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Outer Space

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Article II of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty precludes national appropriation of outer space by claim of sovereignty. Therefore, outer space cannot be res nullius, which would connote territory capable of appropriation. In the light of the other provisions of the Outer Space Treaty, particularly Article I, the generally accepted view is that outer space is res communis like the high seas.

Montenegro and Serbia: Relations

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Relations between Montenegro and Serbia are poor at a political level. Talks between the governing parties of the two Republics have taken place, and we hope that an acceptable compromise can be reached which addresses Montenegro's legitimate aspirations.

The UK and the international community will work to prevent political disagreements from degenerating into conflict. We have warned President Milosevic of grave consequences if he attempts to destabilise Montenegro.

It is not our policy to discuss contingency planning.

Serbia: Iraqi Delegation's Visit

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The only reports we have seen about the recent visit of an Iraqi delegation to Serbia are those that have been carried in the international media.

China: Human Rights

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations they have made to President Jiang Zemin during his state visit about women's rights in China and the pursuit of population policies carried out under China's one child policy. [HL4310]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal : Both my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary discussed human rights with the Chinese during the state visit, including the treatment of Chinese dissidents and Falun Gong practitioners, the situation in Tibet and raised cases of individuals detained in China.

We have participated in two international seminars on women's rights arranged under the EU human rights dialogue with China in October 1998 and July 1999.

Our position on the one child policy in China is well known to the Chinese Government. We believe family planning is a matter for informed parental choice and we do not fund projects directly related to it.

Lord Craigmyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress is being made on human rights issues in China and Tibet as a result of the state visit of President Jiang Zemin of China. [HL4320]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal : My right honourable friend the Prime Minister was able to discuss human rights in China, including Tibet, with President Jiang Zemin when they met on 21 October. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary also raised human rights issues with the Chinese Foreign Minister, Tang Jiaxuan, on 20 October. The Chinese Government are thus well aware of our concerns.

We remain convinced that addressing them through the regular high level bilateral human rights dialogue is the best way to achieve progress over the longer term. Started in September 1997, the dialogue has allowed the Government to raise a wide range of human rights concerns direct with the Chinese Government. The last round took place between 13-15 September in London. We also provide active input into the EU/China dialogue. Since the dialogue began there have been significant moves by the Chinese Government, including the signatures of the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the visit to Peking and Tibet in September 1998 by Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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Pakistan: Locally Engaged Staff in Diplomatic Posts

Lord Craigmyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How people are recruited from the local populace in Pakistan to help staff the British consulates there; and what their jobs are within the consulates.[HL4067]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: All locally Engaged staff vacancies are advertised, initially within the Mission and then, if a candidate cannot be found internally, in local newspapers. A short-list of qualified candidates is then drawn up and they are invited to interview by a panel of up to three officers, normally including the Management Officer and the Head of the relevant section in the Mission. The jobs range from drivers and messangers to translators, Commercial Officers and IT administrators.

Mr Zeljko Kopanja: Attempted Murder

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Who is responsible for arresting those who attempted to murder Mr Zeljko Kopanja, a newspaper editor in Bosnia; and what action is being taken by the international authorities there and by NATO troops.[HL4426]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We do not know who is responsible for the attempted murder of Mr Kopanja. Republika Srpska police are responsible for investigating criminal activities in their jurisdiction, including the Kopanja case. The United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Hercegovina (UNMIBH) has offered to provide support, and has assigned two officers from the International Police Task Force to assist with the investigation. SFOR forces have no remit to undertake civilian policing tasks.

Chechnya Conflict

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that the European Convention on Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on Civil and Political Rights, together with the fundamental principles of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, may have been breached in respect of Chechnya and the Chechens.[HL4474]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: It is for the relevant treaty monitoring bodies formally to determine whether there has been a breach of the conventions listed by the noble Lord in the conduct of the conflict in Chechnya. Nonetheless we are deeply concerned at the level of civilian casualties and the plight of refugees.

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Bilaterally and with EU partners, we have urged the Russians to avoid civilian casualties and to permit the free movement of individuals wishing to leave the conflict zone, in line with international human rights law and humanitarian principles.

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether issues arising from Chechnya and Dagestan have already been raised at meetings of the Permanent Council and Senior Council of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.[HL4475]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Issues arising from Chechnya and Dagestan have been raised at a variety of fora within the OSCE in Vienna, including the Permanent Council, the Forum for Security Co-operation and the Joint Consultative Group. These fora have addressed political, arms control, and humanitarian aspects of Russian activities in Chechnya. In recent years the Senior Council has only met as the Economic Forum.

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe or the High Commission for Minorities have received any request for help from the Russian Federation in respect of Chechnya.[HL4476]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Neither the OSCE nor its High Commissioner on National Minorities has received a request for help from the Russian Federation in respect of Chechnya. The UK, along with EU partners, have been urging the Russians to accept OSCE offers of good offices. The Russians agreed on 2 November to accept an OSCE mission to the region. We hope to see the mission take place as soon as possible.

Turkish Kurds: Human Rights

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether language and cultural rights and reasonable self-determination for the Kurds of Turkey are on the agenda for the Instanbul summit meeting of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe; and, if not, why not.[HL4477]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The formal agenda for the OSCE Istanbul Summit does not offer an opportunity for thematic discussions such as the issue of self-determination for the Kurds of Turkey. Each OSCE participating state is free to raise any issue it sees fit during its plenary address. Under the general title of minority rights, the rights of Turkish Kurds were raised at the OSCE Review Conference in Vienna in September by both NGOs and individual states. We anticipate that the issue of minority rights in general is likely to be covered in the Summit Declaration.

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European Convention on Human Rights: Protocol 7

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

    Whether they intend, before the next General Election, to introduce legislation enabling them to ratify Protocol No. 7 to the European Convention on Human Rights and to give effect to the Protocol in relation to the United Kingdom.[HL4388]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The Government will introduce the legislation necessary to remove obstacles to the ratification of Protocol 7 in the law of England and Wales when parliamentary time allows. Legislation will also be required for Scotland, which is within the competence of the Scottish Parliament, and for Northern Ireland, which will ultimately be within the competence of the Northern Ireland Assembly.


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