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Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I very much agree with the latter part of the right reverend Prelate's remarks. The Government, together with our international partners, are doing all that we can to tackle the cancer of corruption in many regions of the world.
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On the issue of repatriation of assets to Nigeria, we have agreed to transmit the evidence that we have on Abacha's assets to the Nigerian authorities. However, Abacha's solicitors have lodged an appeal.
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, will the Government urgently review whether there are sufficient resources for enforcement of overseas corruption offences? Have the Government ever repatriated any confiscated assets to an African country, or do they intend to do so in the near future?
Baroness Crawley: My Lords, we are not aware of any cases in which assets have been repatriated, and we believe that it is unlikely that there have been any. All cases are dealt with, as the noble Baroness will know, in line with the provisions of international arrangements and UK legislation. She will also know that under the UN Convention against Corruption, the UK will be obliged to return assets to the requesting state when the case involves the embezzlement or laundering of public funds.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, can the Minister say how many cases of alleged or suspected overseas bribery have been recorded by NCIS and what arrangements exist for sharing that information between European jurisdictionsfor example, via Interpol?
Baroness Crawley: My Lords, we do work with international partners. I cannot give details today, but I shall certainly write to the noble Lord with details of our work with Interpol. He asked me about the number of reports that we have received on corruption. Seven allegations have been reported by our diplomatic posts, one of several sources of reports. In total, 22 allegations have to date been reported to the UK investigating authorities. Noble Lords may be interested to see the UK bribery and corruption law leaflet that is distributed to all diplomatic posts, to businesses and to NGOs to enable people to learn more about what they can do to tackle corruption.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): My Lords, the letter from the most reverend Primates the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York was addressed to my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. That letter was intended to be private. My
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right honourable friend has replied by letter recently. The reply, as was the intention with the original letter, is private.
Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply so far as it goes. Were not the most reverend Primates absolutely right to state that the happenings in Abu Ghraib prison severely undermined the moral authority of the West? Is it not therefore very important that the forthcoming trials of former members of the Iraqi regime are not also a political own goal? Was it not therefore disappointing that in the court proceedings last week Americans ran the proceedings, the only civilians in the court were American soldiers dressed as civilians, the defendants had no legal representation, and most astonishingly of all, the transcript of the court proceedings was censored by the American military? Is it not essential that these trials should be credible and not just a staged event?
Lord Bach: My Lords, of course, we understand the concern that has been expressed, including by senior clergy in the Church of England, about the alleged abuses of detainees in Iraq. The House will know that we take extremely seriously any allegations that are made against United Kingdom Armed Forces, and we investigate them. Eighteen investigations have been initiated relating to individuals detained by our Armed Forces, but only one of those relates to an incident at a formal detention facility. I want to make it clear that there is absolutely no evidence of systematic human rights abuses by UK forces either at detention centres or elsewhere.
The noble Lord referred to the arraignment of Saddam Hussein on 1 July. He, of course, is now held as a criminal suspect. There did not appear to us to be anything wrong with the hearing that took place on 1 July.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, the Minister will know that the American Secretary of State, Donald Rumsfeld, published 24 interrogation techniques which had been applied to prisoners in Guantanamo. Senior people from Guantanamo went to Iraq. Is there a similar list of interrogation techniques published by this country, or available to be published by this country, and, if so, will the Government kindly publish it? It will be appreciated that Mr Rumsfeld admitted that four of the interrogation techniques employed were not in accordance with international standards or with the Geneva Convention.
Lord Bach: My Lords, Guantanamo is rather wide of the Question, which specifically concerns the letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and of York. I am not in a position today to comment in any detail on Guantanamo. However, the investigative methods used by UK troops and police are absolutely in accordance with the Geneva Convention. There is absolutely no question that any of those proceedings are carried out in a way that would be unacceptable to the noble Lord.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, is the Minister aware that while the two Archbishops wrote
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a letter that was not intended for publication, they wrote on behalf of, and with the encouragement of, their fellow Church of England bishops about a range of issues relating to Iraq and the Middle East, many of which have also been raised on these Benches on previous occasions? Is the Minister also aware that the priority of the letter was to promote a secure understanding of the importance of respect for human dignity, the rule of law and the indivisibility of religious freedom?
Lord Bach: My Lords, I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate for his questions. We are very aware of the spirit in which that correspondence took place. It was written after a meeting of bishops. It is unfortunate that somehow or other that letter managed to find its way into the public domain, but it did and that is the fact of the matter. The more important part of the right reverend Prelate's question concerns the issues of moral authority that he raises. We agree that the matters that were raised in the letter were of great importance and significance.
We agree also, so far as the Middle East is concernedin particular because the letter referred to the Middle East in termsthat the road map is the best route towards a negotiated settlement but that both parties have to do more to fulfil their commitments. Israel must freeze all settlement activity and reroute the barrier away from the Occupied Territories, and the Palestinian Authority in its turn must act decisively against perpetrators of terrorist acts. To that extent we entirely agree with the contents of the letter.
Lord Merlyn-Rees: My Lords, might it not be a good idea to look back to 1973 to the Compton inquiry into the ill treatment of detainees in Northern Ireland? It is most informative and relevant to the subject under discussion.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, while all abuse of detainees and prisoners is absolutely disgraceful the Archbishops are right to be concerned about itand should be investigated properly and thoroughly, as I believe is being done, does the Minister agree that that in no way typifies the very dangerous and difficult work undertaken by the British Armed Forces in Iraq in carrying out their daily programmes and operations, and that they deserve full, continuous and repeated support from all quarters?
Lord Bach: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his question. Of course, I agree with him completely. Our Armed Forces have done, and continue to do, an outstanding job in southern Iraq. The House may be interested to know that more than 55,000 servicemen and servicewomen have served in Iraq and that a tiny, tiny minority is alleged to have been involved in incidents involving the ill treatment of
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Iraqi civilians. A number of those have already been cleared of any wrongdoing. It is important not to exaggerate the numbers, as has been done in some cases, and to realise, as the noble Lord suggests, that what our Armed Forces have done in Iraq is, frankly, to get rid of the tyrant, Saddam Hussein, and give that country a chance to enjoy peace and democracy.
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