|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The Government deplore the war crimes committed during the Balkans conflict in the early 1990s, including the rape of women and girls in Bosnia.
We are sympathetic to any proposal to improve the situation of the victims of these crimes, but it is not clear that awarding civilian war victim status would be the most effective means of ensuring support for these women. What is required is recognition of their suffering as victims of rape, conviction of the perpetrators and provision of appropriate support for these women and their children.
Through the work of the Department for International Development, and support for UNICEF and local NGOs, the Government support projects to raise awareness of rape as a war crime. We strongly support the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, which is tasked with bringing to trial those suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Balkans conflict, including rape. It has convicted a number of individuals of this crime. With our partners in the EU, we apply concerted pressure to all governments in the region for greater co-operation with ICTY, particularly in the handover and prosecution of indictees.
The best way to secure financial support for these women and their children is through successful convictions in the Bosnian courts, which can award compensation to the victims of rape. Together with our EU partners, we are working hard to strengthen the capacity of the Bosnian judicial system, so that it can prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes more effectively and efficiently, and provide sustainable support to the victims.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The UK has done much to support the development of democracy and civil society in the south Caucasus. We have funded a number of initiatives both on a regional level and on a national level with each of the three countries. On a regional level:
We have provided funding for the South Caucasus Parliamentary Initiative (SCPI), through the UK Global Conflict Prevention Pool. The SCPI is a framework for dialogue, contacts, exchange of views and joint analysis between parliamentarians from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The next meeting of the SCPI will take place in December in Scotland.
We will be funding a £2 million three-year project aiming to improve the prospects for a permanent settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. The purpose of the project will be to improve understanding of the conflict among all stakeholders, to improve the conflict sensitivity of national and international actors in the region and to implement a number of activities which will contribute to the development of constituencies for peace in the region. A significant part of this project will focus on the development of civil society.
We sponsored the training of election officials in conjunction with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES). We also sponsored the publication of an IFES guide to help observers to monitor the elections.
We have sponsored a number of NGO resource centres aimed at strengthening civil society, particularly in the regions. The centres provide a focal point for NGOs and individuals to meet and discuss common problems and as a form of citizens' advice bureau for poorer citizens.
Our approach to civic society building in Georgia has largely been concentrated on encouraging dialogue across the various conflict divides (e.g. study visits by Georgian/Abkhaz officials and politicians to Northern Ireland) and on developing the capacity of NGOs, journalists and other key groups to better address conflict-related issues so as to take responsibility for resolving them.
We supported the opening and running of an NGO training centre to promote human rights protection and the development of civil society in a region of Armenia where the NGO sector is poorly developed and which was a key problem area during the elections.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: There are 6,948 MONUC personnel in north and south Kivu and Ituri. These numbers are considered adequate by the local commanders for the tasks authorised in Security Council Resolution in 1493, which include the processes of disarmament, demobilisation, repatriation and reintegration of foreign armed forces. UNSCR 1493 also authorised MONUC to assist the Government of National Unity and Transition in disarming and demobilising those Congolese combatants who may
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|