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14 Apr 1999 : Column WA121

Written Answers

Wednesday, 14th April 1999.

Human Rights Conventions

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

    Whether it is an element of their foreign policy to encourage the governments of the new democratic member states of the Council of Europe to accept the competence of the Committee Against Torture, the committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the United Nations Human Rights Committee to receive complaints from individuals of breaches of the relevant international human rights treaties.[HL1776]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): We encourage all states to ratify and implement the core international human rights conventions, including the Convention Against Torture and the Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and to co-operate fully with UN and other human rights monitoring mechanisms.

In the Council of Europe it is a requirement that all new member states become party to the European Convention on Human Rights, which includes mandatory acceptance of the right of individual petition. The focus of our policy towards new member states is to encourage and assist them fully to meet their obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and to respect the jurisdiction of the Court.

Human Rights Commission: Website

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ascertain why the United Nations Human Rights Commission's server has gone down so that during the current session of the Commission those who need to access information about the Commission's work on the world wide web are unable to do so; and whether they will also ascertain whether the reports of the rapporteurs and working groups are likely to be published in time for consideration by delegates before the agenda items to which they relate are reached.[HL1812]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We are not aware of any significant problems. The UK delegation to the UN Commission on Human Rights (CHR) report that the website has been functioning well and that they have regularly used it to access CHR documents.

Following complaints, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) set a deadline for submission of reports of 16 December 1998 to allow time for translation and distribution. Only those reports submitted later than this deadline have been

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delayed, and accordingly the majority will be available before the relevant agenda item is reached.

Srebrenica: UN Report

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ask the United Nations Secretary-General (a) to make a progress report on the comprehensive report on the Srebrenica massacre called for in General Assembly Resolution 53/35; (b) to publish all documents found to be relevant to the assessment made under this resolution, as and when they are examined; and (c) to publish all the records of the United Nations which deal with the events leading up to the massacre, including the minutes of all meetings attended by Mr. Yasushi Akashi, Mr. Carl Bildt, Mr. Thorvald Stoltenberg, General Rupert Smith and others, at which Srebrenica was discussed.[HL1890]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The terms of reference for the comprehensive report to be proposed by the Secretary-General by 1 September 1999 are set out in paragraph 18 of General Assembly Resolution 53/35. It would be inappropriate for one member state to seek to change the guidance already provided collectively by the entire UN membership.

General Pinochet

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the United Kingdom authorities learnt General Pinochet and his family had a reservation on a BA flight on 20 October 1998 returning to Santiago, Chile; from where they learnt this; and whether this information was communicated to anyone outside the United Kingdom Government.[HL1903]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: I refer my noble friend to the replies my honourable friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Lloyd) gave in another place to the honourable Member for Windsor (Mr. Trend) on 25 January 1999, Official Record, Commons, col. 149. Officials did not pass details of these calls to anyone outside the UK Government.

Kosovo Liberation Army

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What peace terms resulting from the Rambouillet discussions were offered (a) by Mrs. Albright to the Kosovo Liberation Army and (b) by Mr. Holbrook to the Serbian Government; whether the Government or other members of the Contact Group were fully consulted by the United States Administration about these terms; and whether there is any limit to the military action being taken against Serbia for refusing the terms offered by Mr. Holbrook.[HL1910]

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Rambouillet Accords were presented to both sides during the conference in February. They were not US proposals: they had been drafted in full consultation with all members of the Contact Group.

During the reconvened talks at the Kleber Centre in Paris, the Kosovo Albanian delegation, having completed the consultations to which it had committed itself at Rambouillet, signed the accords in their entirety. The FRY/Serbian delegation showed no such readiness.

NATO has clearly set out its conditions for a cessation of military action. Milosevic has to cease repression, withdraw army, police and paramilitary forces and agree to an international security force in Kosovo to give the refugees the confidence to return. NATO will suspend its action when Milosevic meets these conditions.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they now endorse (a) the bona fides of the Kosovo Liberation Army and (b) the training and other assistance it is now to receive from the United States; and whether they are content with the origin of the resources on which it has been hitherto dependent.[HL1912]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We have been trying to keep in contact with all of the Kosovo Albanian delegation at Rambouillet and the Foreign Secretary has spoken to Hashim Thaqi of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) to urge restraint.

Under UN Security Council Resolution 1160 all states are obliged to prevent the sale or supply to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, including Kosovo, of arms and related material, and arming or training for terrorist activities there. The Rambouillet Accords included provisions for the disarming of the UCK. The Contact Group has no firm evidence concerning the UCK's sources of weapons and training.

Kosovo: Refugee and Aid Programmes

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much financial aid they have given to (a) United Nations agencies and (b) United Kingdom based non-governmental organisations for refugee and aid programmes since the beginning of the crisis in Kosovo.[HL1896]

Baroness Amos: Since 24 March, the Department for International Development has already spent or committed about £8 million assistance to the Kosovo refugees, including over £1.5 million for air transportation and cargo, £16,000 for an airport handling package for Tirana and £400,000 for a truck convoy for Albania. We have to date agreed cash grants of £0.82 million to UN agencies and £3.274 million to NGOs and the Red Cross. Further expenditure and disbursements are currently being considered.

An additional £3 million was made available for humanitarian assistance to the people of Kosovo

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between April 1998 and March 1999: of this, £1.5 million was allocated to the UN and £1.5 million to UK-based NGOs.

Kosovo: Protection of Aid Workers

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have held discussions with non-governmental organisations about the security and protection of aid workers in Kosovo.[HL1894]

Baroness Amos: Regular discussions have taken place with NGOs and others over the last year on all aspects of humanitarian assistance in Kosovo, including security. We are not aware of any aid activity by British-based NGOs in Kosovo at present, and we believe it would be highly inadvisable for aid workers to return to Kosovo while the current security situation persists.

Kosovo: UNHCR Capacity

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What they have done to increase the capacity of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Albania and Macedonia.[HL1895]

Baroness Amos: The Government have made a major contribution to international efforts to strengthen United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) capacity to deal with the outflow of refugees from Kosovo. We are funding a series of airlifts to enable UNHCR and other operational agencies to deploy personnel and relief supplies to the region; we have provided equipment and personnel, including a Department for International Development (DFID) operations manager, to set up a UNHCR airport logistic cell at Tirana airport; and we are putting a convoy of five trucks and drivers at the disposal of UNHCR in Albania. The humanitarian support offices which DFID is establishing in Skopje and Tirana will work closely with UNHCR and seek to identify further ways in which we can support their work.

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