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International Criminal Court: Exemptions

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

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): UK peacekeepers are not exempt from the jurisdiction of the ICC since the UK is a state party to the ICC Statute. Security Council Resolution 1422 allowed a 12-months exemption from ICC investigation only for UN peacekeepers who are citizens of states which are not states parties to the ICC Statute. Resolution 1422 was renewed on 12 June 2003 for a period of 12 months as Resolution 1487. Joan

Russia: Religious Discrimination

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Human rights issues, including Chechnya, will be raised during President Putin's visit. But there will also be a wide range of international issues to discuss. I cannot therefore offer firm assurances in advance as to the detail of the human rights questions that time and opportunity will allow for discussion.

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Sudan: Attacks Against Civilians

Baroness Cox asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their response to the report of recent attacks against civilians by Government of Sudan-backed forces in 10 villages in Longochok Eastern Upper Nile; and what are the implications of these attacks for the peace talks.[HL3340]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The US-led civilian protection monitoring team is investigating reports of a recent attack against civilians in Longochok in Eastern Upper Nile. Their report is expected in the next few days.

We are, of course, concerned about breaches of the March 2002 agreement to refrain from attacks against civilians and the October 2002 memorandum of understanding on cessation of hostilities. We and other donors will continue to monitor both agreements very closely and to encourage both parties to implement them in full.

We do not expect this incident to derail the peace process.


Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the lines of political and operational responsibility of the European Union military force in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the United Nations Secretary General and the Security Council.[HL3356]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The operation in Bunia will be undertaken by the EU in close co-operation with the UN. The Secretary-General/High Representative assisted by the EU Special Representative for the Great Lakes will, in close co-ordination with the European Presidency act as a primary point of contact with the UN.

The IEMF force commander will maintain contact with the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) and other international and regional actors in theatre.

The EU's Political and Security Committee (PSC) will exercise the political control and strategic direction of the operation under the responsibility of the Council. The PSC has been authorised by the Council to take the relevant decisions in accordance with Article 25 of the Treaty on European Union. This authorisation includes powers to amend the OPLAN, the chain of command and the rules of engagement. The powers of decision with respect to the objectives and the termination of the operation will however remain vested in the European Council, assisted by the Secretary-General/High Representative.

The EU's Military Committee (EUMC) will monitor the proper execution of the military operation conducted under the responsibility of the operation commander.

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France will act as the framework nation for the operation and provide the operational headquarters (OHQ). The OHQ is located in Paris and will include officers from several participating countries as well as officials from the general secretariat of the Council.

The force headquarters is located in Entebbe (Uganda) with an advanced position in Bunia. Major General Bruno Neveux (France) has been appointed the EU operation commander and Jean-Paul Thonier appointed as the EU force commander. Joan

Convention on the Future of Europe

Viscount Goschen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they continue to maintain that the draft European Constitution represents a "tidying-up exercise" of existing measures.[HL3455]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: One of the chief aims of the Future of Europe Convention has been to modernise the EU Treaties, reforming where necessary to ensure that the EU can continue to function effectively and deliver results for its citizens in a more democratic and accountable manner, following the 2004 round of enlargement. Work is still in progress. However, the Convention Secretariat advise that around 75 per cent of the draft articles produced by the Convention reflect existing language in the EU Treaties, updated with minor changes.

Guantanamo Bay

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the British captives held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were last visited by:

    (a) British representatives; and

    (b) the International Committee of the Red Cross; and

    whether they consider that the British captives are allowed sufficient time and space for exercise.[HL3463]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: British officials last visited Guantanamo Bay from 21 to 28 April and saw each of the British detainees during that period. The International Committee of the Red Cross has access to the detainees on request. The British detainees have twice-weekly exercise periods outside and are also allowed to exercise in their cells and communal areas. We do not consider this to be sufficient and have raised this issue with the US authorities.

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many British citizens, or former residents, are still held captive at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; whether any have been released or have received release or trial dates; what information they have received from the United States Government about

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    the reasons for releasing 41 captives since January 2002; and, if none, whether they will ask for the reasons.[HL3462]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: There are nine British nationals currently detained at Guantanamo Bay. We do not have any standing as regards those who are not British nationals, even if they were once resident in the UK.

The United States authorities have not yet made a decision to charge or release any of the British detainees. We are pressing the United States authorities to come to a conclusion on the detainees' future.

None of those who have already been released from Guantanamo Bay were British nationals. The US Government have said that the detainees were released because they did not pose a threat to US security. John B

Rape and Sexual Assault: British Citizens Travelling Overseas

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What guidance they provide for British citizens travelling overseas on rape and sexual assault while abroad.[HL3616]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: While most visits abroad are trouble-free, the FCO is becoming increasingly aware of people being raped while they are overseas. In 2002, 129 cases of rape or sexual assaults were reported to British consular staff overseas. It is likely that many cases go unreported.

Rape and sexual assault can, and does, happen to people from all walks of life—women, men, young and old. It is a very traumatic experience in any circumstance. That trauma can often be made even more difficult to deal with when the rape happens abroad.

The FCO is committed to helping victims. We want them to come forward and seek assistance from the nearest British Consulate. Equally, we want to give advice to travellers before they go to help ensure their personal safety. The new FCO information leaflet on Rape and Sexual Assault Overseas was written in conjunction with NGOs and the police and aims to provide advice on personal safety for travellers, information for victims of rape and sexual assault and their families and useful contact information.

The launch of the information leaflet forms part of the "Know Before You Go" campaign which, working with travel industry partners, encourages travellers to be better prepared before travelling overseas. The FCO website provides top tips for travel overseas including guidance on taking out travel insurance, country-specific travel advice information and checklists for specific groups such as backpackers and independent travellers, women travellers; those visiting friends and relatives overseas; and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender travellers.

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I hope colleagues will join in disseminating the key messages of the campaign.

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