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Lord Renton: I for once agree with the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, and reassure my noble friend at the same time. It may comfort him to know that if the Secretary of State exercises the powers that have been referred to, they will be subject under Clause 59 to an affirmative resolution in each Chamber, although I wish the time would come when your Lordships would use that power.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Renton for pointing that out. If the age of 90 was to be suggested instead of 18, he would be in a position to object to the great privilege he would be given of being one of the few among us--

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Cope of Berkeley: He would be the one who was not about to be subjected to the new provisions. This is an important example of a proper use of the affirmative procedure. As I believe I said not long ago, I too believe that our present restraint as a Chamber with regard to affirmative instruments may not survive reform and probably should not survive reform of this Chamber. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 17.

Viscount Colville of Culross: Before the noble Lord withdraws the amendment, I ask the noble Lord, Lord Williams, whether it will be possible to increase the age above 18? I understand that it could be limited so that it did not apply to children who were, for the sake of argument, under 14, but I do not see that the powers as they are at present drafted would enable the age of 18--which appears in Clause 1(1)--to be altered so as to increase the age above that level. Therefore the ages of 19 and 25 are completely irrelevant. We are talking only about the area below the age of 18.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I believe the noble Viscount is correct. Clause 1(1) deals specifically with those under the age of 18. The whole philosophy and spirit of the measure is early intervention, not for those who might be aged 90.

Lord Renton: If I may say so, the Long Title of the Bill makes that clear.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I am put right in every direction. I accept the correction. Once again, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: I beg to move that the House be resumed.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, before we discuss the Statement on Kosovo I take this opportunity to remind the House that the Companion indicates that discussion on a Statement should be confined to brief comments and questions for clarification. Peers who speak at length do so at the expense of other noble Lords.


4.45 p.m.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement on Kosovo which has been made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. The Statement is as follows:

    "With permission Madam Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on recent tragic events in Kosovo.

    "On Saturday we received reports of a massacre at Racak, south of Pristina. General Drewienkiewicz, the leader of the British team in the Kosovo Verification Mission, visited the site. I spoke to him on Saturday afternoon.

    "He reported that the bodies he saw had mostly been shot in the head or neck in what looked like an execution. Those who had been killed appeared to be of all ages, including grey-haired old men. None of the bodies he saw was wearing uniform. He saw no evidence of fighting, such as spent shell-cases. It is simply not credible that those who were killed were the casualties of a military conflict. The eye-witness accounts of international observers make it only too clear that they were murdered. In any common-sense understanding of the term, this was a war crime.

    "The past decade of ethnic conflict in the former Yugoslavia is all too full of such atrocities. Nevertheless, however hardened we are by familiarity to such scenes, every Member must have been shocked and repelled by the cold and calculated character of this massacre.

    "Several thousand civilians have since been reported to have fled the area. We once again face a potential humanitarian crisis as the result of Serb repression within Kosovo. Yesterday I spoke with the German, French and Italian Foreign Ministers. I obtained their agreement that our four ambassadors in Belgrade should formally lodge a joint demarche demanding that the officers of the army and police units in Racak last Friday must immediately be removed from duty while these murders are investigated. We also insisted that the International War Crimes Tribunal must be allowed to carry out an investigation in Kosovo.

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    "Last Wednesday I visited the tribunal in the Hague and met Judge Arbour, the Chief Prosecutor. Both she and Judge MacDonald, the President of the Tribunal, expressed warm appreciation of the strong support this Government have provided to the tribunal in terms of funds, personnel and political commitment. At the time I repeated our support for the demand of the tribunal for access to Kosovo. Earlier this afternoon, Judge Arbour attempted to cross the border into Kosovo, but was turned back by Serb border forces.

    "Later today, the Security Council will meet in emergency session to consider the events in Kosovo. The British representative will demand that the Security Council makes clear its support for the war crimes tribunal, which was set up on the authority of the UN, and insists that it must be allowed access to Kosovo.

    "If we are to establish peace and stability in Kosovo it is vital that we escape from the relentless cycle of ethnic atrocity followed by reprisal. Those individuals who are responsible for such murders must personally be brought to justice. That would be the most fitting response to this atrocity. It would also send a strong message to all officers serving in Kosovo that they will be held to account for any offence they commit against humanitarian law.

    "I wish to salute the courage and commitment of the members of the Kosovo Verification Mission. They operate in circumstances of real risk, as was demonstrated when a British member of the team was shot at and injured last week. I am pleased to tell the House that he is making a good recovery.

    "The Kosovo Verification Mission has made a real contribution to stability in Kosovo, in particular by brokering local cease-fires and negotiating refugee returns. The public attacks on it in Belgrade this weekend appear to forget that only last week the verification mission was instrumental in securing the release of eight Serb hostages.

    "However, the verification mission can only succeed on the basis of the co-operation to which President Milosevic committed Belgrade in the Holbrooke package. We therefore deplore the fact that yesterday Serb security forces entered Racak, against representations by the verification mission, and opened fire on the village despite the presence in it of verifiers. We have already protested in Belgrade about that event, and tomorrow Generals Clark and Naumann will be demanding full co-operation with the verification mission.

    "Those who led the massacre in Racak must bear full responsibility for their actions. Nevertheless, all those who have contributed to the political stalemate in Kosovo must bear their share of responsibility for creating the climate in which the cease-fire has crumbled.

    "The Holbrooke package at the end of last year provided Kosovo with the prospect of real autonomy, including control of its own local police force, and free and fair elections supervised by the OSCE. It

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    offered Serbia the opportunity to withdraw from an armed conflict which undermines its economy and isolates it in the world.

    "A detailed paper has since been produced by the special representatives of the United States and the European Union. It proposes a three-year period in which Kosovo can develop its own autonomous assembly and democratic local communes. This interim period would then be followed by a review of the final status of Kosovo.

    "I deeply regret that three months further on meaningful talks on that paper have not begun. The fault for that lies on both sides. Despite intensive pressure and repeated mediation, it still has not been possible even to get agreement on the composition of the Kosovo negotiating team. The main obstacle has been the refusal of the Kosovo Liberation Army to take part in any team which included Dr. Rugova, the elected leader of the Kosovo Albanians.

    "Over the weekend I discussed with Madeleine Albright and other colleagues within the Contact Group how we can restore momentum to the political process. We are proposing an early meeting of the Contact Group, at the level of political directors, which the UK would chair.

    "We have also agreed on the key messages to both sides in this conflict.

    "President Milosevic must be clear that military action last autumn was only suspended because of his agreements to cease fire, to withdraw part of his military units in Kosovo, and to return the rest to barracks.

    "The North Atlantic Council met yesterday and agreed that General Clark and General Naumann, NATO's two most senior generals, should visit Belgrade with a clear message that President Milosevic must comply in full with the agreements he made.

    "On its part, the Kosovo Liberation Army has committed more breaches of the cease-fire, and until this weekend was responsible for more deaths, than the security forces. It must stop undermining the cease-fire and blocking political dialogue. Neighbouring countries, in particular Albania, must be more resolute in halting the flow of weapons which fuels the conflict.

    "Neither side can win this war. The Kosovo Liberation Army cannot defeat the Yugoslav Army and instead of liberating the people of Kosovo can only prolong their suffering. And Belgrade cannot end the conflict by atrocities such as we saw this weekend, which will only drive more young men into the ranks of the KLA.

    "The only way in which stability can be restored in Kosovo is through political dialogue. I urge both sides now to get down to meaningful negotiations on the basis of the Contact Group proposals. That is the best way in which the Kosovo Albanians can honour those who died in this appalling massacre, and in which Belgrade can show real regret at the actions of its

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    security forces. That is also the only way in which we will prevent such atrocities from ever happening again".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

4.56 p.m.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister for repeating the Statement made in another place. The whole House will share the sense of revulsion and outrage at the shocking events which have taken place in Kosovo over the past three days. We join with the Minister in rejecting the claims by the Serbian authorities that their troops were engaged in a battle with the KLA and that those who died were KLA terrorists. The casualties of this supposed battle were old men, boys, at least one woman and a child, shot in the head at close range. I am certain that your Lordships' House is united in its condemnation of this most flagrant and distressing violation of international humanitarian law.

From these Benches we likewise share the Government's desire that the International Tribunal on War Crimes should be allowed to investigate this war crime and to bring to justice those responsible. However, it remains the case that the tribunal's investigations have been repeatedly obstructed by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In November, the Minister of State underlined the importance of Security Council Resolution 1207, which demanded from the FRY authorities full co-operation with the tribunal and said that the Government would ensure that the Security Council considered further action if necessary.

What further action has been taken? What action is now proposed to ensure full compliance, so that those responsible for the massacre are brought to justice and so that immediate and unrestricted access is granted to the chief prosecutor, Louise Arbour, and to international investigators, including Finnish forensic experts?

Even before this atrocity, violence in the province has been simmering over the past few weeks. Repeated ceasefire violations have threatened to unravel the Holbrooke package agreed in October. The interior and military police have not been withdrawn; full protection for civilians has not been secured; the parallel peace negotiations remain stalled, with no prospect of a breakthrough. Can the Minister tell the House what is now the status of the October agreement?

At times it has seemed that Kosovo's harsh winter has frozen the fighting more effectively than the ceasefire. Do the Government accept the prediction of NATO's supreme commander, General Wesley Clark, 10 days ago that the situation is threatening to spiral out of control and that war is likely to resume in the province during the spring, while the Serbs continue to violate their commitments to NATO and to deploy additional regular troops inside Kosovo, making a mockery of President Milosevic's promises to reduce levels of troops to pre-March 1998 levels? Can the Minister also confirm that the economic sanctions which were agreed by the Contact Group last year are still in place? What prospect is there of persuading other countries, including Russia, to impose them?

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Following yesterday's emergency meeting of NATO ambassadors, to which the Minister referred, we also wish General Wesley Clark and General Klaus Naumann success in their mission to Belgrade to impress upon the Yugoslav authorities the gravity of the situation and their obligation to respect all the commitments to NATO and to the OSCE, based on UN SCR 1199. The NATO statement confirmed that activation orders for air operations remain in effect. However, little has been said today or yesterday about the possibility of military action should the condemnation of the international community once again fall on deaf ears. In October, the Foreign Secretary said that the,

    "only way to ensure that Milosevic keeps his promises is to keep the credible threat of force hanging over him".
In November, he said:

    "we will react to any substantial breach of the ceasefire by Belgrade by reactivating the order to our military commanders to commence military action".
Can the Minister clarify the current position on the prospect of military action? Has that threat issued by the Foreign Secretary been lifted or is it still in place? If it is still in place, what prospect is there of it being implemented?

In the light of what the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, in November described as,

    "a worryingly patchy observation of the ceasefire, with faults on both sides",
which has culminated in this weekend's horrific events, does the Minister accept that it was premature of the Secretary of State for Defence last month to describe NATO's decision to reduce the number of its combat aircraft pre-deployed in Italy on the grounds of the,

    "substantial compliance being made by the former Yugoslavia security forces with UN Security Council resolutions",
as a

    "prudent management of assets".

I should also like to praise the courage and professionalism of the members of the OSCE Kosovo verification mission, particularly given the difficulties and unpredictability of the conditions in which they are operating. I should like to pay tribute to the British members of the KVM who led the negotiations which last week secured the release of eight Yugoslav soldiers kidnapped by the KLA. From these Benches, we have repeatedly placed on record our concerns that a civilian monitoring mission might not have effective power to ensure Serbian compliance, particularly given the fact that the OSCE has never carried out a monitoring mission of this scale. Does the Minister agree that this apparent attack on a patrol of the Kosovo verification mission, together with the increase in the level of violence over the past weeks and, finally, Friday's massacre, underlines the difficulty of seeking to restrain violence in this tense and volatile region with unarmed monitors?

On 10th November, the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, informed the House that the projected level of 2,000 verifiers, including the full British contingent, was expected to be reached in mid-January. Can the Minister confirm that fewer than 800 monitors are currently deployed in Kosovo, 110 of whom are British? Even with

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a build up to 1,200 at the end of this month, can the Minister explain why, three months after the ceasefire agreement in October, the OSCE monitoring mission will have only just over half its original planned strength, despite the fact that the situation in the province has been deteriorating over the past few weeks?

In the light of recent events, can the Minister provide more information on the future of the unarmed-- I emphasise "unarmed"--monitors, bearing in mind the important points made this morning by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, on the issue of what can be termed "unarmed paper tigers", to which the noble Baroness will no doubt refer shortly and with which, if they are in accordance with what she was saying this morning, we have a great deal of sympathy on these Benches?

Finally, can the Minister assure the House that the Government have abandoned their ultimatum-led policy towards Serbia? Just over a year ago the American Secretary of State told the world:

    "It must not take us that long to resolve the crisis growing in Kosovo and it does not have to if we apply the lessons of 1991. This time we must act with unity and resolve. This time we must respond before it is too late".
Can the Minister therefore give an assurance that the Government will respond before it is too late, so that when the last snows of the Kosovo winter melt away, the peace does not, thereby ensuring that 1999 does not end in Kosovo as bloodily as it has begun?

5.4 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made in another place and I wish to say how much we appreciate the strong stand the Government have taken with regard to the war crimes tribunal for the former republic of Yugoslavia and the pressure that Judge Arbour should be allowed to enter Kosovo to investigate for herself the massacre perpetrated in Racak. Having said that, perhaps I may say, as someone who spent a week in Kosovo just before Christmas, how difficult it is, looking at the wrecked villages, the terrified villagers and the refugees fleeing into the forests, not to feel a sense of great apprehension and growing concern at what is happening in Kosovo, with both sides undoubtedly building up for what is likely to be a major confrontation, not perhaps even in the spring but possibly in a very short number of days.

I echo what the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said with regard to the admiration we feel for the verifiers. We spent some time patrolling with them. Their commitment, courage and realism are deeply to be commended. Having said that, perhaps I may ask the Minister whether it is correct that the projected figure for the verifiers has now been reduced from 2,000 to 1,400 because a number of countries have failed to meet the targets set for them to satisfy the need for verifiers. In this respect, the United Kingdom has an excellent record. Perhaps I may also add that General Drewiemkiewicz, who was present at the investigation into the massacre at Racak, is an outstanding officer, of whom we have every reason to be proud.

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However, there are some weaknesses in the Statement. I want to ask questions about them, having drawn attention to them. First, it is obviously right, as the Statement says, that officers involved in the massacre should be removed from duty while investigations take place. But it is very difficult to believe, once one has spent time in Kosovo, that these actions would not have been authorised at a very much higher level. Mr. Milosevic is very much in charge of his police and of his army. Perhaps I may therefore ask, first, whether Generals Clark and Naumann, who are visiting President Milosevic tomorrow, will ensure that orders are given to the police and to the Yugoslav army that no civilians should be attacked or put at risk by those military and police forces and insist that they see that such orders are made and carried out.

Secondly, perhaps I may ask a question with regard to the innumerable resolutions that have so far been passed. I shall refer only to two. Resolution 1199 said in so many words that there should be additional measures if the requirements laid down by the UN were not satisfied and another resolution said that failure to make constructive progress would lead to the consideration of additional measures. That reminds me all too much of the remarks by King Lear in the great play of that name:

    "I will do such things. What they are yet I know not; but they shall be The terrors of the earth".
We now have to make real our resolutions.

I conclude by asking two questions. Will the Control Group consider what punitive actions might be taken against Serb military forces again resuming threats against civilians? Is there any possible use of the threat of force already covered by United Nations resolutions addressed to military bases and to police stations involved in such actions? Secondly, the Statement calls upon Albania to stop the flow of arms across its borders. The Albanian Government are totally incapable of even controlling northern Albania, let alone stopping the supply of arms. Will the Government therefore consider whether some kind of peacekeeping force might be established on the Albanian side of the border to try to prevent the constant flow of weapons which are likely to make this war much more serious when it comes?

We are looking at the prospect of a serious war in the south-eastern region of Europe, one that could begin to involve Macedonia, Greece and possibly even Turkey. I therefore commend the Foreign Secretary's strong stand. However, I plead with him to argue for his colleagues in the Control Group to work out now an alternative policy that can be brought into action if, once again, President Milosevic pays no attention to international opinion.

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