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House of Lords

Wednesday, 19 October 2005.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Chelmsford.

Indonesia: Human Rights

The Lord Bishop of Oxford asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): My Lords, we are concerned about reports of human rights abuses in Papua, and we raise those regularly with the government of Indonesia. We also encourage the Indonesian Government to engage in dialogue with Papuan representatives and to proceed with full implementation of the special autonomy legislation.

We are encouraged by the president's recent statements that his government wish to solve the issue of Papua through dialogue,

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer. Is he aware that, in the light of continuing human rights abuses and the growing presence of the Indonesian army in West Papua, Rachel Harvey, the BBC's correspondent in Jakarta, has now been refused entry to that country three times? Will he make further representations to ensure that there is free access to all parts of West Papua for human rights organisations, humanitarian organisations and journalists?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, we most certainly will. We already regularly raise access to Papua with the Indonesian Government as part of our dialogue with them on human rights. In the context of that dialogue we are happy to encourage greater transparency, including greater access for media representatives and NGOs. The area is fairly isolated, so it is not always easy for people to get into it and successfully to do the work that they wish to carry out, but we will give every encouragement and assistance that we can.

Baroness Seccombe: My Lords, do the government of West Papua have the power to detain people for a period of 90 days without charge?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, there is no government of West Papua; it is not autonomous from the Indonesian state. There are arrangements there that unquestionably infringe human rights. People are detained and the army—we think that there are about
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5,000 troops—acts in ways that are not acceptable to us. Those issues are raised routinely with the government of Indonesia, and we will continue to do that.

Baroness Tonge: My Lords, does the Government's laudable policy not to sell arms to any government who would use them for internal oppression or external aggression still apply? If so, why are we still sending arms to Indonesia?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, any export of military or dual-use equipment to Indonesia requires an export licence. Each export licence application is assessed individually, on a case-by-case basis, against the consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria and other policies, and in the light of the prevailing circumstances in Indonesia at the time of application. We refuse any applications where we judge that there is a clear risk that the proposed export might be used for internal repression or might aggravate existing tensions in Indonesia.

Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, while it is quite right that we should be making representations to the Indonesian Government on their human rights record, to what extent does the Minister expect the influence of those representations to have an impact and to what extent are the United Nations making the same kind of representations?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, I have taken a little encouragement—not an excessive amount of encouragement, to be sure—from the outbreak of peace in Aceh and the willingness to try to resolve the issues there. Our view is that Papua will be—we believe that it should be—the next in the line of areas of Indonesia which should come into peaceful, law abiding and normal society. The developments in Aceh should give us cause for hope. The President of Indonesia has made it clear that Papua is the next place in line for the process. But he also presides over a minority government. The stresses inside Indonesia are well known and are very difficult. The whole international community and the UN have to try to ensure that the progress that has been promised will be achieved.

Lord Elton: My Lords, the Minister has told us of the representations that we make. The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Coity, asked whether they are joined with those of the United Nations. Is it our voice alone that is pleading? If so, what motivation and pressure can we bring on the government of Indonesia other than our sense of outrage?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, I am sorry if I was not as clear as I had hoped to be in my previous answer. When I said that we are making representations alongside other members of the international community and international organisations, I certainly had the United Nations and its Secretary-General in mind. There is a good deal of pressure. The
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Aceh development was in no small part due to some of the pressures that came through the United Nations. I believe that we made our own contribution to that process. I am very pleased that we did. In order to get the remainder of that process under way, we have to take the President of Indonesia at his word. The next step, after Aceh, must be Papua. We must put international pressure on to make sure that the promise is made good.

Viscount Eccles: My Lords, how much does the Minister think Indonesian resettlement programmes lead to human rights tensions in Papua?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, I suspect that in a number of the areas of Indonesia, which is a very large and diverse society, the resettlement of people where they are unwilling to be resettled is bound to lead to human rights abuses. Those are among the abuses that we are eager should be overcome. There needs to be a successful peace process across Indonesia, which is why I am trying to take what encouragement is available from the first really tangible steps in that direction.

Baroness Northover: My Lords, the noble Lord made reference to the peace deal in Aceh, which is obviously very much to be welcomed. However, in terms of West Papua, does the Minister agree that it is very concerning to see things going backwards? There is now an increase in the number of troops there to 50,000. Should not the lessons from Aceh be learnt for West Papua? Will he urge that on the Indonesian Government?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, the noble Baroness has a figure for troop deployments which exceeds by a factor of 10 what we believe to be the case, so I am not sure that those figures are reliable. But the process has started. There have been some tangible changes. For example, there has been agreement now that 70 per cent of the value of oil reserves, and 80 per cent of timber, mineral and other reserves, originating in Papua should be ploughed back into that community in order to give it some wealth and stability. Although these are done deals, none of them is definitely delivered yet. Those are all things that we have to investigate to make sure that things are going in the right direction.

Iraq: Withdrawal

2.44 pm

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson): My Lords, the UK is committed to Iraq until such time as the Iraqis
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are able to take responsibility for their own security. Withdrawal of our troops from Iraq will not depend on reaching certain dates or milestones, but on achieving certain conditions which will be based on principles outlined by the Iraqi Joint Committee to Transfer Security Responsibility.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply, but is it not increasingly clear that the occupation feeds the insurgency; that many American military operations against the insurgency are counter-productive; and that it will be very difficult to win this war within a reasonable period of time? Does not the new Iraqi constitution, if it is accepted, give a golden opportunity for the Iraqis to take control of their own destiny, whatever the risks—because they will have to do that at some time—and for British troops, who have behaved with huge distinction, to depart with honour?

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