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Human Rights: International Instruments

The Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): The interdepartmental review of international human rights instruments announced on 7 March 2002 by my noble and learned friend Lord Irvine of Lairg has been concluded.

In the course of the review, the Government have ratified the optional protocol to the United Nations Convention Against Torture; signed and ratified Protocol 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights; ratified the optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, relating to children in armed conflict; and extended the European Convention on Human Rights to the Cyprus Sovereign Base Area. We have decided to accept the optional protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, which will help us to assess the effects of individual petition to the UN generally. By accepting the protocol we are also confirming the United Kingdom's commitment to women and equality issues, spearheaded by the Minister for Women, Patricia Hewitt. We will also sign Protocol 7 to the European Convention on Human Rights; ratify Chapters A and B of the Convention on Participation of Foreigners in Public Life; withdraw the general reservation relating to immigration entered under the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women; and modify the reservation relating to the Throne and the Armed Forces entered under the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women. Finally we will dispense with a group of reservations now obsolete.
 
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I have placed in the Library a fuller report of the review.

Infant Death Convictions

The Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith): I announced in January a review of cases of parents and carers convicted of killing an infant under the age of two in the past 10 years.

This followed the Court of Appeal's decision to quash the conviction of Angela Cannings. The court's judgment questioned the safety of convictions depending exclusively, or almost exclusively, on a serious disagreement between distinguished and reputable experts.

In May, I announced that my office had notified the legal representatives of five defendants that it may be appropriate for the safety of their clients' convictions to be considered further by the Court of Appeal or, if appropriate, the Criminal Cases Review Commission. Since that time, as part of the process of ongoing review, my office has written in similar terms to the legal representatives of 19 further defendants.

The fact that a case has been referred to legal representatives of the convicted person does not amount to a positive determination that their conviction is unsafe. Should any appeals result from this review, it will be for the Crown Prosecution Service to independently decide whether to contest the appeal.

I aim to complete the review in September, when I will report fully to the House. The review is continuing to be accorded the highest priority, to bring to an end this period of uncertainty for all those involved.
 
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Strategic Export Control Decisions

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Enhanced statistical information on strategic export licensing will, from July 2004, be released on a quarterly basis, instead of once a year through the annual report on strategic export controls, as at present. The first quarterly report on strategic export controls will be published on the Department of Trade and Industry and Foreign and Commonwealth Office websites (www.dti.gov.uk and www.fco.gov.uk) on 28 July. This report will contain information on export licensing decisions taken from January to March 2004.

From now on, statistical data will be published on the FCO and DTI websites three months after the last decision in any given quarter. Until now, decisions taken in one calendar year have been reported in the annual report on strategic export controls in the middle of the following year. Information on the earliest licensing decisions reported in the annual report was not therefore made available until some 18 months later.

From 2004, the annual report, which the Government have a statutory obligation to produce, will summarise information already provided in quarterly reports, as well as describing export control policy developments. It will be produced in hard and electronic copy. The hard copy will include a CD-ROM containing all of the licensing data published in the quarterly reports for that year. The Government intend to publish the next quarterly report, relating to decisions taken between April and June 2004, in October.

The introduction of quarterly reports reflects the Government's commitment to further improve the openness of their strategic export licensing system, which is already acknowledged to be among the most transparent in the world.

The Government's most recent strategic export controls annual report was published on 7 June.

Iraq: Export Licence Applications

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Following consultation with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Trade and Industry recently approved a further licence to export military list goods to Iraq. The arms embargo against Iraq remains in place under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1483 (22 May 2003) and 1546 (8 June 2004). UNSCR 1483 (2003) includes an exception for "arms and related materiel required by the [Coalition Provisional] Authority to serve the purposes of this and other related resolutions".

Accordingly, prior to the handover of power on 28 June and the Coalition Provisional Authority ceasing to exist, Her Majesty's Government considered it appropriate to grant exemptions for the export of military listed goods for use by Iraqi police forces, Ministry of Justice personnel, Ministry of Oil security
 
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personnel and Iraqi security forces. The licence is consistent with the consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria. Future applications will continue to be assessed on a case by case basis against the UN embargo and consolidated criteria, taking into account the circumstances prevailing at the time.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Following consultation with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Trade and Industry recently approved a licence to export military list goods to Iraq. The arms embargo against Iraq remains in place under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1483 (22 May 2003) and 1546 (8 June 2004). UNSCR 1483 (2003) includes an exception for "arms and related materiel required by the [Coalition Provisional] Authority to serve the purposes of this and other related resolutions".

Accordingly, Her Majesty's Government consider it appropriate to grant a licence for the export of assault rifles and semi-automatic pistols for use by a private security company, contracted to provide support for personnel working under contract with the Iraqi Board of Supreme Audit. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) certified the requirement for these weapons prior to the CPA ceasing to exist on 28 June. The licence is consistent with the consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria. Future applications will continue to be assessed on a case by case basis against the UN embargo and consolidated criteria, taking into account the circumstances prevailing at the time.

Berezovsky and Zakayev

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Russian citizens Boris Abramovich Berezovsky and Akhmed Iliasovich Zakayev were granted asylum in the UK last year, as is public knowledge.

The grant of asylum to these two persons was made after due assessment by the relevant authorities of their cases and of the UK's obligations under the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees and domestic law. They did not enter the UK at the invitation of Her Majesty's Government. A grant of asylum does not imply support from the UK Government for an individual's views, activities or statements.

We take very seriously the requirement for any person granted asylum in the UK to comply with the conditions of the UN convention under which refugees are recognised, and with the provisions of UK law. Recipients of asylum receive cautions not to take part in criminal activities, or activities such as support for or encouragement of terrorist organisations, or activities endangering national security or public order. Where individuals granted asylum breach these conditions we would not hesitate to take action against them and have strengthened the law to enable us to do so more effectively.
 
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