Sudan

Baroness Sugg Excerpts
Monday 26th June 2023

(1 year ago)

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Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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My Lords, we continue to work with international partners to bring about a permanent cessation of hostilities and that includes through a new African Union-led core group to ensure inclusive regional and international action to secure a viable peace process. It is our view, as it is the noble Lord’s, that a transition to civilian rule is the best and probably only way to deliver peace and prosperity.

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con)
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My Lords, my noble friend the Minister has set out the terrible scale of the humanitarian crisis in the region. Despite the ongoing challenges caused by the conflict, the World Food Programme has managed to assist over 1 million people, but 19 million people are expected to need that assistance by August this year. The UK has long been a trusted partner of the World Food Programme. Can my noble friend set out what support the Government have been able to give the WFP and what they may be able to do in the future?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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My Lords, I am afraid I do not have the figures for the most recent contribution to the World Food Programme, but we are one of the major donors. We have always been one of the major donors and we remain committed to that programme.

United Nations Population Fund Report

Baroness Sugg Excerpts
Wednesday 24th May 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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Again, I agree with the premise of the noble Baroness’s question. In 2021, we were the second-largest global bilateral donor on family planning. We delivered on the 2017 summit commitment to spend an average of £225 million a year on family planning over five years to 2022. Between 2015 and 2020 we believe we reached nearly 25.5 million women and girls with modern methods of family planning. This remains a major focus in UK bilateral and multi- lateral spending in relation to women and girls.

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con)
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My Lords, given the findings of the UNFPA report, I welcome the publication of the FCDO’s international women and girls strategy. As my noble friend the Minister says, it recognises the importance of continued UK work on sexual and reproductive health and rights and notices the regrettable global rollback on women’s rights. What are the Government doing to ensure that the strategy is properly institutionalised across our diplomatic networks?

Sudan: Refugees

Baroness Sugg Excerpts
Wednesday 24th May 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I have to admit that I am not aware of the example that the noble Earl gave. I will have to put that to the Minister for Africa and provide a proper response in due course. On the issue of food provision generally, we have provided emergency food aid to an estimated 193,000 people as well as daily water and sanitation provision for 83,000 of the most vulnerable displaced people in South Sudan. This is a key area for us and the record is one that we should not be complacent about but can be proud of.

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con)
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My Lords, the refugees referred to by the most reverend Primate in his Question include women and girls who have suffered horrendous sexual and gender-based violence, including rape used as a weapon of war. What are the UK Government doing to help to ensure accountability for the actions of those responsible for these crimes?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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Our starting position is that a competent national or international court should determine whether crimes against humanity or genocide have been committed and who is responsible, and there have been numerous allegations, many of them backed up with impressive evidence, to suggest that very serious things have happened in the region. We remain a staunch advocate for justice. We support the role of the International Criminal Court in investigating war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. We work with a wide range of NGOs that are monitoring the situation closely, and we will continue to do so.

Sudan: Civilian Population

Baroness Sugg Excerpts
Thursday 18th May 2023

(1 year, 2 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, first, we welcome the Jeddah declaration of 11 May, which provides a degree of respite. The trajectory is moving in the right direction, but more needs to be done for a sustainable ceasefire. The noble Lord mentioned the work of the APPG, which I am well versed in. I know of the important work that has been done over the last 20 years. When I visited Darfur, I saw directly the impunity which prevailed regarding the crimes committed at that time. In a particular chapter of the APPG report, there is an extensive number of recommendations. I suggest that I write to the noble Lord outlining some of the steps we have taken, including those based on the recommendations we are considering.

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con)
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My Lords, holding perpetrators to account for their actions is essential, both for the sake of those who have suffered so greatly in this conflict and to ensure that the people in charge know they will be held responsible. Does my noble friend the Minister support the call from Sudanese women’s human rights defenders and women’s groups, supported by the International Service for Human Rights, for the Human Rights Council to establish an international investigation mechanism with sufficient resources to investigate and document sexual and gender-based violence?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, as my noble friend is aware, I am the Government’s lead on, and the Prime Minister’s special representative for, preventing sexual violence in conflict. Tragically, we again see women and girls in Sudan being targeted specifically. On the issue of the Human Rights Council, my noble friend will also be aware that the United Kingdom, as penholder, led on the resolution, which we believe was practical and drew attention to the current crisis as it unfolded. It is probably the strongest statement we have seen from the HRC in this respect. I recognise the points my noble friend raised, and I assure her that the Government are very much seized of what more can be done in this area.

Ukraine Recovery Conference

Baroness Sugg Excerpts
Monday 15th May 2023

(1 year, 2 months ago)

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Asked by
Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what their priorities are for the Ukraine Recovery Conference taking place in London in June to support Ukraine’s economic and social stabilisation and recovery from the effects of war, and how they intend to ensure that it is a success.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con)
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My Lords, the United Kingdom is proud to co-host the Ukraine Recovery Conference with the Government of Ukraine. Preparations for the conference are in collaboration with our Ukrainian colleagues, and the event will focus on the role of the private sector in supporting recovery and reconstruction. It will provide a platform for the Government of Ukraine to set out their reform efforts, particularly in relation to the business environment, and for international partners to signal their ongoing support and commitment to Ukraine.

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con)
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I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for that update, and commend the Government on co-hosting this conference and on all they are doing to support Ukraine. A significant amount of further support can come from the proceeds of the sale of Chelsea Football Club, some £2.3 billion, due to be given to a charitable foundation to help the victims of this conflict in Ukraine and elsewhere. I appreciate that this is a very complex process, but it has been around a year since the sale. Can my noble friend the Minister tell me whether the funds will be released in time for the recovery conference and confirm which Minister is responsible for making progress on getting this money to those who need it?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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On my noble friend’s second question—and I thank her for her strong support of the Government’s position—ultimately His Majesty’s Treasury will lead on this issue. The proceeds from the sale of Chelsea FC are frozen in a UK bank account, as she said. Humanitarian experts outside government are responsible for the highly complex process of establishing a foundation to manage and distribute the proceeds. I take on board her suggestion about the importance of perhaps moving forward on this at the time of the conference. I cannot give a specific assurance at this time, but I will share her concerns and suggestions with my colleagues at the Treasury.

Afghanistan: Girls and Women

Baroness Sugg Excerpts
Monday 23rd January 2023

(1 year, 5 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I assure the noble Lord that we are doing exactly that. What better example could there be, perhaps, than seeing the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations—the second most senior person in international, multilateral organisations, herself a hijab-wearing Muslim—together with Sima Bahous, the leader of UN Women, also a Muslim, being part of the UN high-level delegation that attended? What that demonstrated to the Taliban directly was not just that they must engage women but that women must be pivotal to any society progressing. In every progressive society, irrespective of what the religion is, that is essential to ensure that society is progressive and that people prosper.

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con)
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My Lords, the Taliban are still hunting down women who held public positions. Recently, the ex-MP Mursal Nabizada was killed. Can my noble friend the Minister tell me whether there is anything we can do to help these women—these human rights defenders—who are in such danger in the country?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I join my noble friend, and I am sure all of us, in expressing abhorrence at these actions, which, literally, as my noble friend said, identify individuals. First and foremost, we must protect their identity. That is why, with some of the NGOs we are supporting on the ground, particularly some of the women’s charities, we are we working directly with them, but, in the detail we sometimes provide, at their behest and for their protection, we do not share those details. We are also working directly with women leaders. My noble friend Lady Hodgson and I met separately with some of the women leaders who were directly involved with the Government. I think that also provides a very important conduit to the kinds of priorities that are needed for woman representatives, be they human rights defenders or, indeed, ex-politicians within Afghanistan.

Protection of Media Freedom

Baroness Sugg Excerpts
Thursday 8th December 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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Asked by
Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to protect media freedom around the world.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park) (Con)
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My Lords, since launching a global media freedom campaign in 2019, the Government have continued to champion media freedom and healthy information ecosystems more broadly. As part of this work, we co-founded the Media Freedom Coalition and helped launch a new global media defence fund. The Minister of State for Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and United Nations reaffirmed the UK’s commitment to media freedom in November at a conference on the safety of journalists to mark the 10th anniversary of the UN plan of action on the safety of journalists.

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con)
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My Lords, I acknowledge the work that the Government has been doing on media freedom and I am very grateful for it, but around the world, journalists are detained simply for trying to do their job in an objective way. In Myanmar, for example, journalists have been killed and we have seen a wave of arrests, including of Htet Htet Khine, Sithu Aung Myint and Nyein Nyein Aye. Will the Minister join me in condemning the unjust detention of journalists and tell me what work the Government are doing to help protect media freedom in Myanmar?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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My noble friend is absolutely right. I believe it is still the case today that on average, every five days around the world a journalist is killed for bringing information to the public. With 80 journalists and media workers killed already this year and the number of journalists jailed for their work at an all-time high, this continues to be a real priority for us. The military in Myanmar has arrested over 100 journalists and killed at least three, and many others have been subject to torture, extreme violence and so on. It has also shut down almost all independent media in the country. Of course, we wholeheartedly and completely condemn the military’s behaviour and its suppression of opposition voices, including journalists and civil society activists, since the coup last year. We are providing emergency funding to help journalists and media organisations continue to report what is happening in Myanmar, and we are working with the Media Freedom Coalition and international partners to call out the military suppression of media freedom and the targeting of journalists.

Ethiopia: Peace Process

Baroness Sugg Excerpts
Monday 5th December 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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Yes, we are. However, I do not want to deny for a moment that the challenges are immense. We have just seen a very fragile peace agreement being reached; we need to ensure that it is sustained and strengthened, and that those who committed these crimes are held fully to account. As the noble Lord will know, we made an additional commitment of £12.5 million; part of that money will be allocated to national mechanisms in conflict-related areas, where we can help to build national accountability mechanisms and support the training of judges and prosecutors.

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con)
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My Lords, further to my noble friend’s comments on the dire humanitarian situation, I say that we believe there to be around 13 million people who now need humanitarian assistance because of the hostilities. Can he update me on any progress that has been made on humanitarian access since the ceasefire?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, we are providing additional access. As my noble friend will be aware, in the last 18 months alone, we have allocated nearly £90 million to support efforts, including humanitarian efforts. Existing supply routes continue to operate, but we are working with partners such as UNICEF and, in particular, the WFP. Over the last 18 months, it has provided supplementary feeding, for example, to 115,000 malnourished mothers and children in northern Ethiopia, and to 226,000 people in drought-affected communities in southern Ethiopia. When we see the scale of the humanitarian suffering, however, we see that there is so much still to be done.

Civil Society and Human Rights Defenders

Baroness Sugg Excerpts
Wednesday 23rd November 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I will follow up and update the noble Lord on his second point. On his first point, of course, the United Kingdom stands very firm in our defence of freedom of religion or belief around the world. It is important that we remain steadfast in that. As a country, we celebrate the rich diversity of faith or belief. Indeed, our own journey, while it may have been challenging, is testament to this. As we look around the rich tapestry of faith institutions in the United Kingdom today, we have church steeples, cloisters, gurdwaras, synagogues, mosques and temples; that really demonstrates how we celebrate faith. Equally, many are denied their right to faith or belief around the world. That is why we held a conference earlier this year; the noble Lord was directly engaged with that. He also knows of my personal commitment to ensure that this remains a key priority for His Majesty’s Government.

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con)
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My Lords, the work described in the Question from the noble Lord, Lord Collins, is undoubtedly needed. Front Line Defenders identified at least 358 people who were killed in 2021 because of their work defending rights. We have heard that in the Government’s integrated review there is a commitment to work with civil society and human rights defenders as a priority. We have an upcoming review of that; can my noble friend the Minister commit that that will remain a priority?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I assure my noble friend that it remains a priority. Indeed, very recently after the appointment of the new Government my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, the new Minister for Development, Andrew Mitchell, and I met civil society organisations directly to ensure that each of their priorities was fully understood, both in terms of the work we are doing in defending human rights around the world and equally in terms of understanding their development priorities.

Genocide Determination Bill [HL]

Baroness Sugg Excerpts
Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con)
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My Lords, I support the Genocide Determination Bill and thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for bringing it forward and indeed for his continued and tireless work on genocide; as I learned from the House of Lords Library briefing, he has raised it over 300 times in this House.

I was recently in France, where I visited Le Jardin des Rosiers in Paris and saw a memorial to the 101 infants of pre-school age who in the first half of this century lived their too-short lives in the 4th arrondissement. They were arrested by French police of the Vichy regime and handed over to the Nazis for extermination, simply because they were Jewish. The youngest was 27 days old.

We say “Never again”, but in the world we live in today there are recent cases of genocide, in various stages. These cases, along with the tragedy and horror of the Holocaust, need to be kept in mind when we make important decisions on mechanisms that could address them.

In 2014, Daesh perpetrated a litany of crimes against the Yazidis and other religious minorities, sending a clear message that they were not to exist under the Daesh reign in the region.

In 2016, over a million Rohingyas were forced to flee their homes. The Burmese military, the Tatmadaw, resorted to mass killings, torture, rape—including gang rape—and sexual violence, and much more, and I heard those stories first-hand when I visited Cox’s Bazar.

In 2018, we started hearing stories from Xinjiang, China, of thousands of Uighurs and other Turkic minorities being stripped of their religious identity, subjected to horrific abuse and sent to labour camps.

Just in the last year, we have seen some evidence of genocidal atrocities in the Tigrayan region. Among other horrors, we have seen women being violently raped and mutilated before being told that “A Tigrayan womb should never give birth.”

In 2022, we again have to consider the issue of genocide, whether it is the serious risk of genocide or elements of the legal definition, in Ukraine or in Afghanistan against the Hazara community, as we heard from the noble Lord. These cases are indeed current and contemporary.

The fact that in the last eight years alone we have been discussing so many cases of genocide does not mean that we are being too liberal with the word. It means that our inaction to address the early warning signs and risk factors of genocide, and then full-blown genocide, emboldens the perpetrators. This inaction sends the message that people can get away with it—a message that is the opposite of “Never again”.

Several decades after accepting the obligations to prevent and punish the crime of genocide, as identified in the UN genocide convention, we have not done enough to ensure that these obligations are implemented. I know that the Government are fully committed to these obligations, but this commitment must be followed by actions. The Government’s long-standing policy is that genocide is left to international judicial systems; I articulated that policy from the Dispatch Box when I was an FCDO Minister. However, I was uncomfortable with that policy at the time, and no longer believe it to be correct. We are not seeing it working, because the UK does not have any formal mechanism that allows for the consideration and recognition of mass atrocities that meet the threshold of genocide.

His Majesty’s Government place immense confidence in the international judicial bodies to respond to genocide, despite seeing slow—or a lack of—action in them, and despite the Government being the duty bearers under the genocide convention rather than international judicial systems. We still do not have a determination from an international judicial body for any of the atrocities that I have mentioned as genocide. After everything that we know about these atrocities, including by way of the incredibly brave testimonies of survivors, some of which we heard about from the noble Lord, Lord Alton —survivors such as Nadia Murad, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, a woman that I know my noble friend the Minister has great admiration for—how can we continue to justify the long-standing policy that ultimately prevents the community having their pain and suffering recognised for what it is?

This is a difficult and complex issue, but that must not mean that we do nothing. The circular failure of the Government’s long-standing policy on genocide must be addressed once and for all. The Genocide Determination Bill does this: it provides a mechanism for genocide determination or serious risk of genocide, in line with the ICJ interpretation of the duty to prevent genocide. It also requires His Majesty’s Government to act and proposes steps to be taken, including engaging the ICC, the ICJ or relevant UN bodies. These are steps that the Government do not currently use.

That memorial in Les Jardin des Rosiers contained this message:

“Passer-by, read their names. Your memory is their only tombstone … Let us never forget them.”


We must never forget them or any other victim of genocide. We say, “Never again”, but to mean it, we must have a comprehensive reform of the UK’s genocide strategy. I support the Bill as the first step towards that.