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St. Helena: Demonstration

Lord Beaumont asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: On 19th April a demonstration outside the Castle in Jamestown was organised to press demands for increased social security benefits. A number (about 60-70) of those demonstrators forced their way into the governor's office. They were eventually persuaded to leave: there was no damage to property or harm to the government servants involved. The ODA had sent an expert adviser on social security to St. Helena in March. He has

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recommended changes to the social security system on the Island which are being studied by the St. Helena Government.

Albanian Elections: Monitoring

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they have about arrangements for independent monitoring of the elections in Albania, due on 26th May and 2nd June.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) is co-ordinating a monitoring mission to observe the Albanian elections. The United Kingdom, as well as Sweden and Italy, is providing a long-term monitor: ODIHR expect 40 short-term observers from the UK, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, Italy and Denmark. The United States will be providing another 10 as part of their own projects.

Council of Europe: Croatian Application

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will oppose the admission of Croatia to the Council of Europe until such time as there are an independent judiciary and free media, and democracy and human rights are fully respected in that country.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: In the light of continuing concerns about Croatia's internal policies, EU Foreign Ministers agreed at the General Affairs Council on 13th May to postpone a decision on Croatian membership of the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe deputies at their meeting on 14th May decided to consider Croatia's membership at their next meeting on 30th May, on the basis of a document prepared by the Council of Europe secretariat setting out commitments and expectations, the fulfilment of which could be required of Croatia according to a timetable to be fixed. The UK has not taken the lead within the EU on this issue, but supports the decision on postponement, and the proposed process for further consideration by the Council of Europe of the Croatian application.

Dr. Seyfettin Kizilkan

Lord Rea asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will make inquiries and report on the whereabouts and welfare of Dr. Seyfettin Kizilkan, Chairman of the Diyarbakir Region of the Turkish Medical Association, who was detained recently on a charge of suspected PKK membership, a charge of which he was acquitted two years ago.

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Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We have asked the Turkish authorities for information about Dr. Kizilkan. We understand he was arrested on 5th May and charged on 7th May with providing shelter for the PKK.

Europe: Human Rights Policies

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether their proposal to persuade the other members of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to join with them in passing a resolution on the approach of the European Court of Human Rights to the "margin of appreciation" is intended to influence the exercise of judicial functions by the court; and, if not, what is the purpose of such a resolution.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We want the Strasbourg institutions to give full weight to their own principle that free societies have the right, within limits, to choose for themselves the human rights policies that best suit them. The intention is to allow for diversity while maintaining the standards of the European Convention on Human Rights. A resolution by the Committee of Ministers might be one way of encouraging the consistent application of this approach.

Russia: Nuclear Safety

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What assessment they have made of the environmental risks arising from the storage, handling and use of radioactive materials, including nuclear reactors, in northern Russia; whether they will evaluate the findings of the Bellona Foundation in the report The Russian Northern Fleet and in particular their conclusions that "without international co-operation and financing, a situation will in all probability arise which can be pictured as a Chernobyl in slow motion," and whether they will ask the Chairman in Office of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation on Europe, Mr. Flavio Cotti, to take up with the Russians the imprisonment on a charge of high treason of one of the authors, retired naval captain Alexander Nikitin, and the general principle that information in the public domain cannot be treated as a state secret, if Russia is to stay in conformity with Helsinki provisions on freedom of expression.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The Government share concern about the whole range of nuclear safety issues in Russia, including the management of radioactive materials, and the disposal of nuclear components of obsolete vessels of the Russian Northern and Far Eastern fleets. The West has committed over £780 million in multilateral grant assistance to improve nuclear safety in the countries of the former Soviet Union and central and eastern Europe, including almost £80 million for nuclear fuel cycles and radioactive waste projects. The UK plays an active role in these

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programmes. AEA Technology are currently working on safe removal and storage of unstable nuclear fuel on board a Russian support ship in Murmansk harbour. One project of the international Nuclear Safety Account, to which we subscribe, aims to improve safety at the Russian nuclear power plant at Kola in NW Russia. 24 million ECU has already been committed to this.

We and our European Allies are closely monitoring the case of Mr. Nikitin, in the spirit of the Helsinki Declaration. The British Ambassador raised the matter with the Russians last month. We expect Russia to follow the due process of law.

Mr. Sam Rainsy

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they will take, either alone or with other governments of the European Union, to persuade the Cambodian Government to comply with the recommendations of the Inter-Parliamentary Council, in its resolution passed at the 95th Inter-Parliamentary Conference held in Istanbul from April 15th-20th concerning the case of Mr. Sam Rainsy MP and whether they will ensure that representatives attending the forthcoming Consultative Group meeting on Cambodia receive copies of the IPU's resolution and of the report on which it was based, together with any observations by the Cambodian Government on the matters raised.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We have studied the Inter-Parliamentary Council resolution on the case of Sam Rainsy. The Cambodian Government is well aware of the importance we attach to multi party democracy and freedom of expression. Distribution of the IPU resolution will be a matter for the IPU and not HMG.

Sifiso Mahlangu

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will explain the circumstances in which the United Kingdom failed to comply, in the case of Sifiso Mahlangu, with an indication from the President of the European Commission of Human Rights (under Rule 36 of the Commission's Rules of Procedure) that the boy should not be returned to South Africa pending the determination of his application to the Commission.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): As soon as the Government learnt of the president's request, Counsel was instructed on behalf of the Attorney-General to inform the Court of Appeal of it, and to explain that it was the practice of the Government to comply with such requests where this was within its power. In private litigation, particularly concerning the welfare of a child, it would have been improper for counsel for the Attorney-General to attempt to influence the court in the exercise of its discretion.

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Europe: Human Rights (Interim Measures)

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will take steps to enable British courts to give effect to recommendations made by the President of the European Commission of Human Rights for interim measures pending the determination of complaints to the Commission; and, if not, why not?

The Lord Chancellor: Although such requests for interim measures have no legal force, the Government have complied with them where this was within their power. The Government can also inform a British court of such a request, and the court can if it thinks fit give effect to it, but in litigation between private parties this is ultimately a matter for the decision of the court.

Christmas Island Tests: Atmospheric Effects

Lord Williams of Elvel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish all evidence relating to the effects of radiation resulting from nuclear tests on Christmas Island and whether they are satisfied that all proper procedures to identify those effects have been carried out.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): Since UK atmospheric tests at the Christmas Island range were completed in 1958, there have been a number of studies by distinguished scientific bodies, including the University of Washington Radiation Laboratory and the New Zealand National Radiation Laboratory, none of which has established any evidence of radioactive contamination or hazards to the test participants or the local population.

Similar studies were also carried out by the National Radiological Protection Board in 1988 and 1993. These also showed conclusively that the tests had had no detectable effect on the participants' life expectancy: nor on their chances of developing cancer or other fatal diseases. The results of these studies are contained in reports published by HMSO. We do not believe there are grounds for any further studies.

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