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The Council reaffirmed EU support for the European perspective of the western Balkans; noted that the office of the ICTY prosecutor was content with Serbia's current levels of effort in their cooperation, and that the EU would start implementing the interim agreement; welcomed the fact that Macedonia had substantially addressed the key priorities of the accession partnership, noting the Commission's recommendation to open accession negotiations and agreeing to return to the matter during the next presidency; expressed concern about political developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina and called on its leaders to speed up key reforms; welcomed the Commission's study on furthering Kosovo's political and socio-economic development and invited the Commission to take the necessary measures to support
Kosovo's progress towards the EU; and welcomed progress in Albania and Montenegro, while urging the countries to intensify efforts on reforms in a number of areas and agreeing to return to their membership applications once the Commission had presented its "Avis" (opinions).
Ministers approved a presidency report on reinforcing the EU's capacity for preventing and responding to disasters, which the Government support while recognising the primary role of national responsibility in disaster management.
Trio Programme of the Spanish, Belgian and Hungarian Presidencies
Spain, Belgium and Hungary briefly presented their programme, looked forward to chairing the GAC under their presidencies, and to close co-operation with the President of the European Council and the High Representative. The Government welcome the Trio's emphasis on finalising the international climate change negotiations, putting in place a Lisbon strategy fit to take the EU beyond the aftermath of the economic crisis and bringing Europe closer to its citizens.
The full text of all conclusions adopted can be found at:
The presidency briefed on the EU/US initiative to unblock progress on reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Ministers held an exchange of views on the future of EUFOR Operation Althea. They agreed to revert to the latter at their next meeting in January.
Ministers also approved a draft European Council declaration on Iran which draws attention to Iran's continued failure to comply with international obligations and signals the EU's readiness to begin a new phase of work on the pressure side of the dual-track approach, which the Government welcome.
Ministers agreed conclusions that called for the resumption of negotiations leading to a two-state solution within an agreed time-frame; referred to Jerusalem as the future capital of two states and declared that the EU will not recognise any changes to the pre-1967 borders; emphasised the importance of the United States' efforts; welcomed and encouraged Palestinian efforts on state-building and improving law and order; reiterated commitment towards the security of Israel and its full integration into the region; and welcomed and encouraged Israel's steps to ease restrictions of movement in the West Bank.
Ministers agreed to forward the presidency's draft declaration to the December European Council for adoption, which the Government welcome. The declaration notes that an international conference is to be held in London in January 2010, underscores the EU's readiness to support President Karzai in meeting his commitments, and highlights the need to maintain a comprehensive
approach to the challenges in Afghanistan, building on a combination of political/civilian development and military instruments.
France briefly raised the EU approach to Burma. The presidency underlined that EU action was in train.
Spain called on the EU to monitor progress on reconciliation, as well as the views of the US and key states in the region, and keep the situation under review.
The Council adopted the following conclusions or decisions without discussion:
Conclusions on Iraq
Conclusions on Horn of Africa
Conclusions on Climate Change and International Security
Conclusions on promoting compliance with International Humanitarian Law
Conclusions on Human Rights and Democratisation in Third Countries
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband): Seven months have now passed since the end of the conflict in Sri Lanka. I would like to update the House on developments in the humanitarian and political situation in Sri Lanka.
Since the end of the conflict the UK has focused its efforts on securing an improvement in the humanitarian situation. The end of the fighting in May left over 280,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in camps in northern Sri Lanka. The UK's approach to the situation has been fourfold: to advocate for improvements in conditions in the camps so that they meet international standards; to push for the early and safe return of IDPs to their home areas; to support, with the Department for International Development's (DFID) allocation of £12.5 million since September 2008, the vital work of the humanitarian agencies that have been providing assistance to the IDPs; and to urge the Government of Sri Lanka to allow those not yet resettled to have the ability to enjoy unrestricted freedom of movement.
Conditions in the camps have improved to the extent that basic needs are now generally being met. In recent weeks there has been some progress in the return of IDPs. As of 6 December, the UN has confirmed that over 158,000 IDPs have been released. Of this number approximately 29,000 vulnerable people had been transferred to host families or institutions. This leaves less than 112,000 people in the Menik farm site and less than 15,000 people in camps in other locations. It is important that IDPs continue to be able to return to their home areas as soon as it is safe to do so. When I spoke to Foreign Minister Bogollogama on 29 October and 4 November, he confirmed that the Government of Sri Lanka was committed to returning those still in the camps. In order to assist this process, the Government have been funding the work of demining non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as Mines Advisory Group and HALO trust to help make areas safe for return. We will continue to help clear landmines, to provide transport from the camps and to help civilians to restart their lives so they can return home quickly and safely.
The recent announcement by the Sri Lankan Government that, as of 1 December, all remaining IDPs have been granted freedom of movement is a positive step. We hope this leads to unrestricted freedom of movement for all IDPs as soon as possible. As the Under-Secretary of State for International Development, my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Foster), made clear in his statement of 28 November, we believe the opening of the camps and granting of real freedom of movement will enable the thousands still living in the camps to start to rebuild their lives. We welcome the fact that a number of national NGOs have now been granted access to some areas where IDPs are returning to such as Vavuniya, Mullaitivu, Mannar and Jaffna in the north. The recent announcement by the Governor of the Northern Province that international NGOs will also be allowed to work in these areas on agreed projects is also welcome. It is imperative that all humanitarian agencies are given full access to all IDPs, including ex combatants, so that they can provide them with the help and protection they need both in the camps and in places of return.
Beyond the immediate humanitarian concerns the UK has underlined to the Government of Sri Lanka the importance of securing genuine reconciliation between Sri Lanka's communities.
At the end of May the Sri Lankan president issued a joint statement with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recognising the need to work towards a lasting political solution. The UK has consistently maintained that one of the prerequisites for lasting peace in Sri Lanka is a political settlement that fully takes into account the legitimate grievances and aspirations of all communities. Presidential elections have now been announced for 26 January 2010. Parliamentary elections in spring 2010 will be a further opportunity for the voice of Sri Lanka's communities to be heard. Free, fair and credible elections will allow Sri Lanka's communities to have their say in shaping the country's future. Adequate arrangements must be made to ensure IDPs can vote in upcoming elections. It is important for all those who want to play a role in Sri Lanka's future to agree to an inclusive political solution that addresses the underlying causes of the conflict.
The EU has made clear its belief that accountability is integral to the process of reconciliation. We therefore welcome President Rajapakse's decision to appoint an independent committee to look into the incidents cited in the US State Department's report. We will continue to press the Government of Sri Lanka to live up to this and his earlier commitment made to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in May to take measures to address possible violations of international humanitarian law.
GSP+ (General System of Preferences plus) /Human Rights
The EU's GSP+ trade preference scheme is intended to provide vulnerable economies with incentives to achieve standards in sustainable development, human rights, labour standards and good governance. Beneficiary countries are required to implement effectively certain international human rights conventions. On 19 October 2009 the European Commission published a report of its investigation into Sri Lanka's compliance with three of these conventions. The report was clear about Sri Lanka's failings in the implementation of the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and the convention on the rights of the child. This report has reinforced our serious concerns over the human rights situation in Sri Lanka and we share the Commission's assessment. The Commission is expected to issue its formal recommendation on Sri Lanka's continued access to the GSP+ scheme shortly. We are clear that, in order to continue enjoying access to the GSP+, Sri Lanka must meet fully its human rights obligations. I have urged the Government of Sri Lanka to take urgent action to address the issues raised by the Commission in its report such as the lack of effective investigations into alleged disappearances and the need to uphold the right to freedom of expression. As EU Foreign Ministers made clear in our conclusions of 27 October, the EU will maintain a dialogue with Sri Lanka on the steps necessary to address the problems highlighted by the Commission's investigation, in order to effectively implement the conventions.
Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM)
When the Heads of Commonwealth Governments met in Port of Spain in November members agreed that Australia will host CHOGM in 2011. The most important thing for the UK was that the host for each Commonwealth summit demonstrably embodies our shared values-including respect for human rights and democracy. While we welcome the recent progress on freedom of movement for IDPs in Sri Lanka, given our ongoing concerns about the humanitarian and human rights situation at the time, the UK was unable to support Sri Lanka's bid to host CHOGM in 2011. However Commonwealth leaders accepted the President of Sri Lanka's offer to host the summit in 2013.
We have regularly made clear our view that the Government of Sri Lanka has a unique opportunity-and duty-to work for genuine political reconciliation. As a measure of the UK's ongoing commitment to the future of Sri Lanka, we remain at the forefront of international efforts to help ensure lasting peace there. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's special envoy for Sri Lanka, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Des Browne) continues to engage the Tamil Diaspora and he has updated hon. Members on his recent activities.
We will continue to work directly with the Government of Sri Lanka and with international partners including the EU, UN and Commonwealth, to urge the Government of Sri Lanka to resolve the underlying causes of the conflict through an inclusive political process which addresses the legitimate grievances and aspirations of all communities-Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims.
The Minister for Policing, Crime and Counter-Terrorism (Mr. David Hanson): An employers' guide to community safety accreditation schemes and the 2009 audit of community safety accreditation schemes have been published today.
This year's community safety accreditation schemes audit shows an increase in the number of participating forces from 23 in 2008 to 26 this year. The Metropolitan Police was one of the three forces to begin operating a scheme. Over the same period, the number of accredited persons rose from 1406 to 1667 (an 18.5 per cent. rise) and the number of employers with accredited persons rose from 95 to 109. This growth reflects the benefits of the scheme for the police and businesses. Accredited persons help to tackle anti-social behaviour, to provide a visible and reassuring presence on our streets.
The employers' guide is intended to improve the information available to employers about the scheme and to raise its profile. Four employer case studies (presented in the employers' guide) demonstrate clear benefits, both for the organisation and for the accredited staff, in greater information sharing and closer partnership with the police.
Copies of the audit and the guide are available on the Home Office website at: www.homeoffice.gov.uk and in the House Library.
The Minister for Policing, Crime and Counter-Terrorism (Mr. David Hanson): Section 14(1) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 (the 2005 Act) requires the Secretary of State to report to Parliament as soon as reasonably practicable after the end of every relevant three-month period on the exercise of the control order powers during that period.
The level of information provided will always be subject to slight variations based on operational advice.
Control orders continue to be an essential tool to protect the public from terrorism, particularly where it is not possible to prosecute individuals for terrorism-related activity and, in the case of foreign nationals, where they cannot be removed from the UK.
As stated in previous quarterly statements on control orders, control order obligations are tailored to the individual concerned and are based on the terrorism-related risk that individual poses. Each control order is kept under regular review to ensure that obligations remain necessary and proportionate. The Home Office continues to hold Control Order Review Groups (CORGs) every quarter, with representation from law enforcement and intelligence agencies, to keep the obligations in every control order under regular and formal review and to facilitate a review of appropriate exit strategies. During this reporting period, six CORGs were held in relation to the orders currently in force. In addition, further meetings were held on an ad hoc basis as specific issues arose.
During the period 11 September 2009 to 10 December 2009, three non-derogating control orders have been made and served. No control orders have been renewed in accordance with section 2(6) of the 2005 Act in this reporting period. In this reporting period there have been six revocations of control orders that were in force. Three control orders were revoked because it was not possible to meet the disclosure test set out in the June 2009 House of Lords judgment (AF & Others) on article 6 of the European convention of human rights (ECHR) (right to a fair trial). One of these orders was not replaced. In the other two cases new non-derogating control orders with significantly reduced obligations
were imposed in their place; the Government argued before the court that in such cases article 6 was not engaged-or, even if it was, the level of disclosure required in AF & Others did not apply. Two control orders were revoked because they were no longer considered necessary. One control order was revoked on the order of the court. In addition to the six revocations of current control orders, one non-derogating control order previously made but not served was also revoked in this quarter.
In total, 12 control orders are currently in force, nine of which are in respect of British citizens. Seven individuals subject to a control order live in the Metropolitan Police Service area; the remaining individuals live in other police force areas. All of these control orders are non-derogating. There were no prosecutions for breaching a control order during this reporting period however one individual was charged with seven counts for breach of a control order obligation.
During this reporting period, 77 modifications of control order obligations were made. 29 requests to modify control order obligations were refused.
Section 10(1) of the 2005 Act provides a right of appeal against a decision by the Secretary of State to renew a non-derogating control order or to modify an obligation imposed by a non-derogating control order without consent. One appeal under section 10(1) of the 2005 Act has been lodged with the High Court during this reporting period. A right of appeal is also provided for by section 10(3) of the 2005 Act against decisions by the Secretary of State to refuse a request by a controlled person to revoke their order and/or to modify any obligation under the order. During this reporting period four appeals have been lodged with the High Court under section 10(3) of the 2005 Act.
Six interlocutory judgments were handed down by the High Court during this reporting period in relation to disclosure required to make control order judicial review proceedings under section 3(10) of the 2005 Act compliant with article 6 following the June 2009 House of Lords judgment in AF & Others.
Two of these judgments were handed down in the case of Secretary of State for the Home Department v BB & BC. In the first judgment, handed down on 5 October 2009 in closed only, the court required the Secretary of State to make further disclosure in order to ensure compliance with article 6 despite the court's acknowledgement that the disclosure of this material would cause damage to the public interest. The Secretary of State elected not to make the disclosure identified. Both control orders were revoked and new control orders with significantly reduced obligations were imposed. In the second judgment, handed down on 11 November 2009, the court found that, notwithstanding the new control orders impose less stringent obligations, article 6 applied and that the House of Lords in AF & Others had identified an "irreducible minimum" of disclosure which must be made in all control order cases regardless of the stringency of the obligations. The court granted the Secretary of State permission to appeal and an appeal has been lodged.
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