December and January – Questions Raised in Parliament – Pakistan/Burma’s Rohingyas/Sudan/North Korea/ Hong Kong/ Egypt/Saudi Arabia/ Murder in Aleppo/ 25 Killed Outside Cairo’s Coptic Cathedral/ – Petition to protest at UK’s Banning of Bishops. #RedWednesday -House of Commons Debate and House of Lords Questions on Genocide. The ‘Religious Freedom in the World’ 2016 report’ launched at Westminster – Bipartisan approval of new religious Freedom Law in the US – “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil…not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”


 

 

Burma – Ministerial relies on Rohingya – click here:

 

 

PAKISTAN

Pakistan

Lord Bates, the Department for International Development, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL4306):

Question: Lord Alton of Liverpool


To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Bates on 5 December (HL3360), what consideration was given by the Department for International Development to other international and local assessments of the implementation of the 2006 national curriculum by the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. (HL4306)

Tabled on: 20 December 2016

Answer:
Lord Bates:

The Department for International Development has taken into consideration a number of reports over recent years which have looked, in part, at implementation of the 2006 national curriculum. These include the November 2011 report from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, ‘Connecting the Dots: Education and Religious Discrimination in Pakistan’. The Department is currently supporting the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to review its textbooks with the aim of improving overall quality and reducing all forms of bias. This work will be completed by March 2018.

Date and time of answer: 05 Jan 2017 at 16:00.

Lord Bates, the Department for International Development, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL4307):

Question: Lord Alton of Liverpool


To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Bates on 5 December (HL3360), whether, as part of the independent assessment, Urdu books were studied by speakers of Urdu; and if so, which books. (HL4307)

Tabled on: 20 December 2016

Answer:
Lord Bates:

The independent assessment completed in 2013 by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, ‘An Overview of Curriculum Reform’, looked at the policy implications for government stemming from the new 2006 curriculum. It did not focus specifically on textbooks. The November 2011 report from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, ‘Connecting the Dots: Education and Religious Discrimination in Pakistan’, looked in more detail at textbooks, including Urdu textbooks for Grades 1 to 10 across Pakistan. The Sustainable Development Policy Institute, a Pakistani think tank organisation, which carried out this review of textbooks for the Commission, used a team of Pakistani Urdu-speaking nationals.

Date and time of answer: 05 Jan 2017 at 15:59.

Lord Bates, the Department for International Development, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL4309):

Question: Lord Alton of Liverpool


To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Bates on 5 December (HL3360), what assessment they have made of reports that the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has offered Rs 150 million of British aid funding to the Islamic religious seminary Darul Uloom Haqqani. (HL4309)

Tabled on: 20 December 2016

Answer:
Lord Bates:

The Islamic religious seminary Darul Uloom Haqqani receives funding from the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Department of Auqaf and Minority Affairs, however, no UK funding has been provided to that Department. All UK financial support to education in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is made through the Elementary and Secondary Education Department in support of the government’s five-year Education Sector Plan.

Date and time of answer: 05 Jan 2017 at 15:58.

Lord Bates, the Department for International Development, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL4308):

Question: Lord Alton of Liverpool


To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Bates on 5 December (HL3360), what assessment they have made of the impact on the education of students from religious minorities of reductions by the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the budget reserved for religious minorities. (HL4308)

Tabled on: 20 December 2016

Answer:
Lord Bates:

DFID has not undertaken an assessment of the impact of budget cuts by the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on the education of students from religious minorities. Cuts were reported to have been made by the Department of Auqaf and Minority Affairs for the financial year 2016/17, reducing the funding available for textbooks and fees for pupils attending Christian schools. All UK financial support to education in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is made through the Elementary and Secondary Education Department in support of the government’s five-year Education Sector Plan which supports government schools attended by pupils of all religious backgrounds. No UK funding goes to the Department of Auqaf and Minority Affairs.

Date and time of answer: 05 Jan 2017 at 15:35. Lord Bates, the Department for International Development, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL4305):

Question: Lord Alton of Liverpool


To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Bates on 5 December (HL3360), which organisation or agency independently assessed that the implementation of the 2006 national curriculum by the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was based on the values of democracy, pluralism and peace. (HL4305)

Tabled on: 20 December 2016

Answer:
Lord Bates:

The assessment was provided in the review undertaken by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit. This is a German development organisation, commonly known as GIZ and owned by the German government. The September 2013 review, ‘An Overview of Curriculum Reform’, examined the implementation of the 2006 national curriculum across Pakistan.

Date and time of answer: 05 Jan 2017 at 15:32.

 Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Pakistan following reports of a raid on the Ahmadi community headquarters in Rabwah.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

We are aware of reports of the raid on the Ahmadiyya office in Pakistan. The Government strongly condemns the persecution of all minorities, including the targeting of people based on their beliefs. Our concerns are reflected in the latest update to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office annual human rights report.

The Government regularly raises our concerns about the protection of minority communities, including religious minorities, with the Pakistani Government at a senior level. During his visit to Pakistan in November, the Foreign Secretary, my Rt Hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Mr. Johnson) raised religious tolerance and the importance of safeguarding the rights of all Pakistan’s citizens. The Government continues to urge Pakistan to honour in practice its human rights obligations, including those related to religious minorities, and to uphold the rule of law.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the attack on 12 December on the Ahmadiyya Mosque in Dolmial, in the district of Chakwai, Pakistan; and what representations they have made to the government of Pakistan about the treatment of Ahmadiyyas.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

We condemn the attack on the Ahmadiyya Mosque in Chakwal on 12 December. The Government strongly condemns the persecution of all minorities, including the targeting of people based on their beliefs. Our concerns are reflected in the latest update to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office annual human rights report.

The Government regularly raises our concerns about the protection of minority communities, including religious minorities, with the Pakistani Government at a senior level. During his visit to Pakistan in November, the Foreign Secretary, my Rt Hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Mr Johnson), raised religious tolerance and the importance of safeguarding the rights of all Pakistan’s citizens. The Government continues to urge Pakistan to honour in practice its human rights obligations, including those related to religious minorities, and to uphold the rule of law.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answers by Lord Bates on 17 November (HL2963, 2965, 2966, 3010 and 3077) concerning religious freedom and education in Pakistan, what assessment they have made of the policies implemented in the Khyber Province in this regard.

Lord Bates The Minister of State, Department for International Development

The DFID-funded Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Education Support Programme is assisting the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to develop policies to address inequality and improve educational outcomes for all children in the province. The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa implements the 2006 national curriculum which has been independently assessed to be based on the values of democracy, pluralism and peace. DFID is also supporting the government to revise its textbooks which will include replacing any content that promotes prejudice and discrimination against religious or other minorities.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have discussed with the government of Pakistan the incidence of children from minority backgrounds failing to complete their education and leaving without qualifications as a consequence of discrimination and negative attitudes towards minorities and its impact on poverty in Pakistan.

Lord Bates The Minister of State, Department for International Development

According to UNESCO Pakistan has the second highest number of out of school children globally. DFID Pakistan’s education programmes work with the provincial governments of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to increase enrolment and reduce the number of children out of school. We are concerned about every child that is out of school, whatever the reason for them being out of school. The Governments that we work with are committed to ensure that every child is able to go to school and to stay in school and we work with them to make that happen. Since 2011 UK Aid has benefitted 6.8 million children in primary education. DFID’s national education campaign, Alif Ailaan, highlights and campaigns on key educational issues such as out of school children and learning outcomes for the poor and most marginalised.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have raised with the government of Pakistan their duties under Articles 22 (1) and 25 (1) of the Constitution of Pakistan concerning freedom of religion in schools and equality, and whether British aid to Pakistan is being used to strengthen these legal protections for minorities.

Lord Bates The Minister of State, Department for International Development

The UK Government strongly condemns the persecution of all minorities, including the targeting of innocent people based on their beliefs. The UK Government raises human rights issues and the rights of religious 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. One of the four principles set out in the Partnership Principles Assessment is a commitment by Pakistan to respect human rights, including the provisions of non-discrimination and protection for freedom of religion as laid out in its own constitution. The Assessment provides the basis for regular bilateral assistance talks between the UK and PakistanDFID’s education programmes in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces support the implementation of Pakistan’s 2006 reformed curriculum which teaches religious tolerance and respect for diversity.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether Pakistan is a signatory to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights; whether they consider that the government of Pakistan is fulfilling its duties under Article 18 of that Declaration; what role British aid to Pakistan plays in promoting respect for diversity and difference; and whether they will reconsider their policy of making none of the British aid programme to Pakistan available for the promotion of Article 18 obligations.

Lord Bates The Minister of State, Department for International Development

The UK Government remains 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. We are concerned about reports of abuses against religious minorities in Pakistan. The UK Government strongly condemns the persecution of all minorities, including the targeting of innocent people based on their beliefs. The UK’s concerns are reflected in the latest update to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s annual Human Rights Report, which is publicly available. The UK 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 and men, regardless of race, religion, social background, or nationality. Although DFID does not fund programmes that directly promote Article 18, we do help to foster tolerance and social cohesion between different religious groups through our AAWAZ voice and accountability programme. Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of studies, including those undertaken by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom and the Catholic Church’s National Commission for Justice and Peace, which have highlighted material in Pakistani text books portraying negative views toward other religions and countries.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the role played by Pakistani textbooks in promoting extremism and intolerance against minority faiths such as the Christian, Hindu and Sikh religions and minorities such as Ahmadis not considered to be Muslims.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what Department for International Development funds are currently being provided to improve educational standards in Pakistan, including the Punjab Education Support Programme; and whether the support given to the Punjab Curriculum Text Board to ensure positive gender portrayal can be expanded to include positive portrayal of Pakistan’s minorities.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they last discussed with the government of Pakistan the inclusion of religious hate material in Pakistani text books.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the decision of the Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board of Lahore to include positive affirmations of the role of minorities in the creation of Pakistan and the 1947 speech of the founder of Pakistan, and of the extent to which affirmation of the rights and equality of minorities is being replicated in other provinces across Pakistan.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what mechanisms and safeguards the Department for International Development has in place to ensure that British aid distributed in Pakistan is not used by provinces or schools to purchase textbooks which contain material indoctrinating against minorities.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the Education Fund for Sindh takes into account the curricula being taught to students when making funding decisions, and what steps they are taking to ensure that children supported by the Fund are not taught an intolerant view of religious and non-religious minorities through the textbooks used in schools.

Lord Bates The Minister of State, Department for International Development

The UK Government remains 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. We are concerned about reports of abuses against religious minorities in Pakistan. The annual report of US Commission on International Religious Freedom identified ‘discriminatory’ content against minorities in provincial textbooks in Pakistan as a particular concern but did not note the progress made where DFID is providing provincial governments with support.

Since 2011, UK aid has benefited more than 6.8 million children in primary school education. The programme is an £800 million investment from 2011 to 2020 undertaken in partnership with the provincial governments in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and focussed on the poorest, especially girls. Our investments support improving access to education and raising quality, improving learning outcomes, increasing teacher and student attendance and improving school facilities. We are providing £420.5 million from 2013 to 2019 to the Punjab Education Support Programme II, working with the provincial government to ensure more children in Punjab have access to a good quality education.

The UK has worked alongside these two provincial governments including through supporting the Punjab Curriculum Textbook Board which have taken significant steps to update textbooks and replace any content that promotes prejudice and discrimination against religious or other minorities. Independent evaluations in 2007 and 2013 confirmed this curriculum to be based on values of democracy, pluralism and peace aimed at educating students to be able to think critically about these issues. This has included introducing girls as central characters, showing girls participating in stereotypically male roles, and making the illustrations more representative. They have also worked to remove any overt bigotry linked to minority groups and continue to consider these issues.

The pilot Education Fund for Sindh (EFS) programme came to an end in 2016. The new Sindh Education Non State Actors (SENSA) Programme is following on from EFS. School providers in both EFS and now SENSA follow the 2006 Pakistan national curriculum. Independent evaluations of the reformed curriculum have confirmed it to be based on values of democracy, pluralism, and peace. All textbooks which enter into schools have to be approved by the provincial government, in this case the Sindh Textbook Board, to ensure they meet the requirements of the 2006 National Curriculum. This is a legal requirement. Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 16 September (HL1729), whether the Department for International Development is planning to fund any programmes that directly promote freedom of religion or belief in Pakistan.

Lord Bates The Minister of State, Department for International Development

Through our AAWAZ voice and accountability programme (aawaz means “voice” in Urdu), DFID works to foster tolerance and social cohesion between different religious groups in 4,500 villages across 45 districts of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It reaches directly over 3 million poor men, women and minority groups including religious minorities (Christian, Sikh, Hindu and others) to address issues of inequality and discrimination, and to prevent violence. Communities identify potential sectarian and inter-faith based conflicts, mapping out where and when they might take place and identifying who is best at a local level to pre-empt or resolve conflict. This has enabled communities to work across sects and faiths to prevent 193 interfaith/sectarian conflicts and resolve 1,097 community conflicts (water/land and other disputes) through negotiation and compromise, benefitting 4,314,685 people. A successor programme to Aawaz is planned for 2018 onwards, building on successes and learning lessons from this programme.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have discussed with the government of Pakistan point 5 of Pakistan’s National Action Plan of 24 December 2014, and the steps taken to implement this provision.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

The UK and Pakistan have a shared interest in addressing and reducing the threat of terrorism. We are committed to working together to combat the terrorist threat and the extremism that sustains it, in a human rights compliant manner. This helps reduce the threat to the UK and UK interests.

Part of that work involves tackling extremism and developing narratives to tackle the extremist ideology that is the root cause of terrorism. We frequently raise this at the highest levels with the Pakistani Government, as well as providing assistance.

Countering the extremist threats to Pakistan also requires investment to improve education, tackle poverty and help develop the civilian institutions that can deliver rule of law. We help to provide this investment through our bilateral aid programme.

EGYPT

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what offers of help or advice they have made to the government of Egypt about the improvement of security of the people attending places of worship following the bombing of the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral of St Mark in Cairo; and what assessment they have made of the levels of persecution and discrimination against the Coptic minority.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

Following the attack against El-Botrosiya Church on 11 December, the Prime Minister, my Rt Hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) wrote to the President of Egypt to express her deep condolences and reiterate the UK’s support for Egypt in its fight against terrorism. The Foreign Secretary, my Rt Hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), Her Majesty‘s Ambassador to Egypt, and officials in London have also expressed their condolences to the Egyptian authorities. The UK Government continues to work closely with the Egyptian authorities on security and counter-terrorism, including through training Egyptian officers in countering improvised explosive devices and close protection.

The UK Government has been clear that freedom of religious belief needs to be protected and that the ability to worship in peace is a vital component of a democratic society. We are concerned about recent reports of sectarian violence in Egypt, and welcome President Sisi’s consistent calls for peaceful coexistence and the government of Egypt’s expression of support for the rights of Christians and for religious tolerance.

 

SYRIA AND IRAQ

 

Question: Lord Alton of Liverpool
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the remarks by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on 20 April (HC Deb, col 996) concerning the gathering and preservation of evidence that could in future be used in a court to hold Daesh to account for its crimes against Shi’a and Sunni Muslims, Christians, Yazidis, Kurds and other groups, what steps they are taking to ensure that genocide committed against Christians is included in their proposals for the prosecution of Daesh. (HL4319)

Tabled on: 21 December 2016

Answer:

Baroness Anelay of St.John’s

The Government is committed to ensuring there is no impunity for these heinous crimes committed by Daesh, as shown by the Foreign Secretary, my Rt Hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson)’s launching of the global campaign Bringing Daesh to Justice. As a first step in this campaign, we are working with the government of Iraq to bring a proposal before the UN on evidence gathering and preservation in Iraq. It is vital that this is done now, before evidence is lost or destroyed. This campaign is about justice for all Daesh victims and we expect it to cover all violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of international human rights law by Daesh including war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

Date and time of answer: 05 Jan 2017 at 16:47.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL4304):

Question: Lord Alton of Liverpool
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether evidence of atrocities committed by individual UK citizens as members of Daesh is being collected; if so, whether this is being done as part of an investigation into sexual violence in the Middle East; and who is collecting this evidence. (HL4304)

Tabled on: 20 December 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We are doing everything we can to assist in the gathering and preservation of evidence that could be used in future by judicial bodies to make a judgement on Daesh crimes. We are providing financial support to a specialist organisation to conduct investigations in Syria and build prosecution ready criminal case files against the high level perpetrators, in accordance with international standards. These cases are built for international prosecution should a referral to the International Criminal Court be forthcoming or should individuals be subject to litigation by hybrid, specialised or national courts.

We are also funding a project through our Human Rights and Democracy Programme, aimed at improving the documentation of sexual violence and other gender based cases in a victim sensitive way, in several areas of Iraq. The project is training a team of human rights defenders to document sexual violence and establish a database of cases across a two year period to inform policy development in the government of Iraq.

As a first step in the ‘Bringing Daesh to Justice’ campaign, we are working with the government of Iraq to bring a proposal before the United Nations on evidence gathering and preservation in Iraq. It is vital that this is done now, before evidence is lost or destroyed.

Date and time of answer: 05 Jan 2017 at 16:36.

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what account is taken of the resolution of the House of Commons on the Daesh genocide of minorities (HC Deb, 20 April, col 608) when prioritising victims of genocide for resettlement under the Syrian vulnerable persons resettlement programme.

Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department

We are clear that our scheme will prioritise the most vulnerable refugees, and that is why under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement (VPR) scheme the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) identifies refugees for resettlement using its established vulnerability criteria. The seven vulnerability criteria used by the UNHCR are Legal and or Physical Protection Needs; Survivors of Torture and/or Violence; Medical Needs; Women and Girls at Risk; Family Reunification; Children and Adolescents at Risk and Lack of Foreseeable Alternative Durable Solutions.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

My Lords, I welcome what the Minister has just said to the noble Lord, Lord Collins, about the collecting of evidence and the initiative that Her Majesty’s Government have taken at the United Nations. Can she share a little more about what mechanisms will be set up to ensure that once the evidence has been collected, we will be able to bring those who have been responsible for genocide or crimes against humanity to justice?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, it is important to recall that Daesh has committed these horrendous crimes not only within Syria but around the world. Earlier in Question Time, we remembered those who it appears died at the hands of two terrorist attacks just yesterday. I stress that while we will certainly engage with our allies around the world to see what judicial mechanism can be brought into play and how it can therefore be used effectively against all, regardless of their nationality, we also need to concentrate on the other aspects of the project launched by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary: to support the prosecution of those who commit crimes of terrorism in the name of Daesh around the world as well.

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

My Lords, can the Minister explain how the recent banning of two Syrian Orthodox bishops from coming to the United Kingdom conforms to the Prevent strategy, while at the weekend it was reported that Syed Qadri is to be allowed to come into the United Kingdom? He is a radical Islamist hate preacher who has been banned from preaching in Pakistan. He spoke out in favour of those who assassinated Salmaan Taseer and is said to have been one of the influences on the murderer of the Ahmadi shopkeeper in Glasgow. Why is he being permitted to speak at public venues throughout the United Kingdom?

Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department

My Lords, I cannot speak about individual cases, but the point is that Syed Qadri and others like him—I am sorry but I have forgotten the second part of the noble Lord’s question.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

My Lords, why is he being allowed to come into the United Kingdom and to speak at public venues when we recently banned two Syrian Orthodox bishops from coming into the United Kingdom?

Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department

My Lords, when people speak in public it is important to ensure that what they say does not incite racial or terrorist hatred in this country. I cannot comment on the individual cases of the Syrian bishops.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

My Lords, did the Minister see the statement from a United Nations spokesman yesterday, in which he described this as the darkest day in the history of the United Nations? With more than 5,000 dead in Aleppo in the last month —and returning to the Question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Symons—did he see the report about the 100 unaccompanied children who have taken refuge in one derelict building? Do we know anything more about their fate or about the eight who were shot in their home for refusing to leave? In February, this House debated a Motion from all parts of your Lordships’ House that those responsible for genocide and crimes against humanity should be brought to justice. It is not just a question of collecting evidence; it is about setting up the mechanisms necessary to do that. When will the Government do what the noble Lord said a few moments ago and bring those responsible to justice?

Lord Bates The Minister of State, Department for International Development

That is right. The situation on the ground is horrific and we are now getting credible reports of summary executions. We have heard the reports about the children caught in that building, but unless people are given access to that area—it is in the control of the Assad regime and the Russian President to bring that about—we cannot get access. It will not be us directly, of course; we cannot be the actors involved in that situation. However, the agencies of the UN, the NGOs and those courageous, heroic people who are putting their lives at risk to protect other humanity in that situation should be allowed in. It is within people’s hands to do it and they should do it.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the remarks by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 22 November (HL Deb, col 1836), whether the details of those prosecuted as ISIS insurgents in the UK and overseas can be published.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

The Government is committed to ensuring there is no impunity for the heinous crimes committed by Daesh, as shown by the Foreign Secretary‘s launching of the Global Bringing Daesh to Justice campaign. As I mentioned during the debate, the prosecution of Daesh fighters has already begun both in the UK and around the world – to date, at least 50 countries have prosecuted or arrested foreign terrorist fighters or facilitators and approximately 60 countries have legislation in place to do so.

The number of individuals who are arrested, charged, and prosecuted for terrorism-related offences is published in the Home Office Quarterly Statistical Bulletin, which was last published on 22 September 2016. In the year ending June 2016, there were 222 arrests for terrorism-related offences in Great Britain. These statistics do not disaggregate cases relating to Daesh or non-Daesh linked individuals. The UK Government does not publish details of prosecutions carried out by other governments.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the identity of those responsible for the death of 10 people, including children, during the bombing of a school in western Aleppo in the third week of November.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

We are aware of reports from pro-regime media outlets of the shelling of a school in al-Furqan (regime-controlled western Aleppo) on 20 November, which resulted in 10 casualties. The attack was alleged to be the responsibility of armed opposition groups. We watched the opposition offensive in western Aleppo closely, and we deplore any breaches of international humanitarian law (IHL) by all parties. We continue to underline to opposition groups over whom we have an influence that any operations must be conducted within the bounds of IHL. The plight of civilians in Aleppo is desperate. The vast majority of atrocities are perpetrated by the regime – it is only the regime and its backers who have the capacity to conduct air strikes, which result in extensive damage to civilian infrastructure and cost civilian lives. 275,000 people face potential mass starvation in east Aleppo, besieged and under daily bombardment by the regime.

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench  2:51 pm, 22nd November 2016

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress is being made in bringing to justice those responsible for genocide and crimes against humanity, particularly against Yazidis, Christians and other minorities, in Syria and Iraq.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, the Government believe that there needs to be accountability for the crimes committed in Syria and Iraq. We continue to support the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria and have launched a global campaign to bring Daesh to justice. We are working with the Government of Iraq to bring a proposal before the UN to gather and preserve evidence in Iraq as a first step.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

My Lords, tomorrow is Red Wednesday, when Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral, a synagogue in north London and many other public buildings, including the Palace of Westminster, will be floodlit in red to commemorate all those who have been subjected to genocide or persecuted for their faith. Does the Minister recall that on 20 April the House of Commons declared that ISIS is responsible for genocide, the crime above all crimes? Can she therefore tell us how many British-born ISIS recruits have been brought to justice in British courts? Further, with Russia’s withdrawal last week from the International Criminal Court, are we talking to other Governments about the creation of a freestanding regional tribunal to bring to justice those who have been responsible for these crimes of genocide?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, the noble Lord has asked several important questions and I will try to encapsulate them. Perhaps I may first comment with regard to Russia. When Russia grabbed the headlines about leaving the ICC, it was when I was going to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. I was perfectly well aware that the Russians had never ratified, although they had signed, the initial treaty—they made a play of the headlines, but there we are.

As regards the prosecution of Daesh fighters, it is the case that these have already begun, and I can certainly write to the noble Lord with details of the cases that have been taken in this country. However, around 60 countries have legislation in place to prosecute and penalise foreign terrorist fighters for their activities, and to date at least 50 countries have prosecuted or arrested such fighters or facilitators. On the matter of how a tribunal might be set up, it is possible of course that some form of international or hybrid justice mechanism may prove to be appropriate, but it is too early—and not for us alone—to prejudge that. Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they have taken to protect civilians in Mosul; how many additional refugees from Mosul they anticipate will need to be cared for; and what planning is being done to stabilise Mosul and support civilians following the current offensive.

Lord Bates The Minister of State, Department for International Development

According to the UN, up to 1.5 million people could be impacted by military operations to retake Mosul from Daesh, with up to 1 million people who may try to leave the city; of these, 700,000 might need shelter. The UK is supporting the Iraqi-led humanitarian response to ensure that civilians affected by Mosul military operations are provided with life-saving assistance, including protection support.

The UK has been an early and significant donor to the UN’s Mosul Flash Appeal, and we have encouraged others to follow our lead. This year, the UK has announced £90 million of humanitarian assistance for Iraq, with a significant element supporting partners preparing and responding to Mosul. This takes the UK’s total support to £169.5 million since summer 2014. In partnership with the UN, donors and others, we will continue to monitor the situation closely. The UK continues to advocate strongly that civilians are protected and that International Humanitarian Law is upheld.

We are supporting the Government of Iraq in its efforts to stabilise areas which have been liberated from Daesh by providing the governance, services and security necessary to enable the safe return of Iraqis to these areas. As part of the Global Coalition, the UK is assisting Iraqi-led efforts to stabilise Mosul, with delivery through the UN. We have committed £15 million to the UN’s stabilisation programming, through the UN Development Programme and UN Mine Action Service.

 

SAUDI ARABIA

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the decision by the government of the United States not to proceed with a number of munitions sales to Saudi Arabia, whether they intend to cancel planned weapons sales; what is the value of UK sales of arms to Saudi Arabia which have been licensed since March; and whether they have sought legal advice about potential UK complicity in war crimes as a consequence of armaments originating in the UK being used by Saudi Arabia against civilians in that country and elsewhere.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

As the Secretary of State for Defence, my Rt Hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Michael Fallon) said in his statement on Monday 19 December, we operate one of the most robust arms export control regimes in the world – we have our own robust evidence-based process and reach our own conclusions.

The UK takes our arms export responsibilities very seriously. The key test for our continued arms exports to Saudi Arabia is whether there is a clear risk that the items concerned might be used in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law. The situation is kept under careful and continual review.

The US continues to export a wide range of military equipment to Saudi Arabia, including combat aircraft and attack helicopters and munitions. In response to concerns over certain elements of the conflict in Yemen, the US announced a single upcoming munitions sale would not be taken forward. We are in contact with US authorities on this issue.

Statistics on licences for the export of strategic goods are published on a quarterly basis. The most recent published figures cover March – June 2016. In this period the value of standard individual export licences which were granted for military goods to Saudi Arabia was worth £6,235,378.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the content of school text books in Saudi Arabia, in the light of the extent of compliance by the Saudi authorities with their undertakings made in 2001 to remove from their school textbooks incitements to hate and kill Jews and Christians.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

Since 2001, Saudi Arabian school textbooks have undergone a number of revisions and we are not aware of any recent examples of incitement in these books. The King and the religious establishment continue clearly and publicly to condemn Daesh, and to emphasise that it does not in any way represent the teachings of the Islamic faith. The Saudi Arabian Government has been at the forefront of international efforts to defeat Daesh and its poisonous ideology from which the country has suffered first-hand.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of reports by the BBC’s Panorama programme in 2010 that approximately 5,000 pupils in the UK are being taught the Saudi national curriculum, what action has been taken to ensure that school text books originating in Saudi Arabia which propagate hate speech and religious intolerance are not being used in schools, clubs and weekend schools in the UK.

Lord Nash The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

The Government is committed to ensuring that all children learn in a safe environment, protected from extremist or hateful views wherever they are receiving education. We are taking firm action where concerns arise, and have taken a number of steps to strengthen regulation in schools. Ofsted now inspects schools on the requirement to actively promote the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs, as well as on the breadth of the curriculum, which should prepare pupils for life in modern Britain. In addition, we have provided further resources to Ofsted to allow them to increase their investigative work into unregistered independent schools. Wherever such schools are found to be teaching hate or intolerance, we are taking action to close them and prosecute those operating them.

Ofsted have not found any evidence of the text books referred to in the programme being used in schools that they have inspected.

We have also taken steps to increase oversight of out-of-school settings, such as clubs and weekend schools. Prevent duty statutory guidance sets out the expectations on local authorities to take steps to understand the range of out-of-school settings in their areas and to ensure that children attending such settings are safeguarded, including from the risk of being drawn into extremism and terrorism. We set out plans to introduce a new system of regulation for out-of-school settings in our call for evidence which closed earlier this year. The proposed system would allow Ofsted to close such settings where there was evidence that they were engaging in extremist teaching or failing to adequately safeguard the children in their care. We received a large number of responses and will set out next steps in due course.

SUDAN – and DARFUR

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they are planning, through the UK’s membership of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, to ask for clarification from the government of Sudan regarding allegations made by Amnesty International that Sudan has used chemical weapons in attacks against civilians in the Darfur region; and whether they will request a challenge inspection if further clarification is not forthcoming.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

The UK continues to work very closely with both the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and Amnesty International. The government of Sudan, as a State Party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), is obliged to investigate allegations of the use of chemical weapons within its territory and to report to the OPCW. In order to instigate a challenge inspection to be carried out by the OPCW, another state party to the CWC is required to present further credible evidence, for example, in addition to the allegations contained in Amnesty’s report. We are not aware of any such further evidence. We continue to urge the government of Sudan to allow access throughout Darfur and to enable the United Nations/African Union Peacekeeping Mission to carry out its core mandate to protect civilians.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the fairness of the trial in Sudan of four Christians, Rev Hassan Abduraheem Kodi Taour, Rev Kuwa Shamal Abazmam Kurri, Abdulmonem Abdumawla Issa Abdumawla, and Petr Jasek; and whether they take account of instances of capital punishment, show trials, adherence to human rights, and regard for freedom of religion or belief, when developing policy with regard to Sudan.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

We remain concerned about the ongoing trial and continued detention of Reverend Hasan Abduraheem Kodi Taour, Reverend Kuwa Shamal Kori, Mr Abdulmonem Abdumawla, and Mr Petr Jasek. In coordination with our international partners we have ensured that there is a diplomatic presence at each stage of the trial. Officials from our Embassy attended the hearing on 26 September and officials from Switzerland attended the most recent session on 21 November on behalf of the international community. We also remain in close contact with the lawyers representing the defendants.

Sudan is a Foreign and Commonwealth Office Human Rights Priority Country. We always take our human rights concerns into consideration when developing policy, and we regularly lobby the government of Sudan on these through dialogue in London, Khartoum and New York. Human rights remain an issue of great importance to the UK, and we are firmly committed to promoting and protecting the right to freedom of religion or belief across the world.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports of the arrest and interrogation of Sudanese doctors across Sudan over the weekend of 29 and 30 October, including the president of the Sudanese Doctors Union, Dr Ahmed Abdallah El Sheikh.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

We are aware of reports of detention of a number of Sudanese doctors, and that others are required to report to the National Intelligence and Security Services daily. This follows the Doctor’s Union strikes which began on the 6 October. The British Embassy in Khartoum raised our concern over these detentions with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 7 November, and we will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their estimate of the percentage of the population of Sudan living below the poverty line; how many persons are estimated to be living as refugees or displaced people in Sudan; and what has been the total UK aid funding for Sudan since the State’s creation.

Lord Bates The Minister of State, Department for International Development

The latest World Bank poverty data noted that 46.5% of the population were below the national poverty line in Sudan. Figures from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimate that there are up to 3.2 million internally displaced persons in Sudan, of which 2.6 million are long term displaced in Darfur alone. OCHA also outline that Sudan plays host to approximately 386,283 refugees from neighbouring countries.

Over the last five decades, the UK has always been one of the largest providers of aid to the Sudanese people. UK bilateral Overseas Development Assistance spent in Sudan, from 2011-2014, totalled £269,023,000. The figures for 2015 will be published on 17 November Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what percentage of the UK aid budget for Sudan is used to promote freedom of religion or belief; and what assessment they have made of the penalties imposed by Sudanese courts if a man or woman exercises their right to change their beliefs.

Lord Bates The Minister of State, Department for International Development

Through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCOConflict, Stability and Security Fund a programme worth £100,000, is focussing on the reform of the teaching of religious education in Sudan, and the promotion of religious tolerance. In 2015 and 2016 an FCO-funded project in Sudan brought together legal experts, religious leaders and civil society members to challenge social and legal barriers to freedom of religion or belief.

Freedom of religion or belief in Sudan remains a concern and is a core part of our ongoing human rights dialogue with the Government of Sudan. This dialogue calls on the Government of Sudan to ensure all legislation is consistent with the commitment to their citizens in the Interim Constitution of 2005, within which religious freedom is enshrined.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the role of Iran and North Korea in the building of factories for the production of munitions and weapons in Sudan.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

We are aware of claims that these countries may have previously cooperated with Sudan in the manufacture and trade of weapons. We continue to fully support the EU arms embargo on Sudan as well as the UN arms embargo specifically on Darfur.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made of the percentage of the gross domestic product of Sudan which is used on (1) its army and security sector; and (2) developing basic infrastructure.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

It is not possible to estimate with a high degree of certainty the percentage of Sudan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) spent on security and development as the Government of Sudan does not publish the national budget. From figures provided by the World Bank in 2014, we are aware that 5 per cent of Sudan’s GDP was spent on pro-poor expenditures, which includes spending on infrastructure.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to support the international Criminal Court and its work in Sudan.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

The UK supports UN Security Council Resolution 1593, which urges all States to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Court (ICC) and its Prosecutor with regards to the situation in Darfur. The UK fully respects the ICC as an independent organisation; it is the responsibility of the Office of the Prosecutor of the Court to take forward the investigation.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the indictment of Omar al Bashir for genocide and human rights abuses in Sudan, what is the current level of engagement with the Sudanese regime and whether that level of engagement has increased, or is planned to increase.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

In order to maximise our ability to persuade all parties to the conflicts in Sudan to end the fighting and allow the Sudanese people the security and development they deserve, we need to have a greater level of direct engagement with the government of Sudan. For that reason, we have started a Strategic Dialogue with the government of Sudan, which provides a necessary platform for us to raise issues of concern, including human rights, and at the same time explore possibilities for cooperation on a wide range of UK interests. The Strategic Dialogue process does not change our position of maintaining only‘essential contact’ with President Bashir, given his outstanding arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC). The UK remains a firm supporter of the ICC and encourages all States to act on its indictment.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government why, in the last year, there has been a reduction in the number of UK and EU statements on human rights violations in Sudan.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

Sudan remains a Human Rights Priority Country for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as outlined in the FCO‘s last annual Human Rights and Democracy Report published in July 2016. We regularly raise our human rights concerns directly with the government of Sudan in London, Khartoum and New York as part of our ongoing dialogue. Most recently, human rights issues were a key theme of the Strategic Dialogue that took place in London in on 10/11 October.

We consider our response to all reports of human rights violations carefully, in consultation with our EU and troika partners and with human rights organisations on the ground, and respond in the way we judge to be the most effective in conveying our concerns to the government of Sudan. We also support the established UN mechanisms in their efforts to improve the situation in Sudan.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many (1) internally displaced persons, and (2) refugees from other countries, there are in Sudan.

Lord Bates The Minister of State, Department for International Development

According to figures from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there are a total of 3.2 million internally displaced people in Sudan, of which 2.6 million are long term displaced in Darfur alone (as stated in the attached).

OCHA also estimates that Sudan hosts a total of 386,283 refugees from neighbouring countries.

PQHL2379 attachment (PDF Document, 197.29 KB)

HONG KONG

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to fulfil their legal obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration to monitor and speak out for basic freedoms and the rule of law in Hong Kong.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

Our commitment to Hong Kong as a co-signatory of the Joint Declaration is as strong as ever. On 2 December the Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my Hon. Friend the Member for Reading West (Mr Sharma) visited Hong Kong and spoke publicly about the importance of Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms. The Government’s most recent assessment of the basic freedoms and the rule of law in Hong Kong is set out in the Foreign Secretary‘s Six-Monthly Report to the House of 12 October. In this we stated that” despite challenges, the UK believes that “One Country, Two Systems” has provided a successful framework for almost two decades, and can continue to do so”. The full report can be found online – (https://www.gov.uk/government/world-location-news/six-monthly-report-to-parliament-on-hong-kong-january-june-2 Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what recent assessment they have made of basic freedoms, the rule of law and democracy in Hong Kong.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

The Government issued its most recent assessment of the basic freedoms, the rule of law and democracy in Hong Kong on 12 October in the Foreign Secretary’s Six-Monthly Report to the House. In this we stated that “despite challenges, the UK believes that “One Country, Two Systems” has provided a successful framework for almost two decades, and can continue to do so”.

 Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the court ruling in Hong Kong disqualifying two elected legislators from the Legislative Council.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

The Hong Kong courts reached a decision on the cases of Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Leung on the basis of Hong Kong’s legal framework. We respect this decision.

 

IRAN – SEE FULL S[PEECH AT:

https://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2016-12-08a.943.1&s=speaker%3A13103#g945.0

 

 

 

INDIA

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the fact that India has, according to the Global Slavery Index published in 2016, up to five times more people in modern slavery than any other country, why the UK Aid Match fund as updated on 21 November does not include work in India.

Lord Bates The Minister of State, Department for International Development

Although projects implemented in India are not eligible for Aid Match funding, DFID is committed to working with the Government of India to tackle trafficking and exploitation of workers. For example, DFID is supporting the regional “Work in Freedom” programme led by the International Labour Organisation which supports safe migration and government capacity building at national and state level, including implementing legislation and standards in key sectors such as domestic work and textiles. To date over 90,000 women have benefited from training to help them make informed migration decisions, reducing their risk of being trafficked from India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

NORTH KOREA

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2321, whether any UK funds or United Kingdom nationals provide specialised teaching and training which could contribute to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s proliferation activities or the development of nuclear weapons delivery systems, including business and economic management training that may be used to acquire or sell goods used in connection with weapons.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

We are not aware of any UK funding or UK nationals providing teaching and training which could contribute to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s proliferation activities or the development of its nuclear weapons delivery systems.

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2321, whether they intend to reduce the number of staff at the Embassy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in London and what steps they will take to limit the number of bank accounts held by Democratic People’s Republic of Korea diplomats stationed in the UK.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

The Government welcomes the unanimous adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2321 and work has begun to ensure that its provisions are fully implemented and enforced within the UK. We continue to have diplomatic relations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2321, whether any UK organisations or nationals engage in scientific and technical co-operation involving persons or groups officially sponsored by or representing the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; and whether this co-operation will be suspended.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

We are aware of some limited scientific engagement between UK nationals and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). As per the provisions of UNSCR 2321, such cooperation does not need to be suspended when there is a determination that such activity does not contribute to the DPRK’s proliferation, nuclear activities or ballistic missile programmes.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports about the reflagging of North Korean ships in Tanzania; and whether they have raised that issue at the UN Security Council.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

The Government is aware of such reports and have raised concerns this year with the Tanzanian Government about their shipping register. We continue to have discussions with partner states, and the UN Panel of Experts on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), regarding the misuse of country flags by ships connected to the DPRK. We take such misuse seriously and urge all countries to abide by UN Security Council resolutions. UN Security Council Resolution 2270 calls upon Member States to de-register any vessel that is owned, operated or crewed by the DPRK, and not to register any such vessels that have been de-registered by another Member State.

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what priority is given within the Department for International Development (DfID) to issues related to religious liberty; how many staff, and what percentage of DfID’s budget, are allocated to faith-related issues; who is the designated lead official on faith-related issues; and whether there are any plans to increase the staff resources allocated by DfID to deal with faith and faith communities.

Lord Bates The Minister of State, Department for International Development

The United Kingdom is committed to enabling all people to enjoy to the rights and freedoms defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and core treaties of international human rights law. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office leads Government policy on issues related to religious freedom and promoting and protecting religious freedom is important to UK foreign policy.

DFID collates expenditure data in accordance with the statistical reporting requirements of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. These do not separately identify spending on religious liberty. DFID has a dedicated focal point on faith-based organisations in its Inclusive Societies Department, and provides central funding to over 30 UK faith groups. DFID’s cadres of governance and social development advisers have specialist expertise on human rights and discrimination. Staff resourcing for this is constantly kept under review alongside other priorities.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to introduce protection and support for minorities suffering persecution on grounds of freedom of religion or belief into every level of planning within the Department for International Development; whether they intend to make this a priority; and what measures they intend to introduce to track the impact of programmes aimed at reducing levels of religious persecution, hatred, and intolerance.

Lord Bates The Minister of State, Department for International Development

DFID’s programme development procedures require consideration of the impact on different social and economic groups, including discrimination due to religion. In addition, partner governments’ commitment to respecting human rights, including freedom of religion or belief, is one of the four partnership principles that DFID also considers when providing direct financial support to governments. All DFID programme are rigorously monitored and reviewed to ensure they are delivering the intended outcomes.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have made an assessment of research demonstrating the links between the promotion of freedom of religion and belief and those societies which are the most prosperous and stable; and whether such research informs the priorities and policies of the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Lord Bates The Minister of State, Department for International Development

DFID and Foreign and Commonwealth Office teams continually analyse the factors affecting prosperity and stability, including those relating to religion and belief. DFID has undertaken studies on factors affecting prosperity and stability, including a 2015 review of the role of religion in conflict and peacebuilding. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office follows the research of organisations such as the Berkley Center at Georgetown University and the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation. The Berkley Center’s research contributed to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s October 2016 conference, which considered how freedom of religion or belief can promote resilience against violent extremism.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, in relation to humanitarian assistance provided to Iraq, a record is kept to track what support is given to religious minorities; what priority is being given to such groups in the plans for the reconstruction of the country; and what consideration is taken of the needs of such groups in military planning in theatres of war such as Mosul.

Lord Bates The Minister of State, Department for International Development

All UK-funded humanitarian aid is distributed on the basis of need irrespective of race, religion or ethnicity. The organisations through which we channel this in Iraq do not identify or record beneficiaries by their religion. In our dialogue with the Government of Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government, and the United Nations, UK Ministers and officials frequently raise the importance of ensuring that minorities are protected from harm, and that their needs are taken into account when planning for stabilisation and reconstruction, including in Mosul.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they consider that the mainstreaming of gender-related issues within the Department for International Development has been successful; what priority is given to it; what funding and how many officials are specifically dedicated to working on it; and what assessment they have made of whether it can be used as a successful model for the mainstreaming of support for minorities suffering persecution on grounds of freedom of religion or belief.

Lord Bates The Minister of State, Department for International Development

The UK is recognised as a global leader on promoting the rights of girls and women and DFID reviews progress on gender equality in the Annual Report. DFID’s Strategic Vision on Girls and Women has put gender equality at the heart of UK Aid, and the Department is successfully implementing the 2014 Gender Equality Act.

Best practice and lessons learned are regularly shared across DFID by the Gender Equality team, including with those working on support for people facing persecution on grounds of freedom of religion or belief.

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Bipartisan approval of new religious Freedom Law in the US – spearheaded by congressman Chris Smith

chris-smith

http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/an-opening-for-trump-obama-signs-international-religious-freedom-act

December 14th 2016:  Murder in Aleppo

My Lords, did the Minister see the statement from a United Nations spokesman yesterday, in which he described this as the darkest day in the history of the United Nations? With more than 5,000 dead in Aleppo in the last month —and returning to the Question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Symons—did he see the report about the 100 unaccompanied children who have taken refuge in one derelict building? Do we know anything more about their fate or about the eight who were shot in their home for refusing to leave? In February, this House debated a Motion supported from all parts of your Lordships’ House that those responsible for genocide and crimes against humanity should be brought to justice. It is not just a question of collecting evidence; it is about setting up the mechanisms necessary to do that. When will the Government do what the noble Lord said a few moments ago and bring those responsible to justice?

That is right. The situation on the ground is horrific and we are now getting credible reports of summary executions. We have heard the reports about the children caught in that building, but unless people are given access to that area—it is in the control of the Assad regime and the Russian President to bring that about—we cannot get access. It will not be us directly, of course; we cannot be the actors involved in that situation. However, the agencies of the UN, the NGOs and those courageous, heroic people who are putting their lives at risk to protect other humanity in that situation should be allowed in. It is within people’s hands to do it and they should do it.

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It was deeply moving to attend the laying of flowers for the Coptic Christians murdered in Cairo last weekend. Bishop Angaelos, the Egyptian Ambassador and the Archbishop of Canterbury led the ceremony outside Westminster Abbey. The flowers were laid  in front of the Western Wall where there are statues of the modern martyrs. Two weeks ago the wall was floodlit red as part of the Red Wednesday pledge not to forget those dying for their faith.
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Explosion kills 25 Coptic Orthodox worshippers during Sunday worship in Cairo – December 11th 2016

Statement by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop
of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom

11 December 2016

It is with great sadness that we receive the news today of at least 25 people brutally murdered by an explosion during regular Sunday worship at St Peter’s Coptic Orthodox Church in Cairo, adjacent to the Grand Cathedral of Saint Mark.

Our prayers are with those whose lives have been so senselessly ended, those who have been injured, and every family and community affected. We also pray for every Coptic parish and community across Egypt as they fill their churches this morning, as well as for the broader Egyptian society that fall victim to similar inhumane attacks.

Many within our Coptic community in Britain will have family and friends in Egypt, and we also pray for them at this time of uncertainty.

We share in this tragedy but are encouraged by the strength and resilience of our brethren in Egypt that we have grown accustomed to and learn from. We pray God’s peace and protection upon the Christians of Egypt, the broader Egyptian society, Christians around the world worshipping this morning and all faith communities that fall prey to similar attacks.

*Ends*

BBC TV News Interview with HG Bishop Angaelos in the aftermath of the bombing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4N6xbFCoRo

 angaelos-red-wednesday HG Bishop Angaelos interview in aftermath of Cairo Church Bombing 11.12.16

www.youtube.com

His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom speaks to the BBC shortly after at least 25 people were killed …

http://www.wsj.com/articles/trumps-opportunity-saving-coptic-christians-1482363152

Trump’s Opportunity: Saving Coptic Christians

Egypt’s minorities, long persecuted, are counting on the U.S. president to defend religious freedom

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Click here to sign petition to support Syrian Orthodox bishops banned by the UK

http://www.citizengo.org/en/sc/39399-persecuted-christian-bishops-denied-entry-uk?tc=ty&tcid=30307617

https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2016/9-december/news/uk/home-office-turns-down-visas-for-syrian-archbishops

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#RedWednesday – 23rd November 2016

Also see:

https://davidalton.net/2016/10/27/international-religious-freedom-day-parliamentary-debate-on-anti-semitsm/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

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On #RedWednesdayWednesday 23rd Novemberall  over the UK people came together to honour those who have suffered because of their religion, and to stand in solidarity with millions of people, targeted for their beliefs and living in fear. 

http://www.christiantoday.com/article/colour.of.blood.london.turns.red.for.millions.killed.in.religious.persecution/101829.htm

http://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/6420/0/international-criminal-court-must-hold-islamic-state-extremists-to-account-for-barbaric-genocide-against-christians-says-catholic-peer-

angaelos-red-wednesday

 UK’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral Goes Red –

Listen to His Grace, Archbishop  Angaelos, General Bishop Coptic Orthodox Church United Kingdom: click here: http://bit.ly/2fnfLg2

November 23rd 2016: Under the shadow of IS: Iraqi Christians tell of crucifixions, torture… 

Read the full article on HRWF website

Also see: David Alton’s most recent comment on Genocide Against Christians and other minorities, November 25th 2016: 

http://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/We-re-failing-ISIS-victims.-If-we-don-t-act-now-we-ll-have-blood-on-our-hands

Malta’s Gates of Valletta Go red In Solidarity

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Following Red Wednesday: Religious Freedom in The World Report Launched at Westminster – November 24th 2016  

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Pictured in Westminster Hall where St.Thomas More – Lord Chancellor and former  Speaker of the House of Commons was tried and ordered to be executed. 

  • Father Dominic Robinson, Jesuit priest, ACN (UK) Ecclesiastical Assistant
  • Father Ziad Hilal, Jesuit priest – ACN Projects Co-ordinator for Syria
  • Baroness Cox of Queensbury
  • Paul Marsden, Member of the Board of Trustees of ACN (UK)
  • Sister Helen Haigh RJM, Provincial of the Religious of Jesus and Mary
  • Shaykh Dr Mohammad Umar Al-Qadri, Chair of the Irish Muslim Peace and Integration Council and Head Imam of the Islamic Centre of Ireland
  • Dr Sarah Bernstein, Director-General of the Jerusalem Centre for Jewish-Christian Relations, Israel
  • Lord Alton of Liverpool, Chairman of the Parliamentary launch of the Religious Freedom in the World 2016 Report
  • John Pontifex, Editor-in-Chief, ACN Religious Freedom in the World 2016 Report, Head of Press and Information ACN (UK)

Report warns of global impact of religious “hyper-extremism”

Survey blames religious hatred for increased instability around the world 

RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM – more lethal than ever seen before – is unleashing death, destruction, displacement and instability at unprecedented levels, according to a report out yesterday (Thursday).

The Religious Freedom in the World 2016 report, produced by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, warns of the global impact of “a new phenomenon of religiously-motivated violence”, which it terms “Islamist hyper-extremism”.

In defining this new ultra-extremism, the report highlights distinguishing features which are described as evidence of the radicals’ threat to world peace, stability and social harmony in the West.

Key characteristics of “Islamist hyper-extremism” include systematic attempts to drive out all dissenting groups – including moderates, unprecedented levels of cruelty, global reach and the effective use of social media, often used to glamorise violence. 

The report was launched yesterday (Thursday) and the evening before landmark buildings around the country were flood lit in red to highlight the significance of religious freedom and to remember the thousands of people who die because of hatred against their beliefs.

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Later that day, a copy of the Religious Freedom in the World 2016 Report, produced by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), was presented to HRH The Prince of Wales at Clarence House, London.

Present at the meeting were religious leaders who had spoken at the parliamentary launch event and senior ACN staff.

The Prince – who had given a video statement at the launch of the Religious Freedom in the World 2014 Report – met Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri, Chair of the Irish Muslim Peace and Integration Council, Jesuit Father Ziad Hilal from Aleppo, Syria, Dr Sarah Bernstein, Director-General of the Jerusalem Centre for Jewish-Christian Relations and Neville Kyrke-Smith, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need (UK).

Yesterday, the Prince met the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch, Ignatius Aphrem II, who travlled from Damascus, and spoke earlier at the launch of the Religious Freedom report  http://www.aina.org/news/20161124130319.htm and at the Westminster Cathedral Red Wednesday event.

patriarch

The Prince of Wales has used his speech at the consecration of a Syriac Orthodox Church in west London to highlight the plight of Christians in Syria.

His Royal Highness described the ceremony at the Cathedral of St Thomas in Acton as a “notable sign of hope for the future”, amid the ongoing six year civil war.

Prince Charles said: “It is surely deeply encouraging, at a time when the members of the Syriac Orthodox Church in their homelands of Syria and Iraq are undergoing such desperate trials and such appalling suffering, that in Britain the Syriac Church is able to expand and gain in strength.”

As part of the Red Wednesday initiative, London buildings lit up in red included: Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye and Lambeth Palace.

Also flood lit was the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London’s St John’s Wood.

Churches around the country were lit up – in Northamptonshire, Yorkshire and Lancashire – as well as Bolton Town Hall, Birmingham University Clock Tower and Liverpool Hope University.

The Religious Freedom in the World 2016 report, whose launch Red Wednesday marked, reiterated calls for Daesh (ISIS) persecution to be recognised as genocide.

The report’s authors warn of a widespread attempt to replace pluralism with a religious mono-culture.

The report, which assesses the situation regarding religious freedom in each of the world’s 196 countries, concludes: “In parts of the Middle East including Iraq and Syria, this hyper-extremism is eliminating all forms of religious diversity and is threatening to do so in parts of African and the Asian Sub-Continent.”

This is echoed in the report’s foreword by Father Jacques Mourad, a Christian monk who was held by Daesh in Syria for five months before escaping in October 2015.

Fr Mourad writes: “Our world teeters on the brink of complete catastrophe as extremism threatens to wipe out all trace of diversity in society.”

The biennial report, which draws on research by journalists, academics and clergy, records that in the two-year period under review which ended in June, attacks linked to “hyper-extremism” had taken place in one out of five countries worldwide – from Australia to Sweden as well as 17 African countries.

Countering the popular view that governments are mostly to blame for persecution, the report puts the blame on non-state militants in 12 of the 23 worst-offending countries.

With refugee numbers at a new high of 65.3 million according to the UN, the report describes extremist Islamism as a “key driver” in the massive displacement of people fleeing countries such as Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria.

The Aid to the Church in Need report goes on to highlight the knock-on effect on countries in the West whose socio-religious fabric is being destabilised by the arrival of unprecedented numbers of refugees.

Such problems are, according to the report, compounded by the West falling victim to a sudden increase in fundamentalist Islamist attacks.

But, according to the report, not all problems regarding religious freedom are to do with militant Islam – with a “renewed crackdown” on religious groups reported in China and Turkmenistan and an ongoing denial of human rights for people of faith in worst-offending North Korea and Eritrea.

Nor is the outlook universally bleak – looking at Bhutan, Egypt and Qatar, countries notorious for religious freedom violations, the report found that the situation had improved for faith minorities during the period under review.

John Pontifex, London-based Editor-in-Chief of the report, said: “A core finding of our research is the emergence of a form of religious hyper-extremism which has left many parts of the world scarred by its savagery, which is the hallmark of its evident genocidal intent.

“Our report is a wake-up call both to highlight that extremism has entered a new and entirely more dangerous phase, and the role of the West

“If there is just one finding of the Religious Freedom in the World 2016 report it is that faith groups need to tackle hatred within their own ranks.

“What prospects are there for peace when powerful sections within specific faith groups have nothing but contempt for those who do not share their world view – and who deny the right to life not just to people of other faiths but also to moderates from among their own community?”

“The other problem borne out in the report is that Western policy makers frequently just don’t get religion and need to rethink their whole outlook.

“It’s no longer compatible to say that traditional faith practice belongs to the past when the evidence shows that for millions and millions of people – a new generation – religion is at the centre of their lives, driving everything they do.

This is the 13th edition of the report, which is produced by Aid to the Church in Need.

The charity provides emergency aid and help for persecuted and other suffering Christians in 140 countries around the world.  

The ‘Religious Freedom in the World’ 2016 report’ will be available for download   at www.religion-freedom-report.org

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Buildings going red in solidarity…

The Houses of Parliament

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London Routemaster Bus and the London Eye

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Westminster Cathedral

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red-wednesday-canon-christopher-tuckwell-westminster-cathedral-his-holiness-ignatius-aphrem-ii-patriarch-of-the-syriac-orthodox-church-damascus-syria-and-the-rt-revd-rt-hon-dr-richard-chartres  red-wednesday-westminster-cathedral

Canon Christopher Tuckwell, Westminster Cathedral – His Holiness Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church, Damascus, Syria and the Rt Revd & Rt Hon Dr Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London

The North West of England

  
    1. Peace between faiths means a shared commitment to love, truth and human dignity. May Christ give us grace to set an example

      Lambeth Palace

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    2. Bolton Town Hall
    3. Wrexham

Stonyhurst College Lancashire 

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Immaculate Conception Church in Flint – one of the first churches to take up the Red Wednesday challenge…

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Liverpool Hope University

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Stockport Focus School

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Birmingham University: Old Joe Clock Tower

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http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/news/latest/2016/11/Old-Joe-turns-red-for-global-victims-of-faith-persecution.aspx

Blackfriars Oxford

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#RedWednesday – 23rd November 2016

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Also see:

http://www.jesuit.org.uk/stonyhursts-red-witness-worlds-persecuted

 Red Wednesday – Wednesday November 23rd was a moment to focus on the dramatic increase in religious persecution worldwide which has occurred in the past six years. 5.3 billion people (76 per cent of the world’s population) live in countries with a high or very high level of restrictions on religion. From Bangladesh, where atheists are murdered with impunity to Saudi Arabia where churches are banned and converts are criminalised, to Burma, where Muslim Rohinga are denied citizenship, to Iran where Bahais are executed, to China, where bishops are imprisoned and churches demolished, to countries like Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sudan and North Korea, where believers are subjected to genocide, crimes against humanity, persecution or discrimination, lives are literally soaked in blood. Red Wednesday was a chance to show solidarity and to demonstrate that their suffering is not forgotten; a chance for people of all faiths and none to shine a light on global suffering.

 

Iconic buildings like the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral will be bathed in red light, so will an Orthodox cathedral, a London synagogue, a Methodist church in Greater Manchester, and the world’s oldest Jesuit school, in Lancashire. Many people wore something red, others lit up their Facebook sites in red, others found their own way to identify with the one in five who suffer somewhere in the world for their faith.

 

Pass these details to others and ask them to play some small part in the continuing struggle to create greater awareness of the scale of persecution.       

https://davidalton.net/2016/10/26/redwednesday-23rd-november-2016-circulate-details-to-others-so-that-red-wednesday-becomes-a-day-when-people-stand-together-for-the-persecuted-and-forgotten-silence-in-the-face-of-evil/

Further details: Johnny Dowling on 0208 661 5154 or john.dowling@acnuk.org

 “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil…not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” Dietrich Bonheofferdietrich-bonhoeffer

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil…not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” Dietrich Bonheoffer

Launch of Religious Freedom in the World 2016 report

Grand Committee Room

Thursday, 24th November 2016 at 11am

 

It is with great pleasure that I write to invite you to the launch of our Religious Freedom in the World 2016 report. Produced every two years by the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need the report assesses the prospects for religious liberty in every country worldwide. Examining the role of extremism in society, the report looks at key concerns such as law and order, economic forces and culture. Sponsored by Sir Edward Leigh MP and Rob Flello MP, the launch will be chaired by Lord Alton of Liverpool with guest speakers including:

 

cid:image002.png@01D22AB8.E85F1460His Holiness Ignatius Aphrem II

Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church, based in Damascus, Syria

 

 

 

cid:image004.png@01D22AB8.E85F1460Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri

Ameer of the Al-Mustafa Islamic Educational & Cultural Centre, Ireland

 

 

DrDr Sarah Bernstein

Director-General of the Jerusalem Centre for Jewish-Christian Relations, Israel

 

 

 


Standing up for faith and freedom – On ‘Red Wednesday’ religious buildings will be flood-lit in red

Posted by ACN News on 16/11/2016, 6:10 am

ACN News: Wednesday, 16th November 2016 – UK

Standing up for faith and freedom
• On ‘Red Wednesday’ – 23rd November – Muslims, Christians and Jews will be uniting against religious persecution
• Key religious buildings will be flood-lit in red

By Murcadha O Flaherty

CHURCH communities and other faith groups are coming together in an act of solidarity with those around the world suffering persecution because of their faith.

The Red Wednesday event co-ordinated by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need will involve lighting up Westminster Cathedral and Westminster Abbey in red. Also being floodlit in red on the day (Wednesday, 23rd November) are religious buildings around the country – including Brentwood Cathedral and the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, St John’s Wood.

That same day, a red Routemaster London bus emblazoned with the words “Stand up for Faith and Freedom #RedWednesday” will be making its way through London stopping at the Imam Khoei Islamic Centre, St Paul’s Cathedral, and St John’s Wood Synagogue and Westminster Abbey. The bus is due to set off from Westminster Cathedral and will be waved off by youngsters from the nearby St Vincent de Paul Primary School. Students from schools in many parts of the UK will be marking Red Wednesday by wearing an item of red clothing and holding prayer services and other activities in support of people suffering for their faith.

Coming to London to support Red Wednesday will be His Holiness Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church, based in Damascus, Syria, Dr Sarah Bernstein, Director-General of the Jerusalem Centre for Jewish-Christian Relations, Israel and Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri Ameer, Head-Imam of the Al-Mustafa Islamic Educational & Cultural Centre, Ireland.

The following day (Thursday, 24th November), they will be speaking at the launch of Aid to the Church in Need’s 2016 Religious Freedom in the World report which assesses the situation for different faith communities in 196 countries – every nation on earth. The launch will take place in the Grand Committee Room of the House of Commons and will be chaired by Lord David Alton of Liverpool.

Aid to the Church in Need UK National Director, Neville Kyrke-Smith, said: “We hope that the ACN red bus as it travels London on Red Wednesday will highlight the very real and pressing issue of those suffering because they are persecuted today for their peacefully held beliefs. We will invite all those, whether Christian or other faiths to attend and show their support for the right of a person to practise their religion in peace”.
Describing the plans for Red Wednesday, event coordinator Patricia Hatton said: “We are delighted that a growing number of parishes, schools and groups around the country are pledging their support including Catholic, Church of England and Free Churches who are lighting red. We are also inviting everyone, and especially schools, groups, and university students to wear red – as a symbol of the suffering today of people of faith. Priests too can get involved by wearing red vestments to celebrate the Feast of St Clement, Pope and Martyr.”

Mrs Hatton encouraged people to support Red Wednesday by coming to see the bus and meet those on board and people of different faiths involved in the event. The Routemaster is due to depart Westminster Cathedral at 11.30am, arriving at noon at the Imam Khoei Islamic Centre. The bus will then travel to the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, St John’s Wood arriving at about 12.45pm, before moving on to St Paul’s Cathedral around 3pm. Depending on traffic, the bus may stop at Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square and the London Eye. It will arrive at Westminster Abbey at 4:30pm for photographs to be taken with dignitaries including Lord Alton of Liverpool. The ACN red bus will go on to Westminster Cathedral, where it will remain at from 5pm until 7:30pm.

In the evening, Holy Mass is available in the cathedral from 5.30pm – 6.30pm. A Prayer service will be led by Westminster Youth Ministry team in the Cathedral Piazza alongside film and music including Soul Sanctuary Gospel Choir and violinist, Cathy Fox. Westminster Cathedral will be among the buildings being lit up in red from 6:30pm until midnight.

Throughout the world people are being persecuted because of their Faith. The young, the old, women and children, priests, Sisters and religious leaders are victims of kidnap , torture and death.

In partnership with Aid to the Church in Need, on the evening of #RedWednesday 23rd November 2016, Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral, will light up their iconic facades Red. This profound act of solidarity will be joined by other faith groups as a tribute to all who, in recent times, suffer injustice and risk their lives for their faith.

Be part of Red Wednesday and make a stand against religious persecution and stand for peace and tolerance

 

 How You Can Support Red Wednesday:

Red Wednesday is a big opportunity to stand up for faith and freedom and to put pressure on the UK government and the international community to protect people of faithfind solutions to the problems that are fuelling extremist violence and to make our world a safer place.

#1 Wear Red on Wednesday 23rd November
#2 Share your #RedWednesday selfies
#3 Pray for Christians suffering around the world

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 Support #Redwednesday:  stand up for Faith and Freedom

Download your #RedWednesday twitter and facebook headers.

Download your #RedWednesday poster.

Pledge your support for #RedWednesday

November 23rd 2016: Under the shadow of IS: Iraqi Christians tell of crucifixions, torture, sex

Read the full article on HRWF website

World Watch Monitor (21.11.2016) – http://bit.ly/2fkeMxm – Islamic State (IS) jihadists hung Karlus, a 29-year-old cook, from the ceiling of the jail he was held in, by a rope attached to his left foot. As blood poured from his foot, they beat and kicked him, rubbing salt into his wounds. He was sexually abused in prison by three women wearing niqabs. He was told he would be shot dead; but for reasons he still does not understand, on the day his execution was due to take place, 26 September 2014, he was released.

When IS seized control of Iraqi territory in the summer of 2014, they gave Christians, as “People of the Book”, four options: leave, convert to Islam, pay a protection tax (jiyza) or be killed. The vast majority fled – an estimated 120,000 in a few short weeks that summer. But those left behind were subjected to torture, forced conversion, sexual slavery and even crucifixion, according to testimonies collected from Iraqi refugees in Jordan by the religious freedom charity ADF International.

Karlus told its researchers he had been unable to flee his home in Batnaya, a village outside Mosul, because he was looking after his disabled father. When the terrorists came to his house, they destroyed a cross and a picture of Jesus.

“They even destroyed a piece from the Quran that was given to me by a friend,” he said.

Karlus was taken to a police station unconscious after retaliating when one of the jihadists hit him in the face. There began his seven-week ordeal at the hands of IS, after which he fled to Kurdistan, was treated in Spain for the injuries to his leg, and sought asylum in Jordan. Unknown to Karlus, his father had meantime managed to travel to Baghdad, but died there in August 2015.

Esam, a father-of-three from outside the town of Qaraqosh, said two of his wife’s relatives had not managed to flee Qaraqosh before IS arrived. They were abducted; the husband has not been heard of since and the wife “now lives with one of the Daesh [IS] amirs“. While reports have focused on Yezidi women being taken into sex slavery, Esam’s account suggests that Christian women and girls may have been targeted as well.

“We heard of 12 Christian girls who are with Daesh. They may be more. Our bishop told people not to tell if they lose their girls: it is a shame on the family,” he said.

Karlus and Esam are among the thousands of Iraqi Christians who have sought refuge in neighbouring Jordan. While Iraqi and Kurdish forces and militias, with US and UK air support, are embroiled in the push to liberate Mosul from IS, many Christians from the city and its surrounding villages are too traumatised by their experiences to countenance returning. Some say they feel betrayed by neighbours who supported IS, and are no longer sure whom they can trust. Instead, many have applied for asylum in Western countries such as Sweden, Canada and Australia.

One family recovering in Sweden is that of Esam’s brother-in-law.

“My wife’s brother was crucified by Daesh,” Esam said. “He was crucified and tortured in front of his wife and children, who were forced to watch. They told him that if he loved Jesus that much, he would die like Jesus.”

Esam said the fighters tortured his relative from 6pm until 11pm; they cut his stomach open and shot him before leaving him hanging, crucified.

My wife’s brother was crucified by Daesh. He was crucified and tortured in front of his wife and children, who were forced to watch. They told him that if he loved Jesus that much, he would die like Jesus.

“A Swedish organisation helped his wife and the children; they are now in Sweden.” He added: “His wife has cancer.”

In the ongoing instability in Iraq, Christians are not necessarily safe even if they escape areas held by IS. Baghdad has been home to the country’s largest Christian community for decades, but numbers have plummeted as sectarian militia violence sporadically ripped the capital apart and targeted non-Muslims in the wake of the 2003 US-led invasion. Twice in 2014, Alaa, a father-of-two living in the city, received death threats. The first was by phone; the second time, “someone wrote on our door, ‘Your day is coming to die, you infidels'”. Alaa knew these were no empty threats.

“My wife’s cousin was killed in 2010, in an explosion at a church. Another family member was abducted in 2009,” he said. The family left Iraq in November 2014 and flew to Jordan to register as refugees.

Amid the ongoing violence and political instability in Iraq, Alaa sees little future for his family. “It is impossible to go back to Baghdad,” he said. “It is not possible to go back to Iraq. I can’t build a life there. I hope to go to Australia, but any country that will accept me, I will go there. I want to build a life and a future for my children.”

Some of the damage done by IS has already begun to be reversed. Esam said friends of his who escaped Mosul after being forcibly converted to Islam had been “baptised back to Christianity”. Other aspects will take far longer. Iraqi Christians who end up returning to Iraq know they return to a country whose sectarian fault-lines have been activated to lethal levels. Aid workers have warned that extensive reconciliation work will be vital if Iraq’s many different faith and ethnic communities are to cohere again, especially as levels of trauma among all sectors of the population are thought to be extremely high. In Jordan, Karlus reflects on his ordeal at the hands of IS members in Mosul.

He concludes: “What happened is not easy, but in the end we must forgive. This is my destiny; maybe God is planning something for me.”

Read the full article on HRWF website

View all ” Freedom of Religion or Belief” Newsletters: 

http://hrwf.eu/newsletters/forb/

View this newsletter: 

http://hrwf.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Iraq2016.pdf 

 Join with  others who have signed the petition or make your pledge to support RED WEDNESDAY at:   http://www.acnuk.org/redwednesday

 

Red Wednesday House of Commons Debate: November 15th 2016.

[Robert Flello in the Chair]

4.00 pm

Chris Green (Bolton West) (Con)

I beg to move,

That this House has considered the Red Wednesday campaign against religious persecution.

It is a pleasure to speak on this very important subject under your chairmanship, Mr Flello. All over the world, thousands of people are persecuted because of their faith, through false imprisonment, physical and mental torture, rape, slavery and, more subtly, discrimination in education and employment. For some, their faith can cost them their lives.

In partnership with the charity Aid to the Church in Need, on Wednesday 23 November Westminster abbey and Westminster cathedral will be lighting up their iconic buildings in red. Other faiths will join in that act of solidarity as a tribute to the people worldwide who are suffering injustice and risking their lives for their faith. I have written to Bolton Council to ask it to join this movement and light up Bolton’s historic town hall in red on 23 November to promote solidarity with those who are suffering. Aid to the Church in Need is also encouraging smaller, more personal acts of recognition on that day that everyone can take part in—for example, simply wearing red for Red Wednesday or using the hashtag #RedWednesday on social media to raise awareness of the plight of others. Having greater awareness and understanding will help to ensure that we never take our freedoms for granted.

This year, I joined colleagues from both sides of the House on a visit to northern Iraq to meet persecuted Christians fleeing the terrorist group Islamic State. In Mosul and elsewhere, Christians have been systematically targeted and the noon symbol, the Arabic equivalent of the Latin N for Nasara or Nazarene, has been daubed on their homes. They have been given the grim choice of paying the jizya tax, converting to Islam or being put to death. Many chose to flee, especially when their money had run out and they could no longer pay the extortion. That persecution, along with that of the Yazidi and many Muslims, led last April to the debate, granted by the Backbench Business Committee and led by my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce), on recognition of the genocide perpetrated by ISIL in the region.

The Christian community in Iraq is one of the oldest in the world, dating back to the first century. There were thought to be 1.5 million Christians in Iraq before the invasion in 2003. However, that number is reported to have fallen now to about 230,000. Although many people have been persecuted and have fled the region, that figure shows the targeted nature of the persecution and, if it carries on in that direction, we will soon see the end of Christianity in much of the middle east.

We know that there is a civil war in Syria and Iraq, but sometimes the religious context is overlooked or obscured by more dramatic events. When we met His Holiness Ignatius Aphrem II, the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, he gave us a sense of how overlooked many people feel. He used the example of the protection given to eight frogs in Australia. The pond in which the frogs lived was the subject of a huge local campaign, and a small fortune was spent to save them. He said that, in comparison, many Christians in Iraq felt ignored. Of course we have to protect our natural environment, but I am sure that many colleagues would be as concerned as I am about the scarcity of letters and emails on religious persecution compared with, say, badgers and bees.

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on initiating this timely debate. Is he aware of the persecution faced by the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Pakistan? Since they faced criminalisation in 1984, hundreds of Ahmadis have been murdered in sectarian hate crimes. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Government must continue dialogue with countries such as Pakistan to better promote religious tolerance?

I agree wholeheartedly with what the hon. Lady has said. It is so important now to reflect on the effects of increased globalisation. What goes on in one country, especially if endorsed by the Government—I am thinking of the Ahmadiyya community no longer being recognised as Muslim and being proscribed from describing themselves as such—is transmitted around the world as an idea and does not help to foster community relations here, so the hon. Lady makes a superb point.

In October 2016, Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore, Pakistan, told a Foreign and Commonwealth Office conference about his niece’s first year at school. That Christian girl was required to memorise a lesson that she was a Muslim and all non-Muslims were infidels. He spoke about how some textbooks in Pakistan’s schools foster prejudice against members of religious minorities, including Christians, Hindus, Jews and Sikhs.

Studies of the problem have been carried out both by the Catholic Church in Pakistan’s National Commission for Justice and Peace and by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. The report, which covered the Punjab and Sindh provinces, noted more than 50 hate references against religious minorities in those provinces’ textbooks. That is a very important example of religious persecution not always being about death and destruction. It can be found in all kinds of other measures, including ones that normalise the sense of persecution in schools. That kind of literature or information and that kind of understanding can be developed in schools and the wider community. I would be grateful if my hon. Friend the Minister included in his reply what steps the Government are taking to stop that happening, particularly in nations that receive British aid to provide not just education but security in the region and beyond. I think that that is an aspect of what the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Margaret Ferrier) was highlighting.

Oppression of religious communities is not always due to conflict between religions; it can also be part of state oppression, particularly in the remaining communist countries. North Korea is perhaps the most notorious, but we can also see the oppressive treatment of Christians in Cuba and of Muslim Uyghurs in western China.

Britain has her own problems with religious persecution, so it is not just an international problem. The case of Nissar Hussain from Bradford is a particularly shocking example and has gained widespread public attention only after 20 years of suffering following his conversion from Islam to Christianity. Violent punishment for apostasy has no place in any society.

Organisations such as Aid to the Church in Need and Christian Solidarity Worldwide have done a huge amount of work to improve the lives of the persecuted across the world, but we are looking for long-term solutions and, especially for the middle east, one that does not lead to the disappearance of Christianity or other religious groups.

I encourage colleagues and people watching the debate to take part in Red Wednesday next week, to read the report, which will be released on 24 November, or to write to their local council to turn a local monument red. The importance of raising awareness of this issue cannot be overstated.

I will conclude with the words of an Iraqi Christian.

 

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on bringing this very important issue to Westminster Hall. The Red Wednesday campaign against religious persecution is very important. The hon. Gentleman and I were together on a trip to Iraq just in September, so we know very well about the persecution. It is good to remember such persecution on Red Wednesday, because this year 100,000 Christians will be killed because of their faith; 200 million Christians live in a persecuted neighbourhood; and 2 billion will face persecution and discrimination. If ever there was a good cause to follow and to recognise, Red Wednesday is it. Does the hon. Gentleman agree? I am sure he does, but let us see what he says.

I absolutely agree. The figures that the hon. Gentleman highlighted show how widespread concerns about persecution across the world are. On every continent, people of all religions suffer in so many different ways. I will conclude with the quotation, which sums up the way many Christians feel at the moment:

“The attacks on Christians continue and the world remains totally silent. It’s as if we’ve been swallowed up by the night.”

4.10 pm

It is a pleasure to work under your chairmanship, Mr Flello, and an honour to respond to this important debate by spelling out our approach to human rights. I am pleased to see hon. Members here in the Chamber who have gained a reputation for raising these matters and for holding the Executive to account to see what we can do to make sure we underline the values that are important to us in the United Kingdom.

After the last election, we had a rethink about how best to consolidate our international approach to promoting human rights and democracy abroad. Our manifesto commitment was:

“We will stand up for the freedom of people of all religions—and non-religious people—to practise their beliefs in peace and safety”.

Before the election, we had eight themes, which I think was a bit too cumbersome. They have been narrowed down to three core pillars. They are, first, the values, including democracy, the rule of law, freedom of the media, freedom of religion or belief and women’s rights; secondly, the rules-based international system, supporting human rights as one of the UN’s three pillars that help to provide a nominative framework for the prevention of conflict and instability; and finally, human rights for a stable world—so, managing the risks of UK engagement in countries with poor human rights records, which includes our overseas security and justice assistance framework and contributing to tackling extremism.

4.12 pm

Sitting suspended for Divisions in the House.

4.37 pm

On resuming—

Before we were interrupted by the Divisions, I was explaining that in this House we often ask ourselves what is the value of international aid. We can contextualise the support we give and the trade we do with other countries in terms of the influence we derive when we have questions about their democratic values, concerns about how they follow the rules-based international system or, indeed, worries about whether they are following human rights. I make it clear that, where we can, our support and financial assistance go to non-governmental organisations, rather than directly to Governments. When we provide support to Governments directly, we try to ensure that they abide by our shared commitments and standards.

When the Minister has discussions about international trade and aid in relation to human rights, for example, what sort of response does he get? More importantly, what is the role of the United Nations? Does it make much progress?

The hon. Gentleman speaks of the United Nations as if it were another organisation. We are part of the United Nations. We affect the approach of the United Nations on such matters. As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, we are concerned not only about security matters but about improving standards of life, democratic values, the rule of law and humanitarian rights across the world. We want to use the UN as a vehicle through which we can leverage change.

Let us look at our own history. Without going into detail, it took us time before monarchs did not have their head removed, before people were not sent up chimneys and before the slave trade was abolished. I am not making an excuse for not pushing such things but, ultimately, we have to effect cultural change at a pace that works, rather than galvanising the opposite message from the one we want to push.

The Minister knows, as he said earlier, that I am one of those who have spoken out many times in this House on behalf of Christians. The all-party parliamentary group on international freedom of religion or belief, which I chair, speaks out for those of the Christian religion, those of other religions and those of no religion. When it comes to human rights, we want Muslims to speak up for Christians and Christians to speak up for Muslims. Has the Minister seen much evidence of that taking place around the world, when he has had an opportunity to speak to other countries?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to stress that. We want believers and non-believers to allow freedom of belief. That is what we are pursuing, and it is exactly Britain’s approach when we have dialogues with other countries. The fact that we have an economic relationship with other countries allows us to have necessary frank conversations, sometimes behind closed doors; I appreciate that many hon. Members might feel that they do not hear enough of what we are saying and what pace of change we expect from other countries as they raise their game. A great example, which I know the hon. Gentleman has raised on many occasions, is the use of the death penalty. We abhor it, we ourselves have moved through it and we encourage other countries that use the death penalty to meet EU guidelines and ultimately to remove it.

If there are no further interventions, I will move on. I begin by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West (Chris Green) on securing this important debate. It is an opportunity to confirm the Government’s commitment to the right to freedom of religion or belief. It is understandable that his speech focused on the harrowing situation faced by Christians in parts of the middle east. I certainly share his concern. As I mentioned earlier, this Government have a manifesto commitment to support freedom of religion or belief for people of all religions and non-religious people, which is exactly the point raised by the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon). In particular, we are working internationally to deliver our commitment for Christians in the middle east.

The Minister will recall the debate held on 20 April this year, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West (Chris Green) referred and to which the Minister responded. The House unanimously called on the Government to make an immediate referral to the UN Security Council, with a view to conferring jurisdiction on the International Criminal Court so that perpetrators could be brought to justice. I was pleased that the Minister said in that debate that the Government were

“supporting the gathering and preservation of evidence that could in future be used in a court to hold Daesh to account”

and

“will do everything we can to help gather evidence that could be used by the judicial bodies”.—[Official Report, 20 April 2016; Vol. 608, c. 996.]

I have two questions for the Minister. How have the Government been facilitating the gathering and preservation of evidence of crimes, as they promised, and what steps are they taking to ensure that members of the global coalition, united to defeat Daesh, are also gathering and preserving such evidence? Given that Daesh is now rapidly losing ground in Syria and Iraq, and with the battle of Mosul raging, does he not agree that the Government should make clear how they intend to deal with the perpetrators when they are caught, and should do so with a sense of urgency?

I remember the debate well. I made it clear—I think that I was the first Minister to do so—that I believe that war crimes have been committed in Iraq and Syria and that crimes against humanity have been committed by Daesh and other extremists in that location, but it is not my opinion or the Government’s opinion that counts, because it is not a political judgment. It must be a legal judgment, and there is a process that must be approved. We cannot get a UN Security Council resolution passed until the evidence is gathered. There is a mechanism to get to the International Criminal Court, and it includes the collection and collation of evidence, as my hon. Friend highlighted.

I will not go into too much detail, other than to say that gathering the evidence, by its nature, requires people to expose themselves to dangerous circumstances. As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has said on a number of occasions, the wheels of justice grind slowly, but they grind fine. As we saw in Bosnia and the former Yugoslavia, it can take many years until those people end up in The Hague, but they are held to account. That is why the Foreign Secretary, when he visited Washington DC in July, made the case and encouraged others to support his view that we must not allow the issue to be missed. We must collect the evidence. If I may, I will speak to my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) outside the Chamber and familiarise her with a bit more of the detail, but I hope that she understands the sensitivities of spelling out too much, simply because of the dangers entailed.

I welcome that, because evidence has come to my attention that several prominent leaders of Daesh are individuals in respect of whom the ICC has the ability to exercise its jurisdiction now, due to their nationality. I would be grateful if the Minister met with me to discuss it further.

I would be delighted to do so. I simply make the case that the Foreign Secretary is extremely passionate about the issue. Indeed, it came from the voices in the Chamber saying, “What is Britain doing to hold these perpetrators to account?” We must work with the Iraqi Government, UN organisations and other members of the international community to deliver justice and promote the rights of all minorities, as well as to hold perpetrators to account.

It is also worth mentioning that we are working further afield than the middle east, as well. In Pakistan, we regularly raise concerns about the freedom of religion or belief. In March 2016, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, the then Foreign Secretary, raised the importance of safeguarding the rights of all minorities, including religious minorities. In Nigeria, we are providing a substantial package of intelligence, military development and humanitarian support in the fight against Boko Haram, including training and advice on counter-insurgency, and £5 million in support for a regional military taskforce.

Promoting religious tolerance is critical to reconciliation and securing a lasting peace in any combat area, but particularly in Syria and Iraq. That is why we developed the Magna Carta fund, which is being used to support several projects to promote freedom of religion or belief. In Iraq, we have funded a series of grassroots meetings between religious leaders of all faiths to promote religious tolerance. Over the past year, we have supported a project promoting legal and social protection for freedom of religion or belief in Iraq. The project aims to prevent intolerance and violence towards religious communities by inspiring key leaders in Iraqi society to become defenders of freedom of religion or belief.

Our commitment to promoting freedom of religion or belief is not confined to the middle east but extends right across the piece. It is integral to our diplomatic network in promoting fundamental human rights around the globe through our conversations with host Governments and other influential actors such as faith leaders, and through our project work and organisations such as the United Nations, the European Union and the OSCE.

Is the promotion of religious tolerance in Iraq being done from primary school age? I have seen some documentaries in which certain charities run schools to promote better understanding between different religions. Has there been much success with that?

Yes. I can write to the hon. Gentleman with more detail, but he is absolutely right that that is the age at which messages about understanding, reconciliation and recognition of the various pressures and influences are most received. Our work involves primary and secondary schools as well.

The foreign and commonwealth conference on this matter, which took place last month, was a ground-breaking conference on how protecting freedom of religion or belief can help combat violent extremism by helping make societies more inclusive and respectful of religious diversity. The conference brought together a range of experts and high-profile speakers. All participants, including many Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff, shared and benefited from practical and innovative ideas to advance the cause. We have also updated and reprinted the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s “Freedom of Religion or Belief” toolkit, which provides officers with guidelines on how to identify violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief and what to do about them, and with further sources of information for those who wish to examine the subject in more depth.

In conclusion, the Government will continue to fight for the freedom of religion or belief internationally. We do so not only because it is right and is enshrined in the universal declaration of human rights and in article 18 of the international covenant on civil and political rights but because extending freedom of religion or belief to more countries and more societies helps to make the world safer and more prosperous, which is in all our interests. We recognise that progress requires a response from the whole of society, so we welcome the opportunity to work with this Parliament and other Parliaments, with religious groups and with civil society partners such as Aid to the Church in Need, Open Doors and Christian Solidarity Worldwide. We believe that freedom of religion or belief is a universal human right and we will continue towards the ambitious goal of ensuring that it is enjoyed by everyone everywhere.

Question put and agreed to.

 

Red Wednesday Questions in Parliament

Wednesday November 23rd 2016

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what priority is given within the Department for International Development (DfID) to issues related to religious liberty; how many staff, and what percentage of DfID’s budget, are allocated to faith-related issues; who is the designated lead official on faith-related issues; and whether there are any plans to increase the staff resources allocated by DfID to deal with faith and faith communities.   HL3418

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they consider that the mainstreaming of gender-related issues within the Department for International Development has been successful; what priority is given to it; what funding and how many officials are specifically dedicated to working on it; and what assessment they have made of whether it can be used as a successful model for the mainstreaming of support for minorities suffering persecution on grounds of freedom of religion or belief.   HL3419

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to introduce protection and support for minorities suffering persecution on grounds of freedom of religion or belief into every level of planning within the Department for International Development; whether they intend to make this a priority; and what measures they intend to introduce to track the impact of programmes aimed at reducing levels of religious persecution, hatred, and intolerance.   HL3420

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have made an assessment of research demonstrating the links between the promotion of freedom of religion and belief and those societies which are the most prosperous and stable; and whether such research informs the priorities and policies of the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.   HL3421

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, in relation to humanitarian assistance provided to Iraq, a record is kept to track what support is given to religious minorities; what priority is being given to such groups in the plans for the reconstruction of the country; and what consideration is taken of the needs of such groups in military planning in theatres of war such as Mosul.   HL3422

Syria and Iraq: Genocide

22 November 2016

Question

2.51 pm

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress is being made in bringing to justice those responsible for genocide and crimes against humanity, particularly against Yazidis, Christians and other minorities, in Syria and Iraq.

My Lords, the Government believe that there needs to be accountability for the crimes committed in Syria and Iraq. We continue to support the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria and have launched a global campaign to bring Daesh to justice. We are working with the Government of Iraq to bring a proposal before the UN to gather and preserve evidence in Iraq as a first step.

My Lords, tomorrow is Red Wednesday, when Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral, a synagogue in north London and many other public buildings, including the Palace of Westminster, will be floodlit in red to commemorate all those who have been subjected to genocide or persecuted for their faith. Does the Minister recall that on 20 April the House of Commons declared that ISIS is responsible for genocide, the crime above all crimes? Can she therefore tell us how many British-born ISIS recruits have been brought to justice in British courts? Further, with Russia’s withdrawal last week from the International Criminal Court, are we talking to other Governments about the creation of a freestanding regional tribunal to bring to justice those who have been responsible for these crimes of genocide?

My Lords, the noble Lord has asked several important questions and I will try to encapsulate them. Perhaps I may first comment with regard to Russia. When Russia grabbed the headlines about leaving the ICC, it was when I was going to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. I was perfectly well aware that the Russians had never ratified, although they had signed, the initial treaty—they made a play of the headlines, but there we are.

As regards the prosecution of Daesh fighters, it is the case that these have already begun, and I can certainly write to the noble Lord with details of the cases that have been taken in this country. However, around 60 countries have legislation in place to prosecute and penalise foreign terrorist fighters for their activities, and to date at least 50 countries have prosecuted or arrested such fighters or facilitators. On the matter of how a tribunal might be set up, it is possible of course that some form of international or hybrid justice mechanism may prove to be appropriate, but it is too early—and not for us alone—to prejudge that.

My Lords, as the order of scale of the genocidal crimes perpetrated by Daesh becomes ever clearer, are Her Majesty’s Government aware that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe recently called on the International Criminal Court to accept the existing jurisdiction that it has to prosecute foreign fighters complicit in the atrocities? Can my noble friend tell me whether Her Majesty’s Government will assist the International Criminal Court in that endeavour?

My Lords, my noble friend is right about the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. When I was in The Hague last week, I made it clear both to the president of the ICC and the chief prosecutor that the UK continues fully to respect the independence of the Office of the Prosecutor to determine which situations are subject to preliminary examination. I emphasised, both publicly and privately, that the United Kingdom has a fully co-operative relationship with the ICC and an obligation to respond to all requests for assistance from the Office of the Prosecutor, and will do so.

My Lords, as well as punishing existing genocide, is there not a case for trying to prevent genocide in the future by tackling its precursor, which is frequently an education system that actively preaches discrimination against minorities? Can the Minister use her influence with DfID to ensure that our aid budget is used positively to help countries preach tolerance within their communities but at the very least to ensure that none of it is used actively to preach discrimination against minorities?

My Lords, the DfID aid budget is indeed used to ensure that those who need humanitarian aid receive it but also to address the issue of education. For example, a preliminary project in Iraq is looking at how to ensure that teachers are able to deliver education in a way that means that the next generation will not have some of the prejudices that have unfortunately been seen in some—only some—of the present generation. The Government of Iraq work very closely with us for peace and reconciliation.

My Lords, what further discussions have Her Majesty’s Government had with other members of the Security Council, particularly Russia and China, about the suffering of minorities at the hands of Daesh? What discussions do they plan to have with the incoming United States Administration?

My Lords, following the launch by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary in September of the global campaign to bring Daesh to justice, we ensured that we had discussions with the other members of the Security Council—who were already aware of what was about to happen. We are making good progress in discussions across the United Nations on designing a system whereby evidence can be collected to bring Daesh to justice. Although I know that we have our differences with Russia over the way in which it has carried out some of its activities in Syria, I am hopeful that it may be in a position to support a process of bringing forward evidence in conjunction with the Government of Iraq—because it is Iraq led—so that the United Nations can then have a resolution before it which could be accepted by all.

I welcome what the Minister has said regarding the commission of inquiry. Just to amplify the last point, how are the Government building a consensus for that? I acknowledge the difficulty at the United Nations, but is not the first step surely to get wider support for that commission of inquiry?

My Lords, I think that I must be clearer in my answer and differentiate between the commission of inquiry, which we fully support and which continues as it is, and the work that we will now undertake with the Government of Iraq to present a resolution to the United Nations which would focus on collecting an evidence base. That is a different process. Our diplomats both in the United Nations and around the world are working hard to achieve support for that, including with our allies in the United States.

My Lords, while members of ISIS responsible for open slave markets and the systematic humiliation of Yazidi and Christian women must be brought to justice, does the Minister agree that the systematic bombing—to near extinction—of the people of Syria by both Russia and the West is also a war crime for supposed strategic interests? Does she also agree that the constant repetition of the mantra that Assad must go does nothing whatever to address the underlying religious tensions?

No, my Lords, I do not agree. It is the case that 68 members of the global coalition have come together in a signal of international intent to ensure that there is a government in Syria chosen by the Syrian people. It is Assad who is the block upon that: he is the major cause of the conflict and the major cause of death for those who have died—between 85% and 90%. He provides a rallying cry for Daesh. I am afraid that on this occasion, although on many others I can agree with the noble Lord, he and I will have to have different opinions.

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