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Lord Desai asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: Following the most recent fighting in Liberia, between 200,000–300,000 people had to

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leave their homes and seek shelter in over 100 different locations in Monrovia. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and a small number of NGOs have provided emergency humanitarian assistance throughout the crisis under extreme conditions, and in the last few weeks, the UN and additional NGOs have re-entered Liberia to increase the humanitarian effort. Malnutrition remains a major concern particularly among vulnerable groups, and safe drinking water as well as sanitation and basic hygiene remain critical issues, especially in the areas where refugees have moved to. Security remains a major concern for operational humanitarian agencies. While the deployment of ECOWAS (ECOMIL) has stabilised a secure zone in and around central Monrovia, access is still very limited outside the city. Agencies are operating on the basis of ad hoc negotiated access to rebel-controlled areas. In such difficult circumstances, it is crucial that the UN takes a strong lead in humanitarian co-ordination. After a difficult beginning, the agencies have reported that co-ordination with the UN has now dramatically improved.

On 21 August DfID committed an additional £4.7 million to support humanitarian needs in Liberia. The funds are being allocated to UN agencies. NGOs and the ICRC to provide an immediate response. This brings the UK's total humanitarian assistance to Liberia to £7.6 million this year. Our approach is to strengthen the UN system to take on a lead role in co-ordination and delivery of assistance, to support NGOs and the Red Cross in provision of immediate relief, and to ensure collaboration between the major donors in planning and monitoring of assistance. Last month we hosted a meeting of NGOs working in Liberia, or planning to do so, to discuss the situation and identify what help is needed on the ground. We have invited NGOs to put proposals to us and we have just agreed to fund a supplementary feeding programme for all refugee children under the age of five in Monrovia. Our strategy has been developed with advice from an assessment team who are currently based in Monrovia. This team will remain in the region to assess the evolving humanitarian situation in Liberia, and monitor DfID-funded operations.

The UK is committed to working closely with the international community to ensure that ECOMIL, and the UN Mission planned for Liberia, are successful in restoring peace and security. We have contributed £1 million to ECOMIL and have seconded a military adviser to ECOWAS. We have also offered military advisors to the UN planning mission and headquarters. The UK is also working in the UN Security Council to ensure that the forthcoming resolution authorises the deployment of a UN mission with a strong mandate to: restore and maintain security; establish peace-building initiatives; and provide the conditions to allow the transitional government to operate effectively and work towards holding free and fair elections. We are monitoring developments in the region closely to ensure that ex-combatants do not cause problems in neighbouring

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countries. A regional approach to disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDF) will be important if the region is to eliminate the "guns for hire" culture that has developed. We are discussing options for DDR with the UN, ECOWAS and other interested parties, and are considering how we can best support this process.

Russia: Media Independence

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the light of the recent closing of the last major independent television network in Russia, they have discussed independence of the media with Russian representatives.[HL3590]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The closure of TVS gives rise for concern and we and EU partners have issued a joint declaration about the negative impact this will have on the plurality and independence of the electronic media in Russia.

Hong Kong: Security Legislation

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Given that the new Security Bill for Hong Kong passed its Committee stage in eight hours and is likely to become law on 9 July, what discussion they are having with the government of China on this subject.[HL3701]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Article 23 of the Basic Law states that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) shall enact national security legislation "on its own". We have therefore made frequent representations to the SAR Government on this issue, including at ministerial level.

We have also discussed the issue with the Chinese Government. My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Mr Rammell) did so with Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui in January and my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary did so on 25 June with visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing. On 21 July, during his visit to China, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister discussed Article 23 with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

The legislation was not passed on 9 July. Following a large demonstration in Hong Kong on 1 July, the Chief Executive announced significant amendments to the legislation on 5 July, including the removal of the proposed new provisions regarding the proscription of Hong Kong organisations subordinate to organisations proscribed on the mainland on national security grounds. This had been one of the main concerns of the people of Hong Kong and of the international community and we had repeatedly expressed our concern on this issue. On 7 July the Chief Executive announced that passage of the

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legislation would be delayed to allow more time for further discussion in Hong Kong. My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Mr Rammell) issued a press statement on 16 July welcoming these significant developments.

We shall continue to follow developments closely.

Guantanamo Bay: British Detainees

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

    What are the conditions in which British citizens are currently being detained by United States authorities at Guantanamo, as regards visits from their families and their lawyers; access to exercise, recreational and educational facilities; and access to books, newspapers and television.[HL4050]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: British officials have visited the British detainees held at Guantanamo Bay five times, most recently in April. As part of the visits they checked on the welfare of the detainees, who appeared generally to be in sound physical health. The physical conditions of their detention appear to be broadly satisfactory. However, we have raised any welfare concerns we may have with the US authorities.

We understand that provision for exercise has improved from the minimum of two 15-minute periods of exercise outside every week, but varies according to circumstances. The camp authorities provide some books, including the Koran.

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

    Whether they consider the Military Commissions proposed for the trial of British citizens detained at Guantanamo are independent and impartial tribunals established by law, as required by Article 14 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.[HL4051]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said during Prime Minister's Questions on 9 July, Official Report, Commons, col. 1152–3, "Any commission or tribunal must be conducted in accordance with the proper canons of law so that a fair trial takes place and is seen to take place".

The UK has made this view clear to the US. On 18 July the US announced that they would not commence any military commission proceedings against UK nationals, pending discussions between American and British legal experts. The Attorney-General visited Washington on 21–22 July for talks with the US Administration. He secured a number of assurances from the Administration, including that the US will not seek the death penalty against the two British detainees who have been designated as eligible for the commissions, and will be returning to the US shortly for further discussions.

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Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Following the public concern of the Red Cross representative visiting Guantanamo Bay that open-ended detention is having an impact on the mental health of prisoners, how the Government will verify the fitness of any British detainees to plead before a military tribunal.[HL4208]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The US announced on 18 July that they would not commence any military commission proceedings against UK nationals detained at Guantanamo Bay, pending discussions between American and British legal experts. We understand from the US authorities that medical facilities, including psychiatric care, at Guantanamo Bay available to the detainees are of a high standard and are the same as those for US military personnel. We firmly believe that a fair judicial process should take account of a person's fitness to stand trial. This is one of the specific issues we have raised with the US authorities, and continue to discuss with them.

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