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Saudi Arabia: British Citizens in Detention

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We have always made clear our concerns about this case, including the men's treatment and conditions in detention. We are in touch with the men and their lawyers and are doing what we properly can to assist. If the men choose to pursue a claim for compensation it is a matter for them and their lawyers.

Middle East

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will propose a United Nations Security Council Resolution condemning both the construction by Israel of a security wall and fence on Palestinian territory and bombings and other violence by Palestinians.[HL5332]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We have no plans to introduce a UN Security Council Resolution on these issues.

We deplore the terrorist suicide bombings of Israeli civilians and recognise Israel's legitimate security concerns. At the same time, we consider Israel's construction of a fence on occupied land to be illegal. We have urged the Palestinian Authority to exert greater efforts to stop suicide bombings and have repeatedly urged the Government of Israel to reconsider the route of the fence. These concerns were addressed in a resolution of the UN General Assembly on 21 October.

Guantanamo Bay: Legal Status of Detainees

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will request the United States Government to bring the prisoners held at Guantanamo, Cuba, before a competent tribunal in order to determine their status, in accordance with Article 5 of the Geneva Convention.[HL5336]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The legal status under international law of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay is a complex matter that has to be considered in the light of the facts of each individual detainee.

We believe that whatever their status, the detainees are entitled to humane treatment, and if prosecuted, a fair trial and have made this point clear in discussions with the United States. The United States has said that it will treat the detainees humanely and consistently with the principles of the Geneva conventions.

FCO Annual Report on Human Rights 2003

Lord Palmer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In respect of the Human Rights Annual Report 2003, published by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, how many copies were produced; what was the cost of the publication; and what is the expected revenue from sales.[HL5347]

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office produced 6,000 copies of the Annual Report on Human Rights 2003. The cost of publication, excluding staff costs, was approximately £69,900. The report is distributed freely to Members of both Houses, as well as to foreign embassies, human rights-related non-governmental organisations, educational institutions and copyright libraries. Copies are also sent to all FCO overseas posts which pass them on to host governments. The report is free to download in both HTML and PDF format on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website ( We do not expect any significant revenue from sale of the annual report.

Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission Ruling

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider the ruling of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission to be conclusive and binding on both parties; and, if so, what additional measures they will recommend to the United Nations Security Council to persuade Ethiopia to accept the ruling.[HL5380]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We consider the Boundary Commission decision to be legally binding on both parties. The UK, and other members of the UN Security Council, are working hard to encourage both sides to accept the Boundary Commission decision and to begin a political dialogue on all the issues separating the two countries.

Afghanistan: Police Training

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What training they provide for the police forces in Afghanistan.[HL5404]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Two senior Afghan police officers funded by the Government attended the International Commanders Course at Bramshill (UK) in early 2002. The seven-strong US-led International Police Training Mission that has been providing both basic and specialised training in Kabul since June 2003 includes two UK police advisers. A further team of four UK police advisers deployed to Kabul in July to run a three-year, £6.7 million pound programme to establish crime scene investigation units for the Afghan National Police. They are supported by additional visiting UK trainers and consultants.

Ascension Island: Wideawake Airfield

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to allow for the opening of Wideawake Airfield on Ascension Island to civilian charter traffic.[HL5491]

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The "Wideawake" agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States Governments, which allows for the opening of Wideawake Airfield on Ascension Island to civilian charter traffic, was signed on 1 October.

At present access to Ascension Island for civilians is by ship, or on RAF flights between Brize Norton and the Falkland Islands. The UK Government wish to improve access to Ascension Island, in order to provide an essential building block for its future economic development. The UK Government have therefore agreed with the US Government that the US "Wideawake" military airbase on Ascension Island may be used for a limited number of civilian charter flights every week.

It will be for airlines to decide on commercial grounds whether to take the opportunity to fly to Ascension Island. The UK Government will work closely with the Ascension Island Government to encourage airlines to fly there. A prospectus will be issued in early 2004.

The opening of the airfield is part of the modernisation process of Ascension Island. In 2002 a fiscal regime was introduced and the first-ever Island Council was formed. The Ascension Island Government are working to continue this process and are preparing a strategic plan providing a vision for the Island for the next five years.

A copy of the Wideawake Agreement will be laid before Parliament as a Command Paper in due course.

Kosovo: UNSCR 1244

Lord Grabiner asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their policy on the approach outlined, in Belgrade and Pristina, by the United States' Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Marc Grossman, for the further implementation of UNSCR 1244.[HL5492]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Over the past months it has become clear that the stability of Kosovo, and the Balkans is increasingly affected by a lack of a clear way forward on its final status within the terms of UNSCR 1244. The Contact Group has therefore designed a new approach.

It is based on a review mechanism, conducted in consultation with UNMIK, the Contact Group and the PISG, to monitor Kosovo's progress on implementation of the internationally endorsed standards set by the UN. There will be quarterly reviews with a first opportunity for a formal assessment of progress in mid-2005, or earlier if sufficient progress has been made. If the assessment is positive then the UN Security Council will consider whether a process should be initiated for a final settlement as laid down in UNSCR 1244. In the event of a negative assessment, more work would need to be done on the standards, and a date set for a further review. The Contact Group's intention is not to

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express a view on final status itself. This would be premature. The aim is to advance standards, assess how much progress has been made on those standards, and judge whether or not such progress could justify addressing final status as UNSCR 1244 requires.

This approach was outlined on 4 and 5 November in Belgrade and Pristina by the United States' Under-Secretary for Political Affairs, Marc Grossman, with the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG) for Kosovo Harri Holkeri and local Contact Group representatives. UNMIK has a key role in this strategy. SRSG Holkeri has our full support. EU High Representative Javier Solana has also welcomed this strategy.

Rough Sleepers: Westminster Cathedral Piazza

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the rough sleeping that occurs nightly in the Piazza in front of Westminster Cathedral is to be permitted indefinitely.[HL5541]

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): The Government do not set targets to reduce rough sleeping in specific areas such as the piazza in front of Westminster Cathedral. However, the Homelessness Directorate is working with Westminster City Council to tackle disruptive behaviour in the daytime and rough sleeping on the piazza.

The number of people sleeping rough on the piazza fluctuates on a daily basis. Westminster acknowledges that rough sleeping around the piazza continues to be one of London's most visible and troublesome hotspots. Westminster has recently (October) recommissioned street outreach services via a new rapid intervention team with a view to tackling the problem. The aim is to help vulnerable people into appropriate services that will enable them to sustain accommodation, to divert others new to the area, and bring about real reductions in people using the piazza to bed down at night.

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