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7 Jun 2004 : Column WA1

Written Answers

Monday, 7 June 2004.

Ulster-Scots Agency

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): I refer the noble Lord to the Answer I gave on 23 April 2004 (WA 63).

Downing Street Receptions: Guest Lists

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: In accordance with Part 2 Paragraph 12 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information, on privacy of an individual, it would be inappropriate to list the names of those on the guest list.

The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure was asked to provide a list of 30 names plus 20 reserves for attendance at a reception to celebrate the UK's cultural sectors and in particular the relationship between national and regional arts organisations.

Iraq: Civilian Deaths and Injuries

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

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Coalition Provisional Authority advisers to the Iraqi Ministry of Health (MoH) do have access to some figures on civilian deaths. However these statistics are not reliable, as Iraqis often bury their deceased relatives without official notification/registration. This has been particularly true during periods of heightened conflict. The MoH does not therefore have accurate figures for civilian deaths or their causes for the past year. The MoH is gradually re-establishing standard practices and procedures, although these are basic. In the longer term the Iraqi Interim Government may be able to evaluate the causes of civilian deaths and injuries.
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Iraq: Unlawful Killings

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The coalition continues to pursue and aims to bring to justice all those involved in unlawful killings in Iraq.

We are also working with the Iraqi judicial and police sectors to strengthen Iraqi capacity to combat crime and prosecute criminals. Iraqi civilians and foreign nationals not working for the coalition are subject to the Iraqi criminal code. Of the 487 prisoners currently detained in Basra, over 100 have been convicted, including some convictions for murder.

We are making steady progress in training the Iraqi police service in methods for gaining evidence to pursue prosecutions that meet international standards. We are also working on increasing the capacity of the Iraqi judiciary to pursue investigations.

Iraq: Museums and Archaeological Sites

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) believes that the security measures that have been instituted in the course of the past year at the Iraq Museum, Baghdad, will suffice to protect it in the months ahead. Security upgrades have been undertaken in the Mosul Museum. No other archaeological museums now contain original objects.

Archaeological site looting is still a very serious problem, especially in the south of Iraq. At present the coalition does not have the resources to guard archaeological sites. The CPA and Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage are working together to build an archaeological site patrol force.

China: Provision of Weapons to Burma

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We regularly raise our concerns on Burma with the Chinese authorities but we have not recently raised the issue of the provision of military weapons to Burma with the Chinese.

Burma: Refugees

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We recognise the specific difficulties faced by Burmese refugees. Although Thailand, India and Bangladesh are not signatories of the 1951 Refugee Convention, they work closely with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to provide appropriate protection to refugees and to ensure their non-refoulement. We fully support the work of UNHCR and the Governments of Thailand, India and Bangladesh in protecting Burmese refugees.

Burma: Freedom of Religion

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We are concerned about ethnic minority rights and the abuses suffered by ethnic groups in Burma which include Christians and Muslims.

Despite a background of general religious tolerance in most areas, there remain instances of restriction of the right to exercise freedom of religion. We have condemned this in successive highly critical UK and EU co-sponsored UN resolutions most recently at the UN Commission on Human Rights on 21 April. This expressed grave concern at discrimination and persecution on the basis of religious or ethnic background.

Burma: Forced Labour

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Burmese Government have still to address effectively the international community's concerns over the use of forced labour in Burma. We fully support the efforts of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to end permanently the use of forced labour. Burma's general system of preferences trade privileges were suspended by the EC in 1997 in response to our concerns over forced labour in country. The EU has repeatedly condemned Burma's lack of progress on forced labour, most recently in March, at the ILO's meetings in Geneva. In June 2004, the ILO's governing body will give further consideration to the situation in Burma.

Sudan: Darfur

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Sudan is not a state party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), so the court could exercise jurisdiction only if Sudan lodged a declaration with the registrar of the ICC accepting the court's jurisdiction or if the situation is referred to the court by the Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations.

We, and our EU partner, have made clear that reported attacks against civilians should be thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.

We welcome the announcement by the Sudanense Government of the creation of a national independent human rights committee to investigate alleged human rights abuses in Darfur, with particular focus on the activities of the armed militias known as the Janjaweed. The UK's Special Representative for Sudan met the head of this committee in Khartoum on 17 May.

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