Parliamentary Replies – July-September and Debate on Freedom of Religion or Belief – September 8 – Full text and link to TV recording – Syria, Iraq, North Korea, Sudan, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, China, India, Burma – plus Government Minister’s Follow Up Letter and Ministerial reply admitting that none of the more than £1 billion of aid given to Pakistan is used to promote Article 18.


Some Parliamentary Replies: July – September 2016

 

Iraq and Syria – Genocide

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1950):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how much money they have allocated this financial year towards peace-building and reconciliation initiatives and towards the restoration of plurality and diversity in Iraq and post-war Syria; and how much has been allocated for each of the next five years. (HL1950)

Tabled on: 15 September 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

For the 2016/17 financial year the UK Government allocated £3.7 million from the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) towards promoting reconciliation in Iraq. These funds contribute to addressing the long-term factors that led to Daesh’s rise. In Iraq the funding supports efforts to encourage political reform and reconciliation through the passage and implementation of legislation, building the capacity of decision makers to craft a strategic vision for reconciliation, and creating a space for dialogue between the government and all of Iraq’s communities. In Syria, we have committed over £7 million from the CSSF for the 2016/17 financial year towards the promotion of reconciliation, specifically in supporting local councils, moderate voices and civil society groups who work to increase community engagement in local conflicts. We are also supporting Track II political dialogue and peace building work, through education, interfaith coexistence and reconciliation training.

For financial year 2017/18, and subsequent years, the final allocation of funding for promoting reconciliation in both Iraq and Syria is yet to be decided. However, this will remain a critical area for our programme funding.

Date and time of answer: 30 Sep 2016 at 14:14.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1898):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the reply by Baroness Goldie on 13 September (HL Deb, col 1394), what plans are in place, once cities such as Mosul and Raqqa have been liberated from ISIS, to ensure the restoration of property, homes and businesses to their rightful owners, the re-establishment of diverse communities, and the creation of a legal framework to bring to trial those who have been responsible for genocide and ethnic cleansing. (HL1898)

Tabled on: 14 September 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

Our goal is to liberate Mosul, and eventually Raqqah, in a way that minimises the humanitarian impact, and supports political reconciliation and the return of local communities. We are engaging with the Government of Iraq and Kurdistan Regional Government, our Coalition partners, the UN and other international organisations to ensure comprehensive plans are in place which do this. On 21 July, the Foreign Secretary announced that the UK will lead a global campaign to bring Daesh to justice, including putting in place processes to assemble evidence for future legal proceedings.

Date and time of answer: 26 Sep 2016 at 16:27.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1259):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to table a resolution for discussion at the UN Security Council drawing attention to the failure of member states to assist the International Criminal Court in bringing to justice those indicted for war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide. (HL1259)

Tabled on: 18 July 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has an established procedure for dealing with instances of non-cooperation and reports regularly to the UN Security Council on this matter. We continue to follow closely developments in the ICC, including the level of States’ cooperation with the Court, and will consider further measures as appropriate.

Date and time of answer: 01 Aug 2016 at 15:13.

 

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1255):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they now recognise that a genocide is underway against minorities in Syria and Iraq; and whether the opinion set out in The Sunday Telegraph on 27 March that ISIS “are engaged in what can only be called genocide of the poor Yazidis” by the new Foreign Secretary reflects their official position. (HL1255)

Tabled on: 18 July 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

This Government shares the House of Commons’ condemnation of Daesh atrocities against all civilians, including Christians, Mandeans, Yazidis, and other minorities, as well as the majority Muslim population in Iraq and Syria who continue to bear the brunt of Daesh’s brutality.

It is a long-standing Government policy that any judgements on whether genocide has occurred are a matter for the international judicial system rather than governments or other non-judicial bodies. Our approach is to seek an end to all violations, and to prevent their further escalation, irrespective of whether these violations fit the definition of specific international crimes.

We are fully committed to working internationally to ensure Daesh is held to account for its crimes. Ultimately, the best way of preventing future atrocities is to defeat Daesh and its violent ideology. That is why the UK is playing a leading role in the Global Coalition of more than 66 countries and international organisations united to defeat Daesh.

Date and time of answer: 29 Jul 2016 at 15:00.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1254):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to participate in the conference about the attacks on Yazidis, Christians and others by ISIS organised by the US State Department in Washington DC on 29 July; if so, who will represent them and whether whilst attending that conference they will explain why they have not supported the genocide declarations passed by the House of Commons and the US Congress. (HL1254)

Tabled on: 18 July 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

The UK will attend the State Department Consultation on Threats to Religious and Ethnic Minorities under Daesh on 28 and 29 July. It will be represented by a senior official from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The consultation will be used to discuss what countries are doing to protect minorities under Daesh and what more can be done. As the Foreign Secretary, my Rt Hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Mr Johnson) made clear during his visit to Washington on 21 July, the Government is fully committed to working with international partners to ensure Daesh is held to account for its crimes.

Date and time of answer: 29 Jul 2016 at 14:58.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Department for International Development, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1308):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the humanitarian needs of the civilians living in the rebel-held areas of Aleppo, and of reports that those civilians are facing starvation. (HL1308)

Tabled on: 19 July 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

The UK is at the forefront of the humanitarian response to the Syria crisis. We have pledged over £2.3 billion to date, our largest ever response to a humanitarian crisis.

The Syrian regime and Kurdish forces have cut the main access route into opposition-held eastern Aleppo City. The UN reports that up to 300,000 people are trapped there, with humanitarian assistance unable to get in. The UN and humanitarian partners have prepositioned some food supplies and rationing of supplies has begun. Further life-saving aid is needed urgently. In other areas of Syria prolonged denial of humanitarian access has led to cases of acute malnutrition and, in some cases, starvation.

There is no excuse for not allowing humanitarian supplies into east Aleppo City and doing so is a violation of International Humanitarian Law. The Syrian Regime approved the UN’s request to deliver humanitarian supplies to East Aleppo City as part of its July humanitarian convoy plan. We call on the Regime to live up to this commitment. We are working with the UN and other humanitarian partners to find ways to alleviate the situation.

Date and time of answer: 27 Jul 2016 at 15:42.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1603):

 

Saudi Arabia

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they made of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, and its role in Yemen, before announcing that the UK would continue to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia. (HL1603)

Tabled on: 06 September 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

The UK Government takes its arms export responsibilities very seriously and operates one of the most robust arms export control regimes in the world. All export licence applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria, taking account of all relevant factors at the time of the application.

Risks around human rights violations are a key part of our assessment against the Consolidated Criteria. We do not export equipment where we assess there is a clear risk that it might be used for internal repression, or would provoke or prolong conflict within a country, or where we assess there is a clear risk that the intended recipient would use the items aggressively against another country. Export licensing requires us to consider how the equipment will be used by the end-user. This is done by reference to all currently available and relevant information at the time of application. A licence will not be issued, for any country, if to do so would be inconsistent with any provision of the mandatory Criteria, including where we assess there is a clear risk that it might be used in the commission of a serious violation of International Humanitarian Law.

Date and time of answer: 19 Sep 2016 at 10:53.

Sudan

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1727):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government which projects funded by the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund in South Sudan in 2016–17 are directly linked to the implementation of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan. (HL1727)

Tabled on: 09 September 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: The Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) in South Sudan will provide funding for five projects in 2016-17 that seek to reduce conflict at a national and local level, and are therefore directly linked to the implementation of the peace agreement. These projects will help improve public knowledge of the peace agreement, increase the capacity for HMG to engage with implementation, provide technical assistance on the economy and security sectors, and support the Sudan People’s Liberation Army on professionalisation, implementation of the peace agreement and preventing sexual violence in conflict.

Date and time of answer: 22 Sep 2016 at 16:43.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Department for International Development, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1728):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how much development aid has been provided to South Sudan in each of the last three years, and how much of that aid was specifically focused on conflict resolution and promoting reconciliation. (HL1728)

Tabled on: 09 September 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

Through DFID the UK provided £158m in 2013/14 and £188m in 2015/16 of development aid to South Sudan, a further £165 million is budgeted to be spent this financial year.

The UK remains committed to helping bring an end to the cycle of violence in South Sudan. Many of our programmes have components aimed at conflict resolution and reconciliation. In terms of specific programming, a £12 million ‘Community Security and Arms Control’ project running from 2012-16 helps to control and regulate small arms, enhance dispute resolution mechanisms and improve security within communities. In addition, through the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) the UK spent almost £1.4 million on conflict resolution and promoting reconciliation in 2015/16, and is forecasting to spend a further £1 million in 2016/17, including on community level peacebuilding and the Conflict Sensitivity Programme. DFID works very closely with the FCO, who, along with ‘Troika’ partners the US and Norway, are working to help end the conflict through the implemention of the 2015 peace agreement.

Date and time of answer: 19 Sep 2016 at 10:06.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1227):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of South Sudan’s first Vice President Riek Machar’s control over his military forces; what steps they are taking to include all parties in a resolution to the conflict including the Sudan People’s Liberation Army’s Chief of General Staff Paul Malong; and what steps they are taking to help resolve the delay of payments to soldiers. (HL1227)

Tabled on: 14 July 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

The security situation remains fluid, but several opposition commanders have made clear that they remain under the command of Riek Machar. It is therefore imperative that Machar, as well as other South Sudanese leaders, takes responsibility for his forces’ actions and refuses to engage in further fighting. Through the UN Security Council and our engagement with regional partners we continue to put pressure on the parties to immediately bring an end to the violence, and to ensure their troops respect the ceasefire of 11 July. Payments to soldiers is a matter for the transitional government of national unity.

Date and time of answer: 08 Aug 2016 at 16:31.

 

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1226):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that the preliminary ceasefire agreed in South Sudan on 11 July continues to hold; what steps they are taking to ensure that those displaced by the violence in South Sudan receive humanitarian protection and that the existing infrastructure in place at the Tomping base of the UN Mission in South Sudan is adequate; and what representations they have made to both the first Vice President Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir to encourage constructive political dialogue. (HL1226)

Tabled on: 14 July 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

The former Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my Hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend East (James Duddridge), issued a statement on 14 July calling on President Kiir and First Vice-President Machar to ensure their troops abide by the ceasefire and refrain from further violence. We are now working with our regional partners to support this. At the UN Security Council we continue to make clear that the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) needs to be strengthened and an arms embargo and targeted sanctions should be applied.

The UK’s humanitarian partners are providing water, food and health services to those affected by the recent fighting in Juba. Our humanitarian programme continues to deliver assistance across South Sudan to support the 1.6 million internally displaced people. We are also working to ensure that UNMISS has the equipment and unrestricted access it needs to fulfil its mandated task of providing a secure environment for the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Date and time of answer: 04 Aug 2016 at 16:16.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1256):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have held with the government of Rwanda about the visit to that country by Omar al Bashir, President of Sudan, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide and crimes against humanity. (HL1256)

Tabled on: 18 July 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

Rwanda is not a State party to the International Criminal Court (ICC). It is important that fugitives from international justice do not enjoy impunity and we note the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR 1593) has urged all States to cooperate fully with the ICC and its Prosecutor with regards to the situation in Darfur. We continue to follow closely developments in the ICC, including the level of States’ cooperation with the Court, and will consider further measures as appropriate.

Date and time of answer: 29 Jul 2016 at 13:48.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1257):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have held with the Secretary General of the Commonwealth about recent visits to Rwanda and Uganda by Omar al Bashir, President of Sudan, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide and crimes against humanity. (HL1257)

Tabled on: 18 July 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We have not held any discussions with the Secretary General of the Commonwealth on this matter. However we continue to believe that State cooperation, in particular with respect to enforcement of arrest warrants is vital for the International Criminal Court to be effective in fulfilling its mandate to achieve justice for the victims of atrocities. We look forward to future meetings and discussions with the Secretary General on shared priorities for the Commonwealth.

Date and time of answer: 29 Jul 2016 at 13:48.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1258):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to the imposition of sanctions and penalties on countries that host visits by those indicted for genocide or crimes against humanity such as Omar al Bashir, President of Sudan; and what discussions they have had with other signatories to the creation of the International Criminal Court about that issue. (HL1258)

Tabled on: 18 July 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has an established procedure for dealing with instances of non-cooperation and reports regularly to the UN Security Council on this matter. We continue to follow closely developments in the ICC, including the level of States’ cooperation with the Court, and will consider further measures as appropriate.

Date and time of answer: 29 Jul 2016 at 13:47.

 

North Korea

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1899):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the report by Siegfried Hecker, published on 12 September, concluding that North Korea will have enough material for about 20 nuclear bombs by the end of this year, that it has expanded uranium enrichment facilities, and that it has stockpiled plutonium. (HL1899)

Tabled on: 14 September 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We have made clear our deep concern at and condemnation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) nuclear programme. We take into account all sources of information when assessing it. As the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my Hon. Friend the Member for Reading West (Alok Sharma) made clear in his remarks to the UN Security Council on 23 September, that the United Kingdom condemns the recent nuclear test conducted by the DPRK, which is a direct violation of binding Security Council Resolutions. The DPRK must comply with its obligations under all relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, including abandoning all nuclear weapons and nuclear programmes in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner.

Date and time of answer: 28 Sep 2016 at 16:22.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Department for International Development, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1900):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what humanitarian aid they are providing to injured and displaced persons in North Korea following the recent flooding in that country. (HL1900)

Tabled on: 14 September 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

The UK supports organisations such as the UN through core contributions. UN agencies are delivering humanitarian assistance to people affected.

Date and time of answer: 27 Sep 2016 at 14:53.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1544):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, following North Korea’s launch of three ballistic missiles on 5 September, the UN Security Council will be convened to consider the implications of that launch and an international response. (HL1544)

Tabled on: 05 September 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

The UN Security Council (UNSC) met on 6 September to discuss a response to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) ballistic missiles launches on 5 September. The UNSC subsequently issued a statement condemning these launches as a flagrant violation of UN Security Council Resolutions. The UK strongly supports this statement, as we have with previous UNSC statements condemning DPRK provocations in 2016. We will continue to discuss at the UNSC, and with close partners, further measures in response to the DPRK’s destabilising and provocative actions.

Date and time of answer: 15 Sep 2016 at 16:30.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1543):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of North Korea’s launch of three ballistic missiles on 5 September. (HL1543)

Tabled on: 05 September 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) ballistic missile launches of 5 September are a clear violation of multiple UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs). The DPRK’s repeated provocations in 2016 are a threat to regional stability and international security. The UN Security Council statement of 6 September, which the UK fully supports, clearly demonstrates that the international community is united and will not tolerate this destabilising behaviour. We urge the DPRK to abide by UNSCRs and return to credible and authentic discussions on its nuclear and ballistic missile programme.

Date and time of answer: 12 Sep 2016 at 12:18

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1077):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the US Treasury decision to impose sanctions on North Korean senior officials in the light of reported human rights abuses; and whether they plan to impose similar sanctions. (HL1077)

Tabled on: 08 July 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

The US decision to designate senior members of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) regime follows its decision to introduce the US North Korea Sanctions Policy Enhancement Act in February 2016. The British Government shares the objective of maintaining pressure on the DPRK to fulfil its international human rights obligations and is deeply concerned by the human rights situation in the DPRK. It regularly consults with partners such as the US, the EU and regional partners on the best way to achieve this.

Date and time of answer: 26 Jul 2016 at 16:32.

 

Bangladesh

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1223):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government following the decision to ban Zakir Naik from visiting the UK what discussions they have had with other governments about the nature and content of the broadcasts for which he is reportedly responsible and his ability to travel to their jurisdictions. (HL1223)

Tabled on: 14 July 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

Since the decision to exclude Zakir Naik from the UK, the British Government has had no discussions with other governments about the nature and content of his broadcasts, nor his ability to travel to their jurisdictions.

Date and time of answer: 01 Aug 2016 at 15:12.

 

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1222):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of links between the reported recent upsurge of jihadist violence in Bangladesh and Zakir Naik’s television channel Peace TV; whether they have discussed with the government of Bangladesh the reasons why it has banned Peace TV broadcasts; whether they have discussed its content with the government of Dubai from where it broadcasts; and whether they have established the veracity of the claims that Zakir Naik has received substantial financial support from sources in the UK to fund his broadcasts. (HL1222)

Tabled on: 14 July 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

As with many other countries, Bangladesh has suffered from an increase in violent extremism in recent years. In part this may be motivated by broadcasts and online material of an extremist nature. The British Government has not discussed Peace TV with either the Government of Bangladesh or the Government of Dubai. However, we are in regular dialogue with the Government of Bangladesh about how we can assist and share best practice in combating extremism and in understanding the root causes of why young people in particular are vulnerable to such messaging. In November 2015, the former Prime Minister, my Right Hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr Cameron), commissioned a review into the funding of Islamist extremism in the UK. The review will improve our understanding of how extremists operating in the UK sustain their activities.

Date and time of answer: 29 Jul 2016 at 15:03.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1224):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of reports of the dousing with gasoline and setting alight of a Catholic woman in the village of Kajura, what representations they have made to the government of Bangladesh and its representatives in London about the protection of atheists, moderate Muslims and religious minorities in Bangladesh and the bringing to justice of those responsible for recent reported killings and violent attacks. (HL1224)

Tabled on: 14 July 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We are in regular contact with the Bangladesh government about extremism, human rights and a range of other issues. The former Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr Cameron) most recently spoke to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh about countering extremism in the margins of the G7 meeting in Japan on 27 May. The former Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Mr Swire) raised this with Foreign Minister Ali on 5 July. The British High Commissioner regularly discusses these issues with Bangladesh government ministers.

In September 2015 the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief visited Bangladesh. We urge the Bangladesh government to implement the recommendations in his report, which include a call for the government to “protect the vibrant civil society and pluralistic society in Bangladesh”.

Date and time of answer: 29 Jul 2016 at 15:02.

 

Indian Dalits

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1541):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the findings of India’s National Crime Records Bureau that, in a three-year period there was an almost 40 per cent increase of crime against Dalits throughout India; that in 2015, in Gujarat, there was a 163.3 per cent increase in crime against Dalits; and that sexual assaults against women and rape are listed as the top crimes against scheduled castes. (HL1541)

Tabled on: 05 September 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

India has a strong democratic framework, independent and accountable law enforcement and judicial institutions. Its constitution guarantees fundamental human rights. However, it also faces numerous challenges relating to its size and social and economic development.

We are aware of the particular concerns around violence against minority groups and women and girls in India. We are committed to working with the Government of India, international partners and civil society groups on these important issues.

The British High Commission works with civil society and government bodies on projects which provide advice to lawyers and grassroots organisations that directly support the protection of minorities and Dalits. For example, we support a project which helps survivors of sexual violence understand their legal rights in the Indian criminal justice system. UK Government-funded training has helped to empower over 1000 Dalit women and men to exercise their legal rights. In November 2015, I met a group of senior Indian women advocates to discuss the challenges faced by women in India and how the UK Government could support their efforts to strengthen enforcement of the law.

Date and time of answer: 15 Sep 2016 at 16:29.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1540):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of violence against Dalits and minorities in India, and what discussions they have had with the government of India about that issue. (HL1540)

Tabled on: 05 September 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

India has a strong democratic framework, robust and independent institutions and its constitution guarantees fundamental human rights. However, it also faces numerous challenges relating to its size and social and economic development. We welcome Prime Minister Modi’s comments on 6 August when he spoke against “cow vigilantes” attacking minority groups and urged state governments in India to investigate such attacks.

The UK discusses a wide range of matters with India, including religious tolerance and minority rights, both bilaterally and through the EU. The former Prime Minister (The Right Hon. David Cameron) discussed human rights with Prime Minister Modi in November 2015. Mr Modi reaffirmed his commitment and respect for India’s core values of tolerance and freedoms; points which he also stressed in his speech in Parliament on 12 November 2015.

The British High Commission in India discusses the treatment of minorities with the Indian National Commission for Minorities and with state governments across India. They are in regular contact with civil society organisations working on the protection of minority rights across India, including key issues for minorities such as freedom of religious belief.

Date and time of answer: 15 Sep 2016 at 16:28.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1542):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the Joint Statement of UK anti-caste organisations submitted on 18 August to the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, the United National Human Rights Commissioner and the UN Secretary General, and whether they will press for those British organisations that submitted the Joint Statement to be given the opportunity to express their concerns to the United Nations office in Geneva and to report on the condition of Dalits and minorities in India. (HL1542)

Tabled on: 05 September 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We have received the Joint Statement from the Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance (ACDA) and will respond. We are aware of the particular concerns raised around minority rights highlighted by the ACDA.

Date and time of answer: 15 Sep 2016 at 16:19.

 

Pakistan

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1307):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they last raised with the government of Pakistan the issues of (1) the honour killing of women, (2) the exclusion of minority communities from full citizenship, and (3) the imprisonment of citizens under the blasphemy laws; and what response they received. (HL1307)

Tabled on: 19 July 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We remain concerned by ongoing reports of so-called honour killings, the persecution of minority communities and the misuse of blasphemy laws in Pakistan. We regularly raise human rights with the Government of Pakistan. The former Foreign Secretary, my Rt Hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr Hammond), pressed Pakistan to guarantee the rights of all its citizens during his visit to Islamabad in March. He also attended an event to stimulate debate about honour killings. It is encouraging that Pakistan has enacted laws to protect religious minorities. We urge Pakistan to implement this legislation, uphold the rule of law and ensure the rights of all citizens are respected regardless of gender, ethnicity or religious belief.

Date and time of answer: 01 Aug 2016 at 15:14.

 

China

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1838):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to ways to prohibit British citizens from travelling to China for the purpose of obtaining an organ transplant until the practice of forced organ harvesting ceases. (HL1838)

Tabled on: 13 September 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

I refer the noble Lord to the answer the Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my Hon. Friend the Member for Reading West (Mr Sharma) gave on 14 September in response to Written Question 45143 from the Hon. Member for Strangford (Mr Jim Shannon), copied below for ease of reference:

“As My Rt Hon. Friend, the former Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Hugo Swire, stated to the house on the 12 July 2016, we have raised concerns about reports of organ harvesting, as well as about the torture and mistreatment of detainees, during the annual UK-China human rights dialogue. We will do so again at the next round. My officials also raised the issue with their Chinese counterparts on 1 September 2016. However, despite the fact that UK physicians always advise patients against, it is very difficult to prevent UK citizens travelling to less well-regulated countries to seek an organ transplant. Although numbers are not known, it is thought that very few patients in the UK choose to do so.”

Date and time of answer: 27 Sep 2016 at 15:10.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1837):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to work with other countries to seek the establishment of an international commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of forced organ harvesting in China. (HL1837)

Tabled on: 13 September 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We have no plans to seek the establishment of an International Commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of forced organ harvesting in China.

Date and time of answer: 27 Sep 2016 at 15:09.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1815):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they are making to the government of the People’s Republic of China about releasing all human rights lawyers detained since July 2015, ceasing the harassment of lawyers and activists, and upholding the rule of law. (HL1815)

Tabled on: 12 September 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We have repeatedly raised our concerns with the Chinese authorities about the detention, arrest and disappearance of Chinese lawyers and human rights defenders. The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my Hon. Friend the Member for Reading West (Mr Sharma), raised their cases most recently with the Chinese Ambassador on 1 August. We urge the Chinese authorities to release the detained lawyers and ensure all detainees have access to legal counsel of their choice.

Date and time of answer: 27 Sep 2016 at 15:09.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1813):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to engage in increased consultation with civil society and UK-based and international human rights NGOs around the UK–China Human Rights Dialogue, including increasing transparency and accountability. (HL1813)

Tabled on: 12 September 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

Ministers and officials meet civil society representatives on a regular basis to hear their views and benefit from their expertise on the human rights situation in China. The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my Hon. Friend the Member for Reading West (Mr Sharma) met Chinese NGOs during his recent visit to China. He plans to host a round table with UK-based NGOs at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the near future.

Date and time of answer: 27 Sep 2016 at 15:08.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1078):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of China about the case of Guo Feixiong; and what response they have received. (HL1078)

Tabled on: 08 July 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

The former Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my Rt Hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Mr Swire), raised the case of Guo Feixiong with the Chinese Ambassador on 3 December 2015, who said the case was being handled according to Chinese law. More recently, we supported an EU statement on 22 June 2016. That statement called for Guo, along with several other individuals detained for seeking to protect the rights of others, such as their right to freedom of expression, to be released.

We continue to monitor Guo’s case and report on it via the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy. We will raise Guo’s case at the next round of the UK-China Human Rights Dialogue.

Date and time of answer: 26 Jul 2016 at 16:32.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1816):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the evidence of the practice of forced organ harvesting in China set out in the report published in June by David Kilgour, David Matas and Ethan Gutmann, and in the film The Bleeding Edge. (HL1816)

Tabled on: 12 September 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

As the former Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my Rt Hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Mr Swire) stated to the House of Commons on the 12 July 2016, we have raised concerns about reports of organ harvesting, as well as about the torture and mistreatment of detainees, during the annual UK-China human rights dialogue. We will do so again at the next round which is scheduled to take place in October. My officials most recently raised the issue with the Chinese authorities on 1 September 2016.

The Kilgour/Matas/Gutmann report is an important source of information about China’s organ transplant system, which we take seriously, but we are unable to substantiate all the evidence presented in the report. We have not assessed any evidence from ‘the Bleeding Edge’, as we understand it to be a semi-fictional feature film.We encourage the Chinese authorities to provide more information about the sources of organs for transplant, and about the implementation of existing Chinese regulations in this area.

Date and time of answer: 26 Sep 2016 at 14:20

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1814):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the effectiveness of the UK–China Human Rights Dialogue and the EU–China Human Rights Dialogue, and whether they will establish specific benchmarks for progress in those dialogues. (HL1814)

Tabled on: 12 September 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

The UK-China Human Rights Dialogue provides a platform to highlight a wide range of the Government’s human rights concerns to relevant Chinese officials. It also provides an opportunity for frank, expert exchanges on policies as they are applied in the UK and China. In recent years workshop themes have included: judicial procedures; disability rights; and minority languages.

The Dialogue is an addition to, rather than a replacement for discussions in other bilateral and multilateral fora. It is one part of our strategy to promote British values in China, and we do not have benchmarks to measure the Dialogue in isolation. We do measure progress against our overall strategy and we report on it in the FCO Annual Human Rights report.

The EU-China Human Rights dialogue functions in a similar way, and we engage closely with the organisers to share views and objectives. We are confident that the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue is coherent with UK objectives.

Date and time of answer: 26 Sep 2016 at 14:21.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1812):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to conduct a comprehensive review of British foreign policy towards China, including consulting human rights NGOs, human rights lawyers, activists, religious communities and NGOs in China, exiled Chinese dissidents, journalists, academics and other experts, as recommended by the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission. (HL1812)

Tabled on: 12 September 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

The Government’s policy towards China is set by the National Security Council. We have a strong relationship with China, as described in the Global Partnership announced at the State Visit of President Xi to the UK in 2015, and reiterated by the Prime Minister, my Rt Hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), during her recent visit to China. In addition to working with China to solve global challenges, and to develop strong trade, investment and people links, we also promote British values. To inform our policy, we maintain contact with a wide range of stakeholders, including human rights NGOs, journalists and academics. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my Hon. Friend the Member for Reading West (Alok Sharma) met Chinese human rights activists when he visited China in August.

Date and time of answer: 26 Sep 2016 at 14:23.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1811):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the findings and recommendations in the report published in June by the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, The Darkest Moment: The Crackdown on Human Rights in China 2013–2016. (HL1811)

Tabled on: 12 September 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

My officials and I have read the report with interest. Although the Government was not asked to give evidence to it and the views stated within it do not reflect Government policy, there is much in the report with which we agree. We are already pursuing an approach consistent with many of the recommendations. For example my ministerial colleagues and I regularly raise concerns about the crackdown on human rights lawyers, repressive legislation, and challenges to freedom of religion or belief. Equally, there are parts of the report which require further investigation to substantiate the claims made, for instance about organ harvesting.

Date and time of answer: 26 Sep 2016 at 14:24.

 

 

Burma

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1079):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what information they have about (1) land confiscation, (2) military activity, (3) health, (4) education, (5) drug use and its consequences, (6) local drug supply and drug use, (7) the killing of civilians, (8) arbitrary taxation, and (9) the displacement of villagers and forced recruitment, in Burma’s Karen state; and whether they plan to discuss those issues with the new government of Burma. (HL1079)

Tabled on: 08 July 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

The British Government follows events in Burma’s Karen State closely, including those listed in the noble Lord’s question. Staff from our Embassy in Rangoon visit regularly. Many of these issues are connected to the legacy of conflict. We play a key role in international efforts to resolve the conflict across Burma. As part of these efforts, we have supported both the previous and current Governments of Burma, as well as the Ethnic Armed Groups that are party to the conflict (including the Karen), to find a negotiated political settlement. In addition, the Department for International Development (DFID) has a major development programme in Burma, of which Karen State is a beneficiary, including on health and education. For example, DFID works with several non-government organisations to fund programmes for the prevention and treatment of malaria which is prevalent in Karen State, and to establish community based schools and centres for early childhood development. The UK discusses conflict-related issues with the Government of Burma on a regular basis.

Date and time of answer: 26 Jul 2016 at 16:31.

 

 

Parliamentary Debate on Freedom of Religion or Belief – held in the House of Lords, September 8th – appears below this Follow Up Letter From The Government Minister Who Replied To The Debate. At the end of the post is a parliamentary reply which admits that none of the more than £1 billion in aid given to Pakistan is used to promote Article 18.:

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HOUSE OF LORDS: ARTICLE 18 SHORT DEBATE

September 8, 2016

Question for Short Debate, asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

 

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to promote Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

My Lords, in welcoming the Minister to her fairly new responsibilities, the lodestar in today’s short debate is Article 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, promulgated in the aftermath of the defining horrors of the Holocaust and in a century during which 100 million people were murdered because they chose in some way to be different. Today Article 18 is honoured only in its breach. In the light of new genocides, concentration camps, abductions, rape, forced conversions, forced marriages, imprisonment, persecution, public floggings, enslavement, mass murder, beheadings and the vast displacement of millions of people, we should ask ourselves: of what value are such declarations or conventions on genocide if they can be utterly disregarded with indifference and contempt?

Let us look at the evidence. The annual Pew study of religious freedom found that in 24% of countries, in which 74% of the world’s population lives, there were serious restrictions on religious freedom. One-quarter of the world’s countries have blasphemy laws and more than one in 10 have laws penalising apostasy. This has led, for instance, to a death sentence in the case of Pakistan’s Asia Bibi; to the public beating of Saudi Arabia’s atheist Raif Badawi; to the imprisonment for 10 years in Iran of Saeed Abedini, for “undermining national security” after hosting Christian gatherings in his home; to Chinese Catholics such as Bishop Cosma Shi Enxiang, who died at 94 after spending half his life in prison; and to Chinese Protestants, who since the beginning of 2016, have seen 49 of their churches defaced or destroyed, crosses removed and a pastor’s wife crushed to death in the rubble as she pleaded with the authorities to desist. Earlier this week, on Tuesday, Mr Speaker hosted the premiere of “The Bleeding Edge”, drawing attention to the harvesting of organs of Falun Gong practitioners in China.

In countries such as Nigeria, Sudan and Kenya, contempt for Article 18 has led to the targeting and murder of Christians, Yazidis and others by ISIS, the Taliban, al-Shabaab and Boko Haram. In North Korea, a country I have visited four times, 300,000 people are incarcerated in gulags. A United Nations report describes it as a country “without parallel” and highlights the execution and imprisonment of Christians.

I have seen contempt for Article 18 in many other situations: among Rohingya Muslims persecuted in Burma; in degrading detention centres in south-east Asia where fleeing Pakistani Christians and Ahmadis are incarcerated; and at its bloodiest worst among Chaldean and Assyrian Christians and Yazidis fleeing the genocide in Syria and Iraq. Yet, for fear of offending countries such as Saudi Arabia, which have exported so much of the poison, we rarely call things what they are.

In Pakistan, for example, the Government describe events as “discrimination” and refuses to recognise them as persecution. Over the summer I was guest of honour at Liverpool’s refurbished Pakistan centre. It was a wonderful evening of celebration. Pakistan’s green and white flag was designed to represent the green of Islam and the white of the minorities. In 1947, Pakistan’s great statesman and founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, crafted a constitution which promised to uphold plurality and diversity and to protect all citizens. Jinnah said:

“You may belong to any religion, caste or creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the State. Minorities, to whichever community they may belong, will be safeguarded. Their religion, faith or belief will be secure. There will be no interference of any kind with their freedom of worship. They will have their protection with regard to their religion, faith, their life and their culture. They will be, in all respects, the citizens of Pakistan without any distinction of caste and creed”.

However, whether judged against the backdrop of the assassination five years ago of the country’s Christian Minister for Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, who questioned the blasphemy laws, or the orgy of bombings, killings, rapes, imprisonment and abductions, notably in Lahore, Pakistan has allowed the systematic targeting of religious minorities in a culture of impunity. This persecution is catalogued in a report that I launched in Parliament.

One escapee recounted how his friend Basil, a pastor’s son, was targeted by Pakistani Islamists attempting to convert him. After refusing, his home was set alight. Basil, his wife and 18 month-old daughter were burned alive. No one was brought to justice and there is little evidence that Pakistan is striving to uphold Jinnah’s admirable vision. Perhaps the Minister, when she comes to reply, will tell us how the more than £1 billion of British aid, given over the past two years, is doing anything to support Pakistan’s beleaguered minorities, often the poorest of the poor, or to promote religious freedom or peaceful coexistence.

The UK fails to name persecution for what it is and, even worse, to name genocide for what it is. Words matter: they determine priorities and policies. The House of Commons, the United States Congress, the European Parliament and others have declared events in Syria and Iraq to be genocide.

In a leading article, the Times said that the destruction of Christians from the Middle East,

“now amounts to nothing less than genocide … That crime, most hideously demonstrated by the Nazis, now enjoins others to take active steps to protect the victims”.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, the right honourable Boris Johnson said that ISIS is,

“engaged in what can only be called genocide … though for some baffling reason the Foreign Office still hesitates to use the term genocide”.

Perhaps when she comes to reply, the Minister will ease Mr Johnson’s bafflement and tell us why the Government still fail to name this genocide for what it is, or to table resolutions in either the General Assembly or the Security Council seeking a referral to the International Criminal Court, or to help establish a regional tribunal to try those responsible. Great nations should not sign conventions or affirm declarations such as Article 18 and then fail to uphold them.

The Minister might also tell us why DfID fails to recognise Christians and Yazidis as “vulnerable” under the criteria for aid and whether it has assessed the reports that Christians and other minorities are too frightened to enter the refugee camps and have even been targeted again when they reach Europe.

ISIS works in a consistent manner, killing men, women and children, but also destroying their holy places, doing its utmost to eradicate any collective memory of a people’s very existence. While the ISIS genocide in Syria and Iraq may simply be seen as inhumane butchery, it is fundamentally an attack on freedom of conscience and belief.

Our failure to prevent, protect and punish contributes directly to the refugee crisis. There are 55 million people now living as refugees, asylum seekers or internally displaced persons, with a further 60 million people forcibly displaced. Conversely, in those countries that promote freedom of religion or belief, there is a direct correlation with prosperity and the contentment and happiness of the populace.

How right is the BBC’s courageous chief correspondent, Lyse Doucet, when she says:

“If you don’t understand religion—including the abuse of religion—it’s becoming ever harder to understand our world”.

But western Governments are often illiterate when it comes to religious faith. We just call it “terror” and have developed a worrying, timid moral equivalence, refusing to call evil by its name for fear of giving offence.

Although I welcome strongly the Article 18 conference, which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will host in October and which I hope the Minister will be able to tell us more about, does the FCO still have only one desk officer dedicated to Article 18 issues? Learning to live together in respect and tolerance, whether we have a religious faith or not, is truly the great challenge of our times. Scholars, the media and policymakers need to promote far greater religious literacy and shape different priorities.

The life-and-death urgency that this task represents was starkly underlined by the recent execution of the 84 year-old French priest Father Jacques Hamel, and by the murder of the Glasgow shopkeeper Asad Shah, who often reached out to his Christian neighbours and customers. Tanveer Ahmed allegedly drove up from Bradford to kill Mr Shah because he said that he was disrespectful of Islam. Mr Shah was an Ahmadi. In Pakistan, millions of Ahmadis are denied citizenship and 10,000 have fled this year. Now it seems that they are to be targeted in Britain too.

If Jews, Muslims, Christians, atheists and others are no longer to see one another as an existential threat, we must provide an alternative narrative, based on Article 18, capable of forestalling the unceasing incitements to hatred which especially pour from the internet and which capture unformed minds.

Britain, for all its faults, is a society in which adulterers are not flogged, gays are not executed, women are not stoned for not being veiled, churches are not burned, so-called apostates had not, until recently, been killed, and non-believers are not forced to convert or treated as “dhimmis” or second-class citizens. In thanking all noble Lords for participating in today’s short debate, I conclude by saying that we should be proud of the freedoms we enjoy and must work hard to achieve the same freedoms for all. In that task, Article 18 must remain our lodestar.

Baroness Berridge (Con)

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for securing today’s debate and draw attention to my interests in the register.

Only yesterday, at an event hosted by the noble Lord, Lord Oates, the new UN special rapporteur, Dr Shaheed stated: “Freedom of religion or belief is in crisis”.

Last July, my noble friend Lady Anelay stated:

“Freedom of religion or belief is not just an optional extra, or nice to have; it is the key human right”.—[Official Report, 16/7/15; col. 599.]

This is crucial now that the UK itself is entering a new era of human rights and freedom of religion and belief post-Brexit. While the major focus is on Brexit and trade, the UK will no longer be part of the human rights diplomacy of the EU and the EAS, so we need to look elsewhere to replace this avenue. The warmth of the embrace given our Prime Minister by the Prime Minister of Australia at the recent G20 summit gives us the obvious answer: the Commonwealth.

As my noble friend Lady Anelay is also now the Minister responsible for the Commonwealth in Her Majesty’s Government, this gives your Lordships’ House a key role in engaging with this institution. Section 4 of the Commonwealth charter 2013 for the first time references freedom of religion and belief in a Commonwealth instrument and, on 22 January, in a Written Answer, Her Majesty’s Government stated:

“We will also continue to encourage Commonwealth partners to embrace the values set out in the Commonwealth Charter, including the freedom of religion or belief. We also look forward to discussing freedom of religion and other issues with the new Commonwealth Secretary General when she takes up office in April”.

Has my noble friend Lady Anelay indeed met the Commonwealth Secretary-General, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Scotland, to discuss the UK’s approach to the promotion and protection of Article 18 in Commonwealth countries? What focus will human rights and Article 18 have at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in spring 2018, to be held here in the UK, and for the two years following when we will chair the Commonwealth? I also hope that Her Majesty’s Government will make time available for a lengthy debate in your Lordships’ House on the UK’s future strategic plan to engage with the Commonwealth.

While the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is looking to strengthen rules-based international systems on human rights, as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, said, it is no longer enough to rely on international compliance with human rights instruments as an effective mechanism for human rights implementation, not least because it can serve as a smokescreen for only prima facie safety compliance. As we can see across the globe today, this is at the expense of ensuring that human rights and, more specifically, freedom of religion or belief, are accessible and meaningful to the individuals who bear those rights.

Unlike the EU, or indeed the UN, the Commonwealth has no binding formal obligations. Rather, its channels are considered informal and relaxed but none the less effective. Will my noble friend confirm that the new £400 million soft power fund will be open to projects to promote and protect freedom of religion or belief and other human rights in the Commonwealth? This neglected, multifaith network is vital to the UK’s future trade, diplomacy and human rights work. My noble friend Lord Howell previously called the Commonwealth the soft power network of the future but, in the light of Brexit, it is the soft power network of today.

Lord Clarke of Hampstead (Lab)

My Lords I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for securing this short debate and pay tribute to him for his continuing mission to give voice to the persecuted minorities of many faiths in our troubled world. In the few minutes available, I will focus on the situation in Iran—a truly dreadful situation that goes on and on. I should add that it is now 30 years since I first got involved in trying to get our Government to talk at the United Nations about the persecution of minorities and the abuse of human rights in that country.

Once again, we are discussing the persecution of religious minorities. This debate is very important, but I and many colleagues in both Houses believe that it should not be a substitute for concrete action to end systematic persecution.

The persecution of Christians, Baha’is and Sunni Muslims in Iran cannot be denied. It is well documented, and the Government and the FCO point to this in their latest Human Rights Priority Country update, published in July. It said:

“The Iranian constitution only formally recognises 3 religions other than Islam: Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism. Despite this, minority religions, and even non-Shi’a Muslims, face persecution and harassment in Iran”.

On 5 August the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, condemned the execution of 20 Sunni Muslims in Iran. It was deplored that:

“In many of the cases, there were serious doubts about the fairness of the trials, respect for due process and other rights of the accused”.

Christian communities in Iran are not allowed to build their own churches. They are forced to turn their homes into churches for their congregations. These in-house churches are repeated targets for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and plain-clothes agents of the intelligence ministry. On 12 August, 11 Christians were arrested during a raid at an in-house church in the city of Isfahan. Several days later, five converted Christians were arrested. They were all charged with bogus national security allegations, similar charges to those used by the Iranian authorities to justify the arrest and detention of British dual nationals in Iran. The Baha’i religion is not even recognised by the authorities in Iran. The Baha’i are hence deprived of their most fundamental rights and constantly harassed. It is essential to understand that the deteriorating human-rights situation in Iran, including the persecution of religious minorities for the past three decades, is a direct consequence of the culture of impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators.

In this context, it is worth noting and highlighting the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in Iran in 1988, which for 28 years was overlooked by the West and the international community, and it still is. New revelations from a recently released audio file and information exposed by the Iranian democratic opposition, the NCRI, show that at least 59 of those officials responsible at the time are today holding senior and ministerial positions in Iran, including the Supreme Leader Khamenei and the Justice Minister of President Rouhani’s cabinet, Mostafa Pourmohammadi. This shows that those actively involved in oppression of people and annihilation of dissidents are rewarded rather than held accountable. Minister Pourmohammadi recently said of his role in the 1988 massacre, “We take pride in eliminating those who wage a war against God”.

If our aim is to improve the situation of religious minorities in Iran, the best approach by our Government is to take a lead on the global scene and make the perpetrators of the 1988 massacre accountable before an international tribunal. These officials are those who oppose religious minorities. In November last year the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, speaking at the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee about the progress in human rights, said that it was high time for words to be translated into actions. May I respectfully ask the Minister that her words be pursued more forcibly in the coming weeks and months, whenever the opportunity arises?

Lord Cotter (LD)

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for securing this debate. There are many areas of concern about the implementation and promotion of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The key point is that it is an essential component of the UN charter, from the UN’s original formation when the United Nations Assembly was conceived. It is very important because of that.

There are many parts of the world where Article 18 is not respected but I want to speak about one country in particular and support what the noble Lord, Lord Clarke, has said. I hope that by both of us speaking on this issue this point will be addressed; namely, concerns about Iran. Iran has been identified as one of the worst countries in the world. Article 18, which sets out the right to believe, not to believe, or to change your belief, is broken every day in Iran, which last year executed almost 1,000 people because of their religious or political beliefs. The recent upgrading of our relations with Iran is most puzzling in the light of consistent human rights violations.

It is especially concerning that the Christian community in Iran is so much under attack. Christians in Iran are prevented from openly exercising their beliefs or promoting their religion. It has also been highlighted that Baha’is are being executed, tortured or imprisoned in great numbers. Christians are criticised as illegal and systematically harassed and intimidated. Iran is one of the world’s 10 most inhospitable countries for Christians and those of other beliefs.

It is right that this matter should be addressed. Looking at Iran, we see that many of those who committed the 1988 massacre of political prisoners are still very much in charge so it would be naive to think there will be any change unless the international community raises the cost for the Iranian authorities of committing these atrocities against members of religious minorities and ordinary citizens. I urge the Government to publicly demand the prosecution of those who are known to have committed the 1988 massacre and impose sanctions on the identified perpetrators for their role in the systematic abuse at that time.

Like my colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Clarke, I am very interested in Iran and have been to the many international events that have been held. I urge the Government to listen to Maryam Rajavi, who symbolises interfaith harmony between Christians and Muslims in that country, and to examine her 10-point democratic platform. Her plan, absolutely required in Iran, is also a possible route for many other countries. I hold it in great regard, and we in this country should support what she says and its implementation in Iran.

Lord Hope of Craighead (CB)

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for securing this debate, and for his tireless search for a solution to the problem of promoting universal adherence to the principles that underlie this article. Reduced to its simplest terms, Article 18 seeks to protect two inalienable rights. The first is the right to freedom of religion or belief itself. The second is the right to manifest that religion or belief in whatever way one chooses. Without the first one cannot have the second, and so it is the threats to the first that are of the greatest concern. They are legion, and they affect every faith.

The question is: what can be done to eradicate violations of the article? As a lawyer, I would love to think that there was a legal base for the article so that it could be enforced. After all, rights are not really rights unless the person whose rights are being infringed has access to a remedy. Two examples come to mind of legal bases which are to be found in other human rights instruments. There is the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights, Article 9 of which is a mirror image of what we see in Article 18. As everyone knows, Section 2 of that convention set up the European Court of Human Rights with jurisdiction to say what its articles mean, to receive applications from individuals and to provide just satisfaction if there has been a violation. That mechanism was practicable within a small group of relatively like-minded nations such as we have in Europe, but we have to face the fact that it would have been beyond the reach of the universal convention, which was designed to apply across the entire world. So it is not there.

The other example is the 1984 torture convention. It was entered into having regard to Article 5 of the universal declaration—so there is a link there—and Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which provide that no one shall be subjected to torture. Article 4 of the torture convention provides:

“Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law”.

Article 5 provides:

“Each State Party shall take such measures as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction over the offences referred to in article 4”,

where, among other things,

“the victim is a national of that state”.

However, the convention goes even further than that. It requires,

“any State Party in whose territory a person alleged to have committed any offence … is present shall take him into custody”,

and to prosecute him there; failing which, to extradite him to the state of which the victim is a national so that he can be prosecuted in that country. We in this country, as many will remember, were asked to give effect to our obligations under that convention in the case of Senator Pinochet by extraditing him to Spain so that he could be prosecuted there for acts of torture committed in his own country but perpetrated against Spanish nationals, although he was able to escape from the consequences on grounds of ill health.

The Question which the noble Lord asks is directed to the Government. In the absence of a mechanism such as those to which I have referred, which would enable breaches of the article to be brought before a court, it surely is the Government’s responsibility to do all they can to eliminate the appalling violations to which other noble Lords have referred. But perhaps the time has come for someone to develop the idea of a freedom of religion convention along the lines of that which was devised to address the problem of torture. We cannot go on just talking about the problem. Something more fundamental needs to be done. I ask the Minister to at least take this suggestion away for further thought and consideration.

Lord Suri (Con)

My Lords, Pakistan is a country that has prevalent issues in its adherence to Article 18 of the UDHR. Today, minorities are subject to forced conversions and marriages, blasphemy laws and even rape. The current situation is a sad state of affairs when we consider Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s speech to the New Delhi Press Club in 1947 which pre-empted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He highlighted the importance of religious pluralism and freedom of religion or belief, and in his address he set out the basis on which the new state of Pakistan was to be founded. In particular, he forcefully defended the right of minorities to be protected and to have their beliefs respected, saying:

“Minorities, to whichever community they may belong, will be safeguarded. Their religion, faith or belief will be secure”.

Today, however, minorities do not have the safeguards he spoke of and from current trends it appears that the realisation of Article 18 in Pakistan may become a distant dream. One area that is exacerbating the situation for minorities are the curricula and public school textbooks, which contain indoctrinating teachings against minorities. There is considerable evidence that many children from religious minority backgrounds are discriminated against in schools and some do not attend at all due to a culture of intolerance and hatred against them within classrooms. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has highlighted issues with many textbooks used in Pakistan, which are sowing discord and animosity against minorities. Its major findings are that the content of Pakistani public school textbooks related to non-Islamic faiths and non-Muslims continues to teach bias, distrust and inferiority. This perhaps provides some explanation of the deteriorating state of religious freedom in Pakistan today.

Considering that over 30% of DfID’s aid to Pakistan is allocated towards education, it is important to ensure that Her Majesty’s Government do not in any way contribute towards perpetuating the negative portrayal of religious minorities and the incitement of intolerance and hatred. Instead, we must ensure that we support vulnerable children from religious minority backgrounds and address the discrimination or persecution they may face. Not only would this help encourage more students into education but it would contribute to building peace and stability while countering prospective radicalisation. It is imperative that that these curricula and the culture are reformed to ensure that a generation of children are not brought up with a skewed and intolerant attitude to religious minorities as this provides fertile conditions for radicalisation.

Inevitably, the manifestation of intolerant attitudes will further inflame an environment which is already hostile towards minorities. It will further degrade the fragile condition of freedom of religion or belief in Pakistan. Thus we must ensure that we are doing everything we can to bring about cultural change in Pakistan in order fully to respect Article 18.

Lord Singh of Wimbledon (CB)

My Lords, I also offer my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for initiating this important debate and for the vast amount of work he does in this field. All too often, debates and questions in this House describe the appalling treatment of religious minorities across the world. Unfortunately, the response from government is in my view far from even-handed. The world, it seems, is still seen in terms of friendly countries to be spoken to quietly, if at all, and the characterisation of those who are not dependent on us for trade or strategic influence as nasty regimes to be condemned in the most strident terms.

Let me give an example. In 2014, the Government described the human rights record of the Sri Lankan Government as “appalling” and called for an international inquiry. I asked whether the Government would press for a similar inquiry into the Government-led massacre of thousands of Sikhs in India. The short, sharp response was that it was “a matter for the Indian Government”. Why the lack of even-handedness? I have asked the same question several times both in the Chamber and in Questions for Written Answer, but always to no effect. On the last occasion, some six months ago, I was promised a considered reply from the Minister, but I am still waiting for it.

In France today, Sikhs are being humiliated by being asked to remove their turbans for identity photos in defiance of a UNHCR court ruling that the actions of the French Government are an infringement of the rights of Sikhs under Article 18. There was no mention of this in our Government’s recent report on human rights abuses across the world. France, after all, is a “friendly” country. These examples of religious discrimination are especially hurtful to the followers of a religion in which freedom of belief is considered to be so important that our Ninth Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur, gave his life defending the right of Hindus, those of a different religion from his own, to freedom of worship.

What is of concern to me and others is that we, like other members of what we euphemistically call the Security Council are still living in a world of 19th-century power politics, a world in which the abuse of human rights was conveniently overlooked in a greed-fuelled era of strategic alliances. If there are any doubts about the failure of our power-bloc politics, we should reflect on the current tragedy of the Middle East, which began a century ago with the carving up of the former Ottoman Empire by British and French diplomats.

As a Christian hymn reminds us:

“New occasions teach new duties; Time makes ancient good uncouth;

They must upward still, and onward, who would keep abreast of Truth”.

The great human rights activist Andrei Sakharov said that,

“there can be no real peace in the world unless we are even-handed in our attitude to human rights”.

We will fail future generations if we do not heed his far-sighted words.

The Earl of Sandwich (CB)

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord. My noble friend Lord Alton has again raised a major question of conscience on a subject that I approach with trepidation. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is so important that it needs to be read aloud like a catechism. Admittedly, we are dealing with only one article today, but it touches millions who are suffering from flagrant abuses of human rights, freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

I want to look briefly at one aspect of this abuse, which is the condition of the Dalit community worldwide. This is an area about which my noble friend has considerable knowledge and is another form of modern slavery, which this Government say they want to eliminate. I have visited Dalit communities in Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and elsewhere supported by Christian Aid, meeting human rights lawyers, aid workers, journalists and other activists who investigate atrocities. I recall houses burnt down, Dalits raped or murdered, young Adivasis made to worship and become prostitutes, and the daily humiliation of millions of Dalits who carry out the most menial tasks. The responsibility for these crimes may lie with their employers or their higher-caste neighbours, but they are almost always condoned by people in authority—village leaders, police and even judges.

We think of the Hindu and Sikh caste system but Dalits belong to every religion and they are abused, persecuted and killed by their own people, often for petty reasons of long-outdated customs and prejudices. Muslims and Christian Dalits are a persecuted minority within a minority and they are victimised by other Muslims and Christians. I am glad to say that there is a vast international network of NGOs and individuals dedicated to this campaign and some MPs in India have joined it, although that can also be an electoral bandwagon. Plenty of legislation exists to end discrimination but it is rarely implemented and few politicians take it seriously. However, earlier this year, Prime Minister Modi passed minor laws to speed up the judicial process and to support Dalit entrepreneurs. These must be welcomed.

In Nepal, the Kamaiya are a similar group to the Dalits in India. Later this month, I will be there asking similar questions, although the bonded labour system was supposedly banned in 2002.

On 11 July in Una in Gujarat, four Dalits from a sub-caste that skins animals for hides professionally were tied to a car and flogged for skinning two cows that they claimed had died naturally. This caused an explosion of anger from 10,000 Dalits in Ahmedabad, which ended with the dumping of carcasses, roadblocks and burning buses. A month later, on 15 August, Prime Minister Modi celebrated India’s 70th Independence Day in Old Delhi while thousands of Dalits gathered in perhaps the largest ever demonstration. Meanwhile, the Government have again proclaimed their commitment to changing the system. We will have to see whether this is a political move, considering that state elections take place in Punjab and UP next year.

Finally, I remind the Minister that this issue also concerns the United Kingdom, whose response to human rights abuse was reviewed only last month by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. While complimenting the UK on its new legislation on human rights, the committee also expressed concern that several provisions of the Equality Act 2010 have not yet been brought into legal effect, including Section 9(5)(a) on caste-based discrimination and Section 14 on dual discrimination. I know the Equality Act is beyond the scope of this debate and I only point out that on an issue of such international importance the UK may not be putting its best foot forward at home, although I recognise, and perhaps the Minister will repeat, that DfID is very well aware of the condition of Dalits worldwide.

Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for initiating this debate. It is just under a year since the last short debate on this topic and since then we have seen the publication in May of the department’s excellent Human Rights and Democracy Report 2015. As noble Lords have done in today’s debate, it highlights the harsh reality of the world we live in and the fact that countries that do not respect religious freedom or the right to have no belief invariably do not respect other basic human rights. I also highlight the horrific acts of genocide in Syria and Iraq. I use the term because, as reflected by the unanimous decision of the House of Commons, what Daesh is doing has all the hallmarks of genocide as well as crimes against humanity and war crimes.

In the light of previous assurances that we have received, both in this Committee and in the Chamber, what progress are the Government making in gathering evidence? When do they intend to take the evidence to the UN Security Council so that the matter can be referred to the courts and due legal process?

The FCO’s thematic approach to human rights raised concerns about whether the work on freedom of religion or belief would suffer. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, reassured us last year that it would remain integral to what the Foreign Office does. However, how does this work in practice? How will the Minister ensure that the FCO’s spending on freedom of religion or belief projects under the new Magna Carta fund is not reduced any further?

The FCO’s conference on freedom of religion and belief in October is welcome, too, as is the updating of the FCO’s current toolkit. However, concerns remain, as the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, highlighted, over how the Government will ensure that they will keep momentum on freedom of religion and belief post-Brexit. Earlier this week we heard that Brexit is about seizing opportunities and putting the national interest first. If that is so, it is important to be clear where those opportunities lie. One area is to hold different nations to account over their human rights and freedom of religious belief violations by including human rights clauses in the trade agreements that the UK will be renegotiating. EU trade policy has increasingly incorporated human rights considerations, and the Commission’s published trade policy states:

“Trade policy can be a powerful tool to further the advancement of human rights in third countries in conjunction with other EU policies”.

What reassurances can the Minister give us today that the FCO’s important work on human rights and freedom of religious belief can be mainstreamed throughout the Brexit negotiations across the three main departments? We need to be serious about human rights not being a constraint on trade but an enabler of it.

The Minister’s Reply on behalf of the Government

Baroness Goldie (Con)

My Lords, I thank noble Lords for this very thoughtful debate, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Alton, not only for securing it but for his kind welcome to me, which I much appreciate. This is an important issue and I welcome the contributions that we have heard today. Support for the freedom of religion or belief is at the heart of the work that the UK Government do, both at home and abroad, to promote global security and stability. In societies where freedom of religion or belief is respected, it is much harder for extremist views to take root. The noble Lord, Lord Singh, made a very eloquent contribution about the value of human rights and the importance of respecting them. I confirm that the Government remain firmly committed to promoting and protecting the right to freedom of religion or belief, as set out in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The noble Lord made a number of specific points about India, as did the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and I hope I may write to them both about the points that they raised.

Since the last debate in this House, the Government have continued to work hard to promote and protect this basic human right. We have done so through bilateral and multilateral engagement, and through our project work overseas. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, asked whether the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has enough staff and raised the important point about having only one desk officer working on freedom of religion or belief. All our foreign and Commonwealth embassies and high commissions are also responsible for raising human rights issues in the countries to which they are accredited. We believe that these issues are best handled by those who understand the individual concerns and countries in detail, rather than trying to do that remotely by a separate policy unit.

We continue to work hard to improve the quality and range of projects that we support under the Magna Carta fund to tackle this whole issue. The noble Lord, Lord Collins, in particular made an important point about that: he expressed concern about the fund, asked whether there was enough money in it and sought an assurance that it would not be reduced further. In the 2015 spending review, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office more than doubled its annual funding commitment to the human rights and democracy fund, newly titled the Magna Carta fund, and in 2016-17 the fund has a budget of £10.6 million compared with £5 million the previous year. I hope that offers some reassurance.

In Iraq we are promoting legal and social protection for freedom of religion or belief, to prevent intolerance and violence towards religious communities. In Syria we are supporting a project that aims to build dialogue between different communities, including between Syrians of different faiths. In south Asia, working with Christian Solidarity Worldwide, we are building a network of human rights defenders and religious minority leaders across the region.

The noble Lords, Lord Cotter and Lord Suri, raised specific issues about Pakistan. They particularly wanted reassurance that we are attentive to the situation in Pakistan and that we are cognisant of the challenges in that country. They were two very thoughtful and eloquent contributions. In March this year, during a visit to Pakistan, the then Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, raised with the Pakistan Government the importance of safeguarding the rights of all minorities, including religious minorities. In April, Philip Hammond raised UK concerns about religious freedom and human rights with Sartaj Aziz, the adviser to the Prime Minister on foreign affairs. Again, under the Magna Carta fund, we are supporting projects in Pakistan to promote greater tolerance and religious freedom. So Pakistan remains a priority for UK development assistance, with programmes to try to improve human rights.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

Before the Minister leaves that point, she will know that we have spent over £1 billion in aid to Pakistan over the last few years. Can she indicate to us, if not now then perhaps in a letter to those who participated today and raised the issue of Pakistan, how much of that £1 billion has been used to promote coexistence, to support these beleaguered minorities and to help those who have been fleeing the country and are held in the degrading detention centres that I visited last year in south-east Asia?

Baroness Goldie

I thank the noble Lord for raising that point. I do not have that specific information to hand but I will undertake to try to ascertain it and to write to him.

In general, we also continue to work closely with international partners in the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. I am pleased that the UK continues to be represented on the Advisory Panel of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief by Dr Nazila Ghanea of Oxford University. She follows in the eminent footsteps of Professor Malcolm Evans of Bristol University. We would like to see the OSCE make regular use of that panel.

The UK Government also supported the meeting of the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion of Belief that took place last September at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. That growing parliamentary network shows real promise. I hope we can continue to work together, to strengthen the voice of parliamentarians in countries where freedom of religion or belief is regularly violated.

The noble Lord, Lord Clarke, made the important request that he wants words translated into deeds. No doubt that is a sentiment with which in any debate we have a lot of sympathy, but I hope that what I am telling the Committee today and what I am about to outline will reassure him that there are many deeds taking place and we are not just talking about unfounded rhetoric. For example, my noble friend Lady Anelay will be attending the launch of the Open Doors Hope for the Middle East report on 12 October. That report, which is a call to action, looks at the impact and significance of the Christian presence in Syria and Iraq. My noble friend will continue to work closely with Open Doors and with all our key partners as we further develop our policies to support religious minorities in the region.

We are appalled by the barbarism of Daesh towards all of Iraq’s communities. Daesh is conducting a campaign of violence and terror in both Syria and Iraq and has carried out atrocities against many communities including Muslims, Christians and Yazidis.

Reference has been made to the London conference, which my noble friend Lady Anelay will be hosting on 19 and 20 October, as the noble Lord, Lord Alton referred to. It is an important event that will discuss how protecting freedom of religion or belief can help to combat violent extremism by building inclusive societies. It will be an important forum and if any Members are interested in attending, I urge them to contact my office and I will do whatever I can to facilitate their attendance.

The noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, asked whether my noble friend Lady Anelay had met the Commonwealth secretary-general to discuss freedom of religious belief. I reassure her that my noble friend has met the Commonwealth secretary-general on a number of occasions to discuss human rights issues. The Commonwealth secretary-general was very keen to be involved in this forthcoming conference, which we are holding at the FCO. Sadly, she has another engagement, but she herself suggested that she participate virtually in the conference, and she will be recording a visual message for the event. I hope that reassures my noble friend that there is engagement.

The conference will bring together a wide range of experts, including from the environments of government, business and the media, as well as parliamentarians, lawyers and NGOs, to share best practice and identify opportunities for working together. I am delighted to be able to confirm that the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury has agreed to speak, along with Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, who may be known to some noble Lords, and the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Ahmed Shaheed of Essex University. The aim of the conference will be to provide staff working on human rights at our embassies across the world with practical and innovative ideas to help in their work to promote and protect freedom of religion or belief. To that end, we will also be updating the Foreign and Commonwealth Office freedom of religion or belief toolkit for staff, which was first published in 2009.

I come to the characteristically erudite and thoughtful contribution from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. He raised the interesting prospect of a freedom of religion convention. I understand that given the polarised nature of discussions at the United Nations, we assess that a convention would be difficult to negotiate as it is not predictable that there would be universal assent to it. The difficult balance that we need to strike is that we need to consider whether our time is best spent negotiating such a convention or whether it is better to spend our time working in individual countries where the freedom of religion or belief is under attack and we feel we can do something about it. That is not to say in principle that this idea is not worthy of being kept on the radar screen, and it was very important that the noble and learned Lord referred to it.

We greatly value the work of all the partners with whom we work on this important issue. Ministers, diplomats and officials continue to meet regularly with leaders of different religious groups from around the world, UK faith groups and civil society organisations. We try to understand their concerns and endeavour to examine how we can better work together to promote a universal commitment to religious freedom.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

My Lords, before the Minister concludes, as we have a few minutes before we have to finish our proceedings, may I just press her on the point that the noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury, and I raised about the declaration of events in Syria and Iraq as a form of genocide? She will record that I cited the current Foreign Secretary’s remarks, before he was appointed, that he was baffled by the failure of the Foreign Office to make such a declaration. What is the Foreign Office doing not just to collect evidence but to take it forward and place a resolution at either the General Assembly or the Security Council so that proceedings may be brought against those who have committed these heinous crimes?

Baroness Goldie

With the change of regime of the Foreign Office, it may be timely to refer the question again. That is all I can offer to do, and I undertake to the noble Lord that I will do it. We can only see what response is forthcoming.

I thank all contributors today for this serious and thought-provoking debate. It is an area where there is no monopoly on wisdom and all worthwhile suggestions and contributions are very welcome and received with great warmth. I reassure noble Lords of the continued commitment of the UK Government in support of Article 18. I hope I have done that by giving just a few examples of how we are working with groupings such as academics, think tanks, NGOs, faith representatives and parliamentarians in further pursuit of this fundamental human right. The Government will continue to work towards the full realisation of the right to freedom of religion or belief for every individual and we look forward to doing that in tandem with everyone, such as your Lordships, with an interest in securing that vital objective and undertaking that vital task.

This debate is sourced from the uncorrected (rolling) version of Hansard and is subject to correction.

The debate can be viewed on Parliament TV (starting at 2pm) http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/3c0b283e-d5e6-4eb4-8804-7a48afb76e47?agenda=True

 

Also see:

https://davidalton.net/2016/08/16/genocide-bill-introduced-russian-ambassador-calls-for-international-law-to-protect-ethnic-and-religious-minorities-crisis-in-aleppo-latest-government-replies-and-boris-johnsons-genocide-statement/

https://davidalton.net/2016/08/06/article-18-an-article-of-faith-freedom-of-religion-or-belief/

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Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Department for International Development, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1729):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the comments of Baroness Goldie on 8 September (HL Deb, col GC173), how much UK aid has been given in total to Pakistan over the past five years, and what percentage of that has been used (1) to assist and protect minorities, and (2) to promote Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (HL1729)

Tabled on: 09 September 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

Since financial year 2011-12, the UK has provided more than £1.2 billion of Official Development Assistance to Pakistan. A commitment by Pakistan to respect human rights is one of the three principles set out in the Development Partnership Arrangement which provides the basis for regular bilateral assistance talks between the UK and Pakistan.

The UK Government raises human rights issues and the rights of minorities on a regular basis at the highest levels in Pakistan and we ensure our development assistance targets poor women, men and children, regardless of race, religion, social background, or nationality. DFID does not fund programmes that directly promote Article 18, but we do help to foster tolerance and social cohesion between different religious groups through our AAWAZ voice and accountability programme in 4,500 villages across 45 districts of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It reaches over 3 million poor men, women and minority groups, including religious minorities, to address issues of inequality, discrimination and prevention of violence.

Date and time of answer: 16 Sep 2016 at 11:14.

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