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How many people are dependent on food aid in Darfur, Sudan; to what percentage of the region aid agencies have access; and what assessment has been made of the plight of people living in areas where there is no presence of international non-governmental organisations. [HL2002]
Security is currently the main factor limiting the delivery of humanitarian aid in Darfur, but the sheer size of Darfur is also a challenge. At the beginning of March, the UN had access to 88 per cent of the 2.45 million people judged to be in need of humanitarian assistance in Darfur, but we expect access to deteriorate severely in some areas when the rainy season begins in May. The UN is currently pre-positioning food in advance of the rains.
While there has not been a humanitarian needs assessment specifically of areas where international non-governmental organisations are not present, assessments are ongoing across Darfur. For example, on 24 March, a four-day inter-agency assessment to Dar Zagawa in north Darfur was completedthe area had not been accessed since December. Preliminary findings there indicate that coping mechanisms among the local population are incrementally diminishing due to limited access to markets, inaccessibility of normal livestock migration routes and declining wild food stocks. The situation for displaced persons was found to be even worse. The mission recommended general food distribution to all assessed communities, and that further health and education assessments be made. Assessments in other areas will continue over coming days and weeks across Darfur.
Baroness Amos: On three consecutive days during the week of 7 March convoys containing both United Nations (UN) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) vehicles were stopped and robbed on roads in west Darfur. On the fourth day there was an aborted attempt at a fourth robbery. This led to UN agencies
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and NGOs withdrawing their international staff to the state capital Al Geneina. Agencies are now operating again and we understand there have been no repeats of such robberies.
What additional measures they will take as a permanent member of the Security Council, as President of the G8, and in other capacities, to bring an end to the violations of human rights in Darfur, Sudan. [HL1914]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The UK was a leading proponent of the International Commission of Inquiry into Darfur. The Security Council is currently discussing next steps to follow up on the report's findings. We have made clear that there can be no impunity for the terrible crimes which have taken place in Darfur.
The UK and international partners have made clear to all sides that violations of human rights must end, and that they must abide fully by their commitments to stop the fighting and prevent attacks against civilians. We co-sponsored Security Council resolution 1591, passed on 29 March, establishing further sanctions against key actors in Darfur, including targeted sanctions and extending the current Darfur arms embargo to the government of Sudan. We are supporting the expanded African Union mission and are providing support to the United Nations and other agencies, such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and International Committee of the Red Cross, to enhance civilian protection.
Whether they will support the recommendations by Jan Pronk, the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Representative for Sudan, that the African Union force in Sudan should be increased to 8,000 troops, and that its mandate should be strengthened to include protection of the civilian population. [HL1912]
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The current African Union (AU) mandate requires it to carry out proactive monitoring and allows it to protect civilians in the immediate vicinity under imminent threat of attack. The AU and the United Nations Department for Peace Keeping Operations, together with representatives from the European Union, US, Canada and the UK, have recently returned from a two-week assessment mission to Darfur, Khartoum and Addis, to consider the work being undertaken by the AU mission, and what further support could be offered. Our expectation is that the assessment mission will recommend that the first priority be to get the current monitoring mission (of up to 3,320 personnel) deployed and fully operational as soon as possible.
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As the next stage, the mission's view is that the AU will need more troops on the ground, and they have suggested a figure of 5,887. It is for the African Union's Peace and Security Council to decide how to take these recommendations forward. We have made clear our willingness to support the AU, should it decide that an expanded mission was required. We have already provided significant financial and technical assistance to the AU.
What evaluations they have made of the significance of the three judgments by the European Court of Human Rights in February arising out of the situation in the Chechen Republic; what were the outcomes of those evaluations; and what effect they will have upon representations by the Government to the Russian federal Government on their policies in the Chechen Republic. [HL1866]
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Countries sign up to a set of values when they join the Council of Europe, including a commitment to the rule of law and to defending human rights. The European Court of Human Rights makes its judgments based on these values, and we expect countries to fulfil their obligations when judgments go against them.
The judgments on claims brought by Chechen civilians are the first instance of an international court finding Moscow guilty of human rights violations in Chechnya. The rulings set an important precedent, especially as there are currently around 120 cases brought by Chechen applicants pending before the court.
Our European Union (EU) partners and ourselves expect the Russian Government to take these judgments seriously and to act on the findings. We have made this clear to the Russian Government on a number of occasions, including during the recent EU-Russia Human Rights consultations, and have been encouraged by Russian assurances that they are prepared to implement the rulings.
Whether they will promote a Security Council resolution calling for the prosecution at the International Criminal Court of individuals who have committed crimes against humanity; and whether they will use their influence to persuade the United States not to veto it. [HL1913]
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We have made clear our preference for the situation in Darfur to be referred by the Security Council to the International Criminal Court, as recommended by the International Commission of Inquiry into Darfur.
We are currently holding discussions with the US as well as other partners, in capitals and New York, on
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the draft text of a Security Council resolution that will address the issue of judicial accountability. Our aim is to secure consensus.
Whether they agree with the Prison Reform Trust (PRT) finding that prisoners are less likely to reoffend if they maintain contact with their families; and what is their response to the PRT recommendation that family contact development officers should be employed by the Prison Service to facilitate these contacts. [HL1637]
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Her Majesty's Government accept that positive family contact can be an important factor in the successful resettlement of prisoners into the community.
There are a variety of ways in which family contact can be maintained. A number of prisons in England and Wales have appointed family liaison officers with a similar role to family contact development officers. Giving responsibility to a particular member of staff is one model but there are others and the choice is a matter for local discretion.
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