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26 Mar 1996 : Column WA123

Written Answers

Tuesday, 26th March 1996.

Bahrain: Human Rights

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information has been provided to them about the arrest and detention without trial of women in Bahrain, about attacks by security forces on school children and about the taking of hostages from the families of persons sought by the security forces and whether, as part of their policy of helping to ensure the security and stability of Bahrain, they will urge the Bahraini authorities to refrain from provocative acts and to enter into dialogue with the democratic opposition.

Lord Chesham: We receive information on events in Bahrain from a number of sources and continue to follow developments closely. It is for the Bahraini authorities themselves to judge how best and within what timescale to address concerns there. We condemn violence and encourage political solutions.

Iran: Civil Nuclear Facility

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Israeli threats to bomb any civil nuclear facility that might be built in Iran in accordance with all IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) regulations was discussed at the Sharm-el-Sheikh meeting, and whether any such attack would amount to state terrorism.

Lord Chesham: No such threat was discussed at Sharm-el-Sheikh. The lawfulness of any such threat or attack would depend on the circumstances of the particular case.

Israeli Counter-Terrorist Policy

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Israeli Officer charged with countering and pursuing terrorism has been given a "free hand" (a) only in Israel proper, or (b) only in Israel and the occupied and ex-occupied territories, or (c) anywhere at all (that is, not excluding Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq and the Gulf States), and if the last, whether this approach to terrorism was discussed and explicitly approved at the Sharm-el-Sheikh meeting.

Lord Chesham: Israel's counter-terrorist policy was not discussed at Sharm El-Sheikh. We encourage Israel to combat the terrorists in the fullest possible co-operation with the Palestinian Authority and her neighbours.

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Bosniac-Croat Federation Armed Forces: Training and Equipment

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they or any of the European members of NATO or Russia intend to contribute to the $800 million--$1 billion fund for arming and training the Bosnian Government's forces in Turkey and elsewhere, as a result of the fundraising conference mounted by the United States in Turkey last week, and attended by European and Islamic states.

Lord Chesham: We do not intend to contribute to the fund for training and equipping the armed forces of the Bosniac-Croat Federation. We cannot answer for other nations.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether all the signatories to the Dayton Agreement and members of the UN Security Council are agreed that the billion dollar arming of one Dayton signatory is compatible with the "need" mentioned in the Agreement "to avoid an arms race in the region" (Annex 1-B, Article 1, Dayton Accords).

Lord Chesham: We are content with US assurances that the programme they are leading to train and equip the armed forces of the Bosniac-Croat Federation will be consistent with all aspects of the Dayton Peace Agreement. We cannot answer for other nations.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the United States project to set up a Muslim state armed by a $800 million--$1 billion fund, in ex-Yugoslavia is being discussed either in NATO (in the light of the responsibilities NATO is now shouldering in the Balkans) or in the UN Security Council, and if not, whether they will start such discussions before NATO disagreements deepen, given the likelihood of the Orthodox Serbs and the Catholic Croats being armed by the Russians and the Germans.

Lord Chesham: The US-led programme is designed to train and equip the armed forces of the Bosniac-Croat Federation. It will be entirely separate from the NATO-led Implementation Force (IFOR) and is not a matter for NATO or the UN.

WEU: Support for OSCE Operations

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What system is currently in place to enable Western European Union to act in support of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe other than with the agreement of the United States.

Lord Chesham: The WEU Council of Ministers agreed at Petersberg in June 1992 that it was prepared to support, on a case-by-case basis, the peacekeeping activities of the OSCE. Under WEU procedures,

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decisions to mount operations are taken by the ten Full Members, although naturally the agreement of the United States and other members of the Atlantic Alliance would be required for any operations drawing on NATO assets.

Taiwan: US Naval Presence

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the light of the European Union Statement of 8th March "regretting" Chinese missile tests in the Taiwan Straits (HL Deb., 19th March, WA 93) and the remarks of the US Secretary of Defense reported in The Times on 20th March (page 12), the European Union will not address a similar caution to the United States concerning the two Carrier Groups it is deploying in the area.

Lord Chesham: We are not aware of any planned EU statements to the US on this issue. However, we wholeheartedly support the sensible precautions taken by the United States to defuse the tension and monitor the situation in the Straits.

Former Yugoslavia: Release of Prisoners

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they and the NATO Alliance propose to secure the release of all prisoners still being held in Bosnia-Herzegovina or nearby, in contravention of the Dayton Agreement.

Lord Chesham: We have repeatedly called on the parties to honour their obligations under the Dayton Agreement to release all prisoners. We are encouraged by the recent release of some prisoners; and urge all parties to stand by their undertakings to release all prisoners.

Racial Discrimination: Dependent Territories' Reports to UN Committee

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why they have provided no information to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, in their Thirteenth Periodic Report, about the position in Dependent Territories other than Hong Kong.

Lord Chesham: The reports on the Dependent Territories to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and on the UN treaty monitoring bodies, are based on material supplied by their governments. Assembling the necessary information is an important but time-consuming task for small administrations. We hope to be able to submit the outstanding reports by early autumn.

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European Communities Conventions: Interpretation

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they agree with the report of the Select Committee on the European Communities on the 1996 Inter-Governmental Conference, paragraph 282, that there is, at present, no suitable tribunal available apart from the European Court of Justice which could sensibly be given the task of interpreting and applying conventions drawn up within the Justice and Home Affairs Pillar.

Lord Chesham: Article K.3.2(c) provides that "[Third Pillar] conventions may stipulate that the Court of Justice shall have jurisdiction to interpret their provisions and to rule on any disputes regarding their application, in accordance with such arrangements as they may lay down". For some conventions there may be no need to specify any tribunal, relying on national courts, or other fora.

European Court of Justice: Treaty of Rome Interpretation

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether their commitment to a strong independent European Court of Justice ("A Partnership of Nations", paragraph 36) means that they accept that it must remain the exclusive function of the Court to ensure that, in the interpretation and application of the treaty establishing the European Community, the law is observed.

Lord Chesham: The role of the European Court of Justice in ensuring that in the interpretation and application of the treaty the law is observed is clearly set out in Article 164 of the treaty. National courts are also competent to apply EC law.

European Court of Justice: Powers

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any of the proposals contained in A Partnership of Nations (Cm 3181) would involve reducing the existing powers of the European Court of Justice; and, if so, whether they will give examples.

Lord Chesham: The UK's proposal concerning damages, national time limits and limitation of retrospective effect are designed to reduce the likelihood of the European Court of Justice delivering judgments which impose disproportionate costs on businesses and member states. The proposal for rapid amendment of EC legislation could be used to limit the effects of a Court ruling which interprets legislation in a way which was not intended by the Council. The proposed treaty provision clarifying the application of subsidiarity in the

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interpretation of EC law would ensure that the principle is fully taken into account by the Court when deciding cases.

As the White Paper makes clear, the Government are still considering their detailed approach. We may have further proposals to put to the IGC across the range of issues which the conference will address.


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