporting its findings to the EU. The Minister for Europe will then write to the European Scrutiny Committee to provide an update on Article 96 discussions including human rights.

The Minister for Europe’s last letter to the European Scrutiny Committee contained in the Select Committee on European Scrutiny’s 22(nd) report can be found at:

The UK remains particularly concerned about the slow pace of democratisation and the lack of progress by the Guinean government to implement the terms of its agreement with local unions following the general strike of 2007, including establishment of a commission of inquiry into the events surrounding the strike and the deaths of over 100 Guineans during the strike.


5 Nov 2008 : Column 487W

Ivory Coast: Human Rights

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his European Union counterparts on the incidence of human rights abuses in Côte d'Ivoire. [228200]

Gillian Merron: Our non-resident ambassador to Côte d'Ivoire, based in Accra, frequently visits the country and discusses human rights, including those concerned with the electoral process, with his EU counterparts. Our ambassador last visited in July and will visit again this month. Our political officer in Abidjan also meets other EU ambassadors once a fortnight. Our officials have visited France, most recently in July, and have discussed human rights issues in Côte d'Ivoire with their French counterparts.

The UK supported the renewal of the mandate of the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire in July 2008, including its work towards ensuring the protection of and the respect for human rights. Members of the UN Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict discussed concerns about the level of sexual violence and violations of children’s rights in Côte d'Ivoire in September.

Mauritania: Sanctions

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has had discussions with the US Administration on the possible imposition of sanctions on Mauritania. [232192]

Gillian Merron: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I have not had any discussions with the US Administration on the possible imposition of sanctions on Mauritania following the 6 August coup. Government officials are in regular contact with the US Administration regarding Mauritania.

On 17 October the US Administration announced that they had imposed travel restrictions to the United States on certain members of the Mauritanian military junta and the Government.

The UK condemned the coup on 6 August and called for the release of the President and the restoration of democratic institutions, and we have been working with EU partners to press for the restoration of democracy in Mauritania. On 20 October the EU met with representatives from the Mauritanian regime to discuss procedures under Article 96 of the Cotonou agreement, which provides for appropriate measures when the ‘essential and fundamental elements’ of the agreement (such as democracy) have been infringed. Mauritanian proposals did not meet EU requirements, and they were given one month to provide the EU with proposals for the restoration of the constitutional order which satisfy EU requirements. If the Mauritanians fail to do this within a month the EU will close consultations and appropriate measures, including possible targeted sanctions, will be considered. These measures may cover any aspect of the EU-African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) relationship, but there will be an analysis of their impact, and humanitarian and emergency assistance should not be affected.


5 Nov 2008 : Column 488W

The UK hopes that the Mauritanians will produce acceptable proposals within the timeframe given in order to move towards the swift restoration of democracy in Mauritania.

The UK is also working with other international partners to try to secure a return to democracy in Mauritania. North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies suspended military activities to be carried out with Mauritania in September, and are reviewing activities on a case by case basis.

Nigeria: Politics and Government

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what progress has been made on the establishment of a trading and advisory support package to improve the security situation in the Niger Delta, referred to in the Prime Minister’s press conference with the President of Nigeria on 18 July 2008; and what (a) financial and (b) technical assistance the Government plans to contribute; [232105]

(2) what progress has been made towards establishing a maritime security training centre in the Gulf of Guinea referred to in the Prime Minister’s press conference with the President of Nigeria on 18 July 2008; and what (a) financial and (b) technical assistance the Government plans to contribute. [232109]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: I have been asked to reply.

Following my right hon. Friend’s July 2008 press conference with the President of Nigeria, the Ministry of Defence hosted a visit from the Nigerian Chief of Defence Staff. The discussions focused on how to improve maritime security in the Niger Delta and on how the UK might provide training support.

The UK will provide training assistance in two areas—improving operational planning processes and in-shore small boat operations. The UK is supporting the creation of a Joint Maritime Security Training Centre. The new Nigerian CDS and Navy Chief appointed in August remain fully committed to the project and have endorsed the use of a military site close to Lagos for the Centre.

We have redirected the main focus of the British Military Advisory and Training Team in Nigeria from broader peacekeeping to support for maritime security and in October a naval officer joined the team to enhance its maritime expertise. The Africa Conflict Prevention Programme has allocated £500,000 for the project this financial year. Architectural plans for the centre have been drawn up and, working in partnership with Nigeria, the focus of this year’s activity is on construction of the facility and ensuring that the instructional equipment will be available for training, which should start in earnest in 2009.

This support is part of wider UK efforts to persuade the Nigerian Government to take forward a peace process for the Niger Delta which embraces development and good governance.

Somalia: Piracy

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the African Union and the EU on
5 Nov 2008 : Column 489W
measures to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1816; what the UK’s position is on the implementation of the resolution; and if he will make a statement. [226100]

Gillian Merron: The UK co-sponsored UN Security Council Resolution 1816, which calls for measure to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia. The UK also supported a further UN Security Council Resolution, 1838, which calls upon states to deploy naval vessels and aircraft to take necessary action to suppress acts of piracy.

The Government believe that the full implementation of these resolutions is vital to address increasing incidents of piracy and armed robbery in and around Somali waters. We are working through the EU and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) on military options to counter piracy, and on the specific naval contribution the UK could make to such efforts. The EU has established a team to co-ordinate maritime activity in the region and is preparing a naval counter piracy mission off the coast of Somalia, for which the UK will be providing the operation commander and the operation headquarters. We are clear that such efforts must be co-ordinated with other maritime forces in the region, including NATO and Combined Taskforce 150. Options for supporting both UN Security Council Resolutions have been raised with African Union partners during the formal EU-African Union contact meetings.

Somalia: Politics and Government

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on the political situation in Somalia. [228183]

Gillian Merron: The political situation in Somalia was most recently on the agenda for the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council meeting on 15 September 2008. FCO officials regularly discuss the issues with EU officials at a working level.

Sudan: Detainees

Mr. Tom Clarke: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what reports he has received of the Sudanese Government's decision to detain Ali Kushayb; and if he will make a statement; [230361]

(2) what assessment he has made of the decision to have Ali Kushayb tried by the Sudanese courts instead of the International Criminal Court; and if he will make a statement. [230362]

Gillian Merron: We are aware of reports that Ali Kushayb has been arrested in Sudan and will be tried by the Government of Sudan. We continue to call on the government of Sudan to co-operate fully with the International Criminal Court over the two existing arrest warrants, which includes one for Kushayb. We hope Kushayb's arrest is a step towards this. There can be no impunity for crimes committed in Darfur.


5 Nov 2008 : Column 490W

Sudan: Peacekeeping Operations

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the Government supports the proposal to widen the mandate of the UN mission in Sudan to include demarcation of the border between North and South Sudan; and if he will make a statement. [212287]

Gillian Merron: The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), under its mandate to support implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), is empowered to support the North and the South on border demarcation. UNMIS provides technical and logistical support to the Technical AD Hoc Border Committee, as requested by the UN Security Council in Resolution 1812 (30 April 2008).

The UK fully supports UNMIS in its efforts to ensure complete implementation of the CPA.

Sudan: Voluntary Organisations

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make an assessment of the effects of his Department's travel advice for Sudan on organisations which rely on overseas volunteers to work in that country. [230985]

Gillian Merron: Our travel advice is given on a purely advisory basis. It is designed to help British travellers make their own decisions, on an informed basis, about travelling abroad. We assume no legal responsibility to those who read the travel advice and who may choose to take it into account when making any decisions relating to a particular country.


Next Section Index Home Page