Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Ninth Report

4  Countries of Concern

Q 3  Afghanistan

83. The overthrow of the brutal Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001 was a significant advance for human rights in the country. Any consideration of the situation in Afghanistan in recent years must be placed in the context of the dark shadow cast by the Taliban's record. The FCO report acknowledges that the country currently faces "difficult security, development and human rights challenges", a consequence in part of "decades of turmoil and conflict".

84. The FCO argues that good governance is "key" to safeguarding human rights, and notes that "central government influence" is slowly being felt outside the capital city Kabul. The report comments on setbacks in the fight against transitional justice with the passage of the "Amnesty Bill", and the re-emergence of the death penalty through the execution by firing squad of a number of prisoners in Kabul.[140]

85. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch take issue with various aspects of the FCO's account of developments in Afghanistan. Amnesty argues that the report "fails to reflect the severity of the security situation in Afghanistan." It claims that the "conflict in the south and east has grown in intensity and had a detrimental impact on governance in other parts of the country." Amnesty estimates that in 2007, "around 1,500 civilians were killed and thousands were forced to flee their homes because of conflict and drought".[141] Human Rights Watch notes that 2007 was the most violent year in Afghanistan since the toppling of the Taliban, and criticises the FCO for not analysing the cause of this violence beyond noting the targeting of civilians by insurgents. It also criticises the report for failing to mention "the fact that UK forces are involved in an armed conflict in the country". Human Rights Watch claims that NATO and US led forces were responsible for at least 300 civilian deaths in Afghanistan in 2007, although the "real figure is likely much higher".[142] When we asked Lord Malloch-Brown why this information had not been included in the report, neither he nor his officials were able to answer, although he later stated that the FCO was "extremely concerned in general about civilian casualties in Afghanistan as a result of ISAF or other US military actions".[143] Writing to us at a later date, the Minister commented:

    No reference is made to the number of civilian casualties caused by International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and international forces due to the lack of verifiable data of these incidents. Taleban accounts should not be taken at face value, as they deliberately aim to mislead.

He added he was confident that international forces were "doing everything possible to minimise civilian casualties".[144] By noting that the real figure is likely to be higher than 300, Human Rights Watch appears to be presenting a conservative estimate as to the fatalities caused by international forces. Given that the Minister told us he was "extremely concerned" about this issue, its omission from the report is a serious oversight, even if the lack of verifiable data prevents the FCO from placing an exact figure on the number of civilian casualties.

86. We noted above that the FCO was concerned by the "Amnesty Bill" passed by Afghanistan's legislature, which may provide impunity for those accused of war crimes. Human Rights Watch again accuses the Government of underplaying the seriousness of the situation. It claims that many warlords and criminals responsible for "egregious crimes" in the past continue to exert "power and influence over the parliament and government and continue to protect their position through intimidation and violence". It criticises the report for failing to discuss the "nexus between human rights abuses, warlordism and opium cultivation" (there is only a single mention of the crucial issue of narcotics in the whole of this section).[145] We asked Tom Porteous how best to tackle the issue of impunity in Afghanistan. He replied:

    There is already a road map to deal with impunity called the peace, reconciliation and justice action plan. It was initiated in December 2005 and is a three-year plan. I believe that it is in five stages; we are not even at stage one. There has been no pressure from the international community on the Afghan Government to implement the plan. […] The problem is that many of the international community's strategies in Afghanistan up until now, far from marginalising the warlords, have actually empowered them.[146]

When we raised the failure to achieve progress on the action plan with Lord Malloch-Brown, he said he was not sure how it would fit in with the amnesty law.[147]

87. The FCO states that there is "much still to be done" in the fight for women's rights, whilst affirming a significant improvement since the Taliban era with girls comprising one third of all children in schools (two million girls receive primary education).[148] Amnesty International argues that women and girls remain at "exceptional risk" in Afghanistan, with schools and teachers targeted, widespread discrimination, forced abduction and rape, and trafficking being some of the major problems. It states that women victims have "little recourse to justice" and notes a rise in honour killings and self-immolation.[149] Human Rights Watch notes that in some districts in the south, no girls are registered for primary school education at all.[150] Kate Allen told us that the human rights climate for women was "bleaker than it has been for many years".[151] The FCO report states that the British Embassy is spending £1 million on projects to support women in Afghanistan, and that DFID is funding a five-year Women's Empowerment Programme implemented by the NGO Womankind.[152]

88. We conclude that the overall human rights situation in Afghanistan is difficult and in some areas appears to be worse than at any point since the fall of the Taliban. The failure of transitional justice, backsliding on women's rights, and the deteriorating security situation are of particular concern. We recommend that the Government should devote greater attention to the peace, reconciliation and justice action plan in Afghanistan, and be more open about the failures of the Afghan authorities. We further recommend that next year's report should include a specific section on the action being taken by the British Government to stop poppy cultivation, on which the UK has lead responsibility in Afghanistan, and an analysis of how good governance is being undermined by the most prominent warlords in the country.

Burma (Myanmar)

89. The military Government in Burma has a long established record of serious human rights abuses. The FCO's report rightly argues that the regime's persistent violations of human rights is "at the heart of Burma's political, economic and social problems."[153] The stark reality of this situation was made clear on two occasions in the past year, namely the Buddhist-led uprising in the autumn of 2007, and the response to Cyclone Nargis in May 2008.

90. The immediate spark for the protests in August and September 2007 was the decision of the regime to increase the price of compressed natural gas by 500%, placing a severe burden on the country's population. The resulting protests grew rapidly in size following the arrest of key opposition activists. The FCO report states, "on 26 September, the regime responded with characteristic brutality" with live rounds fired into crowds of unarmed demonstrators. The official death toll was placed at ten, but the report notes that the actual figure "is likely to be greater". Several thousand people were subsequently arrested in raids.[154] In April 2008, Kate Allen told us at least 700 of these people remained in prison, and 80 individuals had disappeared.[155]

91. At the time, the Prime Minister said: "I deeply deplore the […] violent suppression of peaceful demonstrations."[156] The FCO report says that the British Embassy in Rangoon "played a key role in the international response" to the crisis, by ensuring that accurate information reached the outside world, and facilitating access to information for groups inside Burma.[157] The UK "pushed for and secured the first ever action on Burma at the UN Security Council", with all members agreeing to a Presidential statement denouncing the regime's actions. This is particularly significant given that a previous move by the UK to discuss Burma at the Security Council was vetoed by China and Russia.[158] Christian Solidarity Worldwide "warmly welcomes" the increased attention paid to Burma by senior Government Ministers in September 2007, but argues that this came about through public and Parliamentary pressure and that the Government's initial response had been "surprisingly slow".[159] Kate Allen told us that the FCO's report on Burma was "a good one" and she recognised the work of the Government, in particular the strong statements by the Prime Minister.[160]

92. On the weekend between our evidence sessions with the human rights organisations and with Lord Malloch-Brown, Burma was struck by Cyclone Nargis. As the extent of the damage became clear, the Foreign Secretary estimated that the storm had cost at least 100,000 lives.[161] In the aftermath of the natural disaster, it became clear that there would also be a man-made disaster as the Burmese junta initially refused to let any aid enter the country. Giving evidence four days after the cyclone hit Burma, Lord Malloch-Brown told us that "even members of the initial UN assessment team have not been granted visas to enter the country". He said that the Burmese Government wanted to be provided with aid to distribute itself, but he argued that it did not have the capability, let alone the will, to do so.[162] The United Nations estimated that 2 million people were "severely affected" and in need of aid. Given the absence of this aid, the Foreign Secretary characterised the regime's response as one of "malign neglect".[163] By 16 May, the FCO said that British officials were working on the basis of an estimated 217,000 dead or unaccounted for.[164]

93. Given the reluctance of the Burmese regime to allow aid and humanitarian personnel to enter the country, the international community soon entered into a debate regarding the best way to ensure those in need received help. A strongly favoured plan was for Asian-led aid to minimise the risk of the junta rejecting it as a "Western imposition". As Lord Malloch-Brown argued, "they're not going to agree to a lot of British and American aid workers fanning out across the delta". However, if this plan failed, the Prime Minister discussed the possibility of dropping aid unilaterally onto the affected areas. He told the BBC: "As far as air drops are concerned we rule nothing out, and the reason we rule nothing out, is that we want to get the aid directly to the people". Lord Malloch-Brown said that this would involve invoking the UN principle of the "responsibility to protect", and said that the trigger for such an intervention could be the outbreak of disease or secondary deaths. The Government sent HMS Westminster to the region, where she was joined by the French ship Le Mistral and the American USS Essex, with all three ships offering to provide aid.[165] Oxfam vocally opposed air drops, arguing that without an aid operation on the ground to distribute provisions fairly, they are often ineffective and sometimes counter-productive.[166]

94. The UK has been a generous donor to the victims of the disaster. By 15 May, the Government had pledged £17 million pounds in aid, with some funds going to the UN Flash Appeal and other funds going to NGOs.[167] By early June, the UK donation had risen to £27.5 million, making the UK the largest single donor. The Secretary of State for International Development, Rt Hon Douglas Alexander MP, told the House on 3 June that there had been some "improvements" in humanitarian access, although "significant concerns" remained on a range of issues.[168]

95. Tom Porteous told us that the Burmese junta was preparing to hold a referendum on a new constitution. He argued that it was a "total sham" and "should not be given any credibility whatsoever".[169] Astonishingly, the regime decided to go ahead with this referendum just six days after the cyclone. Lord Malloch-Brown said that the British Ambassador in Rangoon wrote to senior Burmese politicians urging them to "put the referendum process to one side and mobilise all efforts on the urgent relief effort". He added that it was "incomprehensible in the current circumstances that the regime went ahead with the referendum".[170] The referendum was postponed in areas hit by the cyclone, but the results for the rest of the country indicated a 92.4% yes vote, on a claimed 99% turnout. The International Development Secretary said the "official results lack all credibility" and he also criticised the regime for extending the detention of the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.[171]

96. We conclude that the human rights record of the Burmese junta, evidenced by its response to pro-democracy protests and the devastation of Cyclone Nargis, is reprehensible. We strongly support the Government's efforts to promote human rights in Burma, and we praise its generous donation for the victims of the storm. We recommend that the Government should put in place very strict measures to ensure that its aid cannot be misused by the regime, and inform us of these measures in its response to this Report. We further recommend that, in principle, the Government should not rule out invoking the "responsibility to protect" in situations such as Burma, but that this should be guided by a practical assessment of the situation on the ground, and the likely wider consequences of such intervention.


97. The rise of the People's Republic of China in global politics and economics has been a very significant development in recent years. In 2008, China is aiming to demonstrate its confidence on the world stage through its hosting of the Olympic Games in Beijing. However, in parallel to this celebration of human achievement, and despite the recent advances made in the fight against poverty, China's human rights record continues to disturb many. Amongst other abuses, particular attention has been paid this year to the situation in Tibet. As part of this inquiry, we took the opportunity to take evidence on human rights in Tibet from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan people. At the same time, the Chinese Government's response to the tragedy of the dreadful Sichuan earthquake in May 2008 has been commended by many, including the Foreign Secretary.[172]

98. The FCO report states that "violations of basic human rights continue to overshadow China's otherwise remarkable development". The number of executions in China is believed to be "very high" and "much higher than in any other country". China has yet to announce a timetable for the ratification of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, which it signed in 1998. Large numbers of individuals continue to be detained without judicial process, and China's restrictive internet policies have opened up another front in its clampdown on freedom of expression. The report also expresses its concern that counter-terrorism measures are sometimes being used as "a means of curtailing the legitimate rights" of the Uighur community in Xinjiang.[173]

99. Amnesty International argues that the forthcoming Olympic Games have led to a deterioration rather than an improvement in China's human rights record. It claims:

    Human rights activists, and others who have publicly criticised official government policy, have been targeted in the official pre-Olympics 'clean up', in an apparent attempt to portray a 'stable' or 'harmonious' image to the world.

It lists Yang Chunlin as being amongst those targeted. He was sentenced in March 2008 to five years in prison for "inciting subversion" after spearheading a campaign under the banner "We don't want the Olympic Games, we want human rights". It also argues that the Chinese Government has backtracked from promises of "complete media freedom" in China, noting continued obstruction for foreign journalists on sensitive human rights issues.[174] Lord Malloch-Brown rejected this argument when he appeared before us:

    It is a bit more complicated, and you have to weigh the pros and cons. Yes, there have evidently been clearances to allow Olympic facilities to be established, and goodness knows whether community rights were as well respected as they might have been. There were no hearings of the sort that will no doubt surround the development of Olympic infrastructure here in London. However, I see it as a net gain for openness because it led to a situation in which press access was at least temporarily granted to the whole country. We will have to see whether it is now provided to Tibet. We are assured that it will be. I think that China felt that it was on its best behaviour to impress the world. In general, the Olympics was a key stepping stone in the process of engaging China in the world […] I think that it has been a win for human rights, but I recognise that there are negative arguments as well.[175]

100. The FCO's report sets out in detail the Government's work on promoting human rights in China. It distinguishes between "high-level messages to encourage progress in policy and project work to deliver more immediate work on the ground". It discusses the bilateral UK-China Human Rights Dialogue, with the most recent round held in January 2008. We have repeatedly expressed our concerns over the Dialogue and in our previous Report, we argued that it is "failing to make substantive progress" and we recommended that the Government should include a timeframe for the completion of certain objectives. In its response, the Government acknowledged that progress had been "incremental" but said there had been significant improvements in the Dialogue since it began in 1997. It rejected our call for timeframes, although it did not provide any justification for doing so.[176] During this year's inquiry, Kate Allen told us that it was difficult to see the benefits of the Dialogue, arguing that "it almost feels as though the ironic result of that Dialogue - all that it has achieved - is to silence public criticism of the record of the Chinese Government."[177]

101. The Prime Minister has announced that he will attend the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have been critical of the UK Government's approach to the Olympic Games. Kate Allen told us that it felt as though the Government was:

    more interested at the moment in the legacy of the Olympics for the London Olympics than in their legacy for the human rights situation of the Chinese people. We absolutely want to see that changed. We are not calling for a boycott of the Olympics - we have never called for that. What we want is to see our Government speaking out really loudly, really clearly and very publicly about their expectations of human rights in the period of the Olympics.

Tom Porteous added:

    We think that the Olympics represent a brilliant opportunity to draw attention to the human rights situation in China. […] [T]he Beijing games risk tainting the London games, unless the British Government dissociate the two. We think that it is very important that the UK stands up at this point and makes it very clear that Gordon Brown, in particular, should not go to the ceremonies - neither the opening nor the closing ceremonies - unless the Chinese Government honour, or go some way to honouring, the pledges that they made on human rights when bidding for the Olympic Games.[178]

However, as we note below, the Dalai Lama is opposed to a boycott of the Olympic Games.[179]

102. Lord Malloch-Brown rejected the idea of placing conditions on the Prime Minister's attendance at the Games. He argued that he was not sure whether "suddenly saying that the Prime Minister will not go unless there is an agreement on Tibet or unless the death sentence is removed as a penalty" would be helpful or constructive, adding that "we have the right mixture of pressure and continued commitment to China coming out into the world, which is best able to achieve results".[180]

103. We conclude that there continues to be little evidence that the Government's Human Rights Dialogue with China is achieving significant results. We conclude that, as at the time of our agreeing this Report, the Prime Minister is correct to attend the Olympic Games. However, the Olympics represent a unique opportunity to advance the cause of human rights in China. We conclude that there is mounting evidence that the Chinese authorities are taking repressive measures to prevent any of their citizens from expressing visible dissent in the run up to or during the Games. We recommend that the Government makes immediate public and very strong condemnation of this. We further recommend that the Government should be ready to discontinue the UK-China Human Rights Dialogue if substantial progress is not made in the coming year.


104. When we took evidence for our inquiry into East Asia, the Chinese Embassy told us that "China's sovereignty to Tibet allows no doubt. The Chinese Central Government has been exercising sovereignty over Tibet since the 13th century […] Tibet has never been an independent country, and there is no country in the world that recognizes Tibet as an independent country". The FCO told the Committee that "successive British Governments have regarded Tibet as autonomous whilst recognising the special position of the Chinese authorities there".[181]

105. China's policy towards Tibet has been the source of long-standing tension with the region's ethnic Tibetan population. The FCO report notes that "violations of human rights continue". It cites interference by the Chinese Government in religious affairs, and the impact of inward migration by the ethnic majority Han Chinese into Tibet.[182] In March 2008, the situation in Tibet deteriorated dramatically following the emergence of protests against Chinese rule and the subsequent Government response.

106. The Dalai Lama is the Nobel peace prize winning spiritual and political leader of many Tibetans, and lives in exile in Dharamsala in India, where he heads a Government-in-Exile. He told us that after 10 March 2008 (the 59th anniversary of a failed uprising against the Chinese), "there were initially genuinely peaceful demonstrations" by Tibetans against Chinese policies. These protests were not confined to the autonomous region of Tibet, but spread to four neighbouring Chinese provinces (where a number of ethnic Tibetans reside). He claimed that the cause of the protests was the Chinese "rule of terror" in Tibet, arguing that a "cultural genocide" is taking place with the influx of immigrants.[183] He acknowledged that "in some individual cases", the emotions of the protesters became "out of control" and "some unfortunate things happened".[184] Amnesty International notes that some protesters attacked individuals because they were believed to be Han Chinese, and that some of these attacks are "reported to have resulted in death, injury and damage to property".

107. China responded to the protests by introducing troops into Tibet. Amnesty International notes its concern that "in restoring order, the Chinese authorities have resorted to measures which violate international human rights law and standards." Chinese abuses "reportedly included unnecessary and excessive use of force, including lethal force, arbitrary detentions and intimidation." It adds that the estimated number of people detained by the Chinese ranges from 1,200 to 2000.[185] The Dalai Lama expressed his concern to us regarding those detained, claiming of the Chinese: "when they arrest, they torture severely before asking questions".[186] During the protests, the Prime Minister told the House that the Government urged "restraint where there has been violence."[187]

108. The Dalai Lama has called for an international investigation into the circumstances surrounding the recent events in Tibet. He noted that it is "very difficult to get clear information" as to what exactly happened. He suggested that an international investigation would also establish whether the accusation of the Chinese Premier that the Tibetan Government-in-Exile was behind the protests was accurate or not.[188] A call for an international investigation has been strongly supported by other organisations. Tom Porteous believed that the Prime Minister should make China's agreement for an international investigation a condition for his attendance at the Olympic Games, adding that there was "virtually nil chance" of the Chinese agreeing to such an investigation.[189] In a written answer, the FCO Minister Kim Howells addressed the issue of an independent investigation:

    We believe that the Chinese government should lift restrictions on access to the region which would aid an independent assessment of the situation. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister raised the issue of access to Tibet in his telephone call to Chinese Premier Wen on 19 March. We continue to encourage China to issue an open invitation to all UN Special Rapporteurs to visit China, including the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.[190]

However, there has been no enthusiasm by the Government to link the call for an independent assessment of the situation with its approach towards the Games. The Dalai Lama himself told us "Tibetan issues and the Olympics are two separate things. I fully supported the Olympics from the beginning."[191]

109. China has held intermittent talks with the Dalai Lama's representatives since 2002, and Lord Malloch-Brown told us that the Government has been "extremely clear" in its messages to China that these talks should resume. China's pre-conditions for talks have been that the Dalai Lama commits to non-violence and calls for greater autonomy for Tibet, not independence - conditions that he clearly meets (he told us he is calling for "genuine autonomy").[192] The dialogue between the Dalai Lama and China has achieved little by way of results. The two parties met for the first time after the disturbances in Shenzhen province in early May 2008.[193] Lord Malloch-Brown said the Government "should not ease up on the Chinese" now that talks have resumed and stated that the UK would press the Chinese to come to "some kind of accommodation" with the Dalai Lama.[194] When we asked the Dalai Lama if the British Government was doing enough on Tibet, he replied "not enough", but added, "how much can they do? That is another big question. There are limits, even for the European Union and the United States."[195]

110. The Dalai Lama gave evidence to us as part of a larger visit to the United Kingdom. On this visit, he met the Prime Minister, despite opposition from the Chinese Government. However, the Prime Minister chose to meet the Dalai Lama at the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lambeth Palace, rather than 10 Downing Street. A Downing Street spokesperson told The Times that this was because the Dalai Lama was "a spiritual representative", but added that the Prime Minister would have a "substantive conversation" with him. Critics suggested that the Prime Minister's decision not to meet the Dalai Lama in 10 Downing Street was made to placate China, and noted that both Tony Blair and John Major had received him there. President Bush also hosted the Dalai Lama at the White House when he received the Congressional Gold Medal last year.[196] The Dalai Lama played down the significance of the location, telling us that "the venue does not matter".[197]

111. The official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that the Chinese National People's Congress Foreign Affairs Committee condemned our evidence session with the Dalai Lama. It said in a statement: "We express our strong indignation and opposition to such an act that forms an arrogant interference in China's domestic affairs and hurts Chinese people's feelings," adding that "the irresponsible act is an irony to democracy, freedom and human rights".[198] The Chinese Ambassador to the UK, Her Excellency Fu Ying, also wrote to us, stating that "the Chinese public seem quite upset by the fact that Britain should choose to hurt China at such a difficult moment."[199] Lord Malloch-Brown had warned us that there was "genuine Chinese public indignation" on Tibet, and so this reaction was not surprising.[200] Nonetheless, we look forward to continuing our scrutiny of democracy, freedom and human rights in China and elsewhere in the coming years.

112. We conclude that China's policies towards Tibet have fostered a culture of repression. We condemn the use of violence either by Tibetans or the Chinese Government during the recent disturbances. We welcome the British Government's calls for restraint and dialogue between the two parties. We recommend that the British Government should press the Chinese authorities to allow an independent and international investigation to take place in Tibet, and to impress on the Chinese Government that they should recognise that there is currently a significant window of opportunity to make progress in resolving the dispute over Tibet based on the demand by the Dalai Lama for "genuine autonomy", not independence.


113. Colombia is the only country in Latin America to be included in the FCO's list of "major countries of concern" on human rights. Colombia plays host to a large illegal drugs trade, which, in the assessment of the report, has been a "major driver of the decades-long internal armed conflict". Amongst other concerns, the report notes that Colombia is a "dangerous" place for trade unionists, who remain the targets of forced displacement and even murder. Equally worryingly, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights estimates that approximately 3 million people (in particular indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities) have been internally displaced by the conflict. Colombia also now tops the world league table for victims of antipersonnel mines, with 1,102 deaths or injuries as a result of landmines in 2005.[201]

114. Amnesty International argues that the report fails "accurately to reflect the seriousness of the human rights situation". It claims that paramilitary groups continue to operate in areas where they were supposed to have demilitarised under the Justice and Peace Law, stating that these groups were responsible for over 200 deaths in 2007. Amnesty International also notes increased reports of extrajudicial executions by the security forces, with the victims mostly peasant farmers. Its submission provides detail not included in the Government's report, highlighting the death of 39 trade unionists and the displacement of an estimated 305,000 civilians in 2007 alone.[202]

115. Saferworld's submission notes that the UK provided military export licenses worth £2 million to Colombia in 2007.[203] Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch strongly criticise the Government's military aid to Colombia. Amnesty International states that UK aid continues to flow to "units implicated in serious human rights abuses, such as the High Mountain Brigades".[204] Human Rights Watch argues that "in light of the high rate of extrajudicial executions by the military, the UK should either suspend military assistance to Colombia or attach strong human rights conditions to it".[205] Tom Porteous commented:

    The problem is that the military aid the British Government grant to Colombia is unconditional with regard to any kind of human rights improvements. We think that that sends a bad message. The military in Colombia will go on getting these military goodies without having to do anything in return with respect to human rights. So we would very much like the British Government to make its aid conditional on an improvement.

He added that,

    the UK seems to be being saddled with a policy that even the American Government have moved beyond. After the Democrats took control of Congress last year, they froze some military aid to Colombia on human rights grounds. We think that the UK should at least get back into step with the policy of the Americans.[206]

116. Lord Malloch-Brown has said that "the only training that we have provided to individuals in the High Mountain Battalions has been human rights and demining training". He added:

    We do not divulge details of the support that we provide to our Colombian partners because to do so could not only endanger the effectiveness of the support but play into the hands of ruthless and powerful drugs-trafficking cartels. The Parliamentary Ombudsman has upheld this decision.[207]

The ruling of the Ombudsman focuses on the dangers to national security and international relations were the information to be divulged.[208] However, it appears to us that the issue of examining the detail of how UK military aid is deployed in Colombia is somewhat distinct from the issue of whether UK aid is being leveraged to extract the maximum human rights benefits in the country, with the latter being the more important question.

117. We conclude that the human rights situation in Colombia is serious and shows little sign of improvement. We further conclude that allegations of extra-judicial executions by the Colombian military, and the continued targeting of trade unionists, cannot be ignored. We therefore believe it is inappropriate for the Government to provide military aid to Colombia without any reference to human rights improvements. Noting recent moves by the US Congress to freeze some aid to Colombia on human rights grounds, we recommend that the Government should request the Colombian military to demonstrate measurable and verifiable human rights improvements in exchange for future assistance. We further recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government should set out a range of possible measures that could be used for this purpose.


118. The FCO report states that the overall human rights situation in Iran has "remained poor". It adds that "serious human rights violations have continued", with a "significant deterioration in some of our main areas of concern". This includes a "rapid increase" in the rate of executions, with Iran second only to China in absolute terms. A man was stoned to death in Qazvin province for adultery in July 2007, the first confirmed report of a stoning sentence being carried out since Iran announced a moratorium on the practice in 2002. The report argues that Iran continues to deny its people the right to express their opinions freely, and that there has been "an alarming clampdown on any form of organised protest".[209] Kate Allen noted:

    there is a campaign for equality, which women in Iran are very bravely pursuing. The aim is to collect 1 million signatures calling for an end to legalised discrimination against women, and many of the women involved in that have been arrested and imprisoned. It is a bleak situation.[210]

119. In March 2008, we published a Report into Global Security: Iran after having visited the country. We considered the human rights situation in Iran as part of this inquiry. We stated:

    During our visit, we had a robust exchange with Dr Mohammad Javad Larijani, the head of human rights in Iran's judiciary, and raised our concerns with a number of other interlocutors. We were seriously concerned by the way in which senior figures within the Iranian regime used their religious and ideological beliefs to justify severe abuses of human rights in their country.[211]

In our Report, we noted the widespread discrimination faced by members of religious minority groups, in particular the Bahá'í community. Domestic violence remains a problem in Iran, and we cited a claim by Reporters Sans Frontiers that Iran has imprisoned more journalists than anywhere else in the Middle East. We noted that same-sex relations remained illegal in Iran (and could carry the death penalty).[212]

120. In our Report, we highlighted arguments made by Human Rights Watch and others that the EU was prioritising diplomatic negotiations over Iran's nuclear programme at the expense of pressing Tehran on human rights. The FCO rejected this charge. We concluded that Iran's human rights record was "shocking" and we recommended that the Government ensured "human rights are not treated as a secondary concern to the nuclear issue". We also recommended that the Government should underline "to Iran that its poor record in responding to human rights concerns makes it more difficult for the international community to trust its intentions in other fields".[213]

121. In its response, the Government agreed with our assessment on Iran's human rights record. It also agreed "that treating human rights as a secondary concern to other issues would be counter-productive." It noted that Iran claims international concern over its human rights record is a tactic used to undermine the regime, rather than a response to its failure to meet basic human rights obligations, and welcomed our findings in this context.[214]

122. We conclude that Iran's human rights record remains shocking and appears to be deteriorating. We welcome the Government's recognition that treating human rights in Iran as an issue of secondary concern would be counter-productive. We recommend that, in its response to this Report, the Government should set out where it believes progress can realistically be made in advancing human rights in Iran and the further action that the Government itself is taking to achieve such progress.


123. In our report last year, we concluded that there had been a "further grave deterioration" in the human rights situation in Iraq, "in large part caused by the worsening security situation". Human Rights Watch had criticised the Government's report for painting a "wildly optimistic" view of the situation in the country, and accused the UK and US of "propping up a government that is deeply implicated in escalating sectarian violence, massacres and torture".[215] In this year's report, the Government emphasises once more the brutality of Saddam Hussein's regime and argues that "the foundations are being laid for a society based on respect for human rights". The report sets out a range of human rights concerns, and Amnesty International comments that "compared to previous entries", it takes "a more balanced approach".[216]

124. The Government's report highlights security as a key condition for human rights to prosper, and identifies sectarian violence as a key driver of insecurity. The report states that violence against civilians and security forces continues, and notes an "increase in violence against minority communities over the last year".[217] Amnesty International notes that despite the US military 'surge' in Iraq, violence has continued, "albeit less intensively than in recent years". It notes that hundreds of people are being killed every month, with all sides having committed gross human rights abuses.[218] Human Rights Watch notes that 2007 saw the biggest single attack on civilians in Iraq, with nearly 500 fatalities amongst the minority Yazidi community in one episode in August.[219]

125. The FCO's report states that over the past four years, the Government has helped to train over 13,000 Iraqi troops. However, it acknowledges candidly that the "culture of abuse and repression within the Iraqi security services remains". The report praises the UK's handover of security responsibility of Basra province in December 2007, and states that "reports show the security situation in the region to be largely stable".[220] However, in March 2008, there were numerous violent clashes in Basra, with the Iraqi army engaging in combat with the 'Mehdi army' of Moqtada al-Sadr.[221] Human Rights Watch claims that the report "ignores the degree to which security forces in Basra, generally established under the supervision of British forces, have been infiltrated by militias and other armed elements which are themselves reported to have committed abuses".[222]

126. Human Rights Watch notes that the US 'surge' has "led to a sharp increase in the number of detainees". The US military said in October 2007 that its detainee population has grown by about two-thirds from the year before, to about 25,000.[223] The FCO's report notes "significant reductions" in the number of detainees held by the UK, with six held in the Divisional Internment Facility in Basra at the end of 2007. It states that reductions have been achieved through "negotiations with local leaders".[224]

127. The FCO report states that "women face particular risks from militias," with continued reports of honour crimes, particularly in northern Iraq.[225] Amnesty International argues that the report "fails to reflect the extent of the impact of violence on women in Iraq. Violence against women and girls has increased dramatically in the past five years." It notes that provisions in the Iraqi Penal Code set out lenient punishments for honour killings.[226] Lord Malloch-Brown told us it would be a "terrible consequence" if women's rights were set back following the invasion of Iraq, but it appears as though this consequence has come about. He noted an "upsurge of honour killings" in Basra, with provocative dress cited as a reason for the punishment. He said that British officials were raising this issue regularly with Iraqi counterparts.[227] He added:

    We hope that it is not a long-term phenomenon and that it can be contained by these statements by the police and their efforts to address it. We hope that this is not going to grow into a major issue and we will do everything we can to stop that happening.[228]

Tom Porteous of Human Rights Watch believed that the UK and the US should bear some of the responsibility for the deterioration of women's rights in Iraq in recent years. Kate Allen said that "promises" made by the coalition to Iraqi women had not been kept.[229]

128. We conclude that despite improvements in security, the human rights situation in Iraq remains very difficult. We believe that the deteriorating human rights situation faced by women in many parts of Iraq is unacceptable, and we recommend that the Government should use all its leverage to press the Iraqi Government to ensure women are afforded security and the legal equality provided for in the Iraqi constitution.

129. The FCO report cites UN estimates that up to 2 million Iraqis are displaced internally, with 2 million more living as refugees in nearby countries. It notes that the UK has contributed over £125 million since 2003 to work with vulnerable Iraqis.[230] Human Rights Watch argues this is a "small sum" compared to the billions spent on military operations, and claims the Government paints "too rosy" a picture of its efforts to help Iraqi refugees.[231] We raised the issue of Iraqi refugees in our report on Global Security: The Middle East, which was published in August 2007. We concluded that the refugee crisis required "urgent attention" and we recommended that the Government should provide financial assistance to Syria and Jordan, the two countries hosting the most Iraqi refugees, to help them cope with the burden. The Government rejected our call for bilateral aid, stating that it preferred to work through international organisations.[232]

130. For the current inquiry, Lord Malloch-Brown admitted that refugees were "a major burden on both countries". He again repeated the Government's policy of working through intermediaries, but added: "I think that we need to keep this under review, because, frankly, I think that the world as a whole needs to be more generous to the refugees in those two countries than it has been so far."[233] The FCO later wrote to us with details of UK assistance to Iraqi refugees. It stated that the DFID Iraq programme contributed £3 million to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) 2007 Iraq Situation Supplementary Appeal, covering Iraq, Syria, Jordan and other countries hosting Iraqi refugees. Another £3 million has been contributed in 2008. No direct contribution was made in 2006.[234] Tom Porteous set out what he considered were both moral and strategic reasons for the Government to do much more to assist Iraqi refugees across the region.[235]

131. In our report on Global Security: The Middle East, we welcomed the Government's proposal to resettle a small number of very vulnerable Iraqis in the UK.[236] In October 2007, the Foreign Secretary set out details of how resettlement would work, focusing on "that sub-set of [Iraqi] staff who have had the closest and most sustained association with us, in circumstances which we judge to be uniquely difficult". There were separate eligibility requirements for current and former staff. Current staff that had attained more than 12 months continuous service were able to choose between applying for a one-off financial package, indefinite leave to remain in the UK, and the opportunity for resettlement through the Gateway programme. Former staff with more than 12 months service since January 2005 could apply for the Gateway programme or a financial package, but not indefinite leave. However, to qualify for the Gateway programme, individuals would need to "qualify as refugees under the 1951 Convention in a third country" - i.e. they would have to leave Iraq before being considered.[237] Tom Porteous told us that the policy:

    has not been properly implemented, and a lot of former employees of the British Army who have put their lives on the line on behalf of the British in Iraq are still falling between the cracks and at great risk, both inside Iraq and in neighbouring countries.[238]

In June 2008, The Times reported that some Iraqi interpreters and their families that had chosen to relocate to the UK were being housed in "squalid tower blocks" in Glasgow, were living amongst "drunks and drug addicts", and had faced verbal and physical abuse.[239]

132. We conclude that the Government and the international community must do much more to help Iraqi refugees in neighbouring countries. We recommend that the Government should provide bilateral financial assistance to help Syria and Jordan cope with their refugee burden. We welcome the Government's resettlement programme for some of its Iraqi employees, but we are concerned that former employees and their families perversely need to face the dangers involved in leaving Iraq to become refugees in neighbouring countries before being able to apply for the Gateway programme. We recommend that the Government should allow its eligible former employees to apply for relocation to the United Kingdom without first having to register as a refugee.

Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories

133. We visited Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories as part of our inquiry into Global Security: The Middle East in 2007. In the report that followed, we set out a wide range of concerns surrounding the human rights record of both the Israeli Government and the Palestinian factions. We also criticised the response of the international community.

134. The section on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories is the most substantial amongst the FCO's list of "major countries of concern". The Government lists a range of human rights abuses from all sides in recent months. For the Israelis, the first concern it lists is "use of force". It states: "we have concerns over whether Israel's use of lethal force has always been justifiable". It goes further by claiming that, in the course of Israeli Defence Force operations, "too little effort has been made to avoid civilian casualties". The Government states that, where appropriate, it has made its concerns known to the Israeli Government, for instance following the death of 22 Palestinian civilians in Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip in November 2006.[240] Amnesty International notes that in a two-week period in May 2007, 50 Palestinians were killed and 200 injured in the Gaza Strip by Israeli air strikes and other attacks. It argues that the Government should "unreservedly condemn Israel's disproportionate use of force".[241]

135. Another cause for concern for the Government is the implementation of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access. The report states that the ability of Palestinians to move freely in the West Bank has "deteriorated" due to the continued use of checkpoints, roadblocks and the barrier. It cites UN figures that 563 obstacles were present in the West Bank in September 2007, an increase of 187, or 49%, over the baseline figure of August 2005. The Government states that there has been a "disturbing increase" in the number of delays to and denials of ambulance access at checkpoints.

136. The Government states that the "Hamas takeover of Gaza in June 2007 resulted in a breakdown in Israeli-Palestinian co-ordination mechanisms at the crossing points into Gaza". It adds that the continued closure of crossing points has had a "devastating impact" on the Gazan economy. The report notes that the Government is "extremely concerned" about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, particularly with regard to the access of its population to essential supplies.[242] Tom Porteous told us that the situation in Gaza is "particularly bad", and argued that the British Government should "call it what it is: collective punishment". He claimed that, in a private conversation, an FCO official agreed with this assessment but said that "for political reasons it was impossible" for the Government to adopt publicly this position.[243] Human Rights Watch's submission also argues that the report should have stated that the Israeli-led blockade of Gaza "had in fact been imposed earlier" than June 2007, namely following the Hamas electoral victory in 2006. It adds that this policy was initially "tacitly or openly supported by the UK" and other allies of Israel.[244]

137. Lord Malloch-Brown told us that Israel's actions were "deeply damaging".[245] He said the Government had, on a number of issues, "declared Israeli action to be excessive, disproportionate and against international law". We pressed him on whether Israel's actions could be subject to legal proceedings. He said that "we have no intention of sponsoring any effort to take Israel to any international court" as it would damage efforts to build trust between the two sides.[246] He later sent us a letter, in which he stated: "In the case of individual criminal liability by any individuals for grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions then national courts may have jurisdiction."[247]

138. The various Palestinian factions have also been guilty in the past year of very serious human rights violations. In our report on Global Security: The Middle East, we condemned both Hamas and Fatah for the egregious abuses that formed part of the bitter internal conflict in the first half of 2007.[248] The expulsion of Hamas from the Palestinian Authority following its coup in the Gaza Strip in June 2007 has complicated the picture, in the sense that a number of current human rights violations are carried out by non-Governmental actors. As in the case of Israel, the FCO report sets out its current concerns regarding the Palestinian Authority. It notes that the UK "condemns all acts of violence against Israel's population" and it calls upon the Palestinian Authority to work effectively to end "all kinds of terrorist violence". Indiscriminate rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel are particularly singled out.[249] Both Tom Porteous and Kate Allen condemned these attacks.[250]

139. The FCO report cites UN figures that in 2007, more Palestinians were killed as a result of inter-Palestinian violence than as a result of clashes with Israeli security forces. During the Hamas takeover of Gaza in June 2007, 188 individuals died in the Gaza Strip and 5 in the West Bank. The Government stresses that the "Palestinian Authority Security Forces are the only legitimate security forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territories".[251] Tom Porteous told us that factional violence was "getting worse". He noted that the EU was providing support through a project called EU COPPS - the EU Co-ordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support - and he recommended that "human rights should be put at the heart of that support effort".[252]

140. According to the FCO report, the Government has made £31.6 million available in support to the Occupied Palestinian Territories for 2007/08. £12 million was provided through the Temporary International Mechanism in 2006/07.[253] This support is welcome, but as we noted in our report on Global Security: The Middle East, the only sustainable solution to the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people will be the restoration of full economic activity brought about by inter alia increased freedom of movement and access.[254]

141. Amnesty International notes that the focus on the Gaza Strip has detracted attention from human rights abuses carried out in the West Bank by the Palestinian Authority and armed groups linked to Fatah. It states that "the Palestinian Authority security forces continue to detain Hamas supporters and there have been reports of torture and other ill treatment in detention." It urges the Government to press President Mahmoud Abbas to investigate all unlawful killings in the territory.[255]

142. In our Global Security: The Middle East report, we recommended that the Government should find ways of engaging with moderate elements within the Hamas movement in a bid to encourage them to comply with international agreements and renounce violence. Our recommendation was rejected by the Government, but appeared to gain some support from Lord Malloch-Brown, who told the House of Lords that "over time" contacts with Hamas "must grow into full political contacts because, ultimately, Hamas must be a party to a settlement".[256] Two days later, in a written statement, he clarified his remarks, stating: "Our policy on Hamas has not changed. We do not have a political dialogue with Hamas".[257]

143. Tom Porteous commented on the challenges facing the international community in promoting human rights to the Palestinians. He argued that "there is not much that the UK, the EU or the US can do to exercise any sort of influence over Hamas, because they do not talk to Hamas. At least, there is no political, diplomatic leverage". He noted, however, that the UK has "considerable" influence over Fatah and that it should use this leverage to improve the human rights situation.[258] This report is not the place for an in-depth discussion of the political dynamics of the various Palestinian factions, but we maintain that, were the Government to follow the recommendation we made last year, it would be able to apply more effective pressure on Hamas to stop abusing human rights.

144. We agree with the Minister that some of Israel's actions against the Palestinians have been disproportionate and we conclude that Israeli policies towards the population of the Gaza Strip as a whole have been a form of collective punishment. We recommend that the Government should urge Israel in the strongest possible terms to desist from activities that violate international law. We further conclude that the Government is absolutely correct to condemn all forms of violence committed by Palestinians against the Israeli population. We recommend that, in its response to this Report, the Government should provide an assessment as to what policy options are available to prevent the indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israel. We repeat our condemnation of violence between Palestinians, and we welcome the Government's provision of significant financial support to the Palestinian Authority.

North Korea

145. The FCO notes that North Korea (officially known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea) is "widely considered to have one of the worst human rights records in the world". The serious abuses that have been alleged include:

146. The FCO writes that large numbers of North Koreans cross the border with China for "economic and political reasons". The FCO puts estimates of the numbers involved at between "10,000 and 100,000 [...] in China's border provinces at any one time." With the Chinese considering these people illegal economic migrants, the FCO says that they "risk detention and forcible repatriation to North Korea if caught by the Chinese authorities". We are currently conducting an inquiry into Global Security: Japan and Korea, in connection with which we visited Seoul in May 2008. What we learnt there about China's repatriation policy and the grave dangers that those sent back to North Korea face upon their return gave us particular cause for concern.

147. As part of our Global Security: Japan and Korea inquiry, we took evidence from Norma Kang Muico, an East Asia researcher for Amnesty International. We asked her for her assessment of the British Government's approach to human rights in North Korea. She argued:

    I have worked with the British Government on this matter for almost four years and it has been a very productive relationship […]. It is very difficult to work on human rights in North Korea […] but as a Government […] they can open up the country by continuing with their educational programmes, their exchanges and anything that will open the society and the country to other way s of thinking. […] The UK Government should continue that and continue their tradition of dialoguing with North Korea. They should never close the door because they can provide a venue for us to speak.[260]

148. We conclude that the human rights situation in North Korea is extremely grave. We will consider the country's human rights abuses, and the response of the British Government, in detail in our Report on Global Security: Japan and Korea.


149. We considered allegations of UK complicity in the torture of detainees in Pakistan in a previous chapter of this report. This section considers human rights in Pakistan more generally. In our report last year, we recommended that the "serious nature of human rights abuses in Pakistan" meant that the country warranted inclusion as a major country of concern in the FCO's 2007 report.[261] The FCO accepted this recommendation.

150. The report notes that "recent changes in the political landscape" and the period surrounding the state of emergency declared by President Pervez Musharraf on 3 November 2007 have brought a number of human rights issues in Pakistan "to the fore". However, it does not expand on the human rights violations committed under the emergency, and does not criticise President Musharraf (although it notes that the UK did call on him to honour his commitment to step down as Chief of Army Staff).[262] As Amnesty International notes, there were "widespread arrests and incommunicado detention of lawyers, judges, journalists and human rights defenders as well as the violent suppression of peaceful protests."[263] Human Rights Watch criticises the report for failing to mention that "the deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry was held in illegal detention for almost five months along with his family, including his children - a teenage daughter and a seven-year-old son."[264] The report also fails to mention why the state of emergency was introduced. It is widely believed to have been linked to a forthcoming Supreme Court judicial ruling that would have found President Musharraf's re-election to be illegal. At the time, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called the declaration "highly regrettable" and the Commonwealth decided to suspend Pakistan as a member [it has since been reinstated].[265]

151. The Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in December 2007 whilst campaigning in parliamentary elections. It is believed that Islamist militants were behind her murder. The Government "condemned in the strongest terms" this "shocking assassination". The report also notes that Pakistan has been making "important moves in its democratic transition".[266] Although this is an odd statement to make about the Presidential election of 2007 and the state of emergency, the relatively stable and fair parliamentary elections held in February 2008, which saw the ebbing of support from President Musharraf, are an encouraging sign.[267]

152. The FCO report refers to Pakistan's counter-terrorist efforts, noting that it is one of the UK's "most important partners". It seems to refer implicitly to human rights abuses in the border regions with Afghanistan by noting that the Government continues "to urge that any military action in the area should take place within the parameters of international norms".[268] Human Rights Watch notes that the "report remains notably silent on the hundreds of disappearances of terrorism suspects in Pakistan".[269] Amnesty International notes that "hundreds of suspects are known to have been handed over to US authorities outside the legal extradition process" and states that it has "received reports of extrajudicial execution, house demolition, arbitrary detention and harassment by the Pakistani security forces".[270]

153. Aside from counter-terrorism and the political crisis, the FCO notes a range of other human rights abuses in Pakistan. The "situation of religious and other minority groups continues to be of concern" and the Pakistani Government continues to use the death penalty. The FCO continues to combat "honour crimes" in Pakistan, and is working to encourage progress on women's rights.[271] Amnesty International remains "deeply concerned" about women's rights in Pakistan, noting that they continue to be discriminated against in law.[272]

154. Kate Allen argued to us that, overall, the entry on Pakistan in the report is "very disappointing". She added that it is "hugely uncritical", barely mentioning the human rights impact of the state of emergency. She claimed that the entry was "an example of a lack of consistency of approach by the FCO. Friend or foe, there should be a consistent approach when tackling human rights and not a pretence that issues do not exist".[273]

155. We conclude that there are serious and wide-ranging human rights abuses in Pakistan. We further conclude that the FCO report should have been more critical of the imposition of the state of emergency, in particular by considering whether it was introduced to prevent the judiciary from considering the validity of President Musharraf's re-election. We unreservedly condemn the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and we welcome the relatively free parliamentary elections in February 2008. We recommend that, in its response to this Report, the Government should set out more clearly what steps it is taking to support women's rights and other international human rights norms in Pakistan.


156. In its report, the Government outlines a number of human rights concerns in Russia. It argues that there has been a "shrinking of the democratic space" in the past 18 months, most noticeably through recent NGO and anti-extremism laws. The report states that it is "deeply disappointing" that Russia prevented the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe's (OSCE's) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights from observing the December 2007 parliamentary elections.[274] Dmitry Medvedev won a landslide victory in Russia's Presidential elections on 2 March 2008, taking 70.3 per cent of the vote. In a letter to the Chairman of our Committee, the Foreign Secretary said the UK "questioned the degree of democracy exhibited throughout the election period", highlighting the "unacceptable conditions" placed on international observers.[275]

157. In its written submission, Amnesty International claimed that torture was used in police custody in Russia, noting that the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has not yet been able to visit the Federation. It particularly noted that Russian counter-terrorism operations in the north Caucasus had led to reports of abductions, arbitrary detention and extrajudicial executions. Amnesty also stated that it shared the concerns of the FCO around growing xenophobia in Russia.[276] Tom Porteous of Human Rights Watch raised with us the issue of a "quiet but rather lethal" restriction of the media in Russia alongside a "repression of freedom of expression".[277]

158. In November 2007, we published a report into Global Security: Russia. As part of this report, we considered the UK's policy response to Russia's human rights record. We recommended that the Government should continue to press the Russian authorities on democracy and human rights standards, but we suggested that it emphasise to a greater degree the fact that the issues at stake are not Western, but international and often voluntarily agreed to by Russia itself.[278] In its response to the Committee, the Government stated:

    We agree with the Committee's recommendation that improved standards of human rights be framed in terms of an international, rather than 'Western' framework, and have long pointed to Russia's international human rights obligations. Russia's active participation at the UN, and in the Human Rights Council, as well as in the Council of Europe, should leave it in no doubt that the key human rights standards are internationally agreed.[279]

159. Tom Porteous told us that:

    There is one flicker of light, which is that the [then] President-elect, Dmitry Medvedev, has pledged to uphold the rule of law, but, unfortunately, if you look at his history and the history of his career, he has been a very close associate of Putin and closely connected to Putin's policies over the last few years […] However, the pledges have been made and the EU should build on those and insist that those pledges should be honoured.[280]

We will consider issues relating to the treatment of employees of the British Council and BBC World Service in Russia in our report on the FCO's Annual Report 2007-08.

160. We conclude that the Russian parliamentary and Presidential elections demonstrated democratic deficiencies and were a missed opportunity for the advancement of democracy in Russia. We recommend that the Government, both bilaterally and using the mechanisms of the EU, OSCE and the Council of Europe, should continue to emphasise to Russia that its media and NGO restrictions are steps in the wrong direction. We further recommend that the Government should encourage President Medvedev to honour the pledges he has made to uphold the rule of law.

Saudi Arabia

161. Saudi Arabia is a member of the UN Human Rights Council, but conditions within the country fall far short of standards recognised as internationally acceptable. The FCO report notes women continue to face "severe restrictions", for instance by not being allowed to drive. Apostasy is punishable by death and press freedom restricted.[281] In our report last year, we noted that Saudi Arabia executed 92 people in 2005, an almost 200% increase on the year before.[282] The FCO now states that 158 people were executed in the Kingdom in 2007.[283] Amnesty International notes that most executions were carried out in public and that amongst those executed was a 15 year old, who was beheaded. Some were executed for witchcraft.[284] The overall trend is not an encouraging one.

162. Corporal punishment is heavily used, with floggings and amputations on the statute books. In a notorious case, a Saudi female was gang raped in 2006, and subsequently sentenced to 90 lashes for violating laws on segregation of the sexes. In November 2007, the victim's appeal was rejected and her sentence increased to 200 lashes. The report states that the UK "raised this case with the Saudi authorities" and following EU lobbying, King Abdullah granted a royal pardon to the victim in December 2007.[285]

163. Despite the rapidly increasing rate of executions in Saudi Arabia, the FCO's report points to "limited progress" in other areas. The Saudi Arabian National Society on Human Rights published its first report in May 2007, highlighting concerns such as prisoners' rights. Reforms were made to the judiciary that should improve access to the system. Some female citizens were given identification cards, which "opens the way for women to interact directly with parts of both the private and public sectors".[286] Lord Malloch-Brown called these "modest steps" but nonetheless "improvements".[287]

164. The FCO report states that the pace of reform in Saudi Arabia "will need to be acceptable to the Saudi government, its citizens and powerful religious leaders".[288] This was criticised by Human Rights Watch. It argued:

    This is tantamount to saying that reform must be at the pace of the most repressive and conservative elements of Saudi society. Would the UK government declare that change in Zimbabwe has to come at a pace that is acceptable to Zanu-PF?[289]

We put this to Lord Malloch-Brown, who rejected the criticism. He said:

    [T]he way to secure improvements is not by finger-wagging alone, but by working with the grain of changes in such countries to build up their human rights capacity in a way that Governments who enjoy absolute power gain sufficient confidence to let go of it and create space for independent human rights institutions […]This is a process of critical engagement, not of blind adulation and flattery. We have to ensure that such issues are raised, but we have made the judgment that out-and-out opposition will not do it.[290]

The FCO report notes that in 2008, the UK will fund projects including a workshop to develop the capacity of women in business.[291]

165. Tom Porteous told us that the Government was unwilling to criticise the Kingdom's human rights record because of "strategic, counter-terrorism, commercial and energy security interests". He acknowledged that it was important for the UK to engage with Saudi Arabia on these issues, but added that this should not prevent engagement on human rights.[292] Amnesty International criticises the "extreme brevity" of the section in the FCO report on Saudi Arabia.[293] Indeed, the section outlining UK Action is merely 37 words long, compared to up to two pages for some other major countries of concern.

166. Where the report does consider UK action over the past year, for instance by holding the "Two Kingdoms Dialogue" in October 2007 (featuring a State visit by King Abdullah), it is unclear how the discussion, which focused on "education, youth welfare, culture and the media" dealt with the most pressing human rights concerns in Saudi Arabia.[294] At this dialogue, the Minister for the Middle East, Dr Kim Howells MP, attracted ire for claiming the UK and Saudi Arabia had "shared values".[295] Human Rights Watch argued human rights were swept "under the carpet" at the event.[296] Kate Allen said that "when they have no set ambitions," such talks "go on and on and become an excuse for a lack of public debate and accountability for Governments who treat their people in such an appalling way".[297] In our report last year, we recommended that the Government set measurable and time-limited targets for human rights improvements as part of the "Two Kingdoms Dialogue". The Government rejected this, saying that "publicly announcing what we wish to achieve could be counterproductive".[298]

167. We conclude that the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia is one of the worst in the world. The Government's stated policy of assisting with gradual reform is simply not adequate in the face of the dramatically increased use of the death penalty and the continued repression of women's rights. We accept there is a balance to be struck in any relationship with a strategic ally, but we do not see how the Government's current policies are presenting sufficient incentives to the Saudi regime to curtail its most severe abuses. We recommend that the "Two Kingdoms Dialogue" should explicitly address issues such as the death penalty, and, as last year, we recommend that this dialogue should have measurable and time-limited objectives. We understand the Government's reasoning in not making such objectives public knowledge. However, we recommend that if the Government believes that these objectives should be kept private, the Foreign Secretary should write to us in confidence when he responds to this Report to outline what progress has been made.


168. We noted our concerns over the human rights situation in Somalia by including a section on it in our report last year. We commented at the time that the FCO had not included it as a major country of concern. This omission has carried over into the 2007 report. The civil war in Somalia shows no sign of abating. At the current time, Islamist militants are fighting against a recently established Transitional Federal Government, which has received the support of the international community. The militants had taken control of the capital city Mogadishu, until they were forced out by Ethiopia's military intervention into the country in January 2007.[299] The UN's head of humanitarian affairs in Somalia recently said the situation had escalated into a "massive, massive crisis" following the civil war and droughts, with 2.5 million people needing assistance or food.[300]

169. Mention of Somalia in the FCO's 2007 report is relegated to three paragraphs in a chapter on conflict prevention. This section lists a number of human rights concerns in the country. The report notes that "since April 2007, there have been a number of allegations" that parties to the conflict "have breached international humanitarian law". The report claims there is an "urgent need" for a "political solution" in Somalia. It notes that the "ripples of conflict" have spread to the Somali region of Ethiopia (Ogaden), and the Government "strongly condemns those terrorist groups operating in this region" and "fully recognises Ethiopia's need to counter the threat" posed by these groups.[301]

170. Human Rights Watch claims that the report's assessment is "misleading and inaccurate". It says there has been a "serious escalation" of the conflict in 2007. and states that the report "does not even mention the intervention of Ethiopian forces and their leading role in the fighting in Mogadishu let alone grave abuses they have committed." It argues that the reporting of the conflict in Ogaden is "entirely one-sided" with "no mention of the grave and well documented abuses published by Human Rights Watch and others perpetrated against the Ogaden civilian population by Ethiopian forces".[302] Human Rights Watch later published a report on the situation in the Ogaden region. It accuses the Ethiopian military of extrajudicial killings, rape, torture, using food as a weapon of war and burning down villages.[303]

171. Tom Porteous told us that he found the FCO's reporting "extraordinary" and said that Ethiopian abuses amounted to war crimes. He added:

    The fact remains that the UK, the US and the EU got it wrong on Somalia when they came down in support of the Ethiopian intervention. The Union of Islamic Courts was dislodged, but there was no consideration of the humanitarian consequences of the conflict that was bound to break out. The consequences are now very clear. The humanitarian situation has been described by the UN as the worst in the world. We regard the human rights situation there as absolutely terrible.

He called for a commission of inquiry to map out the human rights abuses in Somalia in the previous decade. He argued that the FCO needs to address the situation in Somalia not merely through the prism of counter-terrorism but also of accountability and human rights.[304] Amnesty International argues that there is a "near total absence in the rule of law", with "widespread rape and sexual assault of women", including by the Ethiopian military.[305]

172. Lord Malloch-Brown told us that the FCO was "guilty as charged" in covering Somalia "insufficiently" in the report. He added:

    The extenuating circumstances that I would point to, however, are, first, with a report by a Government, we have a standard of evidence that we have to satisfy ourselves is being met. In this particular case, the allegations against Ethiopian soldiers - which form part of your concern and have been made again this week - are stoutly denied by the Ethiopians. […] We need to look at the new claims and weigh them against the assertions made, in order to meet our responsibility on the facts.[306]

We received a letter from the Ethiopian Ambassador on this issue. He stated that "the Government of Ethiopia categorically rejects the allegations of atrocities" levelled against its armed forces in Somalia. He argued that "these stories are based on lies and fabricated information" from sources affiliated to terrorist organisations in Somalia. He claimed that Amnesty International in particular made "uncritical use of sources which have their own agenda".[307] However, we note that these very serious allegations have been made by both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

173. Despite his admission that the report's coverage of Somalia is inadequate, Lord Malloch-Brown argued that the Government has been active in supporting human rights in Somalia, for instance by helping to adopt a resolution at the Human Rights Council. He claimed the Government had "quite a good track record" in promoting NGO human rights concerns in the country. He acknowledged that the current Government was "admittedly imperfect" but argued that the most important thing for human rights was the establishment of authority and judicial institutions, which the UK was helping to build up.[308] Tom Porteous told us that Lord Malloch-Brown "has been more sympathetic" to the concerns of NGOs than his predecessor.[309]

174. We conclude that the FCO's report fails to pay sufficient attention to the severe human rights crisis in Somalia. We are particularly concerned by the absence of any mention of alleged abuses carried out by Ethiopian troops in the country. Strong denials by the Ethiopian Government are not sufficient cause for omitting these allegations. We recommend that the Government should ensure human rights are central to its approach in Somalia, and we further recommend that it is included as a major country of concern in next year's report.


175. The human rights situation in Sudan has been of grave concern for a number of years. The population in the western region of Darfur have suffered in particular from the effects of brutal insurgent and counter-insurgent operations. However, as the FCO's report makes clear, abuses are not limited to the Darfur region. The report notes the Government's concerns as including: "the death penalty; torture; Hudud punishments (amputation, flogging and stoning); freedom of the media; and harassment and arrest of activists and political figures."[310]

176. The report argues that the Sudanese Government is "falling short of its human rights commitments" and adds that belligerents "on all sides of the conflict in Darfur continue to commit human rights abuses". In its submission, Amnesty International argues that the report should use stronger language against the Sudanese Government. It argues that the FCO report "fails to note" that Khartoum "continues to attack civilian populations in Darfur", referencing events in west Darfur's Sirba region where up to 100 civilians are believed to have been killed when the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) moved to reoccupy the area. It adds that the SAF was accompanied by "uniformed Janjawid milita on horseback".[311]

177. The FCO's report states: "the only solution to the Darfur conflict is a negotiated political settlement". Amnesty International "recognises the Government's continued engagement" in efforts to find a political solution to the conflict.[312] However, it is clear that a political solution in Darfur can only be found through the establishment of security. To this end, the UN Security Council mandated the hybrid UN-African Union peacekeeping force for Darfur (UNAMID) in July 2007, and the FCO report states that the Government is "working to support its prompt and effective deployment". However, this force remains to be fully deployed. Tom Porteous argued that there were three reasons for the delay:

    One is the obstructionism of the Sudanese Government; another is lack of support from the international community to provide the equipment that the peacekeeping force needs, especially helicopters, and the third thing is that this is a hostile environment and there is not much of a peace to keep at the moment.

He argued that the international community had the capacity to resolve the problems surrounding the lack of equipment for UNAMID. Focusing on the record of the Government, he commented that "the UK has played a largely constructive role politically, but it has not stepped up to the plate with regard to equipment. It says that it has its own military problems elsewhere and therefore does not have the necessary equipment."[313]

178. We put this charge to the FCO. Its response noted a contribution of £4 million towards pre-deployment training and equipping of African troops participating in UNAMID. It added:

    This money is for essential equipment including armoured personnel carriers and communications kit. […] We continue to work in support of the UN, African Union and international partners for the earliest possible deployment of an effective UNAMID. It is however disappointing that more offers have not been forthcoming from those with spare capacity to meet the need for helicopters.[314]

179. Mr Porteous also highlighted difficulties with the implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement between northern and southern factions in Sudan. He argued: "it is important that the British Government get behind an international effort to ensure that the peace process stays on track". Kate Allen noted that the conflict in Darfur has spread to Chad and the Central African Republic, and that this was "hugely concerning". She also called for the Government to help Amnesty International gain access to Sudan, noting that the last time the organisation was permitted inside the country (rather than on its borders) was in 2004 with the help of the then Foreign Secretary, Rt Hon Jack Straw MP.[315]

180. We conclude that the human rights situation in Sudan remains of paramount concern. We are disappointed that the UN-African Union hybrid peacekeeping force for Darfur has yet to fully deploy. We welcome the Government's support for a political solution in Darfur and its financial assistance to the peacekeeping mission. We recommend that the Government should consider again whether it has any spare capacity to meet the need for helicopters or other equipment. We further recommend that the Government should provide the necessary diplomatic assistance to NGOs in their efforts to gain access into Sudan.


181. The FCO report lists Syria as a major country of concern. It argues that "the development of civil society is severely restricted". Anwar Al Bunni, a prominent human rights defender, was sentenced in April 2007 to "five years' imprisonment". Arbitrary arrests continue, and there are reports of torture in prison. Around 4,000 political prisoners, many of them members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood and the Communist Party, remain imprisoned in Syria. The FCO report adds that "identity-based discrimination against the Kurdish minority persists", and that women face legal as well as social discrimination.[316]

182. The report states that there is limited scope for taking practical action in Syria because of the "significant restrictions" on NGOs and foreign embassies. However, the British Embassy is "an active member of the EU Human Rights Group", and the EU collectively "regularly raises urgent human rights cases with the Syrian government", and embassy officials have attended the trials of human rights defenders.[317]

183. Human Rights Watch argues that the report's coverage of Syria is "generally sound". However, it adds that human rights should be at the "forefront" of the UK and EU's strategy towards Syria. It accepts that "UK leverage over Syria is limited" but argues that:

    it should be a guiding principle of UK policy towards Syria that Damascus will only be able to play a stabilising role in the region if Syrians within Syria are allowed the political space to express their political opinions without fear of arrest, torture and imprisonment. There is a concern that if Syria starts to cooperate with the UK, the EU and the US on the regional politics then external pressure for improvements on the internal political front will diminish - as it has in Libya and Egypt.[318]

184. In our Report on Global Security: The Middle East, published in August 2007, we noted that the Syrian President is selected by a referendum, held once every seven years, in which there is only one candidate. In the most recent election, in May 2007, President Bashar al-Assad received 97% of the vote according to the Syrian Interior Ministry.[319]

185. We conclude that the repression of civil liberties in Syria continues to give cause for concern. We recommend that the Government should ensure that human rights remains central to its, and the EU's, approach towards Damascus. We further recommend that the international community does not relax the pressure on Syria to improve its human rights record even if progress is achieved on other political and foreign policy fronts.


186. In his foreword to the 2007 edition, the Foreign Secretary notes that Zimbabwe has appeared as a "major country of concern" in each of the ten FCO annual human rights reports. It is a tragedy that recent events in Zimbabwe will justify its receiving more coverage than ever before in next year's report. Whilst the FCO report deals mainly with the events of 2007, we also consider here the human rights fallout of the 2008 elections in Zimbabwe.

187. The FCO report vividly illustrates the erosion of any semblance of human rights or stability in Zimbabwe. It notes a "marked escalation in the use of intimidation and violence" since 2006. There has been a collapse in the formal economy. State agents are responsible for a number of abuses, "including assault, torture and illegal detentions". In March 2007, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was severely beaten. President Robert Mugabe's comments speak for themselves: "Of course he was bashed. He deserved it… I told the police beat him a lot".

188. The FCO notes that life expectancy in Zimbabwe is now the lowest in the world.[320] In 2006, a woman could expect to live for 34 years, and a man 37 years.[321] According to the UN Common Database, life expectancy was one of the highest in Africa - 58 years - for an infant born in 1980, the year of Zimbabwe's independence.[322] It has the world's highest rate of orphans, and more than 3,000 people a week die from AIDS-related illness. It is estimated that between 3 and 4 million people have fled Zimbabwe, over 80% of the population is unemployed, and even before the recent world food crisis, the FCO was estimating that 4 million people are in need of food aid.[323]

189. The FCO report, published in March 2008, called for "free and fair elections".[324] Parliamentary and Presidential elections were held later that month. The elections were held in clearly undemocratic conditions. Parliamentary results were announced in relatively good time, with Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party losing its majority to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). However, in the Presidential election, it took nearly six weeks for the results to be announced. A candidate requires 50% to win in the first round, and there was speculation that Morgan Tsvangirai, the candidate of the MDC, may have attained this figure and that the results were being tampered with. Lord Malloch-Brown told us that the delay left "very little confidence in the accuracy of the vote".[325] In a written statement on 21 April 2008 (before the results were announced), the Foreign Secretary claimed Mugabe had an "ambition to steal the election" and said that Zanu-PF had launched a "campaign of violence" against ordinary Zimbabweans.[326] The Times reported that the Prime Minister believed the situation could be best resolved through the influence of regional states such as South Africa, but President Thabo Mbeki went so far as to state that there was "no crisis in Zimbabwe" following a meeting with President Mugabe.[327]

190. When the result was eventually announced on 2 May, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission gave Mr Tsvangirai 47.9% of the vote, automatically triggering a second round of voting on 27 June. Lord Malloch-Brown told us that "we cannot accept an outcome that is a perversion of democracy and human rights values". However, he acknowledged that, because the Movement for Democratic Change only claimed that Morgan Tsvangirai won by a "paper-thin" majority of 50.3%, it was difficult for the Government to say beyond any reasonable doubt that he received over half the votes cast. He argued that the "cleanest constitutional outcome of this terribly flawed, first round process is a second round that is adequately monitored" both for the integrity of the vote and the security of the opposition before it.[328] He argued that any second round "has to be free and fair", and that the international community should not accept a situation where Mr Mugabe was allowed to "steal" the election by refusing to acknowledge his Government.[329] He claimed that there was a greater chance of this happening than before because there "has been a massive diplomatic shift" and a "much higher degree of unity" that "is necessarily apparent publicly". He said there was "tremendous support among the regional leaders […] for the view that the result cannot be allowed to stand".[330]

191. Kate Allen was more sceptical of the role of states in the international community, noting her disappointment at the opposition of South Africa and China to the Security Council sending an envoy into Zimbabwe. She argued that South Africa's "quiet diplomacy" approach was "completely inappropriate for the current situation". Both she and Tom Porteous noted that, amongst the regional states, Zambia was starting to speak out more vocally against President Mugabe's abuses. Mr Porteous argued that the African Union should "unite and tell Mugabe that the game is up, and that he must go. If he does not, it must think about imposing serious economic and political sanctions on him to go". With regard to the UK, Ms Allen said that the Government worries that "their speaking out is counter-productive. The moment for such thinking has gone […] it has been good to hear the Prime Minister make clear the Government's view of the election".[331]

192. The second round of the election was due to be held on June 27. However, following a campaign of violence against MDC supporters, leading to over 80 deaths, Mr Tsvangirai pulled out of what he called an " illegitimate sham of an electoral process", initially seeking refuge in the Dutch Embassy. A spokesman for the UN Secretary-General called it a "deeply distressing development".[332] The Prime Minister described Mugabe's regime as a "criminal and discredited cabal" which "should not be recognised by anybody".[333] The UN Security Council unanimously condemned the violence in Zimbabwe, and said in a statement that a free and fair run-off election would be "impossible".[334]

193. Despite international calls for a postponement of the polls, Robert Mugabe went ahead with the June 27 election. The continuation of voter intimidation meant that he was able to claim victory and was inaugurated as President two days after the poll. Leaders from the 53 African Union states, meeting at a summit in Egypt, stopped short of directly criticising Mugabe but called for a government of national unity in Zimbabwe. They merely "noted" reports of intimidation whilst making reference to the "complexity of the situation" in the country. The AU statement also appealed to "states and all parties concerned to refrain from any actions that may negatively impact on the climate of dialogue", which was understood as coded criticism of UK and US moves towards urging the Security Council to impose sanctions against Zimbabwe.[335] However, the Prime Minister praised the African Union's efforts. He said that "it is important to recognise" that it "did take a step forward yesterday" by calling for mediation between the MDC and Zanu-PF.[336]

194. The French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has said that the EU "will not accept a government other than one led by Mr Tsvangirai". At the time of agreeing this Report, the EU is believed to be preparing a package of sanctions against Zimbabwe, including a widening of asset freezes and travel bans for key regime figures. Whilst Italy recalled its Ambassador to Harare in protest, it appears that EU states were unable to come to a common agreement to take this course of action.[337]

195. At the time of agreeing this Report, the Prime Minister has announced that the Government is preparing increased financial and travel sanctions against members of the Mugabe regime, and that it would prevent players from Zimbabwe from participating in a bilateral cricket tour of the UK in 2009.[338] He added that "businesses should also look at their involvement in Zimbabwe […] We do not want to do further damage to the Zimbabwean people, but businesses that are helping the regime should of course reconsider their position."[339] The Prime Minister's comments came after newspaper reports that Anglo American, a mining company, was investing $400m (£200m) in Zimbabwe. However, The Times later reported that British companies that "sought the Foreign Office's advice have been left with the impression that they should not leave Zimbabwe".[340]

196. In 2003, our predecessor Committee recommended that the Government strip Robert Mugabe of all honours bestowed upon him, including his knighthood. At the time, the Government replied that it "has made it clear that removing Mugabe's honorary knighthood, conferred on him in 1994, on the recommendation of the previous Government, is not our immediate priority. We may revisit this question in the future".[341] Following the election debacle, we wrote to the Foreign Secretary reminding him of our recommendation.[342] Lord Malloch-Brown commented that it was "just about the least-deserved knighthood out there". However, he said there was an argument about "time and place" and that revoking the honour at this moment would run "the risk of throwing us bck into the old tracks of Britain versus Zimbabwe, old colonial whatevers, and debts to settle".[343] He acknowledged that the Government should "perhaps have seized the moment" when the Committee made its original recommendation, he but felt that "not is probably not the most opportune moment".[344] However, following the escalation of violence in June 2008, Her Majesty the Queen annulled Mr Mugabe's honour following a recommendation from the Government.[345]

197. We conclude that Robert Mugabe's human rights record is utterly appalling. The first round of the Presidential election in March 2008 was deeply flawed, and the delay in announcing the results was unacceptable. We are concerned that South Africa appears to have maintained its patently ineffectual policy of "quiet diplomacy" with Zimbabwe, but we are encouraged that other regional states such as Zambia are beginning to speak out more forcefully against the brutality of the Mugabe regime. We conclude that the decision to remove Robert Mugabe's honorary knighthood was correct. We recommend that the Government should continue to urge regional states to take the diplomatic lead against Zimbabwe, and should not recognise any regime led by Mugabe. We further recommend that the Government should set out in its response to this Report what action is being taken against British businesses whose presence in Zimbabwe is helping to prop up the regime.

140   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, pp 125-6 Back

141   Ev 11 Back

142   Ev 27 Back

143   Q 94 Back

144   Ev 65 Back

145   Ev 27 Back

146   Q 28 Back

147   Q 94 Back

148   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, pp 125-6 Back

149   Ev 11 Back

150   Ev 28 Back

151   Q 29 Back

152   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, p 126 Back

153   Ibid, p 130 Back

154   Ibid, pp 130-132 Back

155   Q 31 Back

156   Ev 81 Back

157   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, p 103 Back

158   Ibid, p 133 Back

159   Ev 90 Back

160   Q 31 Back

161   "Ministers attack Burma response", BBC News Online, 11 May 2008, Back

162   Q 95 Back

163   "Oxfam and UK government expect 'significant' rise in Burma death toll", The Guardian, 11 May 2008 Back

164   "Myanmar cyclone death toll will hit 200,000, say British", The Telegraph, 16 May 2008 Back

165   "Britain to back air drops to deliver aid to Burmese cyclone victims", The Times, 19 May 2008 Back

166   Oxfam International, "To Air-Drop Aid in Myanmar or Not?", 13 May 2008, Back

167   "UK Gives £12m more aid to Burma", BBC News Online, 15 May 2008, Back

168   HC Deb, 3 June 2008, col 57WS Back

169   Q 32 Back

170   HL Deb, 21 May 2008, col WA191 Back

171   HC Deb, 3 June 2008, col 57WS Back

172   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, "Statement on Chinese Earthquake", 12 May 2008, Back

173   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, pp 134-136 Back

174   Ev 12 Back

175   Q 96 Back

176   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Annual Report on Human Rights 2006: Response of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Cm 7127, June 2007, p 11 Back

177   Q 33 Back

178   Q 33 Back

179   See para 108 below Back

180   Q 98 Back

181   Foreign Affairs Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2005-06, East Asia, HC 860-I, para 363 Back

182   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, p 136 Back

183   Qq 110, 122 Back

184   Q 119 Back

185   Amnesty International, "People's Republic of China: The Olympics countdown - crackdown on Tibetan protesters", 1 April 2008, Back

186   Q 111 Back

187   HC Deb, 26 March 2008, col 186 Back

188   Q 112 Back

189   Q 33 Back

190   HC Deb, 9 May 2008, col 1249W Back

191   Q 129 Back

192   Q 116 Back

193   HC Deb, 14 May 2008, col 1593W Back

194   Q 98 Back

195   Q 131 Back

196   "Gordon Brown appeases Chinese by barring Dalai Lama from No 10", The Times, 12 May 2008 Back

197   Q 130 Back

198   "China slams UK for inviting Dalai to parliament hearing on human rights", Xinhua, 28 May 2008 Back

199   Ev 123 Back

200   Q 51 Back

201   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, pp 139-140 Back

202   Ev 14 Back

203   Ev 104 Back

204   Ev 14 Back

205   Ev 29 Back

206   Q 46 Back

207   HL Deb, 21 Apr 2008, col 226WA Back

208   Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, Refusal to supply information about the provision of military training assistance to Columbia, A.3/05, Back

209   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, pp 151-2 Back

210   Q 46 Back

211   GS: Iran, para 99 Back

212   GS: Iran, para 100 Back

213   GS: Iran, para 103 Back

214   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Global Security: Iran: Response of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Cm 7361, May 2008, p 11 Back

215   Foreign Affairs Committee, Third Report of Session 2006-07, Human Rights Annual Report 2006, HC 269, paras 81-92 Back

216   Ev 14 Back

217   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, p 155 Back

218   Ev 14 Back

219   Human Rights Watch, World Report 2008, pp 478-480 Back

220   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, p 155 Back

221   "Stalled assault on Basra exposes the Iraqi government's shaky authority", The Independent, 28 March 2008 Back

222   Ev 29 Back

223   Human Rights Watch, World Report 2008, p 478 Back

224   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, p 156 Back

225   Ibid, p 155 Back

226   Ev 15 Back

227   Q 91 Back

228   Q 92 Back

229   Q 27 Back

230   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, p 155 Back

231   Ev 29 Back

232   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Global Security: The Middle East: Response of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Cm 7212, October 2007, p 31 Back

233   Q 90 Back

234   Ev 67 Back

235   Q 27 Back

236   Foreign Affairs Committee, Eighth Report of Session 2006-07, Global Security: The Middle East, HC 363, para 189 Back

237   HC Deb, 30 Oct 2007, col 30WS Back

238   Q 29 Back

239   "Britain shamed as Iraqi interpreters are resettled in squalid tower blocks", The Times, 13 June 2008 Back

240   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, p 158 Back

241   Ev 16 Back

242   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, pp 158-9 Back

243   Q 42 Back

244   Ev 29 Back

245   Q 106 Back

246   Q 107 Back

247   Ev 66 Back

248   Foreign Affairs Committee, Eighth Report of Session 2006-07, Global Security: The Middle East, HC 363, para 50 Back

249   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, p 161 Back

250   Q 42 Back

251   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, p 161 Back

252   Q 43 Back

253   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, p 162 Back

254   Foreign Affairs Committee, Eighth Report of Session 2006-07, Global Security: The Middle East, HC 363, para 83 Back

255   Ev 17 Back

256   HL Deb, 23 October 2007, col 1068 Back

257   HL Deb, 25 October 2007, col WS80 Back

258   Q 43 Back

259   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, p 148 Back

260   Oral evidence taken before the Foreign Affairs Committee on 2 April 2008, HC 449-ii (2007-08), Q 57 Back

261   Foreign Affairs Committee, Third Report of Session 2006-07, Human Rights Annual Report 2006, HC 269, para 154 Back

262   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, p 166 Back

263   Ev 18 Back

264   Ev 30 Back

265   "Musharraf imposes emergency rule", BBC News Online, 3 November 2007, Back

266   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, pp 166-7 Back

267   "Press upbeat on Pakistan election", BBC News Online, 19 February 2008, Back

268   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, p 166 Back

269   Ev 30 Back

270   Ev 18 Back

271   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, p 168 Back

272   Ev 19 Back

273   Q 41 Back

274   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, p 169 Back

275   Ev 127 Back

276   Ev 19 Back

277   Q 47 Back

278   Foreign Affairs Committee, Second Report of Session 2006-07, Global Security: Russia, HC 51, para 70 Back

279   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Global Security; Russia: Response of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Cm 7305, Febraury 2008, p 5 Back

280   Q 47 Back

281   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, p 172 Back

282   Foreign Affairs Committee, Third Report of Session 2006-07, Human Rights Annual Report 2006, HC 269, para 162 Back

283   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, p 172 Back

284   Ev 20 Back

285   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, p 172 Back

286   Ibid, p 172 Back

287   Q 109 Back

288   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, p 173 Back

289   Ev 31 Back

290   Q 109 Back

291   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, p 173 Back

292   Q 44 Back

293   Ev 20 Back

294   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, p 173 Back

295   "Minister says UK and Saudi Arabia have 'shared values'", The Independent, 30 October 2007 Back

296   Ev 31 Back

297   Q 44 Back

298   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Annual Report on Human Rights 2006: Response of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Cm 7127, June 2007, p 16 Back

299   Foreign Affairs Committee, Third Report of Session 2006-07, Human Rights Annual Report 2006, HC 269, paras 165-166 Back

300   "UN predicts massive crisis", The Guardian, 21 April 2008 Back

301   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, pp 31-2 Back

302   Ev 25 Back

303   "Ethiopia military accused of rape and torture in fight against rebels", The Guardian, 13 June 2008 Back

304   Q 39 Back

305   Ev 52 Back

306   Q 105 Back

307   Ev 122 Back

308   Q 105 Back

309   Q 39 Back

310   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, p 174 Back

311   Ev 9 Back

312   Ev 9 Back

313   Q 37 Back

314   Ev 66 Back

315   Q 37 Back

316   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, pp 178-9 Back

317   Ibid, p 179 Back

318   Ev 31 Back

319   Foreign Affairs Committee, Eighth Report of Session 2006-07, Global Security: The Middle East, HC 363, para 122 Back

320   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, pp 189-190 Back

321   "Zimbabweans have 'shortest lives'", BBC News Online, 8 April 2006, Back

322   Globalis, "Zimbabwe: Life Expectancy At Birth", Back

323   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, Cm 7340, March 2008, pp 189-190 Back

324   Ibid, pp 189-190 Back

325   Q 100 Back

326   HC Deb, 21 April 2008, cols 91-2WS Back

327   "Brown believes Zimbabwe fate must be left to its neighbours", The Times, 14 April 2008 Back

328   Q 100 Back

329   Q 101 Back

330   Q 102 Back

331   Q 36 Back

332   "Tsvangirai withdrawal: Key quotes", BBC News Online, 23 June 2008, Back

333   "Mugabe 'should not be recognised'", BBC News Online, 23 June 2008, Back

334   "UN: Free Zimbabwe poll impossible", BBC News Online, 24 June 2008, Back

335   "Mugabe: African Union calls for national unity government in Zimbabwe", The Guardian, 2 July 2008 Back

336   HC Deb, 2 Jul 2008, col 861 Back

337   "EU will only accept Tsvangirai as Zimbabwe leader: Kouchner", AFP, 1 July 2008  Back

338   HC Deb, 25 Jun 2008, col 278 Back

339   HC Deb, 25 Jun 2008, col 279 Back

340   "British companies confused by advice about staying in Zimbabwe", The Times, 2 July 2008 Back

341   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Zimbabwe: Response of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Cm 5869, July 2003, p 3 Back

342   Ev 121 Back

343   Q 103 Back

344   Q 104 Back

345   "Queen strips Mugabe of knighthood", BBC News Online, 25 June 2008, Back

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