Debates between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool

There have been 40 exchanges between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool

1 Tue 14th July 2020 Taiwan
Department for International Development
3 interactions (200 words)
2 Wed 8th July 2020 Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime
Department for International Development
3 interactions (381 words)
3 Mon 29th June 2020 China
Department for International Development
3 interactions (200 words)
4 Tue 23rd June 2020 Rwanda
Department for International Development
3 interactions (151 words)
5 Tue 2nd June 2020 Hong Kong
Department for International Development
4 interactions (413 words)
6 Thu 30th April 2020 Syria
Department for International Development
3 interactions (261 words)
7 Thu 19th March 2020 Yemen
Department for International Development
3 interactions (409 words)
8 Tue 17th March 2020 Covid-19 Update
Department for International Development
3 interactions (573 words)
9 Mon 2nd March 2020 Organ Trafficking: Sanctions
Department for International Development
3 interactions (371 words)
10 Wed 29th January 2020 Rohingya Muslims
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
4 interactions (405 words)
11 Thu 23rd January 2020 Sanctions
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
3 interactions (233 words)
12 Mon 20th January 2020 China: Uighurs
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
3 interactions (365 words)
13 Wed 15th January 2020 Hong Kong
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
4 interactions (480 words)
14 Tue 7th January 2020 Middle East: Security Update
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
3 interactions (445 words)
15 Thu 24th October 2019 Hong Kong
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
2 interactions (3,025 words)
16 Wed 23rd October 2019 North-east Syria
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
3 interactions (423 words)
17 Wed 23rd October 2019 Yazidis: Attempted Genocide
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
3 interactions (451 words)
18 Tue 15th October 2019 Northern Syria: Turkish Incursion
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
3 interactions (298 words)
19 Mon 9th September 2019 Hurricane Dorian
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
3 interactions (393 words)
20 Tue 3rd September 2019 Hong Kong
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
3 interactions (358 words)
21 Thu 25th July 2019 China: Organ Harvesting
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
3 interactions (280 words)
22 Tue 23rd July 2019 Hong Kong
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
3 interactions (376 words)
23 Thu 9th May 2019 Sri Lanka: UNHCR Refugees
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
3 interactions (595 words)
24 Thu 4th April 2019 China: Religious Freedom
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
3 interactions (385 words)
25 Thu 21st March 2019 War Criminals: International Mechanisms for Prosecution
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
4 interactions (443 words)
26 Mon 11th February 2019 China: Uighur Muslims
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
3 interactions (417 words)
27 Tue 15th January 2019 Sudan
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
3 interactions (302 words)
28 Thu 10th January 2019 China: Human Rights
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
4 interactions (462 words)
29 Wed 19th December 2018 China: Uighur Muslims
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
4 interactions (443 words)
30 Tue 18th December 2018 Nigeria: Intercommunal Violence
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
3 interactions (460 words)
31 Mon 17th December 2018 Rohingya Refugees
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
3 interactions (442 words)
32 Mon 10th December 2018 Sudan and South Sudan
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
3 interactions (319 words)
33 Thu 19th July 2018 Freedom of Religion or Belief
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
3 interactions (384 words)
34 Tue 12th June 2018 Burma
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
4 interactions (431 words)
35 Mon 21st May 2018 Commonwealth: Discriminatory Legislation
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
3 interactions (319 words)
36 Mon 26th March 2018 Nigeria
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
3 interactions (319 words)
37 Wed 28th February 2018 ISIS: Trial of British Citizens
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
4 interactions (404 words)
38 Wed 24th January 2018 Hong Kong
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
3 interactions (283 words)
39 Mon 11th December 2017 Sudan and South Sudan
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
5 interactions (1,810 words)
40 Tue 24th October 2017 Raqqa and Daesh
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
3 interactions (436 words)

Taiwan

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Tuesday 14th July 2020

(2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Department for International Development
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I share my noble friend’s disappointment and concern. As I have already said, we believe that Taiwan has an important role to play, particularly in how it has dealt with the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, we continue to lobby for its participation in meetings such as those convened by the World Health Organization.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, can we raise the case of Lee Ming-che, a Taiwanese pro-democracy activist arrested in China and given a five-year prison sentence for posts on social media calling for democratic reforms? His wife, whom I have met, says that he is literally forced to eat rotten food and is denied prison visits. Following the imposition of the new security law in Hong Kong, what does this case say about the future of pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong, and in mainland China?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for bringing this case to my attention. I assure him that we are monitoring it through our embassy in Beijing. While we have not raised it with Chinese counterparts, we regularly make known our concerns about the increasing restrictions on civil and political rights and freedom of expression in China. We do the same in Hong Kong.

Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Wednesday 8th July 2020

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Department for International Development
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, the noble Baroness raises the issue of beneficial and public registers in our overseas territories. As I have said previously, we have made commitments to ensure that our overseas territories comply. The reason for the 2023 date was to allow sufficient time for such public registers to be initiated, because it adds a requirement on every single overseas territory, some of which do not have the technical ability to do so. However, I pay tribute to some of our OTs, which have already co-operated fully with tax authorities and legal authorities through the effective operation of the exchange of notes.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, in declaring my interests as vice-chairman of the all-party parliamentary groups on Hong Kong and the Uighurs, I too pay tribute to Bill Browder and warmly welcome the Foreign Secretary’s decision to use Magnitsky powers to target those who themselves use the United Kingdom as a bolthole for their money and families, while abusing human rights in their own jurisdictions. Returning to the questions of the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, can the Minister say whether active consideration is now being given to adding Hong Kong’s Carrie Lam to the Magnitsky list, along with Chen Quanguo, the Communist Party secretary of Xinjiang, in addition to others named in a letter to the Minister of 24 January last, who stand accused of grievous crimes against Muslim Uighurs, Falun Gong and other minorities in China?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, first, I pay tribute to the noble Lord. He and I have often had long discussions about the importance of having such a regime. In paying tribute to the likes of Sergei Magnitsky, who ultimately paid with his life, I also pay tribute to the noble Lord for the work that he does within the human rights field. He asks specifically about China and Hong Kong. I am sure he will accept that I cannot speculate on who might be designated under the sanctions regime in the future. But as I have repeatedly said as Human Rights Minister, we have on many occasions set out deep concerns about human rights violations in both Xinjiang and Hong Kong. Most recently, we had a campaign with 27 countries backing our statement at the Human Rights Council on 30 June.

China

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Monday 29th June 2020

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Department for International Development
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, as my noble friend will know, we are very clear-eyed in our relationship with China. He points out the important relationship that we have with the likes of Australia. We stand with Australia. It is a key partner through security and other, wider strategic interests in the region. He also mentioned Hong Kong. I have made the Government’s position on that quite clear.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, following the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, what are we doing to support the seven United Nations special rapporteurs who last week expressed serious concern that Beijing’s new security law fails to comply with international human rights law? Do we regard that new security law as a formal breach of the Sino-British joint declaration?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, in answer to the noble Lord’s second question, we have made our position quite clear: it is a breach of that agreement, as well as a basic breach of Hong Kong’s own laws. On working in the UN and supporting what it is doing, he will be aware that we raised the issue at the UN Security Council on 29 May and continue to work with international partners on the issue of Hong Kong.

Rwanda

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Tuesday 23rd June 2020

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Department for International Development
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord. All rights matter: black rights, gay rights, religious rights—all rights matter for the Commonwealth; that is what the Commonwealth is all about.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, I have a keen interest as a patron of Hong Kong Watch and as vice-chairman of the all-party parliamentary group. Following the call of 155 Members of both Houses for the UK to initiate a Commonwealth programme giving the beleaguered people of Hong Kong the opportunity of second citizenship and place of abode in a Common- wealth country, and with the continuing erosion of the Basic Law, what are we doing to secure Commonwealth backing for such an international lifeboat policy?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has already made a comprehensive announcement around BNO. We are obviously looking at the outcome of current Chinese policy on this issue and we will update the House accordingly.

Hong Kong

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Tuesday 2nd June 2020

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Department for International Development
Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper, and in so doing declare my interests both as a patron of Hong Kong Watch and as vice-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, we are deeply concerned at the decision of China’s National People’s Congress to impose a national security law on Hong Kong. If implemented, the imposition of a proposed new national security law will lie in direct conflict with China’s international obligations under the principles of the legally binding, UN-registered Sino-British joint declaration. We are fully committed to upholding Hong Kong’s autonomy and respecting the “one country, two systems” model, which that law would call into question.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool - Hansard

My Lords, last week, in giving evidence to a Westminster hearing, a young doctor reminded us that under the new law he could be arrested and disappeared for doing so. Two days before the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, how will the Government ensure that their welcome lifeboat policy will provide for Hong Kong’s defenders of democracy, such as that young doctor, or already arrested lawyers such as Margaret Ng and Martin Lee? How will they sanction those who have collaborated in the destruction of “two systems, one country”? Will we deepen the international response at the forthcoming G7 by forming the international contact group proposed by seven former Foreign Secretaries and develop a Helsinki-style response in line with the call made by over 650 parliamentarians from 34 different countries?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, as I said, we are deeply concerned by these actions. The action of the National People’s Congress in invoking this law has caused great concern, both in Hong Kong and internationally. I assure the noble Lord, while acknowledging and praising the work he does in standing up for human rights, not just in Hong Kong but internationally, that we remain very committed to standing up for the rights of human rights defenders in Hong Kong. We have registered our serious concern with the Hong Kong and Chinese authorities about recent arrests and we remain committed to raising the issue of Hong Kong in partnership with like-minded international partners. I am sure that the noble Lord recently noted statements made by the Foreign Secretary with key partners and friends such as Australia, Canada and the United States to ensure that Hong Kong’s laws are respected and China respects the laws of Hong Kong— that is, “one country, two systems”.

Syria

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Thursday 30th April 2020

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Department for International Development
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

I assure my noble friend that we are at the forefront of this issue. The Foreign Secretary and I, as Minister to the United Nations, have made it clear that we need these humanitarian corridors and they need to be kept open. We have been disappointed by other partners on the Security Council who have sought to close down these routes. However, we will work to ensure that the humanitarian corridors currently open stay open, and we can mandate further routes to open under the UN.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, does it not augur badly for Idlib if Turkey’s indifference to continued killings in Afrin is repeated in Idlib? It illegally occupied Afrin two years ago, and in the last 48 hours a further 50 people, including 11 children, have been killed. If there is to be lasting peace in Idlib—I welcome what the Minister said a few moments ago about holding people to account for things they have done—should we not be doing more to hold a NATO country to account for illegal occupation, the aerial bombardment of civilians, the displacement of hundreds of thousands of refugees and a total disregard for the very values on which NATO itself was founded?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

I assure the noble Lord, in commending his efforts on the ground and on raising this issue consistently, that we continue to raise with all partners, including those within the NATO alliance, such as Turkey, their obligations as members of NATO. However, I stand by what I said: those who have committed any crimes and atrocities should be held to account.

Yemen

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Thursday 19th March 2020

(6 months ago)

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Department for International Development
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, as the noble Baroness may well be aware, the major obstacle to aid distribution is in the north of the country; current estimates suggest that 7 million people are affected in that part of Yemen, which is an all-time high. The situation has been exacerbated because that area is controlled by the Houthis. The noble Baroness will be further aware that they have sought to impose a 2% levy on all distribution of humanitarian aid. As Her Majesty’s Government—I am sure she acknowledges this—we are responsible for every penny of aid that is spent. It is important that this is done in a responsible manner. She should not judge the underspend but rather the effective delivery of aid to reach the most vulnerable that we are seeking to secure through UN agencies. The situation is desperate: 80% of the population are in need of humanitarian aid, but the main situation is exacerbated in the north.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

Can the Minister confirm the figures being given by ACLED that, so far in this terrible war, 100,000 people have been killed including 12,000 civilians, that 85,000 people have died as a result of the famine that has ensued from the war, and that approximately 130 children are dying every single day? Is this not the moment for us to appeal to the Governments of both Iran and Saudi Arabia to urge their proxies to end this war, not least in the current circumstances where people will now be dying of the coronavirus? In this situation, does the Minister really think that anyone will be collecting data on the number of fatalities from the virus?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

In answer to the noble Lord’s final question, it is extremely challenging to be able to ascertain that data, not least because of the challenges to our ability to access the most vulnerable, which I raised earlier in response to the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan. I agree on the specific statistics. I do not have the detail in front of me, but those figures resonate with the figures we have been using at DfID. When I spoke of 80% of the population, that is 24.1 million people in Yemen who need humanitarian assistance. On calling time, yes, absolutely; we are supporting UN efforts and imploring all sides—including, indeed, those operating through proxies and those with influence, namely the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Iran—to call time. People are suffering, people need help and it should happen now.

Covid-19 Update

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Tuesday 17th March 2020

(6 months ago)

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Department for International Development
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

On her first point, as I am the Minister responsible for our bilateral relations with India, perhaps the noble Baroness would share that information with me and I will take it up with the Indian high commission. From talking to the Indian authorities, my understanding is that the restrictions apply to foreign nationals and those who hold passports with overseas Indian status but that Indian nationals could return if they chose to. However, if a particular issue has arisen, particularly with a student studying here, my understanding is that they should continue with their study. Coming back to the point raised earlier by my noble friend Lady Verma, providing that there is no reason for them to be unable to travel, and if flights continue—as they currently are—they should be able to return to India, in this case, or any other country as would be fit because, ultimately, nationals should not be stopped from entering their countries.

I say that, but 24 hours in this crisis is a long time, and I am minded to add the caveat that things are changing drastically. I do not envisage flights stopping and, as I said in response to a previous question by the noble Lord, Lord Collins, we are imploring commercial operators to continue to operate their flights, but as commercial decisions are taken about flights—understandably, they seek not to fly empty planes—an added challenge will be imposed on us globally to face up to. However, as I said, I am happy to look into the specific issue that the noble Baroness raised.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, I have a question about the diaspora and the ambassadorial corps. This morning, I was able to meet the Pakistan high commissioner, Mohammad Zakaria, who was concerned—as we all are—about the spread of coronavirus and the implications for his community; other ambassadors and high commissioners will be thinking the same. What are we doing to ensure that the corps as a whole receives information directly? How are we using it to reach the diaspora in this country, especially where there are linguistic difficulties and people are not getting the information they need?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

The noble Lord raises an important point. I assure him that I am certainly engaging directly with high commissioners from across south Asia, particularly those with large diaspora communities. We are mindful of ensuring that they are cognisant of the announcements the Government are making and that, if there is a need for that to be understood more effectively because of a lack of language skills or understanding, that is taken up.

I have been really heartened by the response we have seen from not just responsible citizens but organisations from different communities. As I was coming into your Lordships’ House, I noticed that the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury has just put out a statement about congregational prayers. Equally, we have seen a very responsible attitude by other faith leaders, including in the Muslim community. As noble Lords will know, Friday constitutes an important day of gathering for the Friday prayer. I think of the actions we have seen in other parts of the world. I noticed that the Kuwaitis were encouraging people to remain at home through the call to prayer. These are the nuanced approaches that we should take on board for all communities in the United Kingdom. We should also ensure that we can share positive experiences we have here in the UK internationally.

Organ Trafficking: Sanctions

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Monday 2nd March 2020

(6 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Department for International Development
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, on that final point, as the noble Baroness will know from her own experience as a Minister, when you are at international fora you are very much time-limited on all the issues, and the exclusion of a particular issue does not mean that there is not a focus or priority attached to it. She will know that the final report was issued yesterday; it is 562 pages long. I have not yet read it, but we are considering it and I will respond to her in detail once we have done so more fully.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, in his reply to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, the Minister said that he would not make a preliminary decision, yet in a letter to me on 25 February the Government said that, having consulted the World Health Organization and Beijing, their view is that China is implementing

“an ethical, voluntary organ transplant system”.

How does that square with the China Tribunal’s findings that organised butchery of living people compares to

“the worst atrocities committed in conflicts of the 20th century”,

including the gassing of Jews by the Nazis and the Khmer Rouge massacres in Cambodia? Will he revisit the full report referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, published this weekend, a copy of which I sent to him, and look at the inquiries and investigations carried out by one of the Sunday newspapers published yesterday, which I have also sent him and which detail these horrendous crimes committed against both Falun Gong practitioners and Uighur Muslims?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, my Sunday afternoons would not be the same without emails from the noble Lord. I assure him that I have underlined my commitment and the commitment of Her Majesty’s Government to the important issues raised in relation to the Falun Gong. As I said to the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, we will respond once we have fully considered the details of the report. The noble Lord rightly raises those details and the details of other reports, one of which was issued today on human rights issues and the plight, particularly, of Uighurs in China. We raise this in multilateral fora and the Uighurs issue was mentioned in my contribution at the Human Rights Council last Tuesday.

Rohingya Muslims

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Wednesday 29th January 2020

(7 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool - Hansard

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they intend to respond to the decision of the International Court of Justice to direct the government of Myanmar to prevent all genocidal acts against Rohingya Muslims.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, the United Kingdom welcomed the International Court of Justice’s decision on provisional measures. We urged Myanmar to comply with the measures in full. We are exploring with partners how best to ensure that Myanmar implements the decision of the International Court of Justice, including through the United Nations Security Council.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

I am grateful to the Minister. Would he agree that one of the most disturbing and depressing moments during the International Court of Justice hearings was the sight of Aung San Suu Kyi defending the Tatmadaw, or Burmese army, against the charges of war crimes—crimes which have led to the forced exodus of 700,000 Rohingya, with villages burned, executions, tortures and mass rape? In supporting this important blow for justice by the ICJ, will we be using Magnitsky powers to introduce carefully targeted economic sanctions against the military, which has been responsible? How will we galvanise the opinion of the international community to ensure compliance with the ICJ ruling that Burma report in four months and every six months thereafter on how it has complied with the undertakings it has been asked to give under the genocide convention?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, on the noble Lord’s second point, we will be exploring all options with international partners. As I alluded to, I have already instigated seeing what we can do as penholders of the Security Council. I agree with the noble Lord’s assessment; when we saw Aung San Suu Kyi deliver her defence of the actions towards the Rohingya, it was a reflection of where she was and where she is today. It was a sad moment. That said, we have been supportive of the ICJ decision. On the issue of sanctions, as the noble Lord is aware, through the global human rights regime that we will implement once we have left the European Union, we will be using human rights specifically to drive our sanctions regime. More generally on sanctions, he will also be aware that we, with our EU partners, were the ones who drove sanctions against four of the six commanders who instigated and were reported on through the UN report. There are, I believe, currently 14 military personnel in total from Myanmar who are under those sanction regimes.

Sanctions

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Thursday 23rd January 2020

(7 months, 4 weeks ago)

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Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

There was a lot in what the noble Baroness has just asked. What might be suitable for the House is if I say that we are having ongoing discussions with the noble Baroness and others, and those will continue. As I have said, we are looking at the current scope of the Magnitsky-style sanctions. That is under consideration, but it would perhaps be premature for me to speculate about the overall remit of the sanctions regime.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, on Monday last the Minister, in answer to his noble friend Lady Warsi, gave a welcome response in the context of the Uighur Muslims, 1 million of whom are incarcerated in Xinjiang in western China. He said that sanctions would be examined in that context. Can he give us some idea of when Magnitsky-style powers might be used in those circumstances? Would he consider holding a round-table discussion for Members of your Lordships’ House to talk through with us precisely how and when these very welcome powers will be used?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, on the noble Lord’s latter point, I suggest that a suitable time might be once we have finalised the secondary instruments. On the general issue of the Uighurs, I have made my and the Government’s position very clear. As I said, once the designation and scope of the sanctions have been determined, that would be the appropriate time to have any further discussions.

China: Uighurs

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Monday 20th January 2020

(8 months ago)

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Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

The noble Lord raises an important point. I assure him that we are doing exactly as he suggests. Most recently, we called on the Chinese authorities to allow meaningful and unrestricted access to Xinjiang for all UN observers, including Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as I said in response to an earlier question. We have also repeatedly called for this action to be taken forward, in the UN Third Committee statement in October and through our national statements at the Human Rights Council. China is an important strategic partner for the United Kingdom, and our relationship allows us to raise these issues bilaterally. I assure the noble Lord that we will continue to do so through international fora such as the UN.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, has the Minister, in those bilateral talks, challenged the Chinese Government’s campaign against what they call extremism? In Xinjiang, extremism is measured by the length of a beard or the desire to pray in a mosque not controlled by the Communist Party. As we have heard, it leads to incarceration, torture and re-education, and to what a United Nations committee on the elimination of racial discrimination recently described Xinjiang as: a “no-right zone.” As the noble Lord, Lord Collins, said, should we not be desisting from business as usual with companies such as Huawei, Dahua and Hikvision; that is, funnelling British money into companies which are arms of a communist state responsible for egregious human rights violation, which I wrote to the Minister about on 11 December 2019?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, on the point about extremism, that has been a narrative which the Chinese have put forward. We all have challenges of extremism; there are ways and means of dealing with them. While I do not have a beard, I fear I would fall short on the second of those signs of extremism: praying in a non-communist-led mosque. That said, the noble Lord raises important issues. As I said to the noble Lord, Lord Collins, we are looking at introducing a sanctions regime. Our relationship with China is an important one, the strength of which allows us to raise serious human rights concerns, as I said earlier.

Hong Kong

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Wednesday 15th January 2020

(8 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In so doing, I declare that I travelled to Hong Kong to monitor the recent elections as a guest of Stand With Hong Kong and Hong Kong Watch, of which I am a patron.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, we remain concerned at the situation in Hong Kong. The Foreign Secretary welcomed the peaceful conduct of local elections, and we continue to urge all sides to take the opportunity to find a way through with meaningful political dialogue. It is essential that protests are conducted peacefully and lawfully, and that the authorities respond proportionately. We expect arrests and judicial processes to be both fair and transparent, and we have consistently called for a robust, credible and, indeed, independent investigation.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool - Hansard

My Lords, in welcoming that reply from the Minister, perhaps I might ask how the Government will respond to the evidence given to Parliament by Dr Darren Mann about the police arrest and zip-wiring of medics, which he said amounted to

“grave breaches of international norms and human rights law.”

He described disproportionate brutality, including the shooting of rubber bullets at close range and the use of tear gas in confined areas. Does the Minister agree that this is in contravention of the United Nations guidelines on the use of less-lethal weapons and breaks international law? Does not the arrest of a young woman outside our own consulate at the weekend mean that it is time for us to demand an independent inquiry, as the Minister said, and for us to take the lead in establishing it and explore the use of Magnitsky-type powers to bring the perpetrators to justice?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, on the noble Lord’s final point, as he will be aware, bringing forward Magnitsky-style powers through a sanctions policy is something we are looking at proactively at the Foreign Office, and we will be coming forward with recommendations in the near future. He raises important issues, and we pay tribute to his work in Hong Kong and in consistently raising this issue. We take the allegations set out by Dr Mann’s description of the arrest of medical personnel at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University very seriously. As we have said time and again, we also expect the Hong Kong authorities to abide by their own laws and international obligations.

As I said in my original Answer, we believe that an independent inquiry into events in Hong Kong is a critical step, and the UK has repeatedly called for such an independent inquiry to take place. The noble Lord mentioned a recent arrest outside the British consulate-general. I assure the noble Lord that the UK fully supports the right to peaceful and lawful protest. Indeed, as he will know, a static protest has been in place outside the British consulate-general in Hong Kong for a number of months now.

Middle East: Security Update

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Tuesday 7th January 2020

(8 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

I agree with the noble Lord on the importance of restraint. At this time and with the sensitive nature of what is in front of us, it would certainly be inappropriate for me to speculate on situations. I stress again the importance of de-escalation and of keeping diplomatic channels open at all levels.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, will the Minister turn his attention for a moment to northern Iraq and Kurdistan, which I visited last month? In particular, is he aware that reactivated ISIS cells killed more than 30 Peshmerga soldiers during the course of December and that they were simultaneously fighting Iranian-backed proxies—Shabak groups armed by Iran—in Nineveh? Given that the vulnerable minorities they have been protecting, including people such as the Yazidis, are facing further genocide, can the Minister say what we can do to work with the Kurdish regional Government to give them reasonable protection and to do what the noble Lord, Lord Collins, said earlier: bring to justice those responsible for these appalling crimes against humanity and genocide, who believe that they can continue to act in the way they have done with impunity because we are incapable of upholding international law, which is why we descend into cycles of assassination and revenge?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord for keeping me updated on various issues during the Christmas break. I expected nothing less in terms of the questions he asked, and I look forward to our more detailed sit-down to discuss some of the issues he has raised.

The noble Lord is quite right to raise the important issue of the situation in northern Syria. He also mentioned the KRI region. First, I will reflect Foreign Office advice. When it comes to the KRI, we are saying that non-essential travel should not be taken up, but, if travel is essential, stability continues to prevail in the KRI and we continue to offer support.

The noble Lord knows the importance of bringing the perpetrators of these crimes to justice. Therefore, during conversations between my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and the Iraqi Prime Minister, we emphasised again that, while we respect the Iraqi Parliament’s decision, we want to ensure both that there is no withdrawal of either US or UK troops, as limited as UK troop numbers are, and that, in a wider respect, the positive impact on the ground of the measures we have taken—in beginning to see accountability and justice for the victims of crimes, particularly those committed by Daesh—is not lost because of these particular actions. I assure noble Lords that we are doing all we can through all necessary channels to keep that very much on the table.

Hong Kong

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Thursday 24th October 2019

(11 months ago)

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I concur with my noble friend, who is of course right. That is why the ultimate solution to the challenge is political dialogue, which I will talk about in a moment or two.

The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, asked some specific questions about the situation on the ground as regards the use of emergency powers, which I would like to deal with at the outset. While of course Governments need to ensure people’s security and safety, as my noble friend has just reminded us, they must avoid aggravating situations and instead seek to reduce tensions. She also asked whether the introduction of emergency regulations is a breach of the joint declaration. Our assessment thus far is that they do not breach it. Again, Governments need to ensure that the security and safety of their citizens remains paramount. She also asked about crowd control equipment for Hong Kong. As my right honourable friend the then Foreign Secretary stated in the House of Commons on 25 June,

“we will not issue any further export licences for crowd control equipment to Hong Kong unless we are satisfied that concerns raised about human rights and fundamental freedoms have been thoroughly addressed”.—[Official Report, Commons, 25/6/19; col. 551.]

The noble Baroness also raised police training. As she will be aware, an additional risk-management process is used with police training for all security and justice programmes to assess and mitigate human rights risks. The aim of the training we have provided to Hong Kong is to improve a foreign authority’s ability to deploy human rights-compliant, modern policing techniques. It is a fine balance, but we are keeping that situation under review.

The noble Lord, Lord Wilson, talked of the breach of the joint declaration, as did my noble friend Lord Sassoon. Both rightly pointed out the importance of one state, two systems continuing and continuing well. Her Majesty’s Government have not to date assessed that China has explicitly breached the joint declaration, with the exception of one well-documented case.

The police response was raised by several noble Lords. We had an expert contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, who asked about reports of sexual assault by the Hong Kong police. This was also a concern expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett. I am aware of these reports, and we remain extremely concerned by reports of violence by the police. We also note that the Hong Kong police have announced that they are investigating a recent allegation from a university student, and that the student has said she is seeking legal advice. We will continue to monitor that situation. We have always sustained the position that the police response must be proportionate. We are seriously concerned by the instances of apparent mistreatment of protesters by the police. Of course, I note the words of my noble friend Lord Patten in this respect.

My noble friends Lord Patten and Lord Howell, the noble Lords, Lord Hogan-Howe and Lord Luce, and several other noble Lords all raised a police inquiry. We maintain that there must be a robust, credible and independent investigation into these incidents. Such an inquiry would be an important step towards healing divisions and rebuilding trust. The noble Lord, Lord McNicol, asked whether we are continuing to raise this bilaterally with the Chinese authorities. The short answer is that yes, we are.

As I have said, Her Majesty’s Government believe that political dialogue—as several noble Lords have expressed—is the only way to achieve a peaceful resolution to this situation. While we have welcomed the Chief Executive’s initial steps towards dialogue, it is clear that further clarity is required and that further steps need to be taken for the Chief Executive and her team to reach across communities and directly address the people’s concerns. Crucially, if the process is to succeed, it is incumbent on all to be involved and engaged in good faith.

I agree with my noble friend Lord Sassoon’s views on the importance of the strength and stability that the one country, two systems framework has provided to Hong Kong over the past 22 years. Hong Kong is already a valuable trading partner for the UK, and the UK for Hong Kong. We look forward to seeing this trading relationship develop post Brexit. Similarly, we enjoy deep and close co-operation with Hong Kong as a leading financial centre, which I hope and expect we can build on in the months and years to come.

We have rightly heard about concerns and the need to uphold rights and freedoms. This was a point made by the noble Lords, Lord Carrington and Lord Alton, and others. I was particularly taken by the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, who talked about businesses working in Hong Kong. As someone who spent 20 years in the City of London and dealt regularly with Hong Kong, I know the city well. Those ties are important. However, as a co-signatory to the Sino-British joint declaration, the UK is committed to promoting and upholding the rights, freedoms and autonomies enshrined in it. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, that we have worked intensively in recent weeks and months to support a positive resolution. Those factors will be sustained and will continue to be part of our dialogue in this respect.

Several noble Lords raised the Prime Minister’s direct engagement on this issue—the noble Lord, Lord McNicol, mentioned it specifically—and they will recall that the Prime Minister raised Hong Kong at the G7 meeting in August, where G7 leaders reaffirmed the importance of the joint declaration and called for an end to violence. This also addresses in part the issue raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith. Furthermore, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister also wrote to President Xi on 30 September and underlined the importance of upholding the joint declaration under the one country, two systems framework.

My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has also set out our concerns directly in his engagement with the Hong Kong Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, and the Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councillor, Wang Yi. Regrettably, he was unable to meet Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the UN General Assembly as planned because he needed to return to London. However, following this, the Foreign Secretary wrote to him on 30 September and we continue to have regular exchanges with both the Chinese and Hong Kong authorities.

On the issue of our European partners, raised by my noble friend Lady Hooper and the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, as I said, we meet with G7 partners on a regular basis. We also raised Hong Kong at the Human Rights Council in September and at the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly in October, where the UK underlined the importance of upholding the right to peaceful assembly.

Issues were raised around aspects of human rights—an area close to my heart, as noble Lords will know—and it is important that we address them. We continue to do so at ambassadorial level and the most recent meeting with the Chinese ambassador in London was earlier this week. We have also regularly raised the issue with the leadership in China and Hong Kong, who remain in no doubt about our concerns over the current situation.

On the Commonwealth, our recent exchanges on Hong Kong—including those by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary—have included some with Australian Foreign Minister Payne and European counterparts. At the United Nations, for which I am the Minister responsible, we raised Hong Kong in our national statement to the September session of the Human Rights Council, and last week we underlined the importance of upholding the right to peaceful assembly in a national statement to the UN General Assembly.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Finlay and Lady Grey-Thompson, raised the issue of the Falun Gong and its practitioners. The noble Baroness, Lady Northover asked me specifically about the tribunal and I note the presence in the Gallery of Sir Geoffrey Nice. I had occasion to meet him recently to discuss this issue and I can assure all noble Lords that we are aware of the findings. A final report is still due but we are watching this space carefully. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, specifically has had various exchanges on this issue. It is not lost on us; it is an important priority and I assure noble Lords that I will continue, as Human Rights Minister, to keep an eye on this issue.

On the wider issue of religious freedoms in China, again raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury and the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, among others, I can assure all noble Lords that this remains a priority for both Her Majesty’s Government and for me as Minister for Human Rights. We have not held back. We have regularly raised the issue of human rights and religious freedoms in our expressions, statements and formal contributions, particularly at the Human Rights Council. I recognise the immense work that has gone on to address concerns around Falun Gong in particular. Equally, we remain deeply concerned—and have raised these concerns—about the persecution of Christians, the Uighur Muslims and other minorities within China and we will continue to do so.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, asked about the sanctions regime. The noble Lord will recall that we have passed legislation on this and we are seeking to bring forward the statutory instruments. That will provide the UK with an autonomous global human rights sanctions regime after we have left the European Union and will also allow us to respond to serious human rights violations.

I am conscious of time, so I want to move on to the right of abode. This was rightly raised by several noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Popat, the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, and the noble Lord, Lord Alton. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, asked me about numbers. There are currently 248,000 holders of BNO, but there are 2.73 million people who are eligible for it. I note the points raised by all noble Lords in this respect, and I emphasise this Government’s commitment to and support for British nationals overseas, who are known as the BNOs. As my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary set out in the other place on 26 September, the status of BNOs was part of the delicate balance in the negotiations that led to the Sino-British joint declaration. The joint declaration is crucial to the future stability and prosperity of Hong Kong and the rights, freedoms and autonomy of its people. I would add that this only applies effectively for both sides to respect what is within the agreement.

I assure the right reverend Prelate and other noble Lords that we believe that the best outcome for the BNOs is the high degree of autonomy, rights and freedoms set out specifically in the joint declaration. The noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, raised this, as did other noble Lords, including my noble friends Lord Howell and Lord Marlesford, and the noble Lord, Lord Luce. My noble friend Lord Wei, who provided a particular insight from his Hong Kong background, talked of reforms within Hong Kong.

I think that we are all clear that the way forward must be, first, constructive and meaningful dialogue with all communities, as my noble friend Lord Patten said. Bridges must be built to address their concerns directly. Our long-standing view is that transition to universal suffrage for the elections for the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council, as provided by Hong Kong Basic Law, would be the best way to guarantee Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity in the long run and would be in everyone’s interests.

We take the issue of the BNOs very seriously. The Foreign Secretary and his ministerial counterparts are listening to the concerns that are being expressed. The Government are not immune to receiving representations. We have received them directly and we will consider the best way forward to continue to support and strengthen our work with the BNO community. The Government have given careful consideration to the letter from the noble Lord, Lord Alton, dated 9 September and signed by 176 noble Lords and other parliamentary colleagues. I welcome the broad spectrum of support for Hong Kong and its people and note the points that have been raised.

With regard to Commonwealth countries, it is not in my remit to talk about the immigration policy of other Commonwealth countries, but I reiterate my view that the best way for any like-minded countries to support BNOs is to defend the joint declaration, which they are doing. We have received strong support for that, including in discussions we have had with other Commonwealth partners, most notably recently with Australia.

The noble Lord, Lord Luce, mentioned Hong Kong servicemen and a number of noble Lords raised the status of former members of the Hong Kong Military Service Corps. I assure the noble Lord that the Home Secretary is listening very carefully to the representations that have been made on behalf of former Hong Kong Military Service Corps personnel who were unable to obtain citizenship through the selection scheme.

The noble Lord, Lord Pendry, raised the issue of Hong Kong students who are studying in the UK. My short answer is that it is unacceptable for anyone to be intimidated by any bullying. Universities have a duty of care to protect all students. If there are particular instances, I urge the noble Lord to make the Government aware of them.

The noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, asked about unexplained suicides. This is a very sensitive situation and I am aware of it. We have had one formal request from one family, and we urge people not to speculate on the reasons behind the issue. The circumstances are obviously very tragic for the family. If there are further details on this, I will share them with the noble Baroness.

Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, and my noble friend Lord Popat talked about the Chinese view of the joint declaration, describing it as a “historic document”. The short answer from Her Majesty’s Government is that it is absolutely not. It is a legally binding treaty, registered at the UN, and it remains in force. As a co-signatory we have the absolute right to speak out when we have concerns about its implementation. I assure noble Lords that we will continue to make this point consistently in public, bilaterally and in private to the Chinese Government.

Once again, I thank all noble Lords for their insightful and expert contributions to this very comprehensive debate. I am sure that questions will be asked of me and I will continue to update noble Lords as and when we have further updates to provide. Ultimately, I am sure that we are all committed to encouraging all the parties that are directly concerned—the Hong Kong Administration, the Chinese Government and all international partners—to do all they can to realise and uphold the peaceful vision of a thriving Hong Kong and a thriving China under the “one country, two systems” model.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool - Hansard

My Lords, the entire House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Minister of State, for the thorough way in which he has just answered the issues that that have been raised and for his promise to come back and keep us briefed on developments as they occur.

The noble Lord, echoing the noble Lord, Lord Sassoon, reminded us of the tragic news that the 39 people who have been found dead in a lorry were of Chinese origin. We do not yet know their story, but we do know that they shared our humanity. Shared humanity has been a theme that has informed every contribution in today’s debate.

Many noble Lords referred to moving correspondence from Hong Kong. This morning, I received an email from a lady who said, “I don’t know if you will really read my email, but please try to do something so people know the pain we are suffering in Hong Kong”. I think that our speeches today, from every part of your Lordships’ House, have demonstrated that we have listened and that we have heard, and we have tried to articulate some of that pain.

In a range of knowledgeable and measured speeches, we have heard considerable support for finding an international approach to providing an insurance policy of second citizenship and a second right of abode. We have heard universal support for “one country, two systems”, yet we have also heard how that has been emasculated. Yesterday, I met Alan Leong, a barrister and one of the leaders of a Hong Kong political party, who set out a number of examples of where he believes that the 1984 agreement has indeed been breached.

We have spoken with depth, knowledge, passion and commitment. All of us have said that the best way forward—a point that the noble Lord, Lord Patten, made so well—is to try to find a way ahead that does not involve violence but ensures that constructive solutions and political answers are found, as were found in 1984 in what all of us have referred to as an act of diplomatic genius, to paraphrase something that the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, said earlier.

I hope that the lady who wondered whether her email would be read or whether we have understood the pain of Hong Kong will have heard our debate today and that, like the young people whom we are not supposed to mention—although the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, quite rightly did—and who have packed our Galleries, she will know that they and their concerns have not been forgotten. It is a signal from a great and free Parliament that we will not forget our historic, moral and legal responsibilities. This Parliament will not be silenced in its responsibilities to safeguard “one country, two systems”, the rule of law, democracy, human rights, free speech and autonomy.

I end by saying that we must always replace fear with hope and indifference with solidarity and never neglect our common humanity. It only remains for me, once again, to thank all noble Lords who have spoken so eloquently today.

North-east Syria

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Wednesday 23rd October 2019

(11 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

I reiterate, I can go no further on the issue of numbers. The noble Baroness referred to orphans but, as the Statement made clear and my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has said, this is not only about orphans but also about unaccompanied minors. The right approach is to prioritise the most vulnerable, which Her Majesty’s Government are doing. On the issue of mothers, I listened to the point the noble Baroness raised, and which her colleague, the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, raised in an earlier Question, and we will look carefully at each individual case. On the issue of mothers, children and separation, I share the noble Baroness’s view that we should be mindful not to separate children from their mothers. That is being looked at carefully. However, the situation on the ground is very challenging. We do not have a consular presence on the ground, but we are working with agencies to identify specific cases involving British citizens and to act accordingly.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, although the Minister has rightly said that he cannot give exact numbers, does he recognise the figure of 60—double the number mentioned previously—produced by Save the Children, a reputable charity in this country? Can he also say why we said that it was too dangerous to take children out of the situation they are in, while the United States, France, Austria and Belgium were able to use the ceasefire to take children out of those same dangerous conditions? On consular access, does he also recognise that, as we do not have an embassy, consulate or any diplomatic presence in Syria, it is impossible for women—the mothers of these children—to get access to anyone? How are we going to provide that consular access?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

On the noble Lord’s final point, I have said that we are working with all partners and agencies on the ground to identify those individuals, including the mothers of children, to whom the noble Lord alluded. On his point about numbers, he said that the number has doubled. That demonstrates why I do not want to get into speaking about numbers specifically. I accept that there are vulnerable children, orphans, unaccompanied minors and British citizens currently in that region. We will work with all agencies on the ground. On our international partners’ ability to access and withdraw their citizens, particularly children, the Government have said that we are looking at this carefully and seek to do exactly that: to withdraw unaccompanied minors and orphans at the earliest opportunity and in the safest possible way.

Yazidis: Attempted Genocide

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Wednesday 23rd October 2019

(11 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

The noble Baroness is quite right. She and many other noble Lords will recognise the porous nature of the border between Syria and Iraq. That has a posed a challenge, notwithstanding the incursion by Turkey, to the Iraqi Government as they seek to build stability. She is also right to raise the issue of Daesh fighters. Concern has been expressed directly to the United States and Turkey by the United Kingdom, including in conversations that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has had with the President of Turkey on the very issue she raises. We continue to work very closely with the Iraqi Government to ensure that they have the systems of protection and the intelligence available to ensure that those who have perpetrated crimes previously, or who seek to re-establish Daesh in any part of Iraq, can be dealt with constructively, with the Iraqi Government, to ensure that they do not take root again, particularly in Iraq.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, given the recent discovery of mass graves and the knowledge that we now have of the horrendous crimes that have been committed against Yazidis and other minorities in Iraq, and now potentially in north-east Syria, will the Minister take the opportunity to reaffirm our commitment as a signatory to the 1948 convention on crimes of genocide, and our duty to prevent, to protect and then to punish? Will he say what we will do to support Germany, Norway and Sweden in their efforts to create a regional tribunal, to be established in Iraq, so that some of those responsible for these crimes will at last be brought to justice? Will he give consideration to the Private Member’s Bill that was given a First Reading in your Lordships’ House last week on efforts to prevent genocide from taking place in the first place?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

First, I reassure the noble Lord that, as signatories to any international convention, we uphold our obligations in that respect. He raises valid issues. The noble Lord and I have had various discussions about regional tribunals. It is very important to recognise that, before we can have a successful prosecution, we need the evidence base. We have been pleased to support the UNITAD mission on the ground, which is now collecting, sustaining and protecting the evidence that will allow for successful prosecutions. That is an important first step.

The noble Lord talked about the discovery of war graves. Again, the UNITAD mission was central to that, together with the Iraqi Government. Let us not forget that the survivors should be at the heart of finding a resolution to this challenge and ensuring accountability. Nadia Murad, a Yazidi survivor, has been working very closely with the Government on this agenda.

Northern Syria: Turkish Incursion

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Tuesday 15th October 2019

(11 months, 1 week ago)

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I assure the noble Baroness that, as I said in repeating the Statement, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has spoken to the President of Turkey. We have not only urged restraint but called out that its actions were unexpected and unwarranted. On ensuring that the emerging humanitarian crisis in the region is given priority, let me further reassure the noble Baroness that we will continue to engage directly with Turkey—which, as I have said on a number of occasions, is our ally—to ensure that our views, and the views of you Lordships’ House, are made clear.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, a few moments ago the Minister said that a principal reason for our involvement in north-east Syria has been the defeat of Daesh. Vast numbers of people have been released from camps in north-east Syria. Some of those whose names I gave to the Minister and the noble Earl, Lord Howe, over the weekend, have been directly associated with Daesh and are now on their way to the streets of Europe. What is the Minister doing to ensure that these people are apprehended as soon as possible, and, more importantly, brought to justice by creating internationally recognised mechanisms under the convention on the crime of genocide?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

The noble Lord expresses a concern, shared by us all, about exacerbating the situation of not just those Daesh fighters but the families who were held. I assure him that I am in receipt of his email, which he referred to, and that we are looking at each case very closely. Where people are identified as due for prosecution—for example, if they arrive back in the UK—it will be for the Crown Prosecution Service to look at each matter individually, and appropriate action will be taken against those who committed these crimes.

Hurricane Dorian

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Monday 9th September 2019

(1 year ago)

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My noble friend raises an important point about lessons learned. I believe that I have already indicated the importance of staying focused after Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. On the specific issues raised, RFA “Mounts Bay” was the only vessel that had the ability to access the Bahamas. As many noble Lords know, the hurricane stayed over the Bahamas and at one point moved at about 1 mph, so for two consecutive days the Abaco Islands, in particular, were battered quite considerably. We provided support at the first point of access. The runway needed to be cleared to allow access and the US has been leading in providing support in that respect. In terms of the wider response, my noble friend talked about the Caymans and so on. I have been pleased that, because of co-ordination, we have seen support from the British Overseas Territories—namely, the Turks and Caicos and the Cayman Islands—in alleviating the suffering of the people of the Bahamas, and that co-ordination continues.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, the Minister will have seen that the Prime Minister of the Bahamas has described Hurricane Dorian as “catastrophic and devastating”. Can he confirm that more than 70,000 people have been displaced and provide an updated figure on the number of fatalities, which is said to be 44? Will he also confirm that 3,500 evacuees have now arrived in the capital, Nassau, and can he say what truth there is in the reported suggestion that no food, medical aid or water have arrived, particularly in the destroyed shanty towns where many Haitian workers were living?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, the issue on the ground is very fluid. The noble Lord talks of various numbers—he is correct that they have been widely reported—both for the people impacted and the fatalities. However, hearing the reports, I fear that that latter number will increase. As I said, I have been in touch directly with the authorities in the Bahamas and, most importantly, with the Foreign Affairs Minister to ensure that we are kept abreast of the immediate requirements. In terms of aid being received, there have been challenges in providing access to some of the hard-to-reach areas because of the nature of the hurricane. However, it is my understanding that we have provided the support that has been required and that aid has been getting through to those who require it.

Hong Kong

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Tuesday 3rd September 2019

(1 year ago)

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I assure the noble Lord that we are doing just that. We have impressed on the Chinese Government and the Hong Kong authorities that they should ensure that the attributes and provisions of the agreement are upheld. The agreement was signed by both parties. It was also deposited and is registered within the United Nations. It is our view that all rights and principles in that agreement have to be respected, not just by Hong Kong but by the Chinese authorities as well.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, I draw the attention of the House to my interest as a patron of Hong Kong Watch. Will the Minister take the trouble to look at the Early Day Motion tabled today in the House of Commons by almost 30 Members of Parliament—led by the chairman of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, Fiona Bruce MP, and signed by the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, the current leader of the Scottish National Party in the House of Commons, senior Labour Members of Parliament and Members of other parties—calling for the Government to put on the Commonwealth agenda, not least at Kigali next year, the question of second citizenship, as the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, asked about, and to explore ways in which the international community can provide an insurance policy for people in Hong Kong who feel that “one country, two systems” is now slipping away? Is this not the sort of thing that the British Government should take the lead on?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

First, let me reassure the noble Lord that we seek to uphold “one country, two systems” and will call on the Chinese authorities and the authorities in Hong Kong to do the same. As I said in answer to the question from the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, this is an international agreement whose principles should be abided by. I will certainly take the issue of the Early Day Motion back and look at the detail. I assure noble Lords that the important thing is that we continue to raise through all international and bilateral channels the importance of upholding the rights of, and obligations to, the citizens of Hong Kong.

China: Organ Harvesting

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Thursday 25th July 2019

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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I will certainly take the noble Lord’s first suggestion back to the FCO. The issue of people travelling to China has been taken up before. Both I and the Minister in the other place have taken it up directly with the Home Office. We as Foreign Office Ministers have written to the Home Office to explore this issue, and my understanding is—[Interruption.] Maybe that is the Home Office calling the noble Lord, Lord Desai. My understanding is that Canada, Spain, Israel, Italy and Taiwan have now implemented schemes on the very issue of monitoring people travelling to China for transplants. That is something I wish to explore further with Home Office colleagues.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, is the Minister aware that witnesses at last night’s inaugural meeting of the all-party parliamentary group on Uighurs expressed great concern that many of the Uighurs in detention centres—there may be as many as 1 million—along with Falun Gong practitioners and people from other minorities are being targeted through DNA tests, which they fear may then be used for the harvesting of organs?

Will the Minister respond to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Collins, about the World Health Organization, given that 34 parliamentarians wrote in April asking for a response from the WHO? As one has not been forthcoming, will he press the WHO to give that response? Will he also undertake to meet Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, who chaired the independent tribunal?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

I will, of course, be pleased to meet Sir Geoffrey Nice. The other issue, as I told the noble Lord, Lord Collins, is something that I am pressing for directly. We will follow up with the World Health Organization on this matter.

Hong Kong

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Tuesday 23rd July 2019

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

I assure my noble friend that we have made our position very clear bilaterally on the persecution of the Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province. We have continued to make that position clear through international fora, including at the Human Rights Forum. When I last spoke there I specifically referenced the suppression and persecution of not just the Uighur Muslims but other minorities, including Christians. Last week we had the international ministerial on freedom of religion or belief, which the noble Lord, Lord Alton, also attended. He has been a strong advocate for speaking up against the persecution of Uighurs and minorities in that country. I assure my noble friend that there was a focus during that meeting on the very issue he raises.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, I welcome what the Minister said to the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, about the importance of insisting that an internationally guaranteed treaty is upheld at the United Nations. It would be helpful for the House to know what our intentions are in that regard and specifically whether this can be raised at the Security Council or with our allies. Would the Minister agree that, instead of remaining silent to the brute force of Triad gangs beating up protesters with iron bars, should Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian regime not understand that the answer to its fears about separatism is to be found in the free air of Hong Kong, not in the Uighur re-education camps of Xinjiang, and that a prosperous, harmonious and stable future for China will never be served by the use of violence?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

I totally agree with the noble Lord. That principle applies not just in China, but anywhere around the world. On the specific issue of the identity of those people committing the attacks, we welcomed Carrie Lam’s statement that she has asked the commissioner of police to fully investigate and to pursue lawbreakers, but I assure the noble Lord that we will stay focused on raising the issue of the suppression of minorities within China. As I said in response to the noble Baroness, I will certainly take back what has been said on the international agreement. Although we are in a small transition, it is certainly something I would seek to pursue as Minister for the UN.

Sri Lanka: UNHCR Refugees

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Thursday 9th May 2019

(1 year, 4 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My noble friend speaks with great experience and insights, not just on the Commonwealth but on the two countries to which he refers, which are both friends of the United Kingdom. On the important issue of freedom of religion or belief, I visited Pakistan not so long ago, and I am sure that many of us have welcomed the recent steps that the Pakistani Government have taken in this respect, under what are pretty tense domestic environments. Indeed, yesterday we had the reported departure of Asia Bibi from Pakistan, which we all welcomed. We are working with the Pakistani Government on the importance of religious freedom and, as I said, we are also going to extend our work in building communal harmony and support for religious communities in Sri Lanka.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, I congratulate the Minister on the role he played in helping to secure the release of Asia Bibi and her ability to travel to be reunited yesterday with her family in Canada. The persecution of that Christian woman and the Ahmadi community in Pakistan should motivate us all in promoting freedom of religion and belief, and particularly Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Can I take the Minister to Written Questions which I tabled yesterday, which I gave him copies of? One referred to the police stations where Ahmadis and Christians have been taking refuge in Sri Lanka, where, as the noble Lord has said, they are even denied basic food, humanitarian aid and assistance. Can he tell us precisely what discussions we have had with the UNHCR in making progress to help those groups? My second point was about the use of textbooks in Sri Lanka which have been criticised by UNESCO for stirring up religious hatred and the dominance of some groups against the position of minorities. Are we taking action to ensure that those kinds of textbooks are no longer available in Sri Lankan schools?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, again, the noble Lord speaks with great insight on these issues; equally, to return to the issue of Asia Bibi, I pay tribute to his efforts in that respect—I think we are all grateful for what has happened. But he is right that the real result will be not to have 1,000 Asia Bibi cases. We must work with countries such as Pakistan to ensure, first and foremost, that the long-term objective must be the overturning of these draconian blasphemy laws, which are used not just against minority communities in Pakistan but against Muslim communities themselves. I therefore assure the noble Lord that we are working closely with the Pakistani Government to ensure that we can build not just religious tolerance but understanding at a core level.

The noble Lord mentioned the UNHCR; we are engaged fully with the Sri Lankan authorities and UN agencies on the ground to see what level of support we can offer. There has been no specific request apart from the figures I quoted to the noble Lord, Lord Collins, on specific refugees who may come to the United Kingdom. On the wider issue of textbooks, the noble Lord and I have discussed this matter, and I agree with him. We have a massive aid programme to various parts of the world, including Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and it is important that, as regards any support we provide, the values we seek to extend are reflected in the education and training, particularly which young children receive in those countries. I assure the noble Lord that we are working closely on that very objective with DfID colleagues.

China: Religious Freedom

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Thursday 4th April 2019

(1 year, 5 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, the right reverend Prelate is right to raise the desperate situation facing Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province. I assure him that we have raised this directly, on a bilateral basis, with the Chinese Government. As I indicated in my earlier Answer, I raised the issue directly during the Human Rights Council, with specific reference to the Uighur Muslims, during our statement there. Working with like-minded partners, including the United States, we also hosted a side event during that council to draw further attention to and increase international collaboration on this priority issue.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

Has the Minister had a chance to read yesterday’s Spectator and last week’s Westminster Hall debate about forced organ harvesting from China’s religious minorities, including Falun Gong, Uyghur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists and, possibly, Christian dissidents along with prisoners of conscience? Fiona Bruce, Member of Parliament and chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, described it as,

“potentially nothing less than a 21st century genocide”,

and “almost a perfect crime” because “no one survives”.

Will the Government attend this week’s China Tribunal hearings, chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC—who prosecuted Slobodan Milošević—and modelled on the people’s tribunal into the Vietnam War, pioneered by Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre? Their interim findings say that tribunal members are,

“certain—unanimously, and sure beyond reasonable doubt—that in China forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience has been practised for a substantial period of time involving a very substantial number of victims”.

Will the Government ask China for its response to these deeply disturbing findings?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

I read the debate that took place, not the article, but I will do so. On a number of occasions, the noble Lord and I have talked about the specific issue of organ harvesting. I assure him that we are watching and working closely on the outcomes of Sir Geoffrey Nice’s review. The detailed report will also be out later this year. Our officials have attended every evidence session and will continue to do so and update accordingly. In raising this issue directly, I am deeply concerned, like the noble Lord, particularly because there is an issue of organ harvesting not just from people elsewhere: I have heard it suggested and was briefed on prisoners in the system being used for this purpose. The situation is deeply concerning and we are raising it at all levels.

War Criminals: International Mechanisms for Prosecution

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Thursday 21st March 2019

(1 year, 6 months ago)

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Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Hylton, and with his permission, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in his name on the Order Paper.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, the United Kingdom helped to secure a Security Council resolution in December 2017 to establish a UN investigative team to support domestic efforts by Iraq to hold Daesh accountable by collecting, preserving and storing evidence of Daesh crimes. The UK also co-sponsored the United Nations General Assembly resolution in December 2016 that established the international, impartial and independent mechanism for Syria, a step forward in ensuring accountability for atrocities committed in that country.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool - Hansard

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. With the fall of ISIS at Baghuz, and as the investigative team established by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2379 begins its first mass grave excavation in Sinjar, will the Minister say how the evidence of genocide will be used? What consideration is being given to establishing an international or regional criminal tribunal to ensure that the trials are conducted with due process? Will he reflect that it is inevitable that the removal of citizenship from perpetrators will make it even harder to bring those responsible for genocide to justice?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, the noble Lord raised the issue of the first mass graves. Some noble Lords may have seen the many images; I have read the reports. It is poignant that those graves have been found where Nadia Murad used to live. She had to go through many tragic circumstances and won the Nobel Peace Prize.

I agree with the noble Lord about the importance of ensuring that, through the passing of Resolution 2379, the first step is collection and preservation. In many cases, prosecutions will be best left to national authorities, and we continue to work with Iraq. I know that the noble Lord is particularly keen to ensure that local or regional justice is served. It may be that in future some form of international hybrid justice mechanism is used to try those most responsible for crimes of international concern. It is too early at this stage to suggest where each crime will be tried, but we are looking at all options.

On the issue of the prosecution of perpetrators of genocide where the removal of citizenship has occurred, I am sure that the noble Lord would agree that we all share the Government’s priority of the safety and security of our own citizens. Those who joined Daesh will face justice, whether in Iraq, once mechanisms are set up, or through international tribunals. If foreign fighters return here, that will be a matter for the CPS and police to judge.

China: Uighur Muslims

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Monday 11th February 2019

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My noble friend makes some important points. On organ harvesting, I am fully cognisant of the issue of Falun Gong, which I know the noble Lord, Lord Alton, has raised several times. As my noble friend may be aware, Sir Geoffrey Nice conducted a report on this matter, the preliminary findings of which have been made available; the final report is still due. Foreign Office officials attended the launch of the preliminary report and will attend the follow-up meeting. On the other issues she raises, let me assure her that in all our interactions with the Chinese Administration, we have made it very clear that their actions are disproportionate, discriminatory against particular communities and, indeed, counter- productive in the longer term for China as it seeks to establish its position on the world stage. I assure my noble friend that we will continue to raise these issues through all avenues.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, in the aftermath of the death in detention of the Uighur poet and musician, Abdurehim Heyit, how does the Minister respond to the Turkish Foreign Ministry—referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia—calling on China to close the camps, alleging, in its words, “torture and brainwashing” and calling them “a shame on humanity”? Can we expect to see the United Kingdom Government not only press again the human rights point with the Security Council but raise with China the danger to its whole belt and road initiative, which is in jeopardy if many countries with large Muslim populations decide to follow Turkey’s lead and start imposing sanctions, preventing the development of those capital projects?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

Like the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, the noble Lord raises the issue of Turkey and other countries. I assure them that we are working with all international partners on this important priority. I agree with the noble Lord about the camps. First, China claimed that they did not exist. Now the claim is that they are there for re-education. About 10% of the whole Uighur community is being held in these camps. It is clear that the camps are extrajudicial and are held so that people can change their faith. We are aware of the various reports and we will act to ensure that they are verifiable. That does not mean that we are sitting back and doing nothing; we are working with all like-minded partners. As I said in response to the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, I shall seek to take this up during Human Rights Council meetings as well.

Sudan

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Tuesday 15th January 2019

(1 year, 8 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

I will certainly follow up on what the noble Lord suggests. He mentioned IGAD at the end of his question. The returns that we have seen from the IGAD relationship demonstrate directly the benefits of Uganda and Sudan working for the betterment of near neighbours, including South Sudan.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, has the Minister had a chance to look at the information that I sent him in the past couple of days about the disproportionate use of force by the Bashir regime in firing bullets and tear-gas into a hospital? Is this not in line with precisely what this regime has done in Darfur, where 2 million people were displaced and 200,000 killed, and in Blue Nile and South Kordofan, to which my noble friend Lady Cox referred? Is this not also in line with a Government who are in debt to some $40 billion and are using that money on violence and internal repression rather than to lift up the standard of living of people who are often living in gross misery, fuelling the exodus from that country and therefore fuelling all of the deaths that we see in the Mediterranean?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

I have seen the detailed assessment that the noble Lord sent, and I thank him for it. We are acutely aware of, and of course deplore, the attack that took place on the hospital, firing into those people and actually targeting those who were assisting people who were already injured. It was appalling, and I assure the noble Lord that we are taking it up in the strongest terms. On the wider issue of Darfur, during my visit to Sudan I did visit the region. With the UN mission actually pulling away from Darfur, we remain deeply concerned that any gains that have been made in bringing peace will be lost.

China: Human Rights

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Thursday 10th January 2019

(1 year, 8 months ago)

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Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool - Hansard

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the violations of human rights in China, including the arrest and disappearance of political activists and religious adherents, forced organ harvesting, and restrictions on free speech; and when they last made representations on these matters to the government of China.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, we are deeply concerned about restrictions to civil and political freedoms in China, particularly the treatment of ethnic minorities, freedom of expression, association and assembly, and freedom of religion or belief. We highlighted these concerns publicly during China’s universal periodic review in November 2018 and in my subsequent Statement. During 2018, the UK raised human rights bilaterally with China on a number of occasions, including through the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, Ministers and senior officials.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

I thank the Minister for that reply. Has he noted that at the heart of the deterioration of human rights in China has been the imprisonment, interrogation and, in some cases, torture of some 300 human rights lawyers and activists and their families? Among the issues that these brave lawyers have pursued is the mass repression of Uighurs in Xinjiang, the destruction of Christian churches, the arrest and detention of pastors such as Wang Yi and his wife Jiang Rong just before Christmas, and the forced harvesting of organs from prisoners of conscience. Sir Geoffrey Nice QC’s China Tribunal describes the situation as,

“involving a very substantial number of victims”,

and as being, “beyond reasonable doubt”, perpetrated by the state. Can the Minister assure us that, in the next universal periodic review, these questions will be put on the agenda, and the Government will do much more to try to raise levels of support for these courageous lawyers and civil society groups, who do not want China to regress into the violence and destruction that was so characteristic of the Cultural Revolution?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I commend the efforts of the noble Lord in consistently raising this issue and standing up for the different communities, the lawyers and activists, those of different faiths, and those who are being subjected to specific targeting for organ harvesting. I reassure him that, during the last UPR in Geneva, I made it a point to directly raise these issues, including the treatment of lawyers and religious minorities, and specifically the closure of Christian churches and the desperate situation of the Uighurs.

Sir Geoffrey Nice is conducting a review on organ harvesting, and the noble Lord will note that I ensured that some of my officials attended the hearings of the preliminary findings of that report. We are currently awaiting the detailed outcome. Let me reassure all noble Lords that we will consistently raise human rights publicly, through processes such as the UPR, and bilaterally, as I indicated in my original Answer.

China: Uighur Muslims

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Wednesday 19th December 2018

(1 year, 9 months ago)

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Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool - Hansard

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to raise (1) with the government of China, and (2) in international fora, the treatment and conditions of Uighur people held in “re-education” camps in China.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, we have serious concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjiang, including the use of political re-education camps and widespread surveillance and restrictions, which are targeted particularly at Uighur Muslims. Indeed, our diplomats recently visited Xinjiang. We highlighted our serious concerns at the September UN Human Rights Council, during China’s universal periodic review in November and in my subsequent public statement. My right honourable friends the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific also raised the issue with their Chinese counterparts.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, having met Uighurs in western China, I thank the Minister for that very robust reply. Reports suggest that up to 1 million Uighurs have been incarcerated without trial in a network of sinister re-education camps: these are bristling with barbed wire and watchtowers, with torture and brainwashing that demands renouncing god and embracing Communism. People are forced to change family names, give DNA samples and eat and drink forbidden things. Is this not a return to the methods of the Cultural Revolution, when thought crime regularly led to imprisonment and worse? What are the Government doing to encourage Muslim and other heads of state to speak out, recognising that such appalling treatment of a Muslim minority will fuel resentment and radicalisation right across the globe? What are they doing to persuade Beijing of the benefits of Article 18 and pluralism, and show that this appalling treatment of the Uighur people is the last way to create integration, loyalty and harmony?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for raising this issue. When we talk of religious persecution and the rights of different minority communities around the world, the plight of the Uighur Muslim is often forgotten. I have certainly been aware of this. The noble Lord will know that we raised this issue in a deliberate, focused way during the universal periodic review with the specific reference to the plight of the Uighur Muslims. To answer his question directly, that has resulted in strong support at an international level, not just among Muslim leaders, but in other states, ensuring that we raise the bar on raising this issue consistently with the Chinese authorities. Indeed, as I said earlier, our diplomats have recently returned from the region. The reports they provided are quite challenging and even quite horrific in certain respects, with people being asked to remove any sign that they are of a particular faith.

Nigeria: Intercommunal Violence

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Tuesday 18th December 2018

(1 year, 9 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

The noble Lord is right that there has been an escalation in violence and the number of deaths in Nigeria in a variety of different conflicts, and it is extremely concerning. I assure him that we have raised the issue at the highest level with President Buhari, who has not only condemned the violence but is investing government time, effort and resource to ensure that he is speaking to the regions impacted and has convened a meeting of the different states. Equally, as I said, we are working with European partners to see what policies and plans can be developed in that respect. That is work in progress. Most recently, we have been encouraged that the Nigerian Government are planning to introduce a government Bill to address some of the events that have occurred, particularly between the Fulani and the farmers in Nigeria. It will look at reforms relating to farmland and private-property protection and at ensuring that agriculture is protected. It will seek to build a positive relationship and co-operation between communities not only in different states but across the country as a whole.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, perhaps I may press the Minister further on the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, about the report published yesterday entitled Harvest of Death. It says that,

“these attacks were well planned and co-ordinated with the use of weapons like machine guns and AK47 rifles”.

Will the Minister tell us what ideology is underpinning this and who is providing these weapons? Will he also update the House on the position of the women who have been abducted, primarily by Boko Haram, and on the case of Leah Sharibu, who is being held captive by Islamic State in West Africa?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

The noble Lord is right to raise those matters. On the case of Leah Sharibu, we are continuing to press the authorities for her release. There is some positive news in that we understand that more than 70 of the 110 Dapchi schoolgirls who were kidnapped have been released. We continue to implore for and work towards the release of the others, and back-channels are open. The noble Lord is also quite right to raise the issue of arms. As he will know, there is a major challenge regarding the trafficking of weapons, particularly from nearby states, including the flow-through from places such as Libya. As to the ideology, there are, as was said earlier, various factors underlying the different conflicts within Nigeria. However, it is an indisputable fact that both the Islamic State in West Africa and Boko Haram operate in certain states, and their philosophy and ideology are perverse. They are hijacking the noble faith, and it is important not just in Nigeria that we collectively work to eradicate such a philosophy.

Rohingya Refugees

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Monday 17th December 2018

(1 year, 9 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, on the earlier point, I thank the noble Lord for his remarks. It is true that we can all be proud of the role that the Department for International Development has played over many years on behalf of those people who are suffering the worst crises, including humanitarian crises and the ethnic cleansing that we have seen of the Rohingya community in Burma. On the issue of Congress, I am aware of that vote—but, as the noble Lord will know, it is a long-standing position that we regard attributing genocide as an issue for judicial authorities. However, the United Kingdom is playing a key role in gathering evidence to ensure that the perpetrators of these crimes can be brought to justice.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, 700,000 Rohingya have now fled to Bangladesh and there are reports of villages being burned and horrific human rights violations including the burning of homes, schools and mosques; the deliberate burning of people to death inside their homes; mass rape; torture; execution without trial; the blocking of aid; and similar offences being conducted against the Shan and the Kachin as well. So is the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, not right to call for this, regardless of the vote in the American Congress, to be referred to the International Criminal Court? Why is the United Kingdom not laying a resolution before the Security Council calling for a global arms embargo on the Burmese Army, with targeted sanctions against Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and calling for Daw Suu, Aung San Suu Kyi, to speak out forcefully against these horrific offences?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, the noble Lord has raised various issues. First, he is quite right to point out that, as your Lordships’ House may be aware, there has not yet been a UN resolution. However, I assure him that we are speaking to all international partners, including those on the Security Council, to find a way forward on this. He will be aware that there are particular perspectives, most notably from the Chinese, which would, in our view, result in any ICC referral being blocked. We believe in the institution of the International Criminal Court and in its reforms, but any referral to it should carry full support. Looking at what has been debated and agreed in the Security Council over the last 12 months, thus far we have kept unanimity. That remains a primary objective, but I assure the noble Lord that we keep in mind the issue of all persecuted minorities—in Kachin and Shan provinces as well. We will ensure that evidence is collected and the perpetrators ultimately brought to justice in a local or international court.

Sudan and South Sudan

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Monday 10th December 2018

(1 year, 9 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

I note very carefully what has been said by the noble Lord and others in this respect, and I can assure noble Lords that, when it comes to political detainees, the very points he has outlined are paramount in our direct engagement with the Governments—be it with South Sudan, as in this instance, or with Sudan—and that we will continue to ensure that the right legal access and support is provided to all political prisoners.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, on this 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, can the Minister tell us which of the 30 articles in the universal declaration the Republic of the Sudan is not in breach of? Given that some 2 million people were displaced and some 200,000 to 300,000 killed in Darfur, and that Field Marshal Omar al-Bashir—referred to by my noble friend Lady Cox a moment ago—is indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, how can we justify continuing and trying to step up trade with the Government of Sudan, and what are we doing to bring him to justice?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

On that final point, as the noble Lord and all your Lordships are aware, he is indicted. The Government do not engage with him directly. However, we are looking—as I said myself during my visit—to build support for civil society. I can tell the noble Lord that there is one shimmer of hope, one silver lining to that dark cloud which still hangs over Sudan. I found that on one issue very close to his heart and to mine—the issue of freedom of religion or belief—what I saw on the ground of the relationships between the leaders I met from the Christian and Muslim communities was very positive. Indeed, in some of the challenges the Christian communities have in running their schools, particularly with the governor of Khartoum, the imams from the Muslim community were acting as their advocates.

Freedom of Religion or Belief

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Thursday 19th July 2018

(2 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

I absolutely agree with the right reverend Prelate. I assure him that one of the primary motivations behind my right honourable friend appointing me to the role is exactly that: the increasing concern about the plight of Christian minorities across north Africa and the Middle East. There are always, however, glimmers of hope in that grey cloud. Recently, I visited Tunisia and Algeria. As the right reverend Prelate may know, because of our diplomatic efforts and those of others, Algeria has announced the reopening of two of the churches it had closed. As I arrived, I was pleased to be informed that a third church that had been closed has now been reopened. Christian minorities in that part of the world and beyond are an important priority and part of my role.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, the Minister has a long track record of upholding Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the right to believe, not to believe or to change your belief—and I join others in the House in welcoming his appointment to this important role. Will he explain the difference to us between the idea of having a roving ambassador, which is the subject of the Question, and having an envoy? Given that the call for an ambassador on freedom of religion or belief was in the manifesto of both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party in the past, what is that difference? Where does it clash with ministerial responsibilities—for instance, upholding DfID policies or issues around declarations of genocide? How will the Minister’s responsibility as a Minister clash with those of the independence that is required a special envoy?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

First, having special envoy status strengthens the role. Many countries around the world have employed ambassadors and they continue to make representations to Governments. Being at the heart of government, I believe that I will be able to influence policy on exactly the kind of points and issues that the noble Lord raises. I assure him that I have represented this particular area in my wider brief as Minister for Human Rights, and the ability to influence the direction of policy and statements that are made is an immense privilege. To do that within government as well as being an envoy to the Prime Minister will, I believe, open further doors.

Burma

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Tuesday 12th June 2018

(2 years, 3 months ago)

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Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool - Hansard

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of recent reports of the Burmese military attacking Christians in Kachin, and other ethnic minorities in Burma; what representations they have made to the government of Burma about these reports; and what consideration they have given to the case for referring the government of Burma to the International Criminal Court.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, the Government have expressed their deep concern at the surge of fighting in Kachin since April. We have called upon the Burmese military and all parties to cease hostilities and allow the humanitarian access that is required to be provided to displaced people. Turning to Rakhine, the Burmese authorities must show that the commission of inquiry can deliver accountability for the perpetrators of atrocities. If not, the Government will consider supporting international routes to justice.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Those responsible have been emboldened by the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Rohingya Muslims, the destruction of villages and killings, torture and rape. What practical things do we intend to do in response to the United Nations estimate that fighting in Kachin and Shan states has now driven a further 120,000 people into 167 inaccessible displacement camps? How are we responding to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court’s request that these unconscionable war crimes and crimes against humanity be referred to her court? Is not it high time that senior members of the Burmese military such as General Min Aung Hlaing are targeted with sanctions and brought to justice?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

On the noble Lord’s final point, of course we have exercised the tool of sanctions against several members of the military, and continue to use that tool. On his more specific point on the displacement of people in Kachin, there has been an emboldening. Not only has the Rohingya community suffered immensely following its displacement—with almost 1 million in Bangladesh, if you take it over a longer period—but so too have specific communities in Kachin, predominantly Christian minority communities. There has been internal displacement, and quite often the full extent of that displacement has not been revealed because of lack of access. There is a glimmer of hope from the civilian Administration in that, for the first time, we have seen Burma sign an MoU with the UN agencies concerned—the UNHCR and the UNDP—which took place on 7 June. In a recent conversation with the civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary reiterated the importance of ensuring the full return of all refugees, be they from Rakhine or from Kachin.

Commonwealth: Discriminatory Legislation

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Monday 21st May 2018

(2 years, 4 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, the Government’s view is very clear. I quote the Prime Minister when she addressed the plenary session:

“the UK stands ready to support any Commonwealth member wanting to reform outdated legislation that permits discrimination, including against same-sex relations”.

The funding is to be allocated to help countries build up their legal systems. I assure the noble Lord further that, in our bilateral exchanges with Commonwealth partners, we also ensure that issues of equality have a primary focus. It is about working in partnership, taking communities and societies together, and that is the approach we are taking.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, when the noble Lord is looking at outdated laws in the Commonwealth, will he reflect on the meeting that he kindly attended last week that considered blasphemy laws, particularly those that operate in countries such as Pakistan, and also the Pakistan penal code, which specifically requires the country’s significant Ahmadi minority, some 5 million people, to register as non-Muslims in order to be able to qualify to vote, thus disqualifying them from the franchise? Surely this is a law that needs to be overhauled.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

First, I thank the noble Lord for chairing that meeting, all three APPGs which convened the meeting and all who attended. When we look at blasphemy laws around the world, they were in many ways a legacy of the days of Empire. It is important that we take a lead responsibility in ensuring that those who are now using laws that were intended to protect religions to discriminate against minority communities, such as the Ahmadi Muslim community and Christian communities, are met on the front foot and that we deal with it directly and bilaterally. Equally, when those laws are used to discriminate on important issues such as excluding people from elections, as they are in Pakistan, they should also be called out for what they are: they are straightforwardly discriminatory and should be eliminated and eradicated.

Nigeria

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Monday 26th March 2018

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

Certainly the Commonwealth is a force for good in looking at tackling some of these issues. As my noble friend will be aware, the United Kingdom and Australia funded the Countering Violent Extremism unit within the Commonwealth. We are working on areas such as building training and support for the Nigerian authorities and will continue to build their capacity to deal with such issues.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

When the Minister next meets his Nigeria counterparts, will he address two of the causes of the growth of the Fulani militias and Boko Haram and ask him why, in defiance of the Nigerian constitution and Article 18 obligations, sharia law has been imposed in 12 states, providing impunity during the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, abductions, land seizures, murders and violence such as the shooting in the mouth of a female choir singer, and how the Nigerian Government will address the fertile breeding ground for recruiting sergeants such as the kleptomania of corrupt leaders that has led the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to state that some $360 billion has been stolen, while in the impoverished north where these groups have been growing some 70% of children never go to school?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

The noble Lord is right to raise this. Corruption is part of the reason that we see various challenges. It is very prevalent in certain parts of the country, which drives other causes and results in groups such as Boko Haram and the Islamic State of West Africa coming to the fore. Those vacuums exist and need to be filled. On the issue of sharia law being imposed on communities that do not adhere to sharia, it is against all principles, it is against the Nigerian constitution and—I will also add—against Islam itself. They need to wake up and smell the coffee, because they are perpetrating heinous crimes against humanity and are nothing to do with any constitution or religion.

ISIS: Trial of British Citizens

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Wednesday 28th February 2018

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool -