The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): My Lords, we remain focused on the situation in Sudan and are committed to helping find a peaceful solution to the conflict. Indeed, peace was at the top of the agenda for the visit of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development to Sudan last week. We are also working closely with the US special envoy to help to achieve progress on the humanitarian front.
Baroness Cox: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply, but I fear that it sounds unduly complacent. Is the noble Baroness aware that just in recent days the Government of Sudan have unilaterally violated the ceasefire in the Nuba Mountains and have continued to bomb civilian targets in Bahr-El-Ghazal on 6th January, Eastern Equatoria on 10th January and have used helicopter gunships to attack aid workers? Can the noble Baroness give any more substantive evidence of positive outcomes of the British Government's policy of critical dialogue with a regime which continues to slaughter its people, Muslims, traditional believers as well as Christians, and is a strong supporter of the Al'Qaeda movement, international terrorism and the training of international terrorists?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I cannot agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, that we are complacent. We have made it absolutely clear to the Government of Sudan that the bombing of civilians and aid workers is unacceptable. The noble Baroness will know that we have criticised the Government of Sudan, both bilaterally and in multilateral fora such as the UN. We continue with the EU/Sudan dialogue. It was agreed at the end of last year that there would be an intensification of that dialogue and that there would be joint regular assessments on the progress of democracy, human rights and peace. Finally, as regards the noble Baroness's point on terrorism, there is no evidence to suggest that Sudan is a state sponsor of terrorism.
Baroness Amos: My Lords, the noble Lord will know that we have seen some progress in terms of the work of the Committee for the Eradication of the Abduction of Women and Children. In addition, we have seen some moderation in terms of the activity of the police and the security services. Progress is slow but our strong view remains that we must work for a peaceful solution to the conflict in Sudan. When my right honourable friend Clare Short visited Sudan last week she met the key parties engaged in the conflict. We impressed on all of the parties the importance of working towards a peaceful solution. We consistently make our position clear with respect to abuses of human rights and other abuses.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, can the noble Baroness say anything about the bombing of civilian areas in November last year and whether that has been raised either at the IGAD talks which resumed on 12th January or through the European Union bilateral dialogue with Sudan? In that connection, can the noble Baroness say whether representations have been made to the Government of Sudan in the EU dialogue against the use of cruel and unusual punishments such as, for example, the woman who was sentenced to death by flogging for the so-called crime of adultery?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I can confirm that we have raised those issues with the Government of Sudan either bilaterally or through the EU/Sudan dialogue. We raised the case that the noble Lord mentioned very recently.
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, is the Minister aware that two months ago the special rapporteur on Sudan stated that the human rights situation had worsened further during the past month? Does that not show that the present policy of constructive engagement is not working and that it is now time for stronger action?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I can only repeat what I said to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox; namely, that we have seen some shift in the position as a result of the constructive dialogue. Abuses undoubtedly occur and I in no way claim that they do not. However, the promotion of human rights remains one of our priorities. We believe that there has been some progress on human rights and democratisation in the past year. The council of ministersthe equivalent of our Cabinetis more broadly based. The Umma Party is back and operating as an opposition party.
The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, in November last year the Sudanese regime assassinated a number of community leaders in the Nuba Mountains, including Judge Agostino El Nur Shamila, as the latest tactic in the regime's onslaught against the people of the Nuba Mountains, to whom reference has already been made. Will the Minister indicate what response Her Majesty's Government are planning to make to that and in particular are there any plans to help the Nuba people as they face hunger and deprivation?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I say to the right reverend Prelate that we are continuing to assess the needs of the population in the Nuba Mountains. We are working with the US special envoy in his efforts to achieve a humanitarian ceasefire in order to facilitate the delivery of aid. We also continue to make it clear to both sides that we expect parties to the conflict to live up to their obligations not to attack civilians. When my right honourable friend Clare Short was in Sudan last week, she stressed that point in her meeting with the Sudanese Defence Minister.
The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the visit of her right honourable friend gives some grounds for optimism, particularly for development in the south? Programmes may be under way, especially through non-governmental organisations.
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I can confirm that. I also think that the visit of my right honourable friend made it absolutely clear that the UK can operate in an objective way in this conflict. It was very helpful that she was able to meet all the key parties associated with the conflict and have productive meetings while she was in Sudan.
Lord Elton: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that the internal war has already claimed at least 2 million dead and displaced more than 5 million people and that the Sudanese Government who are prosecuting the war are now reinforced through oil revenue, which enables them to invest in far more effective killing machines than they are currently using? Will she also confirm that the trial to which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, referred, of Abok Alfa Akok, was conducted entirely in Arabic, a language of which she has no knowledge, and that no translator was provided for her?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, on the trial being conducted in Arabic, I am afraid that I cannot answer the noble Lord but I shall check on that fact and write to him. On the other points that he raised, we are talking about the longest-running civil war in Africa and the largest country in Africa. Yes, this conflict has
The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Rooker): My Lords, the police have long been empowered to ascertain the speed of any vehicle travelling on the public highway. But the Government believe that enforcement activity should normally be targeted only at accident hotspots.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend for that reply. Is he aware of a report from the Commission for Integrated Transport which said that illegal and inappropriate speed kills 1,200 and seriously injures 100,000 people every year? The regulations to which he referred surely mean that where there is not a brightly painted yellow speed camera, motorists can speed with impunity. Are not the Government condoning yet more road deaths for fear of upsetting motorists?
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