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Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, in his prescient remarks at the outset of our debate, the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, reminded us that the gracious Address was silent about the rising power of Asia. I would add only two words to that thought—North Korea. I serve as chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea. We have been increasingly concerned about security issues and revelations about nuclear capability, as well as human rights abuses in that country.

We have supported the policy of constructive engagement. In parenthesis, I pay tribute to Bill Rammell, now Minister of State in the Department for Education and Skills, for the role that he played. Last year, he was the first Minister to go to North Korea. I hope that that policy of constructive engagement will continue. I hope that there will also be the opportunity for a full-scale debate on that part of the world, because we are covering many disparate issues in this, inevitably piecemeal, Queen's Speech debate.

On 24 November last year, I had the opportunity of participating in the previous Queen's Speech debate in your Lordships' House, when I drew attention to the genocide in Darfur and to the link between conflict resolution and development. With millions of deaths of World War I proportions in countries such as Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda and Congo, it is literally impossible to create the stability that is a prerequisite of sustainable development. An implicit understanding of that linkage is contained in the commitments in the gracious Speech to,


 
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and to,

Along with many others, I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, to his new role and know that, if anyone has the necessary qualities of heart and head to make those promises a reality, it will be the noble Lord. His appointment is a good choice and, for what it is worth, I will encourage and support him in his efforts, although he will be aware that I regard the approach taken in Darfur thus far by the international community to be riven by failure. The Government in Khartoum believe that we will pursue a policy of appeasement, and I hope that the noble Lord will disabuse them of that belief.

Four years ago, I went to the devastated areas of southern Sudan—so familiar to my noble friend Lady Cox, from whom we will hear later. I saw the ravages of 20 years of killing in a region where some 2 million have died. In November 2004, I detailed my then recent visit to the western province of Darfur. I published a report through the Jubilee Campaign and described in your Lordships' House what I had heard and seen.

When I first raised the depredations of the Janjaweed militia, as long ago as 2001, thousands were said to be dying. By 20 May, 2004, with an estimated 30,000 dead, I asked the Government:

The Government replied:

There was never a ceasefire in Darfur and, in any event, the deliberate displacement and corralling by the Janjaweed militia of nearly 2 million defenceless people into makeshift camps will ultimately lead to death as certainly as a bullet in the head. The evidence bears me out that, while the world has been sleepwalking, Darfur has been dying.

In asking a question on 15 September last year, I referred to United Nations figures showing that the number of dead had risen from 35,000 to 50,000. On 18 October, in response to a further question, the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, said that the figure could be as high as 70,000. As recently as 23 March 2005, I drew attention to the findings of the House of Commons International Development Committee's devastating report on Darfur. I hope that there will be an opportunity for us to debate the implications of that report in more detail. That committee put the number of dead at a staggering 300,000. Last month, an American university concluded that the number might be as high as 400,000. Compare that with the 300,000 people who lost their life in the tsunami in south-east Asia and you have some idea of the scale of the genocide.
 
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Yesterday, in the New York Times, a report appeared entitled "The Mournful Math of Darfur: The Dead Don't Add Up". It stated:

The New York Times then asks:

Whatever the numbers, staggering fatalities have occurred in Darfur, and we have shown remarkable impotence in facing that tragedy.

Earlier this month, on 2 May, Oxfam published a report that echoed a point that I have repeatedly made: internally displaced persons in Darfur face starvation because they have been unable to plant crops. When the rains come, access to roads and camps will be washed away. Hygiene in the camps, as I have seen first-hand, is already compromised, and the security of humanitarian workers remains an issue. I particularly welcome today the Minister's current assessment of the position of internally displaced persons. If we do not have a clear picture and strategy for dealing with the issue, the hundreds of thousands will become millions.

The Janjaweed and the Government of Sudan have manipulated the international community, which has been guilty of prevarication and feeble posturing. The noble Lord, Lord Garden, rightly asked what thought we had given to the role of an international force, including the possible presence of the UK military, in Darfur. Before we do that, we will need to challenge the assertion of the Government of the Sudan that the stationing of a mere 100 Canadian soldiers in Darfur would be "unacceptable interference".

Of course, I welcome the cash aid that we have given the African Union, to which the noble Lord, Lord Drayson— I also welcome him to his ministerial post—referred, and the heavy lifting equipment provided by NATO to assist them. But there are still only 2,400 African Union troops in an area the size of France. We are putting poultices on the problem rather than tackling it at its roots.

On 18 October last year, the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, told us that the African Union presence would be expanded. The UN estimated that at least 12,000 personnel were needed. The situation still has not improved. The promised enhanced African Union presence is urgently needed, and we should use our voice in the Security Council, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell intimated, to insist that Khartoum's veto to the stationing of an international force is repudiated and the mandate strengthened. What is the point in passing mandatory Chapter 7 resolutions, as we have done, requiring the disarming of the Janjaweed, if we do not have the determination to implement them? All that that achieves is the
 
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discrediting of the UN. It also encourages a climate in which the Janjaweed militia, supported by the Government of the Sudan, believes that it can contrive to wage war against the people of Darfur with impunity.

Along with others in your Lordships' House, I have argued that we need a no-fly zone over Darfur. My colleague, the journalist, Rebecca Tinsley, who travelled with me to Darfur last autumn, spoke to a human rights activist in Khartoum earlier this week. He had been in southern Darfur on 13 May and witnessed an attack by a government helicopter. How much proof does the world need? How many more have to die?

Two reports came to my attention earlier today, from the Darfur Centre for Human Rights and Development. One report states:

The other report states:

On 4 May, the UN situation representatives reported on the build-up of militia in the mountain areas, Jabra, and the feared increase in violence. They stated:

I have consistently argued that those responsible for those atrocities and for what I believe to be genocide in the technical sense of that word should be brought to justice. I applaud the role that Her Majesty's Government played in persuading the United States not to veto a referral of the perpetrators to the International Criminal Court. However, in that context, we should note two recent events. On 30 May, Musa Hilal, leader of the Janjaweed, showed his contempt for the international community and the victims of the Darfur crisis by stating in a speech that he would not be subject to any of the resolutions passed either by the UN Security Council or the UN Human Rights Commission. Speaking in Kebkabiya, northern Darfur, he said that he would not be disowned, would not agree to relinquish any weapons, and that,

According to the Darfur Centre for Human Rights and Development,

Let no one be in any doubt about the umbilical cord that ties the Janjaweed militia to the Government of Sudan.

On Wednesday, I tabled a Written Question to Her Majesty's Government about a further development. Last weekend, human rights activists were arrested in Khartoum, and Dr Mudawi Ibrahim is now facing the
 
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death penalty. I hope that the Minister will tell us today that we will make the strongest possible protest against the taking of the life of a man who has stood up for human rights in Sudan. After all, these are Muslim people who are taking a stand for human rights, and we should stand on their side.

On 27 April last year, our ambassador to Sudan, William Patey, held a reception in Khartoum to celebrate the birthday of Her Majesty the Queen. He rejoiced that the first British trade mission was on its way; that British Airways had reinstated flights; that 130 British companies were operating in Sudan; and that trade was up 25 per cent on the previous year. Although he also rightly urged Sudan to secure peace, I find it, at best, mildly confusing that we can contrive a policy of "business as usual" with a government with so much blood on their hands. An early policy of targeted oil sanctions would have been more appropriate.

I am concerned that only today a report from the International Crisis Group in New York states that the Belarusians have sent a letter to the sanctions committee of the UN seeking permission, which the ICG believes will be granted, to sell arms to Sudan. As the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, reminded us, we have opportunities to raise the issues in effective ways, and I hope that we will take them.

On 2 February, at col. 278, I reminded the House that on 1 January the Prime Minister wrote in the Economist, that,

In the gracious Speech, the Government said that they would contrive to push for a resolution of the conflict in Darfur. I welcome that, and I hope that in all parts of the House we will get behind that objective. For the terrorised, suffering people of Darfur, that cannot happen a day too soon.

3.53 pm


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