Debates between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool during the 2019 Parliament

Wed 13th Jul 2022
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Ukraine

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Wednesday 13th July 2022

(1 month ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord for his kind words. On the issue of Ukraine, the noble Lord, Lord Collins, summed it up very well. We stand united with Ukraine; it is right that Ukraine leads the efforts in terms of any discussions, including those on peace. We, as an ally, partner and constructive friend, stand strong in our support on humanitarian issues, on the economy and on the military. We stand with Ukraine in every sense. I wish to record the broad range of support across your Lordships’ House —indeed, across both Houses—in support of this central and key objective.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, when later today the Minister has talks with Karim Khan, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, will he talk to him about the use of starvation as a weapon of war, which is a war crime? Will he refer specifically to the burning of Ukrainian wheat fields over the past few days, as well as the blockading of the export of grain to countries in the third world, but specifically into famine-ridden countries that are already facing drought, locusts and the rest, in the Horn of Africa and east Africa?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I shall actually be seeing Karim Khan tomorrow, I think—by the time I get there it will be quite late. On the specific points, I have a bilateral whereby I shall be engaging with him on the very points that the noble Lord raises about the increasing level and spectrum of crimes that are taking place in Ukraine against the people of Ukraine, including conflict-related sexual violence. We will be documenting it—that is why the UK has led the way in ensuring that Ukraine’s own prosecutor, who visited the UK, is equipped not just with money and the technical support she needs but with the expertise, including that of Sir Howard Morrison, that is helping her directly in ensuring that those crimes can be documented so that we see successful prosecutions.

Nigeria

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Tuesday 5th July 2022

(1 month, 1 week ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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The noble Lord makes an important point about the broader issues of population growth. I referred to resources because it is often the issues that occur over land that cause further disputes, and those who are seeking to divide—particularly extremist groups—then use that very basis to cause further communal violence against different groups and, indeed, to take up arms and commit acts of extremism against vulnerable communities.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, in this week of the International Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Article 18, which the Minister himself has done so much to facilitate and entrench—and we are all grateful to him for that—will he reflect on the remarks of the Bishop of Ondo, who saw 40 of his own parishioners in his diocese murdered in their church only last month, and also on the continued abduction of Leah Sharibu, a teenager who was abducted, raped, impregnated and told that she must forcibly be made to convert to a different religion? Surely, this is a time to uphold freedom of religion or belief, Article 18, which insists on the right to believe, not to believe or to change your belief.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord. That is why the United Kingdom Government are hosting the conference across the road. We are seeing not just government but, importantly, faith leaders and, most importantly, civil society leaders and survivors who have now become powerful advocates against religious persecution at the forefront of the discourse. Equally, we condemn the atrocities that have taken place repeatedly in Nigeria, including the recent attacks on the church, which caused further fatalities, and the shocking abduction and ongoing captivity of Leah Sharibu. I hope that there will be a focus on Nigeria when we host the PSVI conference on conflict-related sexual violence later this year. I look forward to working with the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, in this regard.

Tigray

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Monday 4th July 2022

(1 month, 1 week ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, as my noble friend will be aware, CRSV remains a key priority for the UK Government. The Foreign Secretary has made sexual violence in conflict one of her top priorities. In northern Ethiopia, the UK has provided £4 million of support to survivors of sexual violence. My noble friend is correct that we have deployed experts; we are working with UNICEF and the UNHCR to ensure that full support can be provided to survivors. I will be pleased to provide a briefing to my noble friend on the detail of our support and the focus we hope to bring at the PSVI conference in November.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, has the noble Lord had a chance to look at the link I sent him over the weekend to a French documentary, the first in 18 months to be undertaken by international, independent journalists who had access to Tigray, entitled “Tigray, the Land of Hunger”? It develops the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Wheeler; it is about the deliberate starvation of the people of Tigray, which is a war crime. Does the noble Lord agree that, with 6 million people under siege and starving to death—a situation that will be only worsened by the blockades in Ukraine—and Tigray being without electricity, internet, banking services and medical supplies, the situation is dire? When will the FCDO’s JACS report—the joint analysis of conflict and stability—in Ethiopia be completed? Are we preserving the evidence, so that those responsible for atrocity crimes will be brought to justice? Does he agree that there can be no peace without justice?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I totally agree with the noble Lord’s final point. We are ensuring through the deployment of experts and in working with key international partners that we do exactly as he suggests and protect the evidence so that we can bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice. As the situation has been enhanced by our ability to provide humanitarian support, the report is being updated. We were just talking about home working; I regret to say that it is perhaps also not part and parcel of the job of a Foreign Minister. This weekend I spent most of my time in Birmingham, so I have not had time to read the report for the OSCE plenary, but I will look at the link that the noble Lord has sent me.

Russia and Ukraine: Settlement

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Thursday 26th May 2022

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord. He and I have been speaking about this consistently throughout. I am glad that he met Ambassador Woodward. We continue to engage through all multilateral channels, particularly on humanitarian issues. We were first in line; indeed, I spoke with the Secretary-General in New York about the importance of engaging with all sides. Even at that time, as the noble Lord knows, Russia would not entertain a visit from him. Later today, I will meet the Ukrainian prosecutor-general, Iryna Venediktova, who is in town, to discuss our support for her work on the ground. We will continue to work with Ukraine, particularly on the current situation around food security, to which my noble friend Lord Lamont alluded. That issue is not just about Ukraine and Russia; it is about the whole world.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, the noble Lord is right to emphasise the importance of holding to account those who are responsible for war crimes in places such as Mariupol and Bucha, as well as for the illegal invasion of Ukraine. There is no moral equivalence between Ukraine and Russia here. Will the Minister report back to the House on what action is being taken to bring to justice those responsible for these terrible events? Also, will he say more about the opening up of grain supplies? This issue is now jeopardising people living in places such as east Africa and the Horn of Africa, where 20 million people already facing chronic drought and famine-like conditions will now be denied grain as a result of the blockade of Odessa.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I assure the noble Lord that, as I have already mentioned, I have a meeting later today with the prosecutor-general, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Justice Secretary. The work we are doing through the ICC will also be a point of discussion. Yesterday, along with the United States and the EU, we announced an advisory group to look at aggression. We welcome the first prosecution that has taken place on the ground. On the noble Lord’s wider point, we have put additional funding and support into the Horn of Africa, primarily on this very issue of food security. I have visited north Africa and will do so again later next month.

Xinjiang Internment Camps: Shoot-to-Kill Policy

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Wednesday 25th May 2022

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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First of all, I agree with the noble Lord about the issue of human rights abuses. As the UK’s Human Rights Minister, it is something very specific to the agenda that I am following directly and with partners through all networks. We raise issues and concerns directly and bilaterally, and through various UN and multilateral fora.

On the specific issues of our trade with China, we must make sure that our trade with China is reliable, but that it avoids any kind of strategic dependency, and of course the important issues that the noble Lord draws to our focus about human rights abuses. One hopes also that, through some of the measures we are taking in the Bill that I announced on modern slavery, and also the discussions that we will have on whatever legislation comes forward, we will continue to focus on eradicating those human rights abuses, and that those companies which still seek to trade in that capacity will be held to account.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Uyghurs. It was the Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, who said that a genocide is under way in Xinjiang: the ultimate human rights violation, the crime above all crimes. At a meeting with her and the Prime Minister, held with sanctioned parliamentarians, we were promised that government policy on genocide determination would be reformed. Will the noble Lord tell us how this can be expedited, and whether he will arrange a follow-up meeting with the Foreign Secretary? Will he urgently draw John Sudworth’s admirable BBC documentary to the attention of the UN’s Michelle Bachelet during her current visit to the region?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, on the noble Lord’s final point, that documentary—I have certainly seen part of it, not in full, but I have also seen many of the images associated with it—really makes your stomach churn, in every sense. It is abhorrent, in every sense. I was pleased that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, and the Prime Minister, met with the noble Lord, amongst others. I am also aware that the PM at that meeting demonstrated how seriously we are taking this issue. I will follow up and of course update the noble Lord.

Amnesty International Report 2021/22

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Wednesday 27th April 2022

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, first, in Hong Kong, particularly with the introduction of the national security law, the issue is less one of freedom of religion or belief and more one of freedom full stop. The concerns we have in Hong Kong are well documented. We have an extensive support scheme through the BNO scheme, run by the Home Office, and more broadly when it comes to China’s suppression of rights. We see the abuse of freedom of religion most vividly in Xinjiang, and we have led on the Human Rights Council on that aspect. My noble friend also raises India, which is a strong democracy. I am the Minister responsible for our relations with India. As someone of Indian heritage, in part, and as a Muslim by faith, I assure my noble friend that we have very constructive engagement on a broad range of rights. India has a strong constitution and justice system and, within both those processes, the rights of every community, irrespective of faith, are fully protected.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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But my Lords, we are talking about Article 18 violations for 1 million Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang and Article 19 violations in Hong Kong—the denial of media and press freedoms. What can the noble Lord say to us about the position we take in the United Nations Human Rights Council, of which China is also a member? When do we hold it to account on these violations? Which of the 30 articles in the 1948 convention—the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—is China not in breach of?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, on the noble Lord’s second question, I would hazard a guess and say that, regrettably and tragically, most if not all may have been breached when it comes to the application of human rights in China. On the earlier point about the situation of the Uighurs, as I have already said, we have led the way on the Human Rights Council. It has not been easy; it has been challenging. However, the fact is that on every vote we have had at the Human Rights Council we have had an increasing number of countries supporting the position that the United Kingdom has led on. There is an egregious abuse of human rights in Xinjiang, for not just the Muslim Uighur community but other minorities as well.

Ethiopia

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Monday 4th April 2022

(4 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I agree with my noble friend. Since November 2020, the UK has allocated more than £86 million in response to the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia, but this was in advance of the situation in Ukraine—and it is not just conflict zones that are being impacted. This morning, I had a meeting with the Tunisian ambassador, who outlined the challenge being felt by the economy of Tunisia, and indeed economies across the world, because of the situation in Ukraine. Ukraine’s own Foreign Minister said, “We were the bread basket for so much of the world and now we are having to ask for support ourselves”.

In answer to my noble friend’s second question, we have been working very closely with international partners, particularly the World Food Programme. My noble friend will be aware that, over the weekend, a humanitarian convoy finally reached Tigray for the first time. This is the first time that this has happened and that overland access has been possible in nearly four months. We will continue to ensure that resourcing, including food aid, is prioritised.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, is there not a grave danger that, under the cover of darkness provided by the situation in Ukraine, the world could forget what is happening in Tigray? For 17 months there has been a conflict there, which, as the noble Lord has said, has led to the mass starvation of almost 7 million people, where blockades have been used to starve people to death and where rape has been used as a weapon of war. Does the Minister agree that these are war crimes and that his own department should be collecting the evidence? Will he give an assurance that we will bring to justice those who are responsible for these heinous crimes?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, on the noble Lord’s final point I can give the assurance that we will do all that we can to bring these perpetrators to account, irrespective of where the conflict is, and Tigray is no exception. We have been in the region working with key partners—including, for example, experts on gathering information directly from survivors of sexual violence—to ensure that we can start building the evidence base. As the noble Lord is aware, in Ukraine we are working very closely with the ICC. But I can give the more general assurance that, notwithstanding Ukraine, we are not taking our eye off the ball. We welcome the recent inroads and indeed the truce called in Yemen, and, as the noble Lord knows, we have stood firm in our contribution to the people of Afghanistan through again endorsing £280 million in the next financial year in support for the people of Afghanistan.

Ukraine: War Crimes Allegations

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Monday 4th April 2022

(4 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, of course, we are sharing and presenting the evidence, but the evidence—indeed, the reality—is being rejected by Russia. It is sometimes said that the evidence, the truth, can be in front of your eyes but you deny it, and that is exactly what the Russians are doing. However, we will be unrelenting in our collaboration and co-ordination to ensure that the perpetrators of these crimes are brought to account.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, is the Minister able to enlarge on the statement made by the Prime Minister overnight that we will be sending military and police support to the Hague to help with the investigations that are under way, and that we will be working with our Five Eyes allies to collect evidence as well? Does he recall the question that I put to him last week about inviting Karim Kahn QC, the prosecutor of the ICC, to come here so that we can clarify the difference between the various phrases being used to describe these crimes—they are not genocide, but they are crimes against humanity and war crimes—and the existing mechanisms that there already are, which mean we do not need a new tribunal, because the existing inquiry into Donbass is already under way? Would it not be a good thing for Mr Kahn to come here to brief Members of both Houses?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, if Karim Khan is following our debates in Hansard, as he often does, I am sure that he will have seen the noble Lord being consistent in asking the prosecutor to come to the UK. As I have said before, he has a lot on his plate, understandably, but we are working closely with him. On the next opportunity we will—and I will personally, when I next see him—extend that invitation for him to come here to hear what noble Lords, indeed all parliamentarians, have to say on this issue. We are working very closely. The appointment of Sir Howard underlines the importance of close co-ordination. The noble Lord will know that Sir Howard himself was a very distinguished judge at the ICC.

Ukraine: Rape as a Weapon of War

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Friday 1st April 2022

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, on the noble Baroness’s second question, the answer is yes, but that is being stepped up. Anyone who has sat down with a survivor of sexual violence knows that in many instances it takes time for them even to share their horrific experiences. Our health teams are on the ground working with near neighbours—including Poland, where I visited—to ensure that there is a consistent and co-ordinated approach, particularly to those who have been the victims of such abhorrent actions. Equally, on the issue of collecting evidence, the noble Baroness may be aware that we are working directly with Nadia Murad on the intended Murad code, which has been launched and shared with partners. We are working with the ICC and other partners on the parameters of the code, which ensures a specific way of collecting evidence that is both sensitive and sustainable but, most importantly, allows for the legal thresholds to be met for successful prosecutions to take place.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, the concern about the widespread use of sexual violence in war has arisen specifically from a case raised by the Ukrainian MP, Maria Mezentseva, in which a woman was raped in front of her child by a Russian soldier. Are we in touch with the Ukrainian Member of Parliament in giving her all the support we can, even though our own teams are unable, as the Minister has said, to go into the country? Last week, I met Ukrainian refugees while I was in Lithuania, and I was struck that every single one of the thousands arriving every day is asked routinely in the questionnaires that they are given whether they have any evidence of crimes being committed that could be considered as humanitarian crimes or war crimes. Are we doing the same with all refugees who arrive in the United Kingdom so that we collate the evidence in the way that has been referred to? On Wednesday, I asked the Minister about inviting Karim Khan QC, the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, to meet your Lordships so that we can discuss these issues further with him, if necessary in a closed session. Is the Minister able to take that forward?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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On the noble Lord’s second point, and as I have indicated, we are liaising with Karim closely and will certainly take that up with him. On his earlier point about arrivals here, I shall share that with the Home Office. We offer a wide range of support, but I shall come back to the noble Lord on that particular issue. The case that the noble Lord mentioned is unfortunately, regrettably and tragically not the only one. We have been following the Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine, who has articulated clearly the widespread nature of conflict-related sexual violence. We are engaging directly with the leadership of Ukraine to ensure that it knows that it has our full support. We will extend our support in every respect on this important issue.

Ukraine

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Wednesday 30th March 2022

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, my noble friend Lord Harrington and I have clearly heard about the importance of expediting the visa process, and the Government have moved in that direction. All noble Lords agree about the basic biometric and security checks necessary, but I will again pass on the importance of speeding up the process. Visas are being issued. Although this is a snapshot, I have met a number of Ukrainians and they want to go back home. Their immediate sense is to be near Ukraine. No person I met did not say that they hoped to return home in days and weeks; they are certainly not thinking about months.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, last week when visiting Lithuania, I was struck when meeting refugees, as the Minister was, that as civilians dropped off their loved ones they returned to Ukraine in their cars to take up arms and fight against Putin’s illegal war. Given the war crimes committed in Mariupol and elsewhere, and which were referred to earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Collins, what can the Minister tell us about the appointment of Sir Howard Morrison to expedite prosecutions of those responsible? Can he respond to the letter that I sent him recently urging him to organise a meeting in your Lordships’ House with Karim Khan QC, the prosecutor for the ICC? In her Statement to the Commons, the Foreign Secretary said:

“We must ensure that any future talks do not end up selling out Ukraine, or repeating the mistakes of the past.”—[Official Report, Commons, 28/3/22; col. 593.]


Was she not right that whatever is decided must be the decision of the Ukrainian people? We must stand with them at this terrible time of trial.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I totally agree with the noble Lord’s final statement. On his earlier point about the appointment of Sir Howard Morrison, of course someone of his calibre is much welcomed; he has great insight and will bring great expertise. I have received the noble Lord’s letter about arranging further meetings; I cannot guarantee Karim Khan’s schedule, but I assure the noble Lord that we are working closely with him. In the division of responsibilities, the Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary is leading the engagement on how we can best support his mission, but I will certainly mention it to Karim that, next time he is planning to be in London, we should arrange an appropriate briefing.

Sanctions

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Tuesday 1st March 2022

(5 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I assure my noble friend that, at both the UN in New York and the Human Rights Council in Geneva, two resolutions are currently tabled. We are working on an extensive lobbying campaign to ensure maximum support for the two Ukraine resolutions in both places.

On my noble friend’s point about the UN Security Council, he is of course correct that three countries abstained, and Russia also vetoed the resolution that was passed. We are dealing directly with and making our case to not just the UAE and India but China as well. Indeed, in terms of our lobbying effort through our ambassador and the team on the ground in New York, we were pleased that China did not veto the UN security resolution but abstained instead.

My noble friend makes valid points on India, and I know for a fact that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister will speak with Prime Minister Modi today or tomorrow.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, on the question of justice and war crimes, does the Minister recall the calls made in your Lordships’ House on Friday last for a referral to the International Criminal Court? Indeed, has he had a chance to read the letter that was signed by a number of distinguished Members of your Lordships’ House and sent to Karim Khan QC, the prosecutor at the ICC, over the weekend? In addition to what he has told the House about what Karim Khan said in his statement, did the Minister read these words:

“There is a reasonable basis to believe that both alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed”


in Ukraine? As well as the importance of bringing Putin to justice, is it not right that we do as the noble Lord, Lord Collins, said and salute the courage and bravery of President Zelensky? Also, is it not particularly offensive to hear Putin and the Kremlin describe him as a Nazi when you consider that his grandfather had three brothers who were murdered by the Nazis in the Second World War?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I am sure I speak for the whole House when I say that in President Zelensky we see someone principled who is standing by his people. I remember that my last visit to Ukraine took place at the exact time of the marking of the Holocaust, which engulfed the Ukrainian people. President Zelensky is the grandson of someone who survived the Holocaust, so let us reflect for a moment on that. I say to those who accuse him of Nazification: his grandfather was a survivor of those evil Nazi acts.

The noble Lord referred to Karim Khan, the ICC prosecutor. In Friday’s debate, I said that many people around the world should perhaps reflect on what was being said in your Lordships’ House and the quality of the contributions, for it was a debate informed by and based on expertise, insight and experience. As I said, I had a conversation with Karim Khan yesterday and we exchanged messages today. I have seen his full statement, which includes the words articulated by the noble Lord. He is looking specifically at that referral mechanism.

Russia: Sanctions

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Tuesday 1st February 2022

(6 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I am very appreciative, as I often say, for the insights, experience and wisdom within your Lordships’ House. On the specific point that my noble friend raises in relation to the United Nations, as he will note, a meeting on this very issue took place at the Security Council. On initiatives which could be taken, we should never close the route to diplomacy. I believe Russia is now in the chair of the UN Security Council, so surely there is a greater onus on the presidency to demonstrate how it can bring different countries together.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, I welcome the balance that the Minister and the Foreign Secretary have struck between maximising the pain for corrupt, mafia-like elites while minimising damage for ordinary Russians, who have suffered quite enough under Vladimir Putin. Can the Minister say whether cutting Moscow from the SWIFT financial system and cancelling the Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline are being given serious consideration in the event of an invasion of Ukraine? Will he also elaborate on the co-ordination of the efforts with our closest allies that he has been describing to the House?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I can certainly provide more details on the noble Lord’s second question. Yes, we are working with key allies, as I indicated, over the course of the last two months and beyond. We have been working with our key European allies and directly with the EU. We have been working with the United States, as well as partners further afield, on how we can act together on the situation in Ukraine. The noble Lord, Lord Collins, mentioned the importance of sanctions and working together in a co-ordinated fashion. I assure the House that we are doing exactly that. On the first question of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, I fear that if I was to say anything further it would run to speculation. But, as my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary said yesterday in the House of Commons, whether our approach is diplomatic or looking at the issue of economics and the cost of Russia, everything is very much on the table.

Nuclear Weapons

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Wednesday 12th January 2022

(7 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, on the specifics of that question, I will of course defer to my colleagues at the Ministry of Defence and will write to the noble Lord. But, as he will be aware, in the recent review that took place we increased our defence spending, and that was long overdue.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, Nikita Kruschev said that, in the event of a nuclear war, the living would envy the dead. The noble Lord has said that the P5 have rightly said that there should be no first use of nuclear weapons and that this would lead to mutually assured destruction. Having said that, the noble Lord has also referred to rogue states, such as North Korea—the DPRK. Can he tell the House more about its development of hypersonic missiles, its use of submarines and the threats that it is making to its neighbours?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, first, on the P5 element, all countries have sustained their position on nuclear weapons being a defensive mechanism —I stress that point again. The noble Lord rightly raised the current issues in the DPRK. It is clear that the missile test that recently took place was in direct contravention of the UN Security Council resolutions, and we are undertaking discussions on that element directly with our UN colleagues.

Kazakhstan

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Tuesday 11th January 2022

(7 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I recognise the role that my noble friend plays in the region and with Kazakhstan. Of course, as I have already said, we condemn the acts of violence and destruction of property. We have noted, as he did, President Tokayev’s recent speeches, including his recent statement to Parliament and his speech to the virtual summit of the CSTO in which he described the events in Almaty and other cities across Kazakhstan as an attempted coup and gave a detailed outline of the very serious violence perpetrated. We continue to press for ensuring, through the intervention of the CSTO, the territorial sovereignty and integrity of Kazakhstan and the return of all other troops from the CSTO at the earliest opportunity.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, in light of the bloodshed and loss of life in Kazakhstan, should we not be more cautious about being too admiring of what Mr Tokayev has been saying? Has the Minister seen the reports of the orders given by him to the 2,500 mainly Russian soldiers in the Collective Security Treaty Organisation to shoot without warning?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I agree, and assure the noble Lord that in my engagement directly with the Deputy Foreign Minister the importance and centrality of respecting human rights, including the right to peaceful protest, was a point I certainly emphasised. The noble Lord is right to raise the statements that have been made. We are calling for calm and respect for and a return to full rights of protest for citizens in Kazakhstan.

India: Missionaries of Charity

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Thursday 6th January 2022

(7 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness rightly raises specific issues. She mentioned Amnesty International and I can assure her that I have taken that issue up directly with the Indian authorities, including the Indian high commissioner, as well as the Government in Delhi. That issue continues to provide challenge. However, because of our lobbying and representations, we welcomed the recent High Court decision in Karnataka which allowed Amnesty to access some of its funds. We remain in direct contact with Amnesty International and other organisations. I meet with them quite regularly on these and other matters.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, I have written to the Minister, copying in the Indian high commissioner, specifically about the life-saving work of Mother Teresa’s community in Calcutta, which I have seen first-hand. I have registered with the Minister my concern about the withdrawal of FCRA licences. Has he studied the list of organisations which have now lost their licences—the number of which some put as high as 3,000, not the 1,200 he just mentioned? It includes Oxfam, which says that its work will be severely affected, and the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, which has had its bank account frozen. When he says that he and his officials have contacted the high commission and Mr Modi’s office, what response has he received to date? Does he not agree that there will be appalling consequences for some of India’s most vulnerable people unless this iniquitous decision is reversed?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, we are raising these issues quite directly. Because of the constructive nature of our engagement, we are able to raise this not just with the Indian high commission here in London but in a constructive manner with the Indian Government directly. The noble Lord points to specific numbers. As I alluded to earlier, I have asked specifically for a drill-down on the numbers over a period, so that I can analyse directly which organisations are impacted and the reasons why these licences have been revoked, to allow us to make much more qualified representation.

Uighurs in Xinjiang

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Thursday 16th December 2021

(8 months ago)

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Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper, and in doing so declare that I am a patron of the Coalition for Genocide Response and vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Uyghurs.

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, we have followed the Uyghur Tribunal’s work and are studying its conclusions carefully. I welcome the tribunal’s contribution to international understanding of the deeply disturbing situation in Xinjiang. The UK has led international efforts to hold China to account at the UN, imposed sanctions and announced measures to help UK organisations avoid complicity in human rights violations. We will continue to work with our partners to increase pressure on China to change its behaviour.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his, as ever, helpful reply. Does he agree that International Court of Justice jurisprudence is clear on when a state has an obligation to prevent genocide? It is, and I quote:

“the instant that the State learns of … a serious risk“

of genocide. Given that the Uyghur Tribunal, led by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, who prosecuted Slobodan Milošević, has conducted easily the most comprehensive examination of the Uighur crisis, having reviewed hundreds of thousands of pages of evidence and declared in a very tightly drawn judgment there to be a genocide, will the Minister, instead of perhaps telling the House again that genocide determination is a matter for courts, tell us whether the Government have performed the required assessment under the genocide convention of whether Uighurs are at serious risk of genocide and, if not, whether they will now do so?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Lord will know my response. Obviously, the British Government’s position on genocide and the declaration of genocide has not changed, but I believe that the tribunal—he will know this from our own exchanges—has again provided what I would describe as the most harrowing evidence of what has happened and continues to happen in Xinjiang, and we are looking at that very carefully.

International Day of Democracy

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Wednesday 15th December 2021

(8 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, my noble friend, of course, is correct on both points in terms of the detail she asks for. First, on the network of liberty, it is very much what we all stand for: the principles of democracy, freedom and liberty. The UK can show quite direct leadership over the next year through the various events we are hosting; for example, on human rights, ranging from the FoRB conference to the LGBT conference. There is also our leadership on media freedom as we build towards strengthening democracy and key pillars in the build-up to the next democracy summit.

Secondly, on Ukraine, my noble friend will be aware of the recent meeting convened by my right honourable friend of key Ministers on the issue of Ukraine and standing together against Russian aggression. However, as I have said before from the Dispatch Box, right now in Europe, particularly with the concerns around Ukraine and recent concerns in a country that my noble friend knows well—Bosnia-Herzegovina—Russian aggression needs to be curbed and my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said as such in his conversation with President Putin on 13 December.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, in advance of this weekend’s sham elections in Hong Kong, will the Minister call for the release of Hong Kong’s legitimate and democratically elected representatives, who are incarcerated in prison? Following what the Foreign Secretary calls China’s “ongoing breach” of the British-Sino declaration, when do the Government intend to raise an objection under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties—and would not that send a much stronger signal about how to safeguard liberty and democracy than allowing states to trash treaties with no consequences whatever?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, which is why we have consistently called for adherence to the agreements that China has signed. Indeed, the one that it signed when it came to the issue of Hong Kong was an agreement that has been lodged with the United Nations —and it needs to stand up and fulfil its international obligations. On the issue of calling out for the full release of those who have been detained, I agree with the noble Lord, and we consistently do so publicly and bilaterally with China.

Nepal

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Monday 13th December 2021

(8 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, on the specifics of my honourable friend’s meeting, I will certainly make sure that that was included and write to the noble Lord. On the more general point, in all our engagement—including on the importance of girls’ education and preventing gender-based violence—all communities, including the most marginalised, are of course included.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, I urge the Minister to return to the question asked by my noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries of Pentregarth, specifically about the two bodies which have been established—the National Human Rights Commission and the National Dalit Commission—on which there are no Dalits. Will he undertake to raise that specifically with the Nepalese Government and to ascertain why these constitutional promises have not been met? On the issue of Covid, what percentage of the 14% who are Dalits or Adivasis in Nepal have been vaccinated? What do we know about the number of fatalities that have occurred in line with the rest of the population? Is it not time that untouchability and caste were made history in the 21st century?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, as I have already made clear, I will follow up on the noble and right reverend Lord’s earlier point, specifically on representation. But I sought to illustrate that we are seeing some positive examples of inclusivity, albeit at a local level thus far. On the issue of the Covid-19 response, I can confirm that 24% of our support targeted particular vulnerable groups, including Dalits, Janajatis, Madhesi and Muslim minorities in Nepal.

International Freedom of Religion or Belief

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Thursday 8th July 2021

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) [V]
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I can give the noble Lord that direct reassurance. We will do exactly that.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, I take the Minister back to what he said about the Truro review and specifically to recommendation 7, which asks the Government to put in place effective mechanisms to deal with the crime of genocide against religious and ethnic minorities. In that context, the report published this morning by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee of the House of Commons recognises that a genocide is under way against Uighurs in Xinjiang and calls on the Government for a much stronger response. Can the Minister tell us what that response will be?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I have yet to read the report in full, although I am aware of its publication. I have not yet reviewed it. Bearing in mind its publication, I am sure that in due course the FCDO will respond accordingly. I can share with the noble Lord—I am sure he is aware of this—that the United Kingdom has consistently, regularly and directly raised the persecution of the Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang in China. We continue to do so. We recently worked through a resolution at the Human Rights Council led by Canada. In the past few weeks, I have met Uighur representatives visiting the UK to hear about their plight. I assure the noble Lord that this remains among our key priorities and will continue to be so.

China: Muslims

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Wednesday 16th June 2021

(1 year, 2 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con) [V]
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My Lords, the Amnesty International report is a compelling addition to the already extensive and irrefutable body of evidence about systematic human rights violations taking place in Xinjiang. The Government have taken careful note of the report and FCDO officials have already discussed the findings with Amnesty International. We will continue to engage with a wide range of NGOs and other experts to inform our further understanding of the situation on the ground in Xinjiang.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, with Amnesty’s report detailing arbitrary detention, forced indoctrination, torture, mass surveillance and crimes against humanity, along with newspaper reports from Xinjiang of the destruction of 16,000 mosques, harrowing evidence being given last week to the independent Uyghur Tribunal, whose brave witnesses and families now experience threats and intimidation, and further legislatures joining the House of Commons in declaring atrocities against the Uighurs to be a genocide, when will the United Kingdom raise this report from Amnesty at the UN Human Rights Council and seek judicial remedies? Will the Government commit to co-operating with, examining and acting on the findings of the Uyghur Tribunal, chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) [V]
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My Lords, as the noble Lord is aware, I have met directly with Sir Geoffrey Nice on numerous occasions and we continue to monitor the tribunal as it takes place. My understanding is that the first session has now been completed. On the independent evidence, the noble Lord might be aware that I met with some of the people who gave evidence to the tribunal last week as part of our direct engagement with members of the Uighur community. With the session of the Human Rights Council coming up we will look at this report very carefully. As I said, we have met directly with Amnesty International on its recommendations and findings.

Ethiopia

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Tuesday 15th June 2021

(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, I will not agree with my noble friend on the fact that it is a failed continent. I think there are many successes across Africa but, as I alluded to earlier, we are working with key partners and through UN agencies both on the ground and through political engagement to ensure that we bring about a peaceful resolution of this conflict.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, I declare an interest as co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Eritrea, which will be addressed this afternoon by the United Nations special rapporteur on Eritrea and will focus on Tigray. How do the Government intend to respond to his findings of appalling human rights violations by Eritrean militias in Tigray? Did the Minister discuss it when he met the Secretary-General of the United Nations last week? Are we working with Ireland, which is proposing to raise this in the Security Council this week? Are we considering joining Belgium, which is using universal jurisdiction to bring prosecutions for war crimes and crimes against humanity?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, yes, I did discuss this with the UN Secretary-General António Guterres last week when I met him. We are awaiting a full report of that joint investigation by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, which is currently under way. We will continue to work with key partners on the UN Security Council, including Ireland, to find further resolutions and we continue to lobby for a full debate at the UNSC.

Official Development Assistance

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Thursday 10th June 2021

(1 year, 2 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My noble friend presents an interesting proposition. What I will say in response is that, as part of the withdrawal agreement, which was ratified back in January 2020, a financial settlement was agreed on the UK’s past obligations as a departing member state from the EU and that, by definition, this does not relate to any future arrangements. The EU and the UK both recognise our financial commitments to each other in this respect.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, perhaps I may take the Minister to questions of parliamentary sovereignty, legality and trust. If Governments are permitted to break laws, politicians to break manifesto promises, parliamentarians to break commitments to the destitute and starving, why should anyone take the blindest bit of notice when the United Kingdom proclaims the rule of law and the primacy of Parliament? Before the Prime Minister travels to the G7 summit, I ask the Minister to take the message to him—it is the one he has heard today during these exchanges, but it is from many in your Lordships’ House—that this country’s word should be its bond, even when that is difficult or inconvenient, and urgently to put right this deeply troubling and, arguably, illegal decision.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, as the noble Lord is fully aware, I respect greatly his commitment and passion and, of course, his principles for the issues around our support of the most vulnerable communities around the world, as well as his advocacy for human rights. On a lighter note, he has suggested that I should talk to the Prime Minister before he departs for the G7 summit. The Prime Minister is already in Cornwall, so I cannot promise that I will be able to do that in practical terms. What I will say to the noble Lord is that, as I have said before, I recognise, as do the Government, the important role that Parliament plays, its sovereignty and the importance of standing up for the rule of law. Indeed, as the Minister responsible for standing up for the rule of law, I can assure the noble Lord of my engagement in that directly—as was demonstrated in our support for recent candidatures for the International Criminal Court, for example. That demonstrated the strength and respect for the United Kingdom as a state that stands up for its international obligations and for the international rule of law, and long may that continue.

Iran: British-Iranian Prisoners

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Monday 7th June 2021

(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, we are working on specific measures on a raft of issues with our allies, as my right honourable friend Minister Cleverly indicated, including, without my going into the details of each case, engagement directly with the Iranians on the early release of all those currently held in Iran, as I have said already.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, can the Minister study this morning’s statement by openDemocracy, which includes an appeal by a survivor of the 1988 mass executions of Iran’s political prisoners, and support his call for an international commission of inquiry, requested in a letter in May to Michelle Bachelet by more than 150 UN officials, lawyers and human rights activists? Also, given the alleged role of Ebrahim Raisi in those events and in subsequent executions and impunity, and given his statement that amputation of arms and limbs is a “divine punishment” and that divine punishments are

“a source of pride for us”,

how do the Government view the prospect of his election as Iran’s next President?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I have not seen the statement, so I will write to the noble Lord on the specifics of his question. I assure him that we continue to make the case through multilateral engagement as well as directly with Iran about the well-being and, ultimately, the early release of all hostages.

Hong Kong: Pro-Democracy Campaigners

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Monday 19th April 2021

(1 year, 3 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, my noble and learned friend raises some important points about the people of Hong Kong. As he will have noted, we have taken specific steps to broaden the offer to British nationals overseas and their families. That process is operating well. Of course, if anyone seeks the sanctuary of the United Kingdom because of the persecution they face, we will look at each case individually and provide the support needed. That applies to anyone around the world.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, as a patron of Hong Kong Watch and an officer of the All-Party Group on Hong Kong, I personally know Martin Lee, the father of Hong Kong democracy, Margaret Ng, a formidable lawyer, and Jimmy Lai, a champion of free speech and a full holder of a UK passport. Does the Minister agree they deserve better than a medieval star chamber and a Stalinist show trial? Is the debasement of law by puppets and quislings not best met by calling out the Chinese Communist Party at the next meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council, focusing on, as the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, said, the CCP’s lawbreaking and treaty-breaking, and its sentencing, imprisonment and detention in psychiatric institutions of women and men whose values we share?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I agree totally with the noble Lord on the issue of values. That is why, as I am sure he would acknowledge, we have led in statements and in consolidating and increasing support at the Human Rights Council. It is something I have personally been engaged in and will continue to campaign for and make note of. He raised the cases of various individuals. Speaking personally, I saw the final interview Jimmy Lai gave just before his arrest, and it is quite chilling to see the conduct that happened thereafter to someone who stood up for media freedom. What has he been arrested for? It is for illegal assembly. We need to put this into context as well.

Chinese Government Sanctions on UK Citizens

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Wednesday 14th April 2021

(1 year, 4 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, first, let me assure my noble friend that, while acknowledging that we have important trade between the UK and China, we are not currently negotiating a trade agreement with China. On the issue of genocide, which has been debated in your Lordships’ House as well as the other place, we have already made the Government’s position absolutely clear: that is a determination for the courts and there is a due process to go through before that determination is made. But I can share with my noble friend the actions we have taken, notwithstanding that issue being determined or otherwise. We have acted and led on action against China, both with direct sanctions, as we have imposed recently against senior government officials in Xinjiang, as well as in multilateral fora such as the Human Rights Council, where we have seen increased support for the United Kingdom’s position and statements.

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

My Lords, the Minister will know that the Chinese Communist Party’s sanctions against parliamentarians should always be seen in the context of the harrowing evidence of genocide and human rights violations given by courageous witnesses to the All-Party Parliamentary Groups of which I am an officer. Parliamentarians must not be cowed or intimidated into silence or losing focus on those substantive issues because of sanctions. In a week in which young Joshua Wong, who has spoken in your Lordships’ House, has seen his prison sentence extended, did the Minister also see that 75 year-old Koo Sze-yiu, a pro-democracy campaigner who has already served 11 prison sentences, said when defending himself in a Hong Kong Court that he would not seek mitigation or leniency for treatment of his cancer as he fully intended to continue protesting? He said:

“The next time, I will deliberately break the National Security Law. Do not be lenient or take pity on me.”


Does not such courageous dignity demonstrate to the CCP that it has united East and West, young and old and parliamentarians from all political traditions? Was not Liu Xiaobo, who suffered at the CCP’s hands, right when he said:

“Freedom of expression is the foundation of human rights, the source of humanity and the mother of truth”?

China: Convictions of Democracy Campaigners in Hong Kong

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Tuesday 13th April 2021

(1 year, 4 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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I totally agree with my noble friend’s second point and I assure him that we are working directly with partners. He will be aware that on 9 January the Foreign Secretary released a statement with Australian, Canadian and US counter- parts on the mass arrests. On 13 March the Foreign Secretary issued a statement declaring a breach of the joint declaration. We continue to work with partners on further steps we may need to take.

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

My Lords, I join the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, in thanking the Minister for his support following the imposition of sanctions. I declare that I serve as vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong and as a patron of Hong Kong Watch. Has the Minister noted that, following the Chinese Communist Party’s sanctions on European Union parliamentarians, major parties in the European Parliament have indicated that until sanctions against their MEPs are lifted they will not ratify the European Union comprehensive agreement on investment with China? While sanctions attempting to curtail free speech are imposed on UK parliamentarians, are the Government willing to make a commitment today to take similar action and see how concerted measures can be taken to ensure that parliamentary free speech is not impeded?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I note what the noble Lord has said. Again, I pay tribute to his work in standing up for the rights of people in both China and Hong Kong. We will continue to observe and work with our partners to see what further steps we can take. I cannot answer the specific point he raised on trade, and nor would he expect me to at this juncture, but, in terms of our relationship, we are keeping all things actively under review.

Human Rights Update

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Tuesday 23rd March 2021

(1 year, 4 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) [V]
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[Inaudible]—and also his own work in this respect. As I have already mentioned, I align myself with and recognise the strong sentiments of and the incredible role played by many in your Lordships’ House, and in the other place, on all sides of the two Chambers, in ensuring that we move forward in a constructive way on the important issue of the continuing suffering of the Uighur people. I fully acknowledge and respect the important contributions and role of Members in the other place, as well as your Lordships, in this respect.

On the specific point that my noble friend, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, raised on ensuring that unfettered access should be guaranteed, I absolutely agree; we are calling for that for Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. On the specific issue of accountability and justice for those committing these crimes, I am sure my noble friend has noted the statement that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary made jointly with the US Secretary of State and the Canadian Foreign Minister in this respect.

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

My Lords, I welcome the Foreign Secretary’s Statement and its repetition here today by the Minister. In thanking him, and the Foreign Secretary, for the role that they have played in making a reality of these Magnitsky sanctions, I endorse everything that the noble Lords, Lord Collins and Lord Polak, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, have said. I have two questions for the Minister. First, higher up the food chain are people like Chen Quanguo, who has been responsible for giving the orders in Xinjiang against the Uighurs. Can the Minister, without going into individual cases, at least assure us that just because people are higher up the food chain, they will not avoid these Magnitsky sanctions in the future? Secondly, returning to the point made by the noble Baroness about pathways to determining genocide, can the Minister at least assure us that if he believed there to be convincing evidence of a genocide under way, in Xinjiang or anywhere else, he would not be in favour of continuing trade with a country complicit in genocide?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) [V]
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My Lords, on the noble Lord’s second point, the United Kingdom has been seen to be taking action against anyone, or any country, that is found to be engaging in genocide following a judicial process, and, indeed, even where genocide has not been declared by a legal court. A good example is the suspension of trading relationships and other agreements. In answering the noble Lord’s first question, I also recognise that, yes, the United Kingdom does ensure that we produce a robust evidence base. As was seen recently with the situation in Myanmar, there have been occasions where we have taken action directly against people such as those leading the coup in that country.

Hong Kong: Electoral Reforms

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Thursday 11th March 2021

(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, on the noble Baroness’s point about sanctions, of course, that is one of several tools at our disposal in taking action against those who continue to suppress democracy and the rights of democracy. I did indeed hear the “Today” programme and the description of the congress’s decision. The best thing that I can say from the Dispatch Box about that decision is that it is anything but democracy: it is the continuing saga of further suppression of the democratic rights of the people of Hong Kong and of their right to choose their own representatives. We will continue to use all channels to ensure that China looks again very carefully at the situation in Hong Kong. On the issue of sanctions, as well as other tools at our disposal, I assure the noble Baroness that we are giving full consideration to everything available to us.

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

My Lords, I declare my interests as vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong and as a patron of Hong Kong Watch. Given that BNO is not an accountability measure, what single action have we taken to hold the Chinese Communist Party to account for breaching the internationally binding Sino-British joint declaration? What cross-government assessment is being made of the CCP’s involvement in our critical national infrastructure? One example is the China General Nuclear Power Group, which is blacklisted in the US for stealing nuclear secrets, but which owns one-third of Hinkley Point in the United Kingdom?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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On the noble Lord’s second point, I can assure him that we take a very robust attitude to the operation of Chinese firms and companies within the United Kingdom. Of course, when there was a big challenge concerning the issue of 5G, we reflected on the provisions for that. I can point the noble Lord to several specific actions that we have taken, including those at the UN, dating back to May 2020. Most recently, on 22 February, the Foreign Secretary directly addressed the UN Human Rights Council, calling out the systematic violation of the rights and people of Hong Kong.

Myanmar: Protesters

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Wednesday 10th March 2021

(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, on my noble friend’s second point, we are currently reviewing all our trade because of the situation on the ground in Myanmar, and certainly not continuing it until such time as we see democracy restored. On the point about the ambassadors and others, at the UN and here in the UK, I stand for their courage and bravery—I am sure I speak for everyone in your Lordships’ House in that. They continue to represent the people of Myanmar in this country and elsewhere.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, I declare an interest as vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Democracy in Burma. Can I return the Minister for a moment to the question from my noble friend Lady Cox, specifically calling for a high-level United Nations Secretary-General-led visit to the region and ask whether he will press that? On the question by the noble Lord, Lord Sarfraz, will the Minister look particularly at the nonrecognition of the credentials of the junta’s appointees to the United Nations and to the Court of St James in the United Kingdom?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, on the noble Lord’s second point, I have already said that the current ambassador to the UN and the ambassador to the Court of St James continue to be the representatives of Myanmar in this country and at the UN. On the high-level visit, as I have said before, we are working through the Security Council and I will update noble Lords accordingly.

Tigray Conflict: Axum

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Tuesday 9th March 2021

(1 year, 5 months ago)

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Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I declare my interest as a vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Eritrea.

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, we believe that the allegations about human rights violations in the Amnesty report are credible. Over recent weeks, multiple reports, including from Human Rights Watch and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, have begun to document the scale of possible abuses and human rights violations in Tigray. Since the conflict started, the UK has called consistently for an end to the fighting, and I reiterate those calls today, as well as the need for urgent independent investigations into the atrocities in Tigray in order to end impunity.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. With vast numbers of Tigrayans having been displaced and 4 million now facing a manmade famine, reports from Amnesty and Human Rights Watch underline the allegations of crimes against humanity at Axum and allegations of an unfolding genocide. What are we doing to hold those responsible for this to account, including Nobel laureates? Why did we not jointly table last week a resolution with Ireland to the United Nations Security Council, despite China and Russia threatening to block it, along with supporting the international calls there for an immediate withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Tigray? Surely this is a prerequisite to ending the depredations in Tigray.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord that the situation in Tigray is dire. Since the conflict began, the UN Security Council has now discussed Ethiopia on four occasions. During the most recent discussions on 4 March, to which he referred, there was a clear consensus that the situation in Ethiopia, particularly the humanitarian situation, was of deep concern. It is regrettable, as he has pointed out, that certain members of the UN Security Council are continuing to block further discussion, and indeed public discussion, in the current sessions. However, we continue to press for actions in this respect.

Hong Kong: Democracy Movement

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Monday 8th March 2021

(1 year, 5 months ago)

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Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I declare my interests as vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong and as a patron of Hong Kong Watch.

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, as my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary made clear in a Statement on 1 March, the decision to charge 47 politicians and activists under the national security law is another deeply disturbing step. It demonstrates in the starkest way that the law is being used to stifle political dissent rather than restore security, which China claimed was the law’s intended purpose. Officials in Hong Kong raised our concerns with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 2 March, and with the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government on 5 March.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. The 47 which he has just referred to brings to more than 100 the arrests now made under the Chinese Communist Party’s draconian national security law, and all of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy leaders are either in jail, in exile or on trial. Does he agree with the noble Lord, Lord Patten, who said that this wave of mass arrests is

“a continuing and brutal danger to all who believe in free and open speech”,

and will he relay to the Foreign Secretary that this House wants sanctions imposed on those responsible, whether Magnitsky-style sanctions or a bespoke regime such as that developed for Myanmar, even before the military coup there? The time for words is over; the time is now surely for action.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, let me assure the noble Lord that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary is very much aware of the strong sentiments and views of your Lordships’ House. I update my colleagues in the FCDO regularly on our debates and discussions, not just on this issue but on every issue. Specific to the noble Lord’s point about sanctions, he will of course know that I cannot comment on future designations. But we have taken specific steps on the situation in Hong Kong, as I am sure he will note, including the provision, which I believe was first proposed in your Lordships’ House, on the important issue of BNOs.

Beijing Winter Olympic Games 2022

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Wednesday 10th February 2021

(1 year, 6 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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Again, in principle, I see no reason why we, as a Government, and I, in my capacity as Human Rights Minister, would not be supportive of both points that the noble Lord makes.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, with 1 million Uighurs incarcerated in Xinjiang, does this not conjure up the spectre of Munich? Does the Minister agree that we should now be giving advice to senior diplomats and members of the royal family as to whether they should be attending the Beijing Winter Olympics? If another country were to say that they were willing to host the Winter Olympics, how would Her Majesty’s Government respond?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I cannot answer the noble Lord’s final point; that would require various decisions at different organisational levels, not just by Her Majesty’s Government. On his initial point, I referred to ministerial attendance and, of course, we work with all attendees, including diplomats and the royal household, on future attendances. I note what the noble Lord said, but I cannot go further than that.

Economy: Remittances

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Thursday 4th February 2021

(1 year, 6 months ago)

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Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of remittances (1) on the United Kingdom economy, and (2) from the United Kingdom to the economies of developing countries.

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, remittances are a significant source of funds for developing economies and have a positive impact on the UK economy. Money service businesses trade around £1.8 trillion daily through the UK. The World Bank estimates that in 2019 UK remittances totalled around £23 billion, £8 billion more than the UK overseas assistance budget. Remittance payments typically flow to households and increase income and resilience to economic shocks. Let me assure noble Lords that the UK is committed to working with the G7 and G20 to ensure that remittances are sent as cheaply, accessibly and securely as possible.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) [V]
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My Lords, with the total value of remittances to low and middle-income African countries three times higher than official development aid—which is now being cut—and with a dramatic Covid-related reduction in remittances in 2020, will the Minister look at the gains that could be made by remittance matching and cutting the 6.5% cost in fees when sending remittances from the UK to meet the UN goal of 3%? Will he also say what the Government are doing to follow up the recommendations in chapter 5 of the International Relations and Defence Committee’s report on sub-Saharan Africa relating to remittances?

Burma: Military Coup

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Tuesday 2nd February 2021

(1 year, 6 months ago)

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Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, in begging leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper, I declare that I am vice-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Democracy in Burma.

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, we wholeheartedly condemn this coup. The military seizure of power, detention of the State Counsellor and other political and civil society leaders, and attempts to undermine the legitimacy of recent election results are totally unacceptable. We are pressing for confirmation of Aung San Suu Kyi’s safety, the urgent release of civilian leaders and the peaceful reconvening of the national assembly. The results of the 2020 election must be respected.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, I welcome the statement that the Minister has just made to the House. He is right robustly to condemn the military coup in Burma and the incarceration of Aung San Suu Kyi. However, will he go further? What steps have Her Majesty’s Government taken to make it clear to the military that, unless it reverses course, respects the election result, releases those who have been arrested, reinstates Ministers and returns to a constitutional parliamentary system, engaging in dialogue with the National League for Democracy to chart a peaceful course towards political progress in Burma, the UK will impose robust targeted sanctions not only on military leaders but on military enterprises and assets?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, on the noble Lord’s final point, he will be aware that the UK, along with other European partners, led on the sanctions that were imposed. Indeed, the current head of the military and his deputy have sanctions against them. Let me assure the noble Lord that we are looking at all actions. Later this afternoon we are convening, as president of the UN Security Council, an emergency meeting on the situation in Myanmar, and we are also talking to allies quite directly about further steps that can be taken.

Xinjiang: Forced Labour

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Tuesday 19th January 2021

(1 year, 6 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My noble and learned friend may know the answer I am about to give before I give it. He makes very powerful points about the importance of the end result of the human rights sanctions regime that we apply. It sends a very strong signal to those who abuse human rights that there will be consequences to their actions. I also assure him of what I alluded to earlier: there has been a real move in international action on this important issue. As we look forward to strengthening our work with partners, I note, on China not co-operating, that we are pressing for access to Xinjiang for the human rights commissioner, whose visit is the next key stage. We will continue to work with our partners to ensure greater transparency on the Chinese side. The Chinese take note not just of debates here and in the other place but of the action taken internationally. They are concerned about the situation currently being raised internationally in relation to their position on the global stage.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, in the House of Commons last week, the Foreign Secretary said that what is happening in Xinjiang is “on an industrial scale”. Perhaps the most shocking example of this has been the reported export of 81 tonnes of human hair, shaved off the heads of Uighur slave labourers. Dominic Raab’s predecessor, Jeremy Hunt, said that no responsible country would engage in free trade agreements with a state committing genocide. Can the Minister give a firm commitment now, on the Floor of the House, that the United Kingdom will not negotiate a free trade agreement with China until the United Nations is permitted to investigate Xinjiang and these violations on an industrial scale? Also, will he ask the Foreign Secretary to urgently respond to the request of the movers of Amendment 3 to the Trade Bill, both here and in the House of Commons, to meet Mr Raab to discuss the next steps in dealing specifically with the crime of genocide?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, on the noble Lord’s second point, I know that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and his team will look at all requests that we receive from colleagues across both Houses. I will certainly follow up what the noble Lord has raised. On his earlier point, the important thing is that, in any trade agreement that we look to negotiate and are involved with, human rights will be reflected in our discussions; I speak as a Human Rights Minister. As I have said before, China is an important strategic partner to the United Kingdom, and it has an important role to play in the world but, in doing so, it needs to recognise that the situation in Xinjiang is not going unnoticed. China is now being pressed and held to account for what is going on.

Hong Kong: National Security Law

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Thursday 7th January 2021

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper, and in so doing declare that I am vice-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong and a patron of Hong Kong Watch.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con) [V]
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My Lords, as my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary made clear in his Statement on 6 January, the mass arrests of politicians and activists in Hong Kong are a grievous attack on Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms as protected under the joint declaration. These arrests demonstrate that the Hong Kong and Chinese authorities deliberately misled the world about the true purpose of the national security law, which is being used to crush dissent and opposing political views. The United Kingdom will not turn our backs on the people of Hong Kong and will continue to offer BNOs the right to live and work in the United Kingdom.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, as we have seen in the last 24 hours, there are many ways in which the precious gift of democracy can be trashed. Under the cover of such darkness, does the Minister agree that mass arrests by 1,000 security officers and police and the intimidation and arrest of lawyers, legislators and activists are the methods of a police state and a crushing and grievous attack on democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and require immediate, robust Magnitsky sanctions against those responsible and those who are collaborators? As we watch the unfolding tragedy of democracy being replaced by dictatorship, will the Minister spell out how, beyond the BNO scheme, we intend to honour our treaty obligations to uphold a high degree of autonomy in Hong Kong, now clearly violated under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) [V]
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The continued suppression of the right to protest and a real decrease in the rights to representation, through the actions against the legislative body and indeed the recent Acts and arrests, have been increasingly evident in Hong Kong. We will certainly look at Magnitsky sanctions in their broadest sense. I cannot speculate on the specifics, as the noble Lord will appreciate, but the UK has been clear that—whether in terms of a suspension of the extradition treaty or the imposition of an arms embargo—we are taking a comprehensive look to ensure that those who suppress the rights of the people of Hong Kong are dealt with in a manner reflective of the values that we stand for.

Ethiopia: Northern Tigray Region

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Wednesday 2nd December 2020

(1 year, 8 months ago)

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Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I declare my interest as the vice-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Eritrea.

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, an initial Tigray humanitarian preparedness plan has been prepared by the United Nations. A comprehensive assessment of the humanitarian needs across Tigray has not yet been possible. We are encouraged that an assessment mission co-ordinated by the UN is scheduled to commence later this week, and this follows efforts by the UK and others to press for implementation of the assessment. We have also contributed to the UN guiding principles presented to the Government of Ethiopia on humanitarian access, with a view to the delivery of assistance for civilians.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Can I press him further on the issue of the humanitarian corridor? Will this conform to United Nations principles of neutrality, and will access be granted to our diplomats to visit Tigray? Secondly, how do we intend to hold to account those who have been responsible for the torture of refugees, the forced reform of refugees and some pretty barbaric acts which have been carried out against some of those who have escaped from Tigray?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, on the noble Lord’s second point, of course the situation at the moment does not allow for a full assessment. But let me assure him of this: we will certainly continue to press that any perpetrators of such acts are brought to justice. On his point about humanitarian corridors, we are liaising closely with the UN humanitarian organisations to establish what, if any, additional support is needed to press for diplomatic channels in particular—which we have been doing—to allow for the principles that he has articulated. It is integral to the principles laid down by OCHA, which the UK supported the development of.

Hong Kong: Legislative Council

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Thursday 12th November 2020

(1 year, 9 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My noble and learned friend raises an important issue. On 6 October, 39 countries issued a joint statement at the UN General Assembly expressing deep concern at the situation in Hong Kong, building on the Human Rights Council statement in June. We believe that this joint approach with other international partners is the best approach in pressing China to live up to its obligations.

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

My Lords, I declare my interests as a patron of Hong Kong Watch and vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong. What steps are the Government taking to co-ordinate an international response to the purge of democrats and the dismantling of democratic freedoms in Hong Kong? Does this include an international contact group, mobilising the G7, developing an alliance of democracies to co-ordinate targeted sanctions and a lifeboat rescue package, and working for the creation of a mechanism at the United Nations for a special rapporteur?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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As I have already said, we are leading the international response on Hong Kong. An increasing number of countries are joining statements through UN human rights bodies, which underscores the success of this approach. We have no plans to establish an international contact group. The Foreign Secretary is leading the way on this issue as a priority.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Wednesday 4th November 2020

(1 year, 9 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, on the noble Baroness’s second point, as she will be aware, the Iranians do not recognise Nazanin’s dual national status. We made that representation; it was declined. On the IMS dispute, I assure the noble Baroness that discussions are ongoing to explore further options to resolve this 40 year-old case, but it would be inappropriate for me to comment further on the case at this time because of those ongoing discussions.

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

My Lords, the shocking treatment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe throws into sharp relief the appalling human rights track record of Iran, does it not? Will the Minister therefore talk specifically about the recent executions of some of the 2019 protesters and the despicable intimidation of members of staff at the BBC Persian service and their families?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I join the noble Lord in recognising that the UK has a long-standing opposition to the death penalty, whatever the reason and in whichever country. We continue to make that case to Iran and other nations. Iran’s criminalisation of co-operation with the British Council and the attacks against BBC Persian employees are also deeply concerning. The Government continue to provide support to defend them repeatedly at the highest levels in Iran.

Afghanistan

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Thursday 15th October 2020

(1 year, 10 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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The noble Baroness knows as well as I do that Taliban ideology is not just discriminatory; it isolates women. I assure her that I am very much invested in this issue on a personal level. We are supporting Afghani women through the UN— we lead the Afghan engagement group. The current ambassador from Afghanistan to the UN is a woman, and we continue to support women’s direct and pivotal engagement in the peace process in Afghanistan. However, I will be very honest with the noble Baroness: from the Taliban side, that remains an immense challenge.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, returning to the point the Minister just made about ideology, given the probable return of the Taliban to positions of power in Afghanistan and its ideological commitment to early child marriage, denying girls the chance of an education, is there any sign that the Taliban has modified its implacable hatred of girls’ education, exemplified by its attempts in Pakistan to murder Malala Yousafzai?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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I would not hazard to think what the Taliban ideology is. It is not just against girls; it is fundamentally against empowerment through education. The check and balance must be that we as a Government, with international partners, remain firm and resolute that education empowers and, yes, it empowers girls. For anyone involved in the peace process, if you empower a girl, you empower the individual, her family, her city and her country, and it is about time that all those involved with the intra-Afghan peace talks woke up and realised the objective and how beneficial it will be for the future of Afghanistan.

Protecting Civilians in Armed Conflict

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Monday 12th October 2020

(1 year, 10 months ago)

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Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, In Nagorno-Karabakh, despite a temporary ceasefire, this NATO country is involved a deadly proxy war with civilians, including children, continuing to be targeted with heavy artillery. How can we implement the recommendations in Part 1 of the report concerning impunity and justice so that those who are in breach of international humanitarian law and continue to commit war crimes and other crimes against humanity are brought to justice?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, first and foremost, let me assure the noble Lord that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has made it clear that we continue to support the work of the Minsk Group. He and the Canadian Minister for Foreign Affairs, François-Philippe Champagne, issued a joint statement on 6 October calling for an immediate ceasefire and a return to the negotiating table. That must be the first step so that, as the noble Lord has rightly articulated, we can then move forward to holding the perpetrators of crimes fully to account.

Hong Kong: Political Situation

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Tuesday 29th September 2020

(1 year, 10 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, my noble friend raises an important point about the independence of the judiciary in Hong Kong. That is why we are concerned about the implications of the national security law. We continue to raise issues around the case she has mentioned, alongside those of other under-18s who have been arrested, with the Hong Kong authorities and bilaterally with China.

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

My Lords, I declare my interest as a vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong and a patron of Hong Kong Watch. Can the Minister comment on the arrest, and detention in a jail in Shenzhen, of Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Andy Li, whom I met while monitoring elections in Hong Kong last year? I have sent the details to the Minister. What are we doing to ensure that his family have access to him, that he is returned safely and unharmed to Hong Kong, and that due process is observed?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, FCDO officials in Hong Kong raised specific concerns about these cases with the Chinese authorities on 23 September, and I assure the noble Lord that we will continue to do so.

China: Uighur Internment Camps

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Wednesday 23rd September 2020

(1 year, 10 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, on the issue of election to the Human Rights Council, I assure my noble friend we consider carefully all countries’ policies on standing up for human rights both internationally and domestically. On his earlier point, I spoke with High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet last week, and we have made the point directly to her that we continue to lobby for her unfettered access in Xinjiang.

In terms of the UN machinery generally, the United Kingdom has led on two statements—the only joint statements at the UN on Xinjiang—once last year and once this year in June at the Human Rights Council. I am intending to raise the issue in the UK’s national statement at the 45th session of the UNHRC, which is scheduled shortly.

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

My Lords, I should mention I am vice-chairman of the all-party group on the Uighurs.

In the light of the near impossibility of arriving at a legal determination of alleged genocide or crimes against humanity in the Uyghur region, which Ministers in the other place have acknowledged, will the Minister join me in welcoming the new initiative of Sir Geoffrey Nice QC in setting up the Uighur tribunal? Will he confirm that the Government will do everything possible to co-operate with the tribunal, including providing evidence and agreeing to take seriously what will be a rigorous and impartial judgment when the process is completed?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am fully aware of the formation of this new inquiry, and we are looking at it carefully. I am discussing our approach with officials. We intend to attend the inquiry as we did the inquiry on organ harvesting.

Nigeria: Religious Violence

Debate between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Monday 21st September 2020

(1 year, 10 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord and I am fully aware of the case. We continue to make representations and to ensure that Mr Bala gets the access mentioned by the noble Lord.

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

My Lords, will the Minister comment on two urgent matters about which I have given him prior notice? The first is the targeted slaughter of Igbos and occupation of their villages in south-east and southern Nigeria by jihadist Fulanis and mercenaries. The second is the repeated interrogation of and death threats directed at Dr Obadiah Mailafia, an economist and former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, after he publicly exposed state collusion with Fulanis in ethnic and religious cleansing in southern Kaduna and the Middle Belt?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, on the noble Lord’s first point, we will continue to call for a full investigation to hold the perpetrators to account, and to implement long-term solutions, particularly, as the noble Lord mentioned, in relation to people in the south-east of the country. On Dr Obadiah Mailafia, the former deputy governor of the central bank, we have already touched on media freedom, and it is vital that we stand up for the importance of individual media freedom. When freedom of expression is restricted or under threat, human rights are generally challenged. I assure the noble Lord that we will continue to engage on this case and others like it.

Taiwan

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

(2 years, 1 month ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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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)
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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 Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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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 years, 1 month ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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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]
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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 Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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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 years, 1 month ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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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)
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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 Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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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 years, 1 month ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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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]
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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 Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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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

(2 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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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.

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

(2 years, 3 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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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)
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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 Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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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

(2 years, 4 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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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)
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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 Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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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

(2 years, 5 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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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)
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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 Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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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

(2 years, 5 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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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)
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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 Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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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

(2 years, 6 months ago)

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Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool
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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.

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

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 Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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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

(2 years, 6 months ago)

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Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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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 Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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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

(2 years, 6 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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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 - - - Excerpts

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 Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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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

(2 years, 7 months ago)

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Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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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.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait 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 - - - Excerpts

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 Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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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

(2 years, 7 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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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 - - - Excerpts

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 Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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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.