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Written Answers

Tuesday, 2nd May 2000.

Turkey and Iraq

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Turkish Government have reported the incursion by Turkish troops into Iraq, as required by Article 51 of the United Nations Convention.[HL1925]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): We have been closely monitoring press reports of incursions by Turkish troops into northern Iraq. The Foreign Affairs Ministry in Ankara has denied that there have been any recent cross border operations in Iraq. This is corroborated by other contacts in Ankara, including the Kurdistan Democratic Party. We will continue to closely monitor developments.

Zimbabwe

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in light of the current economic crisis in Zimbabwe, they have reviewed the Zimbabwean Government's millennium recovery plan; and whether they have made representations to President Mugabe and his colleagues.[HL1945]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We are deeply concerned about the Zimbabwean economy. We have looked at the Government's millennium recovery plan. We have consistently encouraged the Government of Zimbabwe to implement economic reform.

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have prepared a strategy in the event that President Mugabe declares a state of emergency in Zimbabwe prior to the delayed proposed elections.[HL1946]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: President Mugabe has assured us that the elections will take place within the time allowed under the constitution. Under the constitution a state of emergency has to be ratified by Parliament within 14 days. As the Zimbabwean Parliament has been dissolved, any state of emergency would last up to 14 days.

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider President Mugabe to have departed from Zimbabwe's constitutional law or to have encouraged violence; and, if so, on what occasions during the past 12 months.[HL1947]

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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We deplore all violence, including that resulting from farm occupations and police action against peaceful demonstrations. We have urged the Government of Zimbabwe to restore the rule of law and put an end to the illegal farm occupations.

European Court of Human Rights: Judicial Independence

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

    Whether they consider that the requirement for judges of the European Court of Human Rights to submit themselves to interviews organised by a sub-committee of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe before being considered for re-election to the Court is compatible with the guarantee or judicial independence under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.[HL1994]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Under Protocol 11 to the European Convention on Human Rights, sitting judges in the European Court of Human Rights may be candidates for re-election when their term expires. The process of election set out in the convention requires the government of each state party to put forward three candidates. Election is a matter for the Parliamentary Assembly.

The process of interviews with candidates, instituted by the Assembly for the first elections to the new Court, is the means by which the Assembly seeks to ensure that its choice between the candidates is an informed one. In the Government's view it would not be fair to other candidates if sitting judges alone were exempt from the interview requirement. Nor can it see any inherent conflict between such interviews and the principle of judicial independence. Nevertheless there could clearly be dangers for that principle if, for example, questioning to a sitting judge focused upon that judge's record in decided or pending cases.

The Government are confident that the Assembly is fully aware of the need to respect judicial independence and will conduct the interview process accordingly.

Russian Federation: Human Rights

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

    Whether they consider that the Russian Federation complies with the conditions for membership of the Council of Europe regarding the securing and effective protection of the rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.[HL1995]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Russia's compliance with its obligations as a member of the Council of

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Europe (CoE) and party to the European Convention on Human Rights was the subject of debate at the last meeting of the CoE Parliamentary Assembly. The Government, with their EU partners, are continuing to seek from Russia a full response to the concerns which were expressed.

Zimbabwe: Kuwaiti Oil

Baroness Park of Monmouth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there is any truth in recent reports that France (or French interests) have agreed to stand surety for Kuwait to supply oil to Zimbabwe after the original application to that country was refused.[HL2037]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We are not aware of any such reports.

Zimbabwe: Travel Advice

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is safe for people of the United Kingdom to travel to Zimbabwe in present circumstances.[HL2054]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The FCO's current travel advice for British nationals reads: "Most visits to Zimbabwe are still trouble free, and tourist areas have been unaffected by the recent political violence. But all British nationals resident in Zimbabwe or visiting should exercise caution. We recommend against visiting commercial farms and against venturing off the main road between urban centres. Do not travel at night. And avoid any political gatherings".

Our High Commission in Harare continues to monitor the situation and should the situation deteriorate our advice will be updated accordingly.

Speakers of Parliaments Conference, Alexandria

Baroness Anelay of St Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which Ministers will represent the United Kingdom at the conference of the Presidents of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliaments and European Parliaments that will take place in Alexandria on 23 and 24 May 2000; and whether they will place the agenda for the meeting in the Library of the House.[HL2056]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: This is a conference of Speakers of Parliaments, taking place on the invitation of the Speaker of the People's Assembly of the Arab Republic of Egypt. Her Majesty's Government have not been invited and have not been sent an agenda.

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Turkey: Situation of Minorities

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, since most insurgents have abandoned their armed struggle, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe High Commissioner for Minorities will soon be able to visit Turkey to assess the situation of minorities.[HL2065]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The mandate of the High Commissioner on National Minorities of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe gives him a broad measure of independence and freedom of initiative, necessary for his sensitive and delicate work. His work schedule is a matter for him to decide.

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that the 1995 Hague recommendations on the education rights of national minorities and the 1996 Oslo recommendations on linguistic rights apply or should apply in Turkey, as an Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe member and European Union candidate.[HL2066]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Hague recommendations regarding the education rights of national minorities (1996) and the Oslo recommendations regarding the linguistic rights of national minorities (1998) were drawn up, at the request of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, at a series of experts' meetings convened by the Foundation of Inter-Ethnic relations, a non-governmental organisation. As such they are not legally binding on OSCE member states. The High Commissioner's approach is to employ the international standards to which each state has agreed as his principal framework of analysis and the foundation for his specific recommendations.

Her Majesty's Government fully support the work of the High Commissioner. Turkey's international human rights obligations are a key part of the dialogue which the Government maintain with the Turkish Government bilaterally and in the preparations of Turkey's European Union accession partnership.

Kashmir: Massacre of Sikhs

Lord Ahmed asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will call for an impartial and international inquiry into the massacre of 35 Sikh men in Chatle-Singhpura on 20 March. [Hl2074]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We were appalled by the massacre of Sikhs on 20 March. Violence will never bring a solution to the situation in Kashmir. We welcome the state authorities' decision to launch a judicial inquiry into the massacre. We look forward to seeing the results of the inquiry.

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