Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 50 - 73)



  60. Do you think they continue to be doggedly determined not to ratify it, not to be involved, because they feel, one of the reasons given to us, that they do not want their generals to be hauled up in front of an International Criminal Court?
  (Mr Hain) Naturally we do not accept that argument.

  61. No, we do not.
  (Mr Hain) We have been into the undergrowth of that argument ourselves and are quite satisfied that that concern is not well founded. I hope that there will be fresh thinking both on Capitol Hill and in the Administration. I would have thought that one of the lessons of 11 September and the threat that the world faces from groups like al-Qaeda, is that you need an International Criminal Court and when you look at the Milosovic experience and look at others, look at Foday Sankoh, for example, the rebel leader in Sierra Leone responsible for brutalising the people of Sierra Leone, people like that ought to be brought before the International Criminal Court.


  62. It would not be retrospective.
  (Mr Hain) No, I understand that. It is not retrospective, but I said people like that ought to be brought before the International Criminal Court. I would have thought that opinion in the US ought to see the sense and logic in that.

Mr Hamilton

  63. What we learned when we were in America was that our Prime Minister is very, very close to President Bush and has quite a lot of influence over some aspects of American foreign policy and I would hope that the Prime Minister would continue to press the President on this particular issue. Many of us agree that it is a very, very important move and that we should see this criminal court set up as soon as possible.
  (Mr Hain) It is certainly something we are not going to let go of. It is something we want to see and when the most powerful country in the world is not subscribing to an international treaty like that obviously it seriously weakens it.

Mr Pope

  64. A separate issue, that of forced marriages. Anybody who has dealt with the victims of forced marriages will know what a traumatic crime it is. I welcome the fact that the Government treats it seriously. I am pleased that the report says we are going to have to work with community groups, with women's groups and that they are going to have to take the lead. That is absolutely right. One of the things I find, and I suspect other members will have had similar experiences, is that when we are dealing with our posts abroad they are very helpful and the embassy staff are very helpful. The people who tend not to be very helpful are the police forces in some countries. I am trying to think of a diplomatic way of putting this. Perhaps the stamping out of forced marriages is not the top priority of the Pakistani police. What can we do to work with police forces in other countries, liaison between our Government and police forces, liaison between British police forces and police forces in other countries to work to eradicate this appalling crime?
  (Mr Hain) It may be more than we can do. The Foreign Office have compiled best practice guidelines for police forces in Britain to help tackle the problem and liaised with NGOs both here and abroad to try to provide a complete range of support for victims. Over 200 victims of forced marriages were helped by the Foreign Office's Community Liaison Unit. Clearly the attitude and practice and priority given by police forces in countries in which this odious practice operates need to be radically improved. May I also say that we have this Community Liaison Unit which has four full-time staff attached to our consular division, including an escapee of a forced marriage in Pakistan Narina Anwar who works part time advising the unit. We are giving this considerable attention and I am glad you raised it.

  Mr Pope: I just want to say that quite often we tend to appear critical at these meetings, but I think that is a really good initiative and I am really pleased to hear that.


  65. All of us agree that the Government has a very good record on this. We have read of the tragic case in Sweden recently. Is there much attempt at co-ordination of EU policies in terms of countries in which forced marriages are an issue?
  (Mr Hain) This is broadly on the EU agenda. I am afraid I cannot point to any specific instances, but it is something I will certainly follow up and perhaps notify you of[6].

  66. I slide then easily into the Partnership and Co-operation Agreements. There have been discussions between our Committee and the Foreign Office in respect of these agreements, particularly latterly over whether the human rights provisions in the PCA had any relevance or whether the Foreign Office and our EU partners took them seriously at all as a means of bringing leverage on countries, particularly of the former Soviet Union. What do you say about that? Has there been any serious threat to suspend such an agreement by the EU if the partner country has manifestly not honoured its human rights commitment?
  (Mr Hain) I am not aware of suspensions.

  67. Suspension of the PCA agreement on the basis that the partner country has not fulfilled its part of the bargain in respect of human rights.
  (Mr Hain) No, I am not aware of an imminent suspension but it is always possible, given that the European Union is strongly committed to human rights and it is an important part of those partnership agreements. It is something which is constantly monitored and something on which we work constantly with the countries with whom the partnership agreements are established.

  68. It may be deemed important, but how would you respond for example to Amnesty International who said that leverage is a fine thing but "this would be persuasive if political dialogue does include significant and concrete discussions on human rights". How would you seek to convince Amnesty that there is serious discussion on human rights within the context of these partnership and co-operation agreements?
  (Mr Hain) In all these agreements, we are committed as the European Union and as a member of it to greater coherence and consistency in all the internal and external policies of the European Union. It is not something which is number 25 on the agenda and sometimes falls off the bottom: it is integral to the partnership agreements. It is at the foundation of the European Union. Article 6 of the Amsterdam Treaty re-affirmed that the EU is founded on the principles of liberty, democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. These are issues which are pressed to more or less effect, with more or less success with all of the countries involved.

  69. We return to 11 September and certain countries of central Asia, like Uzbekistan, which provides base facilities for the US Air Force, Tajikistan a base in respect of Afghanistan, who have clearly assumed a new importance. Are we continuing to pursue human rights concerns in our dialogue with those two important countries or have human rights considerations fallen off the agenda?
  (Mr Hain) No, they have not and indeed following lobbying by both Britain and the European Union, a Turkmen religious prisoner Atakof was released at the end of last year. Despite the fact that the post-September 11 crisis was unfolding with Turkmenistan part of the theatre, that is something we achieved. We continue regularly to raise specific human rights concerns with all the governments concerned of central Asia, including prisoner cases, restricted media and religious restriction laws and pressing for better governance and political reform. It is another example where when we are pursuing security, human rights is a foundation for that security in any stable or long-term perspective.

  70. I should like finally to ask a question on the green paper on mercenaries. You recall that the Government did agree to publish this in November 2000. Then there was a long series of slippages. Now we are pleased to understand that the green paper is actually with the printers and any delay presumably is now with the printer. Can you indicate to the Committee why there was such a slippage after the initial pledge in November 2000? What have been the complications which have prevented the Government publishing this?
  (Mr Hain) First of all may I say that the Foreign Secretary will inform the House very shortly of the exact date of publication. I welcome that and I am sure that the Committee will welcome it as well. In respect of why it has taken so long, the issues are very complex and we wanted to produce an objective and balanced paper.

  71. You knew they were complex when you made the promise.
  (Mr Hain) I do not think we knew how complex, to be perfectly frank. When we took account of the policies in other countries, the history of international concern about mercenaries, the current debate on the role of private military companies and the legal issues involved, it is quite difficult terrain. Nevertheless I think the Committee will welcome the imminent publication of the Green Paper and I hope that we will hear your views on it. No doubt a Minister will appear before you at some point to be harangued about its contents.

  72. We can give you a pledge on that, Minister. May I say that the difficulty for any Minister in this area is that you are expected to be an expert on every corner of the foreign field and we thank you very much indeed for coming along and answering a range of questions, sometimes outside your immediate brief. Very many thanks indeed for your contribution.
  (Mr Hain) I welcome the opportunity to be questioned because it helps us to do our job. Would it help if I just told the Committee that I understand the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, which was meeting today on Zimbabwe, issued a strong statement condemning recent developments, issued benchmarks for the government to meet for free and fair elections but decided to defer whether or not to recommend Zimbabwe be suspended from the Commonwealth until March.

  73. Until after the presidential election?
  (Mr Hain) Until 1 March it appears. CMAG has also insisted that the government respond on the benchmarks and will look at it again on 1 March.

  Chairman: Indeed. May I thank you for that further information. Thank you.

6   See Evidence, p Ev 14. Back

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