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Lord Avebury: My Lords, the noble Lord said that he had just been in Teheran and does not believe that the Iranians are any longer involved in active support for the IRA. But very recently the Foreign Secretary had to make a public statement calling attention to the activities of the Iranian regime in regard to the IRA. Recently there were bomb attacks instigated by the Iranians on Jewish buildings in London. There have been bomb attacks on Jewish buildings in Buenos Aires, also instigated by the Iranians. The Iranians have done their best to disrupt the Middle East peace process. I hope that in his discussions with the Iranians --if he returns there--he will make it clear that the policies that the current Islamic regime follows are utterly abhorrent to the British people and will have to be changed if the relationships between our two countries are to be improved.
As chairman of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group, I should like to begin by thanking Ministers at the Foreign Office, including the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, for the unfailing courtesy and attention that
For example, my colleagues, Anthony Coombes and Emma Nicholson asked this morning to discuss Nigeria, following a meeting that I had with the head of region, Mr. Robin Goodenough, to discuss the same problem. We are very grateful to them for the attention that they give to these matters. I must also thank particularly Mr. Tony Baldry, who recently invited a number of Members, not solely from the Parliamentary Human Rights Group, to have a discussion with him before he set off on a visit to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. We were able to talk to him about some of our concerns, and that is a precedent that might be followed. Indeed, we have invited Mr. Douglas Hogg to come and speak to the group about his regions and interests, which cover the Middle East, the Near East and North Africa. Among other problems we shall be discussing with him Iran, as well as other places which the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, has visited, including Baghdad and Tripoli. We are also grateful to the Foreign Office for the unfailing courtesy and helpfulness of its officials, including the head of the human rights office, and the many desk officers we ring up to ask for information.
This week, we had a visit from the Bosnian Prime Minister, which was one of the outcomes of a fruitful relationship we have been developing with the Congressional Human Rights Foundation in Washington. As a result of this initiative and many others, there is a better communication of human rights concerns from Members of Parliament to colleagues elsewhere and very valuable co-operation between members of democratic legislatures throughout the world. This should enable us to exert even more pressure than we do already on our governments to put human rights higher up on their agendas. The Global Democracy Network is the developing tool which enables us to link with colleagues in other legislatures through the Internet, and from the information super-highway, as the press like to call it, we can download important human rights documents from the United Nations, such as the resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council, which will enable us to do our work far better.
Reverting to the visit of the Prime Minister of Bosnia, I am sure that the Minister is aware of the views that he was expressing about the partition of his country and the injustice of denying a sovereign state the means of self-defence to which it is entitled under the United Nations Charter. The Minister also knows of the concern which has been expressed about the major offensives launched by the MPLA government in Angola, at the very moment when the peace accords were supposed to be signed. I know that the Americans have tried to persuade Luanda to halt those operations, but their requests fell on deaf ears. It would be interesting to know from the Minister, when he comes to reply, whether we also--the European Union--made any appeal to the Government in Luanda to halt their military operations so that peace can be given a chance with the signing in Lusaka.
In Rwanda, the perpetrators of the genocide that killed a million people are now re-grouping. They are hijacking the food and medical supplies intended for the weak and poor in the refugee camps so as to build themselves up for another attempt. I agreed completely with the Minister about the need for a more coherent and effective conflict resolution mechanism than we have. In the case of Rwanda, what is obviously needed is a determined effort to disarm the Interahamwe, who are re-grouping in the refugee camps. That could save us a lot of trouble later on.
In Armenia, people are freezing as the winter sets in, and there is extreme suffering as a result of the winter blockade. Even though there has been a ceasefire, we cannot afford to continue to ignore the conflict in the hope that it will go away. In East Timor, the people have been demonstrating their opposition to the forcible occupation of their country, 19 years after it was invaded by Indonesia. In Sudan, 1.2 million people have been killed since the war in the south erupted in 1983. Millions more have been internally displaced, according to the rapporteur, Dr. Caspar Biro, and hundreds of thousands have fled to neighbouring countries. The noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, has just spoken about the problem of Kashmir, a conflict which has been continuing for 47 years and which has caused immense loss of life.
All these examples demonstrate that the attempts by the international community to settle the conflicts which are the cause of so many of the violations of human rights and to redress the wrongs that are done to the victims are pitifully inadequate. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, who said that we are facing a collective lack of political will. I would add to that the rather hypocritical pretence that, because we draft a plethora of international instruments which purport to confer rights on individuals and groups, and because we devote large sums of money to international meetings at which the violations of those rights are discussed, though never with the imposition of any penalties on the perpetrators, we have somehow implemented those resolutions in spirit as well as in letter. A good example of that is the CSCE's Human Dimension meeting which is being held in Budapest at the moment. Representatives of all the CSCE states are gathering for a whole two months, culminating in a summit in early December, but it is quite impossible to find out what is being said there, or to have any real influence on the proceedings. I should like to ask the noble Lord who is to reply this question: what hope is there that there will be any concrete results from the CSCE meeting which has taken up so much time and resources?
In Bosnia, ethnic cleansing has been going on. As the noble Baroness reminded us, the citizens of Sarajevo and other towns are being subjected to bombardment and sniping--the district of Bihac is under threat--while the international community has devised a scheme for splitting up the country into ethnic cantons, like the former Bantustans in South Africa. I do not believe that we are going to find a solution. The Foreign Secretary has said--this is part of the most recent Security Council resolution of September 1994--that at the end of the conflict people will have to be enabled to return
Bosnia is not the only place where ethnic cleansing is going on unpunished within the CSCE region. In Turkey also there is ethnic cleansing in full swing, but there Western countries are eager to support the criminals rather than to prosecute them. The CSCE has done nothing as 1,500 villages have been wiped off the map and 2 million people have been forcibly evicted from their homes by the Turkish armed forces. The state-sponsored death squads have killed hundreds of people, including writers, journalists, politicians, newsboys, human rights activists, lawyers and businessmen. Thousands of people have been arrested and tortured. Turkey has the largest entry of any country in the six-monthly case list of the Writers in Prison Committee and in the US State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights for 1993. The state, after murdering one of the members of parliament of the Democracy Party, has put eight others on trial on charges of undermining the indivisible integrity of the Turkish state, a crime which carries the death penalty. One of the allegations--a typical allegation--against the deputies is that, when asked what foreign languages they spoke for the purposes of their parliamentary biographies, they replied "Turkish". That is supposed to be a criminal offence, justifying the death penalty.
The gracious Speech refers to enhancement of the CSCE's conflict resolution and prevention mechanisms. The question is how the CSCE is able to have any influence on a situation where the state concerned refuses to admit it. There is in the Moscow mechanism a procedure which allows a mission of experts to be sent compulsorily to a state which refuses to invite it voluntarily. But in the case of Turkey, as a Minister remarked to me on one occasion, it would never get past Ankara airport. What does one do when one has an intransigent state such as Turkey which refuses to listen to the advice given by the CSCE or to make the slightest effort to remedy the human rights abuses, which are probably the worst in the whole region?
At the same time the Turkish armed forces have no difficulty in acquiring huge quantities of weapons for their offensives against the Kurdish people. They buy tanks, armoured cars, helicopters, heavy artillery, rockets and mortar bombs and they are spending 6 billion dollars a year on the dirty war and beggaring their own economy. Britain, of course, is not a large
I have to accept the statements made by the noble Baroness in her speech at the beginning of the debate that there has not been any tie-up between the sale of weapons to any country and the use of the aid budget to lubricate those sales. But it is a remarkable coincidence that Malaysia was not the only case in point of large aid budgets being accompanied by the sales of weapons. I believe that there is something to explain there. Incidentally, the tanks which we sold to the Nigerians are alleged to be still in their crates at the docks because the army does not have transporters to carry them to the armoured division's base.
As has already been mentioned, we sold several hundred million dollars' worth of weaponry to Indonesia, which is in violation of two resolutions of the Security Council and eight of the General Assembly, all of which called on Indonesia to withdraw its armed forces from occupied East Timor. As has been mentioned already, according to the Observer, we are planning to sell them another 2 billion dollars' worth of arms. That is another of the sleazy deals which is alleged to be lubricated with scarce aid money and which, according to the Observer, is going partly towards a project in which General Suharto's daughter has an interest.
The Observer says that the Indonesian shopping list includes armoured personnel carriers, medium-range ballistic and air defence missiles and naval patrol vessels, together with the construction of a big new naval base at Bandar Lumpung, Sumatra. They are said to be close to signing a contract for up to 140 British-made Scorpion tanks which are suitable for use in rugged terrain.
The point I wish to make about these weapons sales is that they all seem to me to be in contravention of the sets of principles governing conventional arms transfers to which the United Kingdom is a party, and in particular the CSCE principles of 23rd November 1993 which say that states will avoid transfers which would be likely to be used for the violation or suppression of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The European Council declaration on non-proliferation and arms exports of 29th June 1991 notes that among the criteria on which arms exports are based is,
There is one final point about the resources allocated to human rights by the international community. The Human Rights Centre in Geneva is still pitifully under-resourced and should be given the money that is being spent on these huge jamborees which are mounted by the United Nations such as the human rights meeting in Geneva last year. I am not aware of a single positive result from that gathering. One may expect even less from the meeting on women which is to be held in Beijing next September. If all the money spent on those festivals was given to the hard-pressed rapporteurs of the working groups then there would be something to show for it. It is really absurd, for example, that the UN rapporteur on torture, who is supposed to report on cases of torture throughout the world, has one-half of a staff person to help him and that at one time last year he and his colleagues were unable to stir from Geneva because the budget for air fares had been exhausted.
I welcome the commitments in the gracious Speech to promote respect for human rights, but I hope that as one essential component of that policy the Government will ensure that the Centre for Human Rights gets a realistic budget.
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