Aegis Trust ceremony at the House of Lords as Ambassador Kenneth Quinn is given an Aegis Award For Combating Genocide in Cambodia
Remarks by David Alton who hosted the event:
I would like to warmly welcome you all to this event recognising Ambassador Quinn for his work on the issue of genocide.
Welcome to the Hume Room. It is named for Alec Douglas Home – Lord Home of the Hirsel – who, in 1963, following the resignation of Harold Macmillan, as Prime Minister, emerged as a compromise candidate and replaced him as Prime Minister but narrowly failed to win the subsequent 1964 General Election.
A former Foreign Secretary he often appeared to be a grey figure but those who knew him say he was often modestly self-deprecating, kind and capable of wit.
In 1940, he had been diagnosed with spinal tuberculosis and was immobilised for two years. Afterwards, he said that it was the first time in medical history that they had succeeded in inserting a backbone into a politician: not something that can be said of the formidable politicians and diplomats gathered here today.
It’s a pleasure to be hosting an event here for the Aegis Trust, founded in the Millennium Year – and which, in 2004, following my visit to Darfur, did so much to encourage me.
Genocide has been referred to as the crime of crimes, and rightly so. What could be worse than a crime that seeks the annihilation of protected groups in whole or in part, whether on grounds of ethnicity, religion, orientation, disability or some other characteristic that signifies difference.
Yet, despite its position as the crime of crimes, many turn a blind eye to such atrocities.
Perhaps this is in part because atrocities like genocide often happen far from home – in the killing fields of Bosnia, Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur, Syria, Iraq or Burma.
Out of sight can all too easily morph into out of mind – especially if the genocide dies not affect us personally.
And it is not always easy to engage parliaments, governments and international institutions and get them to act. Many of you know that by now.
Indeed, even here in the Lords, Parliamentarians have been trying to ensure that the UK Government takes a stronger approach to genocidal atrocities whenever and wherever they occur.
Sadly, thus far, the UK Government continues to resist even making a preliminary determination of genocide to inform its response – and to fulfil its duty under the 1948 Genocide Convention, to protect, to prevent and to punish.
Therefore, it is important to recognise those people who do take a stand against crimes like genocide and ensure that silence is not an option.
We will hear a great deal more about Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn and his wife Lay Son whom I warmly welcome here today.
I would also like to welcome many distinguished guests, including…
Friends from the United States, among whom are the representative of the US Ambassador, Steven Noah, Chair of the Steven Krulis Champion of Humanity Award organising committee.
Sir Trevor Pears who is founding patron of Aegis and honorary chair of the Aegis Champions of Humanity leaders circle;
Dr James Smith and Aegis Trust that have been supporting the APPG on genocide in Parliament for many years.
I would also like to welcome Sokphal, a survivor of the Cambodian genocide.
and many other distinguished guests, that I cannot name within these brief remarks. However, it is a great honour to have you joined us here today.
After standing down from the Commons, and on becoming a member of this place, I chose as my motto for the coat of arms which is given to new members, two words from the Hebrew bible: the words, ‘choose Life’. In many respects that is exactly what the award presented today to Ambassador Quinn represents. Those who have chosen pathways of life, through confronting and countering genocide, provide a role model and inspiration to others. We need more people like Ambassador Quinn to be able to deliver on the oft repeated promise that genocides should happen “never again.”
Choosing Life also means focusing on ref flag genocide prevention and preventing mass atrocities from occurring – a challenge which the international community has not mastered yet. That is why a group of us have proposed that the house of lords establishes an ad hoc committee to examine the Government’s response to genocide and tomorrow we will learn whether the proposal will be agreed.
Now, it is my pleasure to introduce Tom Tugendhat MP, a former officer in our armed forces and Chair of the house of Commons foreign affairs select committee who will introduce the recipient of the 2019 award: Ambassador Kenneth Quinn.
Home Office Signals Progress for Hong Kong’s Holders of British Nationals Overseas Passports.
Click here for Home Office Minister’s Reply:
On Monday March 4th David Alton chaired a meeting at the House of Lords on behalf of the charity, Hong Kong Watch. A capacity audience heard accounts from five activists from Hong Kong. The main focus of the meeting was about the 152,350 Hong Kongers who hold a BNO passport.
David Alton said;
“It is positive that the United Kingdom is looking to become world leaders in automated passenger clearance, but it is puzzling that privileged access is being given to foreign nationals from the United States, Japan, South Korea and elsewhere, while people holding British passports continue to wait in line.
It is particularly confusing that the Hong Kong SAR passport has access to the e-passport gates, but BNO passports do not.
What does it communicate to the rest of the world that British passports holders are being forced to queue not only behind every European, but also foreign nationals?
It is easy to forget that there are hundreds of BNO passport holders who fought for the British army when they were British citizens prior to handover. Does their service not matter to us? Should they really be waiting behind the Japanese or South Koreans?
I campaigned for British Dependent Territory Citizens in Hong Kong to be given right of abode, or at least the choice to retain their citizenship, when the handover discussions were taking place. Unfortunately, our negotiations with China denied them their right to self-determination, offering only the BNO passport as a token compromise. These passports were designed to acknowledge the historic ties the United Kingdom has with Hong Kong, and our ongoing commitment to the people of Hong Kong under the Sino-British Joint Declaration. This is a cost-free way of ensuring that these British passports mean something.”
Following the meeting, Baroness Williams of Trafford, a Home Office Minister has promised, in a letter to Lord Alton (attached), that the Home Office will examine the restrictions on BNO passport holders being able to use automated passenger clearance.
Reports of the meeting from the East Asian media: