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EU-Iran Human Rights Dialogue

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: The two main themes for discussions were torture and discrimination (the latter covered women, minorities, racial discrimination and xenophobia). The EU troika handed over a list of individual cases in Iran to which it attached particular importance and about which it sought information. The EU also expressed its concern at public executions and other severe punishments.


Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: We have consistently called on all parties to do all they can to end the violence. We support the efforts of the quartet to adopt a roadmap to a permanent solution which includes a cessation of violence, among other steps. Peace can only be achieved through a negotiated settlement, not through force.

We are supporting a number of initiatives aimed at achieving a ceasefire, including follow-up to the

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Alexandria Declaration of 21 January 2002, in which religious leaders committed themselves to work together for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they support the creation of an inter-religious council for Jerusalem and the holy sites.[HL845]

Baroness Amos: The creation of an inter-religious council for Jerusalem and the holy sites has been mooted as one option, among several, for the resolution of sovereignty issues relating to the city. It is for the parties themselves to settle these issues, as part of final status negotiations. Her Majesty's Government attach great importance to ensuring access to Jerusalem and freedom of worship there for those of all faiths. Any solution on Jerusalem should ensure freedom of worship.

Afghanistan: Prisoners

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they have on the numbers of prisoners of war held by the Northern Alliance and others outside the control of the government of Afghanistan who have died, been released and are still imprisoned; and whether they accept that the condition and future prospects of those prisoners reflects on the honour of the allied powers.[HL846]

Baroness Amos: British Embassy staff in Kabul are in frequent contact with the ICRC, which monitors closely the situation and welfare of all prisoners in Afghanistan. However, the ICRC cannot provide full reports.

A number of prisoners have been released from Shiberghan prison since February. According to our most recent information, around 1,200 men are still being held there.

We are concerned about reported conditions in prisons across Afghanistan and have made clear to the Afghan Transitional Administration, which includes former Northern Alliance members, that we expect them, as the responsible authority for prisoners in Afghanistan, to respect their international obligations. This includes treating their prisoners humanely and in accordance with the Geneva Conventions and international human rights law.


Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they will take to support and consolidate the recent peace agreement in the Congo; and what action they will take to encourage other governments to do likewise.[HL847]

Baroness Amos: The 17 December agreement on transitional Congolese Government is a very positive development. We would encourage all the parties

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involved to establish the new government as soon as possible.

We are exploring direct assistance to the new government. We are considering Quick Start initiatives to demonstrate the benefits of peace to the Congolese people. Consideration is also being given to other areas, including disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of all armed groups; forming a new national army; and poverty reduction. We will continue existing humanitarian and peace building activities and support re-engagement in DRC by the international financial institutions.

We will take every opportunity, particularly in the UN Security Council and EU, to encourage other governments to play a similarly constructive role.

Africa: Landmines

Baroness Rawlings asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What assessment they have made of the impact of landmines on the African continent; and what action, if any, they are taking to seek to eliminate landmines in Africa.[HL853]

Baroness Amos: The African continent comprises the entire range of mine-affectedness, with some countries among the most heavily mine-infested in the world, others completely mine-free and others again falling somewhere between these extremes. Apart from the toll of human tragedy caused by anti-personnel landmines, affected countries share to differing degrees a common experience of social and economic dislocation caused by denial of access to productive land, diversion of medical and other resources and, in many cases, obstacles to conflict resolution and post-conflict reconciliation, regeneration and development.

HMG's global humanitarian demining strategy is directed towards universalisation of the Ottawa Convention and helping developing countries to develop their own capacity to meet their convention obligations. The Department for International Development (DfID) funds work in support of mine clearance, mines awareness and capacity building programmes. The latter include programmes aimed at improving the linkage with poverty reduction in national planning and prioritisation; encouraging practical innovation to enhance safety and efficiency in operations; and strengthening international systems for co-ordination and collaboration. DfID has a planned provision for around £10 million annually for mines action, the majority provided through the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and the United Nations Development Progamme (UNDP).

DfID has supported humanitarian mine action in Africa for over 10 years, with bilateral demining programmes covering Angola, Chad, Guinea Bissau and Mozambique. In the current financial year DfID is providing financial support of £2 million to UNDP, aimed at enhancing the capacity of mine action organisations in Angola, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia,

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Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Somalia and Sudan, with a view to improving the effectiveness of their operations planning, building national capacities and linking their mine action work with broader development goals.

The Ministry of Defence has trained Kenyan forces in demining techniques prior to their deployment with the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

UNICEF Report on Child Participation

Baroness Rawlings asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In light of the recent report published by UNICEF, what action they are taking to give children around the world a greater role in decision-making about their future.[HL854]

Baroness Amos: The UK welcomes the UNICEF report on child participation.

In line with its commitments under Article 12 of the UNCRC (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child) the UK is fully committed to ensuring that children's views are taken into consideration when making any decision that will affect them. We have sought to lead the international community by example in this area.

We sent two young people to South Africa to attend the World Conference Against Racism as part of the UK delegation. We also sent two young people to attend the UN General Assembly Special Session on Children as members of the UK delegation in 2001. Chapter 8 of the FCO's Annual Human Rights Report 2002 provides more detailed information on the range of work HMG undertake to promote child rights world-wide. In 2002, that included support for 30 projects in 24 countries worth over £1 million.

Indonesia: FCO Travel Advice

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What changes have been made to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice for Indonesia.[HL929]

Baroness Amos: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice for Indonesia was changed on 7 January.

Previously it advised against all travel to the country. It now advises against all non-essential travel to Indonesia. The FCO continues to assess that the threat to British nationals and British interests from terrorism throughout Indonesia remains high and that British nationals already in Indonesia should consider leaving if their presence is not essential.

The decision to change the advice was taken after careful consideration of the latest information, including intelligence. It also brings it into line with the latest advice of the Australian Government. The

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terrorist threat in Indonesia remains real, and further attacks cannot be ruled out. But account has also been taken of the strengthened Indonesian commitment and actions since Bali to confront the terrorists.

Since Bali, there has been only one significant attack, at a McDonalds restaurant and a car showroom in Makassar, Sulawesi, in December which killed three Indonesian nationals. A number of anti-terrorist decrees have been passed and some important arrests made in respect of the Bali bombings and previous terrorist incidents. The Muslim mass movements are now speaking out against terrorism. The radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir has been held for police questioning. The Indonesians have also provided more security than before to diplomatic missions and international schools, as well as other non-specifically Western targets, such as shopping malls, entertainment centres and churches.

A copy of the latest advice can be found on the FCO website

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