Why The Government Is Wrong To Have Blocked The Lexden Bill To Put Right An Injustice That Discriminates Against Siblings Caring For One Another.

Lord Lexden

Lord Lexden 

======================================

10.20 am July 20th 2018

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

 

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to support the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, and his Bill to amend the Civil Partnership Act 2004 as it relates to sibling couples. Along with other Members of your Lordships’ House, the noble Lord has vigorously pursued this issue and I hope that when the Minister comes to reply she will be able to indicate that the Government will give this measure a fair wind. A few moments ago the noble Lord described this as “a little Bill”: it may be a little Bill, but it seeks to put right a great injustice. The noble Lord has cogently set out the provisions of the Bill and the injustice that it seeks to remedy.

 

I begin my own remarks by reminding the House of the sort of unassuming people who, because they do not join protest marches or organise campaign groups, are too often overlooked. Siblings caring for one another, or for other members of their extended family, are often such overlooked people. Kay Evans and her brother lived together for 30 years in their house in Blackheath, London, which they owned jointly. They are devoted to one another and have looked after one another all their lives. Her brother entered the Royal Air Force at 16, then retrained and worked until he was 76. They also looked after their mother in her final years. Kay nursed her brother through his final illness until he died, comforted by the belief that their joint savings would pay for her care in old age. In the event, the inheritance tax on his share of the property came to £95,000 and she had to choose between keeping the house, with all its memories and in the neighbourhood where she was surrounded by a network of support, or selling up to pay the bill. She tried to keep it, but ended up having to sell.

 

Or consider the story of two sisters, Pat and Cicely Meehan. Now in their 70s, they live together in the house in which they grew up, in Clapham. They are the perfect neighbours: good citizens are the lifeblood of strong communities. They visit the sick, shop for the elderly, look after people’s pets when the owners are away, are active in their local church, nursed their elderly relations and much more besides. When, many years ago, their next-door neighbour died young, leaving two small children and a father who had to work permanent night shifts, it was they who took the children in for him and brought them up. When one of the sisters dies, the bereaved survivor will not be able to keep the joint home going because property prices have increased so dramatically that the inheritance tax will now be far beyond anything they could possibly afford.

 

The journalist, Catherine Utley, who was referred to by the noble Lord, has done much to highlight stories such as those of Kay Evans and the Meehans. She lives with her sister, Virginia, in the next street to the Meehan sisters and she brought their story to my attention. The Utleys have lived together all their lives and in their current house for 23 years. Virginia stepped in when Catherine faced single parenthood and the two sisters provided a stable and happy home for the child from birth to adulthood. Their house, jointly owned, will also have to go when the first sister dies. The inheritance tax payable now would be more than the original, almost 100% mortgage, that they been paying off all their working lives. This outrageous injustice recalls the case of a disabled man who lived with his sister in the house they inherited from their parents. The sister pre-deceased him and he had to pay the tax on her share of the house. This meant no money was left for his care. He ended up in a state nursing home, entirely dependent on state benefits.

 

Then there is the famous case, referred to by the noble Lord, of the Burden sisters, Joyce and Sybil, who lived together all their lives and looked after a succession of elderly relatives in their Wiltshire home. After a long legal battle, in which they argued that they should be treated as civil partners for inheritance tax purposes, so that the bereaved sister could keep the house after the first death, they lost their case at the European Court of Human Rights. They had argued that when one of them died, the surviving sister would be liable to pay inheritance tax, and accordingly that the law was discriminatory. The court found that there had been no discrimination.

 

The outcome in that case stands in stark contrast to the case of Steinfeld and Keidan in which the United Kingdom Supreme Court unanimously declared that, to the extent that the Civil Partnership Act precludes a different-sex couple from entering a civil partnership, it is incompatible with Article 14 and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In response, the Government declared that the legislation would be,

 

“kept under review in light of the recent Supreme Court judgment”.

 

That is why the noble Lord is so right when he says that at least, as part of that review, this issue should be looked at as well, and why the Bill could be used as a way of remedying this injustice. How bizarre and unfair it would be if, once again, in promoting civil partnerships, the Government precluded siblings caring for one another in the new dispensation.

 

The argument of the judgment in the case of the Burden sisters was, of course, circular: they were not entitled to be treated as civil partners because they had not made a binding commitment to each other as civil partners do, and they were not able to make a binding commitment to each other because they were sisters. This is a classic Catch-22 situation and it is, as the noble Lord has said, deeply offensive to people who love and care for one another in the kinds of relationships he described. I think back to deeply loving siblings that I regularly met in my work as a city councillor or as a Member of the House of Commons, representing Liverpool communities at one level or another for some 25 years. Their platonic faithfulness to one another was every bit as strong as the strongest marriages; indeed, stronger than many.

 

As things stand, two people are not eligible to register as civil partners of one another if they are not of the same sex, or if either of them is already a civil partner or is lawfully married. Blood-related cohabitants remain the only group with no access to any legal safeguards at all, and it is time that Parliament legislated to remedy this.

 

The Bill is hardly a bolt out of the blue. During the passage of the 2004 legislation, family situations were considered at various stages and the noble Baroness, Lady O’Cathain, successfully moved an amendment in your Lordships’ House, that I supported, which would have extended the benefits of the Bill to family members who have lived together on a long-term basis. In another place, Sir Edward Leigh MP identified the reason for this continued failure to put right a searing injustice:

 

“Only the Treasury stands in the way of righting this injustice; it is about money”.—[Official Report, Commons, 2/2/18; col. 1097.]

 

The noble Lord, Lord Lexden, referred to the letter to Penny Mordaunt MP, the Minister for Women and Equalities, from Catherine Utley. I had not heard about the email correspondence that the noble Lord humorously referred to, but it is outrageous that Catharine Utley has not had a proper, considered reply from the Minister. I hope at least that, as a result of today’s debate, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, will assure us that a proper reply will be given. I was struck by the quotation that the noble Lord gave from the former Attorney-General, Dominic Grieve:

 

“As such the exclusion of cohabiting blood relations from the right to form one is discriminatory and a serious mistake that needs to be corrected”.

 

He is right. The Bill seeks to correct both that mistake and the injustice and discrimination that it represents. I strongly support it and I hope that it makes good progress through both Houses of Parliament.

Female Genital Mutilation Bill Debated In the House of Lords: 200 million women are subjected to FGM

Female Genital Mutilation Bill

FGM 3

Friday July 20th 2018

FGM Instruments

 12.02 pm

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

 

My Lords, it is a privilege to support my noble friend Lord Berkeley of Knighton, whose Private Member’s Bill provides another step in seeking to prevent the barbaric practice of female genital mutilation and ultimately to protect girls from being subjected to it. 

 

I concur with the remarks of the preceding speakers. It is also a pleasure to follow my newly ennobled noble friend Lady Boycott, who has just addressed the House. 

 

In preparing for today’s debate, I am indebted to the work of Ewelina Ochab, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Vere of Norbiton, who is to respond to the debate. I thank her and her officials for the time that she gave myself and my noble friend earlier this week to discuss the Bill before it was to be debated in your Lordships’ House.

 

I shall begin by referring to the World Health Organization, which has said:

 

“Female genital mutilation (FGM) is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women”.

 

The organisation describes four different kinds of FGM, all inflicted on young women who experience pain and suffering as a consequence. WHO research indicates that FGM can lead to several immediate complications and long-term consequences. It reports that the immediate complications include:

 

“severe pain … excessive bleeding … swelling … fever … infections … urinary problems … wound healing problems … shock”,

 

and even,

 

“death”.

 

FGM also has an effect on childbirth. Women literally have to be cut open to allow the birth of the infant and then sewn up again. This adds unnecessary complications to an already risky situation.

 

However, FGM stands for more than the inflicting of pain and suffering. The WHO says:

 

“It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women and girls”.

 

FGM violates a litany of human rights, including the right to security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, and potentially also the right to life.

 

As my noble friend has stressed, and as was emphasised by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, FGM is not specified in the Koran and it is happening in non-Muslim communities too. However, religious leaders should be vociferous in speaking out against it and developing the kind of educational approach that my noble friend and others have said is enormously important in combating this cruelty.

 

Universal human rights are more important than treading carefully around the sensibilities of any community, especially in a country like our own that condemns FGM. 

 

Even more so in countries that do not condemn it, it is striking, and perhaps even encouraging and hopeful, that in countries like Sudan the educated and more wealthy citizens do not subject their daughters to FGM. 

 

They need to become more active in seeking to outlaw this practice altogether. 

 

In this context, I recall the success of that remarkable Englishwoman, Gladys Aylward, who became one of the Chinese foot inspectors enforcing laws that finally ended the cruel practice of the foot-binding of young Chinese girls. The law was changed, but so were hearts, minds and attitudes.

 

It is greatly to be welcomed that the United Nations has vigorously condemned FGM as a violation of human rights. In Resolution A/RES/67/146 of 20 December 2012, the General Assembly urged all members to,

 

“prohibit female genital mutilations and to protect women and girls from this form of violence, and to end impunity”.

 

It went on—my noble friend and others should be heartened by this, because it emphasises the importance of education—to urge,

 

“States to complement punitive measures with awareness-raising and educational activities designed to promote a process of consensus towards the elimination of female genital mutilations”.

 

The subsequent UN General Assembly Resolution A/69/150 of 18 December 2014 reaffirmed the call to ban FGM worldwide. Significantly, that resolution was co-sponsored by the group of African states along with 71 member states. In 2015, FGM was also identified as one of the millennium sustainable development goals.

 

Let us look at the scale of the challenge. 

 

According to the United Nations and despite international efforts to end the practice of FGM, it is estimated that at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM. That is a staggering figure. The countries with the highest prevalence of FGM among girls aged 14 and younger are Gambia with 56%, Mauritania with 54% and Indonesia where around half of girls aged 11 and younger have undergone the practice. The countries with the highest prevalence among girls and women aged 15 to 49 are Somalia with 98%, Guinea with 97% and Djibouti with 93%.

 

But as I have made clear, the issue of FGM is not only one for African countries or other parts of the world. 

 

The occurrence of FGM in the UK is significantly lower than the countries I have cited, but as my noble friend Lady Boycott has just pointed out, it is also practised in the UK and there are women and girls in our midst who have been subjected to it. The National Health Service has reported:

 

“There were 5,39l newly recorded cases of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) reported in England during 2016-17, according to the second publication of annual statistics from this data set. The FGM statistics, published … by NHS Digital, also showed that there were 9,179 total attendances in the same period where FGM was identified or a medical procedure for FGM was undertaken”.

 

For six in 10 attendances, medical treatment post FGM was required. According to the NHS,

 

“Women and girls born in Somalia account for … 35 per cent or 875 cases … of newly recorded cases of FGM with a known country of birth (2,504). Of the newly recorded cases, 112 involved women and girls who were born in the United Kingdom. In 57 cases, the FGM was known to have been undertaken in the UK”.

 

Providing assistance for post-FGM consequences is obviously crucial, but we must do more and act to prevent the practice of FGM in the first place, which is why my noble friend introduced the Bill. 

 

Despite the clear legal provisions criminalising the use of the FGM, as set out in this House by my noble and learned friend Lord Brown of Eaton-under Heywood, prosecution does not necessarily follow. 

 

That was confirmed by Her Majesty’s Government in a response to a Written Question tabled by Laura Smith, MP for Crewe and Nantwich, who asked about the number of prosecutions for FGM in the last 30 years. The government Minister replied:

 

“There has been one prosecution which was under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003”.

 

As my noble and learned friend pointed out, even that prosecution was unsuccessful, which is truly shocking.

 

My noble friend Lord Berkeley’s Bill is an opportunity to shine a light once again on the barbarism of FGM and the wholly inadequate policing of this crime, but it also introduces a new safeguard by equipping the courts with an extra power to protect children from the risks of FGM. This is about striking the right balance in the law. It is significant that the Council of Europe recently passed a resolution on,

 

“Striking a balance between the best interest of the child and the need to keep families together”.

 

The Bill seeks to achieve that idea of striking the right balance.

 

To conclude, notwithstanding the wider question of parental responsibility, we need to recognise that the case of FGM differs significantly from any other cases that the UK courts normally deal with—namely, we are discussing a procedure that inflicts pain and suffering on girls and women, is both unnecessary and harmful and may have lifelong consequences for the affected girls or women to deal with for the rest of their lives. For those reasons, I support my noble friend’s Bill and hope that it will achieve a Second Reading in your Lordships’ House today.

 

Full debate at:

 

https://hansard.parliament.uk/Lords/2018-07-20/debates/DFDB9E26-055F-4B93-8098-F854EDB3F1FD/ChildrenAct1989(Amendment)(FemaleGenitalMutilation)Bill(HL)

FGM1

As South Sudan celebrates seven years of independence, its people have little to cheer. Its warring leaders must make a cease fire work – and from Nigeria to the Central African Republic Africa’s leaders should see what happens when you fail to stop a radical ideology in its tracks.

As South Sudan celebrates seven years of independence, its people have little to cheer. Its warring leaders must make a cease fire work – and from Nigeria to the Central African Republic Africa’s leaders should see what happens when you fail to stop a radical ideology in its tracks.

Some of South Sudan’s refugees at Bidi Camp in Uganda 

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) July 4th 2018.

My Lords, I join others in congratulating my noble friend Lord Curry on securing today’s timely debate. He has a long-standing interest and love of Sudan—a country that needs all the friends it can get. Among its greatest friends is the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Sudan and South Sudan, of which, along with my noble friend Lord Sandwich, I am an officer.

 

My first visit to the south of Sudan was 20 years ago when it was part of the Republic of Sudan. 

 

It was convulsed by a civil war that took 2 million lives. Khartoum’s systematic campaign of aerial bombardment left a country with a legacy of corpses and widows; a country devoid of infrastructure—schools, hospitals and homes were all destroyed by Khartoum’s Antonov bombers; a devastated country littered with small arms and weapons, militias and tribal conflicts. 

 

Khartoum ruthlessly promoted a radical Islamist ideology that sought to eliminate difference, killing Muslims who refused to comply as well as Christians and followers of traditional religions. It cynically bought support by setting one group against another using the age-old tactic of divide and rule.

 

Countries such as Nigeria would do well to study the appalling consequences of allowing the promotion of an ideology that is still being relentlessly pursued in other parts of Sudan, such as Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan. 

 

These were the prevailing circumstances when partition came in 2011 and with the emergence of South Sudan as an independent country. 

 

Made up of the 10 southern-most states of Sudan, South Sudan is one of the most diverse countries in Africa. Born after decades of conflict, the eyes of the world watched as a brand new state was formed with the help of millions of dollars from the international community, which, as my noble friend trenchantly observed, has not been used to build a new state. I will be interested to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Bates, when he comes to reply, what is his assessment of how much of that money has been diverted into corrupt purposes and people’s pockets rather than for the purposes it was intended.

 

In 2011, Barack Obama proudly said:

 

“Today is a reminder that after the darkness of war, the light of a new dawn is possible”.

 

Next Monday, 9 July, will mark the seventh anniversary of the independence of South Sudan, but in those years the people of South Sudan have known little peace, let alone a new dawn. 

 

Humanitarian statistics, as we have heard, fail to tell the whole story of a conflict, but the latest figures coming out of South Sudan are truly staggering. 

 

Some 1.8 million people are internally displaced, with a further 2.4 million seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. At various points in the conflict, the Bidi camp in Uganda was receiving over 1,000 refugees every single day, making it the largest refugee camp in the world. Over half the population in South Sudan is facing severe hunger.

 

Right now, as the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, reminded us, an adolescent girl in South Sudan is three times more likely to die in childbirth than to complete primary school. 

 

A recent study from the International Rescue Committee and the Global Women’s Institute at Georgetown University revealed that over 65% of women and girls have experienced some form of gender-based violence—an issue that the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, has done so much to highlight in her various roles in your Lordships’ House. 

 

The United Nations has found,

 

“massive use of rape as an instrument of terror”,

 

and Amnesty International has reported sexual violence as “rampant”.

 

South Sudan desperately needs peace. 

 

Without it, development and progress are utterly impossible. 

 

I would like to pay tribute to the Carter Center for its achievement, in 2016, in finally ending the blight of Guinea worm in South Sudan. But can the Minister tell us what effect the continuing conflict is having on vaccination programmes, in combating other diseases, and on issues such as child mortality, malnutrition and the fulfilment of development goals? 

 

I would particularly like to ask the Minister about the peace process and where we go from here. As others have done I commend the commitment and skill of the Foreign Office Sudan unit, led by the UK special envoy Chris Trott. The UK is rightly at the forefront of the international effort to promote an inclusive peace in South Sudan.

 

Last month, as we have heard, President Salva Kiir and Dr Riek Machar signed a permanent ceasefire in Khartoum, under the watchful eyes of Uganda’s President Museveni and Field Marshal Omar al-Bashir. 

 

But we are also aware that there have been countless ceasefire agreements since the conflict began in 2013, which have consistently been honoured only in their breach. We would be foolish to see this as some sort of last word or to let up the pressure on South Sudan’s leaders, who have let down their own people for so long and proved unworthy of the possibilities opened up for them by John Garang and those who sacrificed so much to achieve independence. 

 

We should be wary, too, of President Bashir’s motives, given his indictment by the International Criminal Court for genocide and his continuing depredations. He is driven primarily to see oil flowing from Sudan once again.

 

Faced with this difficult situation, I would be grateful if the Minister could respond to the following questions. 

 

First, does he agree that the passing of the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill should pave the way for the UK to ramp up sanctions on the leaders in South Sudan? Crucially, these sanctions must be linked to the peace process and a wider UK strategy in South Sudan. I agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, said earlier in that regard. 

 

Secondly, does the Minister agree that unless the UK escalates its diplomacy with President Museveni, including perhaps discussions with the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister, he is in danger of acting solely in his own interests? 

 

Thirdly, does he agree, as my noble friend argued, that the role of the South Sudan Council of Churches, alluded to a moment ago by the right reverend Prelate, will be crucial as it is one of the few actors left untainted by decades of inter-ethnic violence? What further help can we give to that process?

 

There is an old African saying that, when two elephants fight, it is the ground below that is flattened. Clearly, as Sudan’s leaders have been fighting, it is the people of Sudan who have been suffering. These wonderful people deserve much better than that, and I hope that Her Majesty’s Government will continue to give them the hope that the right reverend Prelate said it is our duty to provide.

 

 6.22 pm

Escalating Systematic Violence In Nigeria: – Fulani Militias and Boko Haram Threaten The Future Of one of Africa’s Great Countries – Nigerian House of Representatives Designates Genocide in Plateau State. “The very survival of our nation is at stake”

Escalating Systematic Violence In Nigeria – Fulani Militias and Boko Haram Threaten The Future Of one of Africa’s Great Countries.

On July 4th 2018, the Nigerian House of Representatives,  declared recent killings in Plateau State to be a genocide and called on the  federal government to immediately establish orphanages in areas affected by recent killings.

 

https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2018/07/04/house-designates-plateau-killings-as-genocide/amp/

 

 

ACN News: Thursday, 5th July 2018 – NIGERIA

Extremists with ‘sophisticated weapons kill families, burn houses and destroy crops’, says archbishop

By Murcadha O Flaherty

MILITANT Fulani herdsmen are becoming bolder in their attacks on Christians farming in Nigeria’s besieged Middle-Belt region, according to a senior Church figure in the country.

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, capital of Plateau State located in the heart of the troubled area, spoke to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need of a “new audacity” shown by Fulani gunmen.

The archbishop described how some farmers attack the Fulani’s cattle that are eating their crops and the herders retaliate “by attacking everything that belongs to you. Sometimes they go so far as to burn houses, kill families, and destroy crops.”

He said: “Recently, herdsmen have developed a kind of new audacity to invade and destroy farmers’ crops. They [militant Fulani] do so with such impetuosity that farmers are forced to react.

“In the past, there were problems between the two groups, but they were not that frequent.”

He added: “Cattle, as important as they are, cannot be valued over human beings. That does not mean that cows should be wounded, stolen or killed.”

The cleric stated that the use of “sophisticated weapons” by extremists from unidentified suppliers was a key factor in the surge of violence.

The archbishop said: “Even the president of our country [Muhammadu Buhari] also recognises that the Fulani we knew before only carried sticks and cutlasses to cut leaves to feed their animals.

“Now, those who destroy people’s crops are carrying sophisticated weapons.”

He added: “We do not know where they get these weapons from, it is rather worrying because people are dying, people are being killed, all because of these conflicts between herdsmen and farmers.”

According to Archbishop Kaigama, President Buhari was claiming the arms had come into Nigeria from Libya, but the prelate said: “in reality, we do not know who the suppliers are.”

He added: “People can get weapons illegally if they have money. Herders can sell cows and acquire these sophisticated weapons… Farmers acquire such weapons too.” 

Referring to the increase in violence across Nigeria’s Middle Belt, the prelate said: “One of the reasons could be that because the president of the country – Muhammadu Buhari – is himself a Fulani, the herdsmen think that they have an ally, and therefore, that they can do what they want and get away with it.

“Otherwise, people cannot explain why there is such a sudden increase in destruction.”

Suggesting political inaction has facilitated the growth of extremism in the region, Archbishop Kaigama added: “I believe not enough has been done to challenge the herdsmen killings.

“It could either because of the so-called ‘hidden agenda’ or simply the absence of courage, determination, patriotism and political will.”

He said: “Our president should come out clearly, categorically and courageously to explain to his kinsmen why dialogue is the best solution.”

The archbishop’s comments come after Bishop William Avenya of Gboko warned of the threat of genocide against Christians in the Middle Belt.

According to local reports, extremists last week killed more than 200 people in mainly Christian communities around Jos, although police gave a much lower figure. 

Nigeria, May 22th 2018 Christians demonstrating peaceful against

Picture from ACN

 

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Nigeria

28 June 2018

Question for Short Debate in the House of Lords

Asked by

    • To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the continuing violence between communities and armed groups in Nigeria.

    • My Lords, the tragic topicality of today’s debate was underlined last weekend when more than 200 people were reported to have died in co-ordinated attacks on around 50 communities in Plateau state in Barkin Ladi. These attacks began on 22 June and lasted until 24 June. The majority of the victims were women and children. At one location, 120 were killed as they returned from the funeral of an elderly member of the Church of Christ in Nations. A dawn to dusk curfew was established and, as I heard first hand yesterday from the honourable Rimamnde Shawulu Kwewum, a member of the Nigerian Federal House of Representatives, the area remains tense. This most recent episode is shocking, but it is also the latest in an extended pattern of violence that has become all too common across Nigeria, particularly in the Middle Belt and increasingly in some of the more southern states.

      Last week Sam Brownback, the United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, was in Nigeria. On a single day during his visit, there were six suicide bombings by Boko Haram, the largest number ever on any single day. As we will hear later from my noble—and courageous—friend Lady Cox, who has visited these areas, these attacks have been systematic and go on unabated.

      Human rights groups such as CSW have catalogued every reported attack. While it may not be definitive, the list attempts to provide as comprehensive a record as possible of known attacks and of the death toll in the Middle Belt during the first quarter of this year, underlining the critical need for urgent and effective intervention. I have sent many of these details to Ministers but in the interests of time I will just give the House a snapshot from a few days in April of this year. On 10 April, 10 people were killed in Ukum in Benue state. On 10 April, 51 were killed in Wukari, Taraba state. On 12 April, 41 were killed in Ukum, Benue state. On 12 April, two were killed in Makurdi in Benue state, and another 41 were killed in Ukum in Benue state.

      The charity Aid to the Church in Need, on whose board I sit in a pro bono capacity, has also documented appalling acts of violence, which I have sent to the Government. In April, during early morning mass, militants attacked the parish in Makurdi killing two priests and 17 members of the congregation. ACN has also highlighted the 15,000 orphans and 5,000 widows in the north-east—an area that has come under repeated attack from Boko Haram. I would be grateful to hear from the Minister what humanitarian aid we have been able to provide for victims.

      CSW reports that in the first quarter of 2018, Fulani herder militia perpetrated at least 106 attacks in central Nigeria. The death toll in these four months, purely from herder militia violence, stands at 1,061. An additional 11 attacks recorded on communities in the south of the country claimed a further 21 lives. One spokesman said: “It is purely a religious jihad in disguise”.

      There has certainly been a long history of disputes between nomadic herders and farming communities right across the Sahel, over land, grazing and scarce resources—I have visited places such as Darfur myself and have seen that at first hand. It is true that attacks by herder militia have, on occasion, led to retaliatory violence, as communities conclude that they can no longer rely on the Government for protection or justice. Between 1 January and 1 May this year, there were 60 such attacks. However, compared with the recent escalation in attacks by well-armed Fulani herders upon predominately Christian farming communities, the asymmetry is stark and must be acknowledged by the UK Government in their characterisation and narrative of this violence. Given the escalation, frequency, organisation and asymmetry of Fulani attacks, does the Minister believe that the references to “farmer-herder clashes” still suffice? In the face of the reports of violence collected by impartial human rights groups, there is no place here for, as it were, moral equivalence; nor is it sufficient for the Government merely to urge all sides to seek dialogue and avoid violence. I would urge the noble Baroness to revisit the narrative, conduct her own assessment and either confirm or dispute the data that I have given to the House already—I know other noble Lords will do the same.

      Some local observers have gone so far as to describe the rising attacks as a campaign of ethno-religious cleansing. Armed with sophisticated weaponry, including AK47s and, in at least one case, a rocket launcher and rocket-propelled grenades, the Fulani militia have murdered more men, women and children in 2015, 2016 and 2017 than even Boko Haram, destroying, overrunning and seizing property and land, and displacing tens of thousands of people. This is organised and systematic. We must ask where this group of nomadic herdsmen is getting such sophisticated weaponry from. I wonder whether the Minister has had a chance to look into this; if not, will she give an undertaking to do so?

      While recognising the complex, underlying causes of this violence, we must also acknowledge a growing degree of religious motivation behind the violence. The local chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria recently revealed that herdsmen have destroyed over 500 churches in Benue state alone since 2011. Perhaps the Minister could also respond to reports that during many of these well-planned attacks by Fulani militia, their cattle are nowhere in sight, and they are often reported by survivors to have shouted “Allahu Akbar” during these attacks. Perhaps the Minister can comment on this undoubtedly sectarian aspect of the escalating violence.

      Beyond intermittent verbal condemnations, I cannot see much practical action that has been taken to end the violence, which has emboldened perpetrators even further. Moreover, in the light of such an inadequate response thus far, communities will begin—and indeed already are beginning—to feel that they can no longer rely on government for protection or justice, and a few take matters into their own hands. In the words of an Anglican canon in the Middle Belt, “Why do so many security service personnel spend their time guarding our politicians, rather than protecting our people?” I also put on record a recent statement to President Buhari issued by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria. Among other things the statement said:

      “Since the President who appointed the Heads of the nation’s Security Agencies has refused to call them to order, even in the face of the chaos and barbarity into which our country has been plunged, we are left with no choice but to conclude that they are acting on a script that he approves of. If the President cannot keep our country safe, then he automatically loses the trust of the citizens. He should no longer continue to preside over the killing fields and mass graveyard that our country has become.”

      That is a pretty awesome statement from a bishops’ conference.

      Concern about partiality was also raised on 24 March, by the highly respected former army chief of staff and Defence Minister, Lieutenant General Theophilus Y Danjuma, who stated that the armed forces were, “not neutral; they collude” in the,

      “ethnic cleansing in … riverine states”,

      by Fulani militia. He insisted that villagers must defend themselves because,

      “depending on the armed forces”,

      will result in them dying,

      “one by one. The ethnic cleansing must stop … in all the states of Nigeria; otherwise Somalia will be a child’s play”.

      I would like to hear, therefore, what practical steps the UK Government are taking to work with the Government of Nigeria in developing effective solutions to bring an end to this escalating violence. Can the Minister tell us whether there is a strategic plan and what representations have been made directly? I know that finding solutions is complex, but there is nothing to stop the Minister calling on the Government of Nigeria to recalibrate security arrangements and to resource their forces as a matter of urgency, in order to offer sufficient protection to vulnerable communities.

      As I close, I thank the noble Lords who are participating in today’s debate and go back to where I began: to the more than 200 people, mostly women and children, who were killed in sustained attacks on 50 villages by armed Fulani militia just this past weekend. People are dying daily. On 18 June, the Archbishop of Abuja referred in the Telegraph to what he described as “territorial conquest” and “ethnic cleansing” and said:

      “The very survival of our nation is … at stake”.

      This alone should serve as a wake-up call. Are we to watch one of Africa’s greatest countries go the way of Sudan? Will we be indifferent as radical forces sweep across the Sahel seeking to replace diversity and difference with a monochrome ideology that will be imposed with violence on those who refuse to comply? We must not wait for a genocide to happen, as it did in Rwanda. Ominously, history could very easily be repeated.

    • My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for securing this, unfortunately timely, debate and declare an interest as project director of the Commonwealth Initiative for Freedom of Religion and Belief.

      While the focus in Nigeria was, for many years, on violence in the Niger Delta area over oil revenues or on the Boko Haram attacks in the north-east, the escalation of attacks between predominantly Christian farmers and predominantly Muslim Fulani herdsmen has gone underreported. As the noble Lord has outlined, in only the past week, as many as 200 Christian farmers were killed in central Plateau state, but the crisis between farmers and traditional herdsmen is not confined to Nigeria. Such violence extends across west Africa and the 2017 Global Terrorism Index estimates that more than 60,000 people have been killed across west Africa in clashes between Fulani herdsmen and settled communities since 2001. The Fulani are an ethnic group of about 20 million people across 20 west and central African countries. The causes of this violence are of course complex but include environmental reasons, religious motivation, terrorism and poor security services.

      As the ECOWAS 1998 cross-border transhumance agreement allows herders to move across borders in search of grazing lands, it is not surprising that reports in Nigeria suggest that Fulani are coming from multiple countries. So, in April this year, it was encouraging to note that a further ECOWAS summit was held to discuss the issue, which has led to discussions about changing this agreement to prevent the uncontrolled movement of potentially violent groups across borders. The ECOWAS countries are now co-operating and are particularly looking at greater investment in livestock management and a common agricultural policy. But banning cattle-grazing, as has happened in three Nigerian states, has to be incorporated within a wider plan. The foremost livestock producers’ group, the Miyetti-Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria has endorsed the Government’s 10-year national ranch development plan. Have Her Majesty’s Government been approached by ECOWAS or the Nigerian Government looking for Department for International Development expertise and resource to enact such a ranch plan?

      It is surely too simplistic to label these deaths as driven solely by desertification and competition for resources. While there have been attacks by Fulani herdsmen on Muslim farmers in Zamfara state, these are overwhelmingly outnumbered by attacks on Christians. Religious polarisation and extremism have helped to escalate violence in Nigeria to a greater degree than in other countries in the region. An existing conflict such as this and a strong ethno-religious identity has bought Fulani groups into wider jihadi movements, such as the largely Fulani terrorist group, FLM, which has joined with Islamic State. The FLM is apparently now seeking to bring the herdsmen’s grievances from Nigeria within its scope. Do Her Majesty’s Government agree that there has been an escalation in Nigeria of late? What do they believe are the causes and what is the extent of Boko Haram’s role in this? Are Boko Haram militants part of these attacks? It might explain the numerous reports, outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, of attacks with no cattle in sight. Is Boko Haram itself now part of a wider terrorist network?

      Parliamentarians and religious leaders have an important role in resolving this conflict and the Commonwealth Initiative for Freedom of Religion and Belief’s conference last month for faith leaders and parliamentarians in Accra highlighted the wealth of resources available across west African Commonwealth countries. Ghana, Sierra Leone and Gambia offer superb examples of how to utilise faith and parliamentary leaders in calming religious tensions and addressing narratives of religious extremism, which will be vital to securing long-term peace in Nigeria.

      In the short term, the easy accessibility to an estimated 380 million unregistered small firearms in Nigeria, roughly two guns per person, is a key factor in the scale of the deaths. These arms are looted from the army or black market sources across west Africa. Parliamentarians in Nigeria are currently trying to co-ordinate a meeting of regional parliamentarians connected to their respective security committees to discuss ways of checking the flow of arms around the region. Could the Minister outline whether the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association or the Inter-Parliamentary Union can be resourced to help this important parliamentary initiative?

      The potential for this violence to spread is of concern to us all and I suspect some of the victims are relatives of British Nigerian diaspora, but the 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections in Nigeria provide the best opportunity for Nigerians themselves to demand their Government deal with this crisis. On my one visit to Nigeria, I witnessed that talk radio, civil society and religious groups in the south, especially churches, are hugely influential. I had the privilege of addressing an audience of 1 million people physically there. I hope the Nigerians, especially Nigerian Christians, will realise that much more of the solution is in their hands than they perhaps realise.

    • My Lords, I too congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, on their contributions, and thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for bringing this subject to us today. There has been a long history of disputes between nomadic herders and farming communities across the Sahel. In Nigeria, attacks are now occurring with such frequency, organisation and asymmetry, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, that references to “farmer-herder clashes” are wholly inadequate. Armed with relatively sophisticated weaponry, particularly AK47s, the Fulani herder militia is thought to have murdered more men, women and children, between 2015 and 2017, than Boko Haram.

      It has overrun and seized property and land, and displaced tens of thousands of people. In 2017, herder militia claimed 808 lives in 53 villages in southern Kaduna alone, burning down over 1,400 houses. As pointed out by the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, during most of these well-planned attacks, herders’ cattle were nowhere in sight. Over 180,000 people in Benue state are currently living in IDP camps because the herder militia violence has displaced them. More than 500,000 displaced people are living in temporary accommodation, and over 80,000 school-age children are living in IDP camps with no access to education.

      Attacks continue unabated, with seemingly little government action. This has entrenched impunity. Apart from verbal condemnations, there has been no action to end the violence. No attacker has been brought to justice. With perpetrators emboldened, attacks by herder militia have now spread to southern Nigeria. No longer able to rely on the Government for protection or justice, communities are seeing a growth in vigilantism and retaliatory justice. The growth in murders of villagers and community leaders in Benue has also led to calls for President Buhari to consider his position, and for the reassessment of security arrangements as a matter of urgency.

      As mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on 24 March this year the respected former army chief of staff and Defence Minister, Lieutenant-General Theophilus Danjuma, stated that the armed forces were “not neutral” and that “they collude” in the “ethnic cleansing” of riverine states by the Fulani militia.

      Earlier this week, I too had the opportunity to meet with the honourable Kwewum Rimande Shawulu, courtesy of the advocacy organisation CSW. The honourable Shawulu is a member of the Nigerian federal House of Representatives in Taraba state. Among his wide-ranging writing and editorial activities, he is currently chair of the National Assembly Army Committee, which gives him unique insight into Nigeria’s current security challenges.

      In our discussions, he was able to rebut the claim that the anti-grazing laws are the cause of the spread of violence. The only states with anti-grazing laws are in fact Taraba, Benue and Ekiti, yet attacks have been occurring over 10 states. For example, in Plateau state, where there are no anti-grazing laws, there have been many killings, including last weekend, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, when over 200 civilians were reported killed. Interestingly, while there is some evidence that some of the violence has a religious dimension, the honourable Shawulu argued that the only affected area was Adamawa state, which is predominately Christian. Other areas with similar land and other resources have suffered no attacks, be they Christian or Muslim.

      The overriding concern is that the growing instability and lawlessness in the region is providing fertile ground for kidnapping, banditry and terrorism with impunity. If this is not addressed, there is a real danger that the activities of Boko Haram, ISIS and similar terrorist groups could penetrate and destabilise the whole region. If not addressed, this could create a conflict and humanitarian crisis on a scale that would engage the international community, the UN Security Council and the UK. The prospect of terrorist cells spreading through Nigeria, Africa’s most populous state, and to territories beyond to threaten Europe cannot lightly be dismissed.

      I urge the Government to act now, working alongside their Nigerian counterparts and fellow Commonwealth members, particularly while the UK holds the post-CHOGM Chair-in-Office. I suggest that DfID might examine the aid programme to Nigeria to ensure that provision is made for the communities that have been victims of the Fulani attacks. It should also ensure that minority communities in the north affected by Boko Haram attacks have access to humanitarian aid. There are also issues such as collective Commonwealth support in promoting the non-discriminatory and “even” application of the law to restore and strengthen faith in the law.

      The attacks the Nigerian people are suffering can surely be mitigated, if not eroded, with the support of the agencies of the UN, the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, the faith community and international NGOs. Can the Minister, in her response or in writing, set out how the UK might plan to play a primary role in such a venture?

    • My Lords, I join with others in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for securing a debate on the serious situation that threatens the very stability of Nigeria. With the noble Lord I deplore the violence and, with other noble Lords and indeed the victims themselves, some of whom have been in contact with many of us this week, I call on Her Majesty’s Government to use their influence on the Nigerian Government to ensure the security of their people and to bring the violence to an end.

      The violence here and in other extreme situations is symptomatic of underlying issues in Nigerian society, ranging from security to justice to employment to the exclusion of children from education through poverty, and even including the effects of desertification and the epidemic of drug abuse. They all have their part to play. At a more fundamental level still is the distance between the demands of the constitution and the daily lives of many Nigerian people. Intercommunal and interreligious violence of any sort has no root in Nigeria’s constitution. Rather, the constitution is a challenge to political leaders to apply it and to local religious and civic leaders to respect it.

      I would like to focus on the importance of unbiased public information across Nigeria, whether through traditional media, social media, formal education, private or state, or informal religious education, in order to build resilience into communities in a way that protects against malign political manipulation of religious identities and nurtures respect and reconciliation between peoples. As shown by another CSW report, Faith and a Future, education impacts on other human rights and,

      “can either create a culture of tolerance or fuel stereotyping, animosity and extremism”.

      That is surely happening in Nigeria, certainly in the northern and central states, and probably in the south as well. Unfair representations of the other, especially the religious other, are a powerful source of energy for the political purposes of those who seek to gain influence and power. They are not difficult to access and then use to fuel the fires of fear on which hatred thrives and violence depends. Fair, truthful, unbiased education in all its forms has its own greater power to resist the engine of hatred and starve the forces of violence.

      Amidst the tragic realities of the suffering of minorities in Nigeria, the appalling suffering of Christians in the northern states to which other noble Lords have drawn graphic attention, the suffering of Muslims caused by reprisals from Christian communities, the prejudice towards Shia Muslims, and even, as we have heard, the wanton murder of Fulani men going about their lawful business en route to cattle markets—amidst the terror of all this suffering, good education in all its forms offers hope for the future. The federal and state Governments have levers they can use—especially in formal education, both private and public—to improve the quality of education as a power for good and not for harm.

      Education operates in many forms, but my remaining comments will focus on the content, conduct and character of education within schools, private and state. My interest is in how the religious and ethnic other is portrayed. This includes not only the content of religious education that students receive about their own religion and the religious and ethnic identity of others but the way that content is taught, the way people from minority communities are themselves treated in schools—whether they are afforded their full constitutional rights—together with the character of the educational experience throughout the school: is it cultivating a culture of respect? My understanding is that each state education department has an inspectorate division. This gives a strong lever to monitor the delivery of education according to the principles of the constitution and the guidelines set at federal level.

      There are some hopeful signs on the ground. The governor of Kaduna state is pursuing a thorough process of educational reform in which he recently dismissed large numbers of unsuitable teachers and recruited even larger numbers of qualified teachers, increasing their allowances to incentivise teachers to work in rural areas. So I conclude by asking the Minister whether Her Majesty’s Government have offered their assistance to state governors who seek to raise the standards of education to a higher level, not only of academic achievement but of more religiously responsible citizenship, and to monitor it rigorously.

    • My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for tabling this timely debate.

      As we have heard, historically attention has been focused in the north of Nigeria, with the much-reported rising number of attacks by Boko Haram. But over this last weekend, as we have also heard, violence between the mostly Muslim Fulani herdsmen and Christian farmers in central Nigeria, the middle belt, killed 200 people and destroyed countless houses. I share the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, about escalating religious violence against Christians and violations of freedom of religion and belief, which are largely unaddressed by the state.

      Ethnic and religious relations in Nigeria have always been a delicate balancing act, but these ongoing tensions with this outbreak of violence are as much products of poverty and inequality across the country as they are of deep-seated division. If we want to address issues of safety and security in Nigeria, we also need to address the inequality that modern Nigeria faces. Almost 87 million people in Nigeria live in extreme poverty, on $1.90 a day or less, and this number has increased over time, making Nigeria the country with the highest number of people in extreme poverty in the world. Nigerian government figures show that between 1980 and 2010, the number of people in poverty increased by 153%, with nearly 5 million people facing food insecurity and 49% of the younger generation either unemployed or underemployed. I refer to the register of Members’ interests when I point out that Nigeria sits as the 128th of 149 countries in the Legatum Prosperity Index, with particularly low scores in safety and security, economic quality and health.

      However, between 2000 and 2015 the number of millionaires in Nigeria increased by over 300%, and Nigeria has had an average economic growth of 7% annually since 2004. This story is an indictment of successive Nigerian Governments’ failure to manage the country’s wealth, and of a deeply ingrained culture of corruption. The Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics estimates that small-scale bribery, for example to facilitate bureaucratic tasks, amounts to $4.6 billion a year.

      Nigeria’s poverty is significantly more profound in the mostly Muslim north of the country, with 2010 figures showing 74% of the population of the north in poverty—20% higher than in the mostly Christian south. This division is exacerbated by an educational and investment divide between the north and south. The challenge to avoid clashes along existing lines of tension as a result of this is a great one.

      In addition, the Boko Haram insurgency has had an enormous impact in north-eastern Nigeria in particular, with 20,000 dead since 2009 and at least 2 million people displaced. The Nigerian military, as we have heard, has shown itself to be ill equipped to deal with this insurgency, and, despite the Nigerian Government’s claims that Boko Haram is in retreat, these statements have only been followed by an increase in attacks. The group still poses a significant threat to the stability of this region.

      Those who have been displaced in north-eastern Nigeria number nearly 2 million, in addition to 200,000 Nigerians in neighbouring countries. This situation is a continuing humanitarian crisis, which the Nigerian Government have also shown themselves ill equipped to tackle, leading to the establishing of major internally displaced people camps. However, the situation in these Nigerian refugee camps is appalling, with outbreaks of cholera, crippling shortages of food and water, and reports of up to 30 armed attacks a month on refugee camps in 2017. Far from being places of refuge, the crowded camps have been made into death traps as Boko Haram seeks soft targets.

      With the UK Government now committing to aid funding of £200 million over the next four years, compared to the £100 million we committed to in 2017, will the Minister outline how the Government are intending to use this money effectively to focus on the key priorities that affect the country? This latest spate of violence only shows how urgent the need to address inequality is, and with next year’s presidential elections looming it is essential to ensure that the situation is stabilised so that the election is conducted in a safe environment.

      We know what leads to prosperity in a nation. It is stable government that is free of corruption; safety and security; a good business environment; and strong skills development. I ask the Minister in particular to outline the balance of aid between a humanitarian response and support for the long-term nation-building response.

    • My Lords, I too congratulate my noble friend Lord Alton on securing this debate at this tragically critical time. Over recent decades there have been numerous attacks on Christians in the northern states, where sharia law has been established, as well as in Plateau state in the central belt. Thousands of Christians have been killed, hundreds of churches burned, and homes destroyed. The tragedies escalated with the rise of Boko Haram, which also killed Muslims who did not accept its Islamist ideology.

      I have visited many times and seen the tragedies of death and destruction in Bauchi, Kano and Plateau states. But more recently, as other noble Lords have described, there has been a very disturbing change in the behaviour of the Fulani herdsmen. Since time immemorial, they have driven their huge herds of cattle through other people’s lands, causing tensions and some violence, but traditionally, they have moved on. However, in the last two to three years they have adopted a new policy: attacking Christian villages, killing local people, destroying homes, driving villagers off their lands and settling in their place. Now there has been this recent escalation of attacks on Christian villages by the Fulani, with, as other noble Lords have highlighted, over 200 civilians killed in Plateau state just last weekend. The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria has claimed responsibility for the attack.

      Last time I was in Nigeria, I visited four villages which had been destroyed by Fulani. I stood in the rubble of the pastor’s home where he had been slaughtered, and I saw the huge numbers of Fulani cattle roaming through the destroyed villages. There are concerns that the Fulani militants are now so well armed that they are possibly fighting a proxy war for Boko Haram, with the shared agenda of driving Christians out of their homelands in northern and central-belt Nigeria.

      Time allows only a few examples of quotations from local people, but they are indicative of many more. They provided first-hand evidence of the horror and terror now prevailing in these areas. This is one quote:

      “Fulani herdsmen, yesterday 23 June, on a rampage, attacked about 10 villages; ‘in Nghar village alone, about 70 corpses were recovered as the entire village was razed down’”.

      This is another:

      “The attack last night was vicious … armed Fulani men dressed/masked in black entered Rasak & Gana Ropp villages, shooting randomly … The house of one … family … was surrounded & directly attacked … the Fulani were shooting into the house … as they shouted ‘Allahu Akbar!’”

      This is another:

      “Other villages in the area … were completely sacked by the armed herders. Survivors from the attacks from these ‘villages are believed to still be hiding in the bushes’”.

      Over 60 people are known to have been killed there.

      This is another quote:

      “The attacks are continuing in other villages and in Gashish. As of 6 pm, at least 30 people were feared dead with several houses and cars razed down”.

      This is my last example:

      “In a continuing killing spree, Islamic Fulani cattle herdsmen killed eight people in Bassa local council, near Jos. From Sunday 17 June, till today (20th June) we have had no peace in the villages around here … all these villages have been attacked one after the other in three days”.

      Archbishop Benjamin Kwashi, who had taken custody of a baby whose mother was killed, said:

      “I am in tears because I have taken a child whose mother was shot dead. A family of four killed, another two young men shot dead and so on … Where are those who will protect the poor? Where is the leadership? It is a week and three days now with daily killings of poor unarmed and unprotected citizens of Plateau State”.

      Related concerns expressed by local people include the interpretation of the situation as intercommunal attacks, with both sides being equally guilty. One resident said:

      “It is annoying when politicians say this is a clash between herdsmen and farmers. I ask, how does a woman farming in her own farm clash with Fulanis carrying AK-47s?”

      Other concerns include: failure of security services to protect civilians; impunity, with no one responsible for the killings being called to account; the escalation in the number of internally displaced peoples; and the destruction of crops, which are the livelihood of local people.

      I want to make three requests of the Minister. Will Her Majesty’s Government make representations to the Government of Nigeria to take effective action to protect all their citizens and to call to account those who have been perpetrating atrocities? Will Her Majesty’s Government work with the high commission to ensure that adequate humanitarian aid is available for those suffering the loss of family members and the destruction of their homes and crops, and forced to become IDPs? Will Her Majesty’s Government urge the Nigerian Government to undertake an investigation into the ethnic and religious persecution of the affected people and the operation of the Nigerian army during these attacks?

      There is real fear that these developments are part of a strategy by Islamist fundamentalists to drive Christians out of their traditional homelands in northern and central-belt regions of Nigeria. I urge Her Majesty’s Government to respond appropriately to the very real possibility of religious cleansing.

    • My Lords, the human rights situation in Nigeria has deteriorated significantly in recent years, with a particular surge in attacks by non-state actors—notably armed Fulani herdsmen, also known as the Fulani militia.

      Successive Governments have failed to respond effectively, and the violence perpetrated has increased exponentially. Although ongoing in central Nigeria since 2011, attacks spiralled following President Buhari’s inauguration in May 2015, with states experiencing intense violence in a cyclical manner. Such attacks by increasingly well-armed herdsmen on farming communities in the states of Adamawa, Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Plateau and Taraba now occur with frequency, precision and asymmetric violence, rendering references to “farmer-herder clashes” obsolete.

      Although far from exhaustive, the following events, documented by Christian Solidarity Worldwide, give a powerful insight into the growing problems. Over 150 villagers were killed in Adamawa state in attacks in the run-up to Christmas 2017. During the festive season, villages in southern Kaduna, Benue and Adamawa were then attacked; churches were destroyed and villagers were killed and mutilated. On 24 December 2017, in southern Kaduna state, four villagers were killed as people gathered in the square of Nindem village, in the Godogodo district of the Jema’a local government area, in the evening to sing carols. A female choir singer was shot in the mouth and maimed horribly.

      As the new year dawned, Fulani gunmen invaded the home of a traditional ruler in Arak, in the Sanga local government area in the southern part of Kaduna state, killing him and his pregnant wife. Gambo Makama and his wife are reported to have died at around 12.05 am. Their son was also shot, but survived and was hospitalised. Then, 2018 began with an attack by Fulani herdsmen on the Guma and Logo local government areas of Benue state, in which 73 villagers were massacred. At least 1,061 people are thought to have died in the first quarter of this month. Just this past weekend we saw the most recent terrible episode of violence in Plateau state, with over 200 people—mainly women and children—reported to have been killed.

      The situation has been exacerbated by inadequate government action which has enabled attacks to continue unabated. Beyond intermittent words of condemnation, the Government have failed to formulate effective strategies to address this violence. This has entrenched impunity and emboldened perpetrators even further, leading to a growth in vigilantism and periodic retaliatory violence, as communities conclude they can no longer rely on government for protection or justice. However, this retaliatory violence is by no means symmetrical—the first quarter of the year saw 106 attacks by the herder militia in central Nigeria, while seven attacks within that timeframe on Fulani herders or communities claimed 61 lives.

      The number of attacks and casualties is staggering, and our Government must recognise the considerable escalation in the regularity, scale and intensity of the attacks by Fulani militia on these communities in central Nigeria. We must commit to doing more to encourage and support the federal and state governments to provide protection to those who live in constant threat of attack by a force that constitutes a major threat to national security. As a matter of urgency, we must encourage the formulation of a comprehensive and holistic security strategy that adequately resources the security forces to address this and other sources of violence. Can the Minister provide assurances of action? Will the UK Government do all they can to work with the Government of Nigeria, encouraging them to be more proactive in ending this appalling violence and to protect these vulnerable communities living in constant fear for their lives?

    • My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for introducing the debate. It is impossible to capture every aspect of this complicated situation in such a short debate, but I will briefly touch on the battle against Boko Haram, which is responsible for killing or displacing many thousands of people; multiple accounts, dating back over several years, of sexual attacks by Nigerian forces against women in refugee camps; and violence between herders and farmers, which increasingly resembles ethno-religious cleansing. Addressing multiple forms of violence presents a significant challenge to the Nigerian state, but this cannot and must not become an excuse for inaction.

      The situation in Nigeria is equally challenging for countries such as ours. We have a moral duty to help, but we must ensure that such help is effective and is mindful of the various sensitivities involved. Can the Minister inform the House what assessment has been made of the UK’s capacity to provide additional assistance to Nigeria and what forms that may take?

      The UK rightly provides training to support the fight against Boko Haram. We should continue to provide that training, but recent events highlight the need for us to also play the role of a critical friend. A fortnight ago, at least 31 people were killed by blasts in Borno State after the chief of the Nigerian army incorrectly told displaced residents that the militants had been defeated and it was safe to return home.

      There are long-standing allegations, backed up by NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, that Nigerian soldiers have sexually assaulted vulnerable refugee women. What representations have the Government made to Nigerian counterparts in the light of recent events and allegations involving the country’s military?

      Historically, the struggle between Fulani herders and settled farmers has been a result of competition for resources. Christian Solidarity Worldwide note that,

      “attacks … are … occurring with such frequency, organisation and asymmetry”,

      that references to farmer-herder “clashes” no longer suffices. Despite the herder militia taking more lives during 2015, 2016 and 2017 than Boko Haram, President Buhari, who belongs to the same ethnic group, has been accused of turning a blind eye. Last month, NGOs co-ordinated a minute’s silence to remember 1,917 people killed by herders and armed bandits between January and May of this year. Concerns have been raised about freedom of expression, with some journalists prosecuted for hate speech after reporting the militia’s actions. Can the Minister confirm whether this conflict and its impact on Nigerian civil society were discussed when the Prime Minister met President Buhari in April? With some arguing that the conflict is being exacerbated by droughts, how are the Government tracking and responding to climate-related conflict across the globe?

      I urge the Government to provide practical support to Nigeria that promotes peace and security, supports equitable economic growth, and builds the state’s capacity for the future. As we so often see in other parts of the world, it is only by creating the right societal conditions that Nigeria can overcome religious extremism, promote tolerance and limit the scope for the types of violence that have claimed too many lives in recent years.

  • My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for tabling this debate and for his long-standing interest in community relations. I also thank all noble Lords for their contributions this afternoon. I welcome the opportunity to give the Government’s assessment of the situation in Nigeria and to update noble Lords on United Kingdom action.

    It goes without saying that the Government regard the situation in Nigeria as both challenging and deeply disturbing. There are a number of issues at play which are having serious humanitarian consequences. The first are the actions of Boko Haram, of which many noble Lords will sadly be aware. Boko Haram claims to represent Islam, but its interpretation could not be further from the spirit of that peaceful religion. It attacks Nigerians of all faiths who do not subscribe to its extremist views. Its activity—the abduction of schoolgirls and the killings in which it has engaged—is appalling. Its actions have caused immense suffering in Nigeria and neighbouring countries in both Christian and Muslim communities. We assess that the majority of its victims are Muslim. Nearly 2.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes. Boko Haram and its splinter faction, Islamic State West Africa, remain a threat to regional security. Achieving a long-term solution requires non-military measures to improve security and enable economic growth.

    The other worrying issue to which many noble Lords referred and the noble Lord, Lord Alton, particularly covered in his speech, is the violence between farmers and herdsmen in various areas across Nigeria, and in the Middle Belt in particular, where attacks are carried out by herders on farmers, and vice versa. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, raised the question: does the description “farmer-herdsmen” suffice? This was a point also raised by the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox. The description “farmer-herdsmen” is broadly correct, but it does not fully represent the complexity of the situation. Violence has escalated over the past year—the reasons for this are many—but we are not aware of evidence to support the view that religion is driving this conflict.

    The other worrying issue is the extent of recent attacks. In an attack by farmers on herder settlements in Mambilla Plateau in June 2017, over 800 people were killed—the majority of them women and children. We are concerned by the increasing violence in recent months. Just last weekend reprisal attacks by herdsmen on farming settlements resulted in at least 86 fatalities—it may be more than that. My noble friend Lord Suri and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, very poignantly described the horrific nature of this violence.

    As my noble friend Lady Berridge described eloquently, this is complex and it is far reaching. My noble friend Lord Ahmad noted in this House on 26 March that the causes of these clashes are complex. They relate to land, farming rights, grazing routes and access to water. The situation is not helped by a narrative which overplays the ethno-religious dimensions and oversimplifies a complex picture, conflating criminal violence, caused by cattle rustlers and bandits, for example, with community clashes.

    The noble Lord, Lord Alton, asked where the weapons are coming from. Regrettably, one suspects there is a widespread availability of weapons; I thought that my noble friend Lady Berridge encapsulated the extent of that problem, as did the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey. In reality, religious extremism or sectarianism is not a key underlying cause of this violence and it would be wrong to conflate these land and water disputes with Boko Haram’s actions.

    As Nigeria prepares for elections in 2019 there is a real risk that, without serious effort being made to stem the violence and address the root causes, the conflict between herders and farmers will worsen and become increasingly politicised, threatening peaceful solutions and elections in some states. That is why it is so important that Nigeria not only works to improve the situation in the north-east, but also works to address the causes of the violence between farmers and herders. It is imperative that there is a de-escalation of violence across all affected states. In this context, we welcome President Buhari’s recent commitment to protect the lives and property of all Nigerians and prevent the stoking of religious conflict.

    My noble friend Lady Berridge specifically asked about a ranch plan and whether the UK has been engaged with this aspect. We are aware of the Nigerian Government’s proposals for creating cattle ranches for Fulani herdsmen and we are encouraging them to respect the rights and interests of all parties in finding solutions to this conflict.

    As many, if not all, contributors have identified, all of this is causing a humanitarian crisis. In north-east Nigeria, 7.7 million people are in need of urgent, life-saving assistance and 1.8 million are displaced. This humanitarian crisis is a direct result of the fragile security situation caused by Boko Haram. My noble friend Lady Stroud spoke with authority on the levels of privation and the challenges that poses.

    Very specifically, the noble Lords, Lord Alton, Lord Tunnicliffe, Lord Chidgey, and my noble friends Lady Stroud and Lord Suri, all raised the issue of UK action. The United Kingdom is playing a leading role in helping the Nigerian Government to address immediate humanitarian needs. We have increased our aid funding to £300 million over the next five years. We provide assistance on the basis of need, irrespective of race, religion or ethnicity, and in line with the international humanitarian principles. Last year our support reached more than 1 million people, including children, women and the disabled. We are also fully committed to supporting Nigeria’s efforts to tackle Boko Haram. We have provided intelligence analysis and training for the Nigerian military. With regard to farmer-herder violence, we encourage and support mediation by the state, local government and traditional authorities to defuse community tensions.

    The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Coventry referred to education and its importance. I could not agree more. DfID programmes are supporting improvements in the quality of education and increasing access for disadvantaged boys and girls to get education, focusing on three states in the north of the country where human development outcomes are particularly poor.

    A number of contributors, not least the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and my noble friend Lady Stroud asked what the balance is between humanitarian and development programmes from that spend. As I said earlier, DfID will spend £273 million this year, balanced between shorter-term humanitarian aid and longer-term support to help the Government of Nigeria to improve basic services, and to increase levels of prosperity and standards of good governance. For example, 1.8 million people gained access to clean water and/or sanitation between 2015 and 2017 through DfID programmes and 260,000 additional women and girls are using modern methods of family planning.

    The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and my noble friend Lady Stroud also asked what assessment has been made of the UK’s capacity to provide additional assistance. I think I have covered that with my response in describing what that £273 million is intended to support.

    The noble Lords, Lord Alton, Lord Chidgey and Lord Tunnicliffe, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Coventry and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, all asked what representations the Government have made to Nigerian counterparts in the light of recent events and allegations involving the country’s military. The military training and assistance provided by the UK for the armed forces of Nigeria have consistently emphasised the importance of adherence to internationally recognised rules of engagement as well as the importance of international human rights and international humanitarian law. All our military capacity-building support is delivered in line with HM Government Overseas Security and Justice Assistance Guidance to mitigate the risk of human rights violations. We are concerned about Amnesty International’s report alleging sexual abuses by members of the Nigerian security services. We have made clear to the Nigerian authorities the importance of protecting civilians in conflict and detention.

    The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, also asked whether this conflict and its impact were discussed when the Prime Minister met President Buhari in April. They discussed a number of issues, including security threats faced by the Nigerian people. The focus of these discussions was the conflict with Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa in north-east Nigeria and the abduction of the Chibok and Dapchi girls.

    The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, also raised climate change and the argument that the conflict is being exacerbated by droughts. Climate change is having a negative effect in Nigeria, particularly in the north, where desertification is increasing. We are currently reviewing the support we are providing to help Nigeria to tackle the effects of climate change.

    A final couple of points were raised by my noble friend Lady Berridge and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, about freedom of religion and belief, and by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Coventry and my noble friend Lady Stroud. Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials have also raised this issue and tensions between religious communities specifically with state officials in Borno and Yobe during a visit there in May.

    The noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, and my noble friend Lady Berridge referred to the Commonwealth. I understand that there is no involvement with the Commonwealth at the moment. The Nigerian Government have not asked for assistance from the Commonwealth or from other countries.

    It is imperative that the Nigerian Government address the violence and instability in both the north-east and the Middle Belt areas of the country. They need urgently to put in place long-term solutions that lay the foundations for a sustainable and peaceful future for all communities. The United Kingdom will continue to provide support to the Government of Nigeria in their efforts to build that future. I thank noble Lords for ensuring that this deeply troubling situation remains the subject of continuing discussion.

    =====================================

    .ACN News: Thursday, 28th June 2018 – NIGERIA

    Nigeria, May 22th 2018 Christians demonstrating peaceful against

    Christians demonstrating peacefully in May against violence in Mbalom, Benue State (Credit: ACN)

    Bishop: Threat of genocide against Christians

    • Prelate calls on West to act over “ethnic cleansing”  

     

    By Murcadha O Flaherty and John Pontifex

     

    A BISHOP in Nigeria has warned of the threat of genocide against Christians in the country’s Middle Belt region, describing an upsurge of violence by militant Fulani herdsmen as “ethnic cleansing”.

    Bishop William Avenya of Gboko told Aid to the Church in Need, the Catholic charity for persecuted Christians, of growing fears amid reports that, so far this year, 492 people have died in his state of Benue, which has a Christian-majority population.

    In an appeal to the international community, he told ACN: “Don’t wait for the genocide to happen before intervening…

    “Please don’t make the same mistake as was made with the genocide in Rwanda.

    “It happened beneath our noses, but no one stopped it. And we know well how that ended.”

    Local reports yesterday (Wednesday, 27th June) said extremists “slaughtered more than 200 people” in 10 mainly Christian communities near the city of Jos, although police said there were only 86 fatalities.

    In his ACN interview, Bishop Avenya went on to say of the militant Fulani: “They are criminals and terrorists, but they do not do the same things in the majority Muslim areas.

    “We are convinced that what is happening is an ethnic cleansing of Christians.”

    His comments come after other senior Church figures from the region described the militant Fulani campaign as a “clear agenda of Islamising the Nigerian Middle Belt”.

    They include two other prelates from Benue State – Bishop Peter Adoboh of Katsina-Ala, Bishop Wilfred Anagbe of Makurdi – and Bishop Matthew Audu of Lafia, from nearby Nassarawa state.

    According to research by Christian persecution charity Open Doors, between May 2016 and September 2017, as many as 725 people died in violence in the Middle Belt’s southern Kaduna region – 98 percent of them Christians.

    Bishop Avenya described Nigeria-wide peace demonstrations on 22nd May and called on the West to save lives in the country, saying: “Our faithful are being murdered or forced to live as refugees as a result of the violence.

    “And the West continues to view the matter of the Fulani as merely an internal problem.”

    His comments come after the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) issued a statement calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to consider resigning for alleged inaction in response to what the CBCN called “the killing fields and mass graveyard that our country has become”.

    Bishop Avenya also spoke of the supply of weaponry now used by militant Fulani

    He said: “At one time these pastoralists were armed only with sticks.

    “But now they are armed with AK-47 rifles – expensive weapons that they could not possibly afford. So who is supplying them?”

    He added: “And besides, in these areas there are checkpoints every two kilometres. Is it possible that armed men followed by their flocks of cattle could have somehow become invisible?”

    The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom’s 2018 report found that “herder-farmer conflicts and ethnoreligious tensions continued to rise… [with] increased reports of concerns of an ethnic cleansing campaign against Christian communities”.

    www.acnuk.org

     

    For more information, contact ACN UK Head of Press and Information John Pontifex on 020 8661 5161 or ACN Press and Digital Media Officer Murcadha O Flaherty on 020 8661 5175.

    ===================

    .

    Nigeria: Fulani Herdsmen and Boko Haram

    17 July 2018

    Question

     

    2.43 pm

     

    Asked by

     

    Baroness Cox

    To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of recent developments in Nigeria, including violence by the Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram.

     

    Baroness Goldie (Con)

    My Lords, we remain concerned by clashes involving pastoralists and farmers. The root causes are complex, including access to land, grazing routes, and water, exacerbated by population growth and insecurity. We have raised our concerns at federal and state government levels. Urgent action is needed by the Nigerian authorities to prevent further loss of life. We remain committed to supporting Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram, and we are providing a substantial package of military intelligence and humanitarian assistance.

     

    Baroness Cox (CB)

    My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. Is she aware that last time I was in Nigeria I visited four villages that had been destroyed by Fulani and stood in the ruins of the pastor’s house, where he had been slaughtered? Given the escalation of attacks on Christian communities in which many hundreds have been killed recently and that the Nigerian House of Representatives has declared this to be genocide, does the Minister agree that while the causes of such violence are complex, there is a strong ideological dimension to the Fulani attacks? Will Her Majesty’s Government make representations to the Government of Nigeria to take more effective action to protect all its citizens and call to account all those who have been perpetrating atrocities?

     

    Baroness Goldie

    We are deeply concerned by the recurrent clashes, and we welcome President Buhari’s commitment to assist affected communities to bring perpetrators to justice and examine long-term solutions. Urgent action is needed to prevent further loss of life. The root causes of these clashes are complex. Our assessment is that they are not religiously motivated. However, they are exacerbated by deep-rooted ethnic tensions.

     

    The Archbishop of Canterbury

    My Lords, I am sure that the Minister shares my deep concern about the violent attacks on Christians. For instance, the compound of my colleague the Archbishop of Jos was attacked a couple of weeks back, and one of his friends was killed. The Minister has rightly said how complex the situation is, but can she answer more specifically on what assistance the UK Government can give in the short term to strengthen the Government of Nigeria in their role of enforcing security and local mediation; in the medium term, to ensure reconciliation, which will enable the lives and economies of farmers and herders to be protected; and, in the long term, actively and tangibly to support regional efforts to combat the effects of climate change—the development of desertification, which is exacerbating ancient rivalries?

     

    Baroness Goldie

    I am very concerned about what the most reverend Primate identifies and reports. In relation to violence, the UK has offered our assistance to the Government of Nigeria through the vice-president’s office. We stand ready to support Nigerian-led initiatives. As for what else we can do, we are working closely with international partners. We have encouraged the EU and the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel to extend their influence and develop sustainable solutions to the conflict, including through support to community conflict resolution initiatives, which we believe are essential. I reassure the most reverend Primate that we are considering options for how the UK can support reconciliation at local levels. We cannot ignore the fundamental causes of the violence, so we are reviewing HM Government’s support for Nigeria in, for example, as the most reverend Primate identifies, tackling the effects of climate change.

     

    Lord Elton (Con)

    Can my noble friend confirm that the Fulani herdsmen have destroyed 500 churches since 2001 and that in the first quarter of this year they have caused 1,061 deaths, mostly in attacks on Christians? In the current quarter, the death toll is so far 440. The most reverend Primate has hit the nail on the head: this is moving from genocide to “credocide”.

     

    Baroness Goldie

    I totally agree with my noble friend that these clashes are having a devastating impact on lives and communities as well as being a major barrier to Nigeria’s economic development, which does not help the people of Nigeria. As I indicated to the most reverend Primate, we are engaging with federal and state government to encourage them to work with all parties to develop solutions that meet the needs of all the affected communities.

     

    Lord Chidgey (LD)

    My Lords, yesterday the Nigerian Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development announced a plan for ending the crisis between farmers and Fulani herdsmen across Nigeria. Speaking to Nigerian postgraduate students at a university in Holland, he said that that President Muhammadu Buhari would urge state Governments to develop ranches with water and electricity to persuade the nomadic Fulani herdsmen to settle. This imaginative plan will need rigorous security management, yet only yesterday, again, Boko Haram apparently overran an army base in Yobe state, leaving hundreds of soldiers unaccounted for. What assistance are the UK Government considering to prevent terrorism thwarting this initiative?

     

    Baroness Goldie

    I thank the noble Lord for his question and also for outlining what may very well be a way forward. But as he rightly says, the activities of Boko Haram are risking and imperilling any progress that might be made. Let me assure him that the UK remains committed to supporting Nigeria and its neighbours in the fight against Boko Haram. We are providing a substantial package of military intelligence and humanitarian and development support to Nigeria. The objective in doing that is to try to do whatever we can to assist the Nigerian Government in resolving these very significant difficulties.

     

    Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

    My Lords, given my noble friend’s reference to the resolution of the Nigerian House of Representatives declaring events in Plateau State to be a genocide, how does the Minister respond to the respected former chief of staff of the Nigerian army and defence chief, Lieutenant General Danjuma, who said that the armed forces are “not neutral. They collude”—in, in his words—“ethnic cleansing”? Does she disagree with the Archbishop of Abuja, who says that the atrocities of the Fulani militia and Boko Haram mean that:

     

    “The very survival of our nation is at stake”?

     

    Baroness Goldie

    In relation to the noble Lord’s question about the Nigerian security services, we have made clear to the Nigerian authorities the importance of protecting civilians in conflict and detention. Any member of the Nigerian security services found to have been involved in human rights violations must be held accountable.

     

    Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)

    My Lords, the most reverend Primate outlined three stages to possible solutions to a very complex situation. We have raised the question before of how we build community solutions, especially when they are so complex. Have the Government thought of working with the Nigerian Government to institute more interfaith group work, so that the solutions embrace all sides of the community?

     

    Baroness Goldie

    I thank the noble Lord for that positive contribution. I am sure that his suggestion will be reflected upon.

United States-North Korea: Summit in Singapore -Private Notice Question in the House of Lords

 

United States-North Korea: Summit in Singapore

13 June 2018

Private Notice Question in the House of Lords

3.37 pm

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the impact of the US-DPRK Singapore Summit on security and human rights on the Korean Peninsula.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask a Question of which I have given private notice. In so doing, I declare an interest as the co-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea.

My Lords, the Government welcome the summit as an important first step towards securing a denuclearised North Korea. This is in the interests of regional peace and international security. More needs to be done. We hope that this marks the beginning of a substantive process, leading to concrete actions from North Korea towards complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearisation. We continue to have grave concerns about human rights in North Korea and expect more discussions and actions to follow.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. While inevitably remembering broken promises on denuclearisation made in 1994 and 2007, is the noble Earl not right that this is a moment to give a cautious welcome to the Singapore summit and to work with the United States, China, Japan and the vibrant democracy in South Korea to turn hopes into substance? Would not the best memorial to the 1,000 British servicemen who died in the Korean War be the formal ending of the state of war that has continued since 1954? Meanwhile, will the Minister confirm that, in the short term, Security Council sanctions will stay in place until we see real evidence of denuclearisation, and that in due course we will press for human rights, said by the United Nations commission of inquiry to be sui generis—without parallel anywhere in the world—to become part of the negotiations, as they were in the Helsinki process?

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that question and I agree with much of what he said. As far as sanctions are concerned, the noble Lord is quite right that UN sanctions will remain in place under 10 UN Security Council resolutions, the most recent of which was adopted in December 2017. But the noble Lord is also right to say that this is a step forward. It was the first meeting between a sitting US President and a North Korean leader, and this is a very important step forward.

My Lords, immediately after the summit President Trump said at a press conference that he did raise the issue of human rights with the North Korean leader. In fact, he said at the press conference:

“I want significant improvement. I want to start that process. Although you cannot finish that process for a while, but you cannot go back”.

Can the Minister tell us what he thinks President Trump meant by that statement, and what sort of process we will actually see that will deliver change for the people of North Korea who have suffered so horrendously?

The noble Lord is quite right; the suffering of the people of the DPRK is of utmost importance and something we must never forget. As the noble Lord said, yes, President Trump did mention that human rights issues, including the treatment of Christians, were discussed and would be discussed further. It is very important that these discussions continue, and the last but one paragraph of the communiqué states:

“The United States and the DPRK commit to hold follow-on negotiations, led by US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and a relevant high-level DPRK official, at the earliest possible date”.

My Lords, of course jaw-jaw is better, as we all know, than war-war, but will Her Majesty’s Government please ensure that the President of the United States is aware that this regime is the same as it has been for many decades and that the dictator Kim Jong-un is the same man that had his half-brother murdered not two years ago at an airport in Malaysia and, indeed, had his uncle executed shortly after he came to power. The human rights abuses remain and we must be incredibly cautious in this.

My Lords, my noble friend makes some very good points and we must never forget those atrocities—but it is so important to have regular dialogue with the DPRK. We continue to raise our concerns through our embassy in Pyongyang and in multilateral fora such as the UN General Assembly in New York and the Human Rights Council in Geneva—but my noble friend is quite right.

My Lords, bizarre as some of the images from Singapore might be, clearly, as other noble Lords have indicated, we have to welcome any moves to reduce tension on the Korean peninsula, though we should indeed be very cautious. What efforts might be made to encourage the United States Administration to look at Iran in a similar light—or is that far too much to hope for?

My Lords, I think I answered something on Iran some time ago, but I fear my memory does not go back that far. Of course, Iran is of great importance and we discussed a number of matters during that exchange. I will draw it to the attention of my noble friend the Minister and write to the noble Baroness.

My Lords, President Trump argued that there should be a formal ending to the Korean War, which actually came to an end with a ceasefire. That, of course, is a matter for the belligerents, of which the United Kingdom was one. Have there been any representations by President Trump to the British Government in respect of that matter?

My Lords, we are in regular dialogue with the US and our international partners on the subject of the DPRK. As for the actual detail of what has been discussed, in particular the matter that the noble Lord raises, I am not aware that this has been raised as yet.

My Lords, while the Singapore summit is clearly better than the alternative, which was escalating belligerent rhetoric between the leaders of two nuclear-armed states, I invite the noble Earl to agree with the words of Mark Fitzpatrick, the very well respected executive director of IISS, who yesterday wrote that,

“void of verification measures, the Singapore summit result pales in comparison to the Iran nuclear deal, from which Trump withdrew a month ago. The hypocrisy is beyond words”.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Browne, makes a very good point. The goal has to remain the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of North Korea and the removal of its ballistic missile capability. This is what is required to protect UK national interests in the region and uphold international security. The noble Lord brought up the subject of Iran again, and I know what he says.

My Lords, friends of mine served as national servicemen in Korea; I served elsewhere in my national service time. Is it not interesting to note just how long that war has remained unended? While I certainly support the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Robathan, about the need to proceed with great caution, it is high time that that war was brought to an end.

My noble friend is quite right. My own godfather was imprisoned during that war. I remember his recollections. The many lives that were lost in that conflict should also be remembered and we must look forward to the formal point that the noble Lord mentioned.

My Lords, this is potentially a major step forward that of course should be welcomed. But is there not a danger that it might expose the limits of a personalised and unpredictable diplomacy, and should not more heed be taken of the concerns expressed by Japan and other regional allies?

My Lords, we are in close contact with our allies in the region. The Foreign Secretary has been in regular contact about the DPRK with his counterparts in the United States, European countries, South Korea, Japan and China. Many of those countries, China in particular, could help take this forward.

My Lords, my noble friend mentioned China. Does he accept that the cutting of exports from China to North Korea by anything between 70% and 90% had an enormous effect on bringing these talks to pass? Does he feel that the Chinese will resume those sanctions if progress is not made on verification of the denuclearisation of North Korea?

My Lords, my noble friend refers to sanctions. These sanctions have been very effective. They are the toughest sanctions imposed on a country this century. As my noble friend will be aware, China has lent its influential voice to the universal condemnation of North Korea and has supported all United Nations Security Council resolutions, including the most recent one.

 

For background see:

https://davidalton.net/2017/07/14/house-of-lords-debate-on-the-security-and-human-rights-challenges-posed-by-north-korea-july-13th-2017-and-a-call-to-downgrade-the-uks-diplomatic-presence-in-response-to-the-launch-of-inter-cont/

Is Eritrea Becoming The North Korea Of Africa?  Inquiry in Parliament Hears Shocking Accounts of The Denial of Religious Freedom From Muslim and Christian Leaders and Accounts of the Egregious Violations of Human Rights

.Eritrea Hearing in The House of Lords.

Is Eritrea Becoming The North Korea Of Africa? Meeting in Parliament Chaired by David Alton

 

Recommendations made at the conclusion of the Meeting:

 

In view of the grave nature of the crimes underway in Eritrea, the ongoing and flagrant violations, and nation’s continual flouting of international human rights and humanitarian norms, we make the following recommendations to the UK government:

 

  • To support the renewal of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Eritrea bilaterally, at the European Union and at the United Nations;

 

  • To support the findings of the 2016 report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea;

 

  • To exert pressure on Eritrea to fulfil the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations to which it has agreed in a timely manner, and to implement the nation’s ratified 1997 constitution;

 

  • To challenge the normalisation of relations with Eritrea to diminish refugee flows;

 

  • To encourage the African Union to establish an accountability mechanism to investigate, prosecute, and try individuals accused of committing crimes against humanity in Eritrea, as recommended in 2016 by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea and the UN Human Rights Council;

 

  • To encourage the Ethiopian government to implement the Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission ruling of April 2002.

 

  • To put pressure on the Eritrean government to adhere to its obligations under article 18 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights guaranteeing religious freedoms.

 

Background Briefing: 
https://www.forbes.com/sites/ewelinaochab/2018/06/13/is-eritrea-becoming-the-north-korea-of-africa/#40afd28d3248

Is Eritrea Becoming The North Korea Of Africa?

Ewelina U. Ochab Jun 13, 2018 @ 05:13 PM

At the end of May 2018, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Eritrea, a group of UK Parliamentarians from across both houses of Parliament, held a session at the UK Parliament to examine the ongoing religious persecution in Eritrea. The meeting was entitled ‘Religious persecution in Eritrea: A crime against humanity’ and was co-organised with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief (another cross-party group consisting of over 110 UK Parliamentarians) with the support of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Open Doors UK and Aid to the Church in Need. It was chaired by Lord Alton of Liverpool who, over the years, has been a vociferous advocate for international religious freedom. During the event, religious leaders representing the Evangelical Protestants, Muslims and the Orthodox Coptic Christians, spoke of the challenges faced by their respective religious communities in Eritrea. Lord Alton speaking on the religious persecution in Eritrea, described Eritrea as the North Korea of Africa. Lord Alton raised the fact that the UK government appears to downplay the atrocities perpetrated against religious groups in Eritrea in order to ‘normalise relations’ with the Eritrean government. He claims that crimes against humanity are being perpetrated in Eritrea, yet the world continues to look the other way. 

Girls chat in a dormitory for unaccompanied minors in Shagarab camp, Kassala, Sudan. Tens of thousands of refugees live across the camps, after escaping mandatory, unending military service and repression in their home country. Young females are more at risk of kidnapping and sexual exploitation, meaning smugglers will charge them more if they want to leave the camps. (Photo credit: Sally Hayden/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The session coincided with a debate in the House of Commons (the so-called Westminster Hall debate) organised by Chris Philp MP, focused on the persecution of Christians worldwide. The debate raised the issue of religious persecution of Christians in Eritrea and, in particular, the case of 33 Christian women who were imprisoned for taking part in a prayer. Both events helped to shed light on the fact that not only is the religious liberty of Eritrea threatened, there is a strong argument that it does not exist in the first place (not in accordance to international standards). Religious persecution in Eritrea affects several religious groups, including the Jehovah’s Witness and Muslim communities. These communities were the first religious groups to experience such challenges in Eritrea before other religious groups came under threat. 

Indeed, Eritrean law incorporates very few protections on religious freedom. Theoretically, the Eritrean constitution provides for a protection for the right to freedom of thought, conscience and belief. Yet, despite the fact that the Constitution was ratified in 1997, it has yet to be implemented. More worryingly, it looks unlikely to be implemented since President Afwerki announced plans to draft a new constitution in 2014, rather than to implement the existing one. As a result, religious freedom does not have any effective protection under the Eritrean law. The fact that the constitution has not been implemented detrimentally also affects the protection of other fundamental human rights.

The question is then, is Lord Alton correct to claim that the religious persecution in Eritrea amounts to crimes against humanity? In short, certainly yes. He is certainly not the only one to have reached such a conclusion. In fact, in 2016, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea (the CoI-E) stated that there were reasonable grounds to conclude that crimes against humanity were being perpetrated in Eritrea. For this reason, the CoI recommended that the UN Security Council refer the situation to the International Criminal Court. In July, the CoI-E recommended that ‘an accountability mechanism to investigate, prosecute, and try individuals accused of committing crimes against humanity in Eritrea, including engaging in torture and overseeing Eritrea’s indefinite military service, which the CoI-E equated to slavery’ be implemented by the African Union.

Eritrea is a religiously diverse country and the government encourages a multi faith tradition, so long as the religion is officially recognised. The problem lies in the fact that the Eritrean government recognises only four religious groups: the Eritrean Orthodox Church, Sunni Islam, the Roman Catholic Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eritrea. Other religious groups are subject to registration. Any religious group that is not registered is not allowed to conduct any religious activities until such time as the registration is granted. Having said that, according to Pew Research Centre, ‘the Eritrean government has not approved registration for any additional religious group since 2002.’ 

The result of the requirement to register religions is that certain religious factions become effectively outlawed. Evangelical and Pentecostal religious groups are two such examples of religions which were effectively outlawed after the introduction in 2002 registration requirement. Groups practicing these religions face the risk of arrest followed by indefinite detention without charge or any chance of redress, as well as the physical and psychological violence often experienced in detention.

In its 2017 report, USCIRF found that

Systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations include torture or other ill treatment of religious prisoners, arbitrary arrests and detentions without charges, a prolonged ban on public religious activities of unregistered religious groups, and interference in the internal affairs of registered religious groups.

According to USCIRF, religious prisoners are routinely detained in the harshest of prison environments where they are subjected to cruel punishments. The report further states that

Released religious prisoners have reported that they were kept in solitary confinement or crowded conditions, such as in 20-foot metal shipping containers or underground barracks and subjected to extreme temperature fluctuations.

USCIRF identified that the situation is particularly severe in the case of unregistered Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians as well as Jehovah’s Witnesses. 

As a result of these challenges, USCIRF indicated that Eritrea meets the requirements for a country of particular concern (CPC) designation under the International Religious Freedom Act. Indeed, the religious persecution in Eritrea is of concern and needs to be addressed urgently. As long as the Eritrean government is willing to engage in a constructive dialogue with the UN and individual states, there is some hope that the dire situation of persecuted religious groups will change. However, if that dialogue fails, Eritrea may well deserve the designation of being the North Korea of Africa. 

Ewelina U. Ochab is a human rights advocate and author of the book “Never Again: Legal Responses to a Broken Promise in the Middle East.” 

 

Why Sajid Javid Needs To Act On Children’s Citizenship Fees Before We Have Another Windrush Scandal – and why safe havens need to be created on the North African Coast

June 14th 2018: Why Safe Havens Need To Be Created On The North African Coast

  • My Lords, while I strongly welcome what the Minister said about tackling root causes, perhaps I might press her to revisit suggestions made in your Lordships’ House about the creation on the north African coast of internationally guaranteed safe havens where people can live in security, develop livelihoods and build homes, as well as look at the root cause of human rights violations—egregious ones in many cases—in countries such as Eritrea and Sudan, from which people are fleeing in their hundreds of thousands.

  • As I said earlier, the United Kingdom is in close communication with Libya and has actively supported measures there to address some of the principal issues confronting migrants. The United Kingdom will continue to review and assess that position. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, made a number of interesting suggestions; I will certainly have a further look at them.

===========================================

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) June 12th 2018

 

My Lords, with her usual combination of conviction and eloquence, the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, has rightly returned to a policy which, as she said, we both contested in 2016 at the Committee stage of the Immigration Bill and again on Report. She has done so with her customary forensic skills and I am in agreement with the arguments that she has put forward. She was also right to pay tribute to Let Us Learn and Coram. I was struck by one of the cases that they drew to my attention—that of Regina, a 22 year-old woman who has lived in the United Kingdom all her life. They say:

 

“She was taken into the care of the local authority as a child. Despite repeatedly asking the local authority for her documents, and several commitments from them that they would assist her in applying for her British nationality, she left care with no citizenship, or any form of immigration status. She is now homeless, and unable to find the fee to secure her rights. The only fee waiver available is for an application for time-limited leave to remain and without any proof of her status, Regina cannot work, or rent a property. She is pregnant, and desperately needs documentary proof to prevent her being charged for health-care. Without further action, her child will also be born without citizenship, or a right to stay in the UK”.

 

That is why this regret Motion is so important. It is about this generation but, as the noble Baroness said, it is about future generations as well.

 

Two years ago, on 21 March at the Report stage of the Immigration Bill, I mentioned that the then Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Bates, and I had been in correspondence about the fees required for a child to be registered as a British citizen. Along with the noble Baroness, I argued that Amendment 145A, which bears the attention and interest of noble Lords who might like to know the background to this evening’s debate, would have prevented the Secretary of State using the money of these child applicants for profit. The only matter to which he could have had regard would have been the cost of processing the application.

 

The amendment also provided that fee regulations—the matter before your Lordships’ House tonight—would have required fees to be waived where a child was in care or otherwise assisted by a local authority, and it provided for discretion to waive the fees in other cases on the grounds of the means of the child, his or her parents or his or her carers. The amendment, of course, was not accepted by the Government, although some of the arguments clearly struck a chord.

 

In our correspondence and in debate, the noble Lord, Lord Bates, referred to the importance of children in the care of local authorities having their status regularised and registered. This was no doubt because of the importance that the Home Office—and, I dare say, all of us—attached to drawing a clear line between those who are here legally and those who are not. But this was also bound up with the so-called hostile environment, referred to by the noble Baroness, a doctrine promulgated by Amber Rudd and others.

 

As the noble Baroness and I argued two years ago, the then fee of £936, as of 18 March 2016, was the reason why undesirable non-registration had occurred. As I said then, in many cases, the reason why no registration had taken place was precisely because of the size of the fee. Where the child and/or the parents cannot afford to pay, or the local authority will not pay, this money is simply beyond their means. I pointed out that the cost of registration in 2016 was calculated by the Home Office at £272, having risen from £223 in 2015—that is £272, compared with a charge of £936, which is an indefensible discrepancy. There is an old adage that it is the profit that makes things so expensive. Profit may not, in many circumstances, be a dirty word, but profiteering by government on the backs of vulnerable children is a stain that brings no credit on any of us.

 

That was 2016: let us fast-forward to 2018. We now have a new Home Secretary, Sajid Javid. On 15 May, he said that the fee—now up from £936 to £1,012—is a “huge amount of money” to ask children to pay for citizenship. He is right. Let us look once again at the discrepancy between the now £372 attributable to administrative costs and the £1,012 taken by the Home Office. Yes, it is a “huge amount”. As for Amber Rudd’s “hostile environment” policy, Mr Javid says he will review it in the wake of the Windrush scandal, to which the noble Baroness referred in her remarks. He says he regards the phrase as,

 

“a negative term, a non-British term”,

 

and that there were lessons to be learned from the controversy. He has said that he wants to replace the term “hostile environment” with the term “compliant environment”, which distinguishes between illegal and legal immigrants. Speaking to the BBC, he said:

 

“I am going to look at how it’s being implemented. I want to review aspects of the policy. I’ve already made some changes”.

 

The noble Baroness’s Motion, which calls—modestly, as she said—for the fee increase to be withdrawn until the Government have published an impact statement and established an independent review, gives Mr Javid the opportunity to make another change and to do so right away. Failure to do so, and, as things stand, means that many children with a statutory entitlement to British citizenship will continue to be excluded because of what Mr Javid says is a “huge amount of money ” to ask children to pay. Incidentally, some of these children have no memory of any country other than this. Like yesterday’s Windrush children, they simply assume that they are as British as their school friends. What a cruelty it is when they discover they are not and that they do not have the resources to do anything about it.

 

In 1981, I was a Member of the House of Commons and I participated in proceedings on the British Nationality Act. It was always Parliament’s intention, and that of the Government of the day, to entrench the concept and reality of citizenship. It was never the intention that the Home Office should impede or prevent full integration of children by levying prohibitive fees. That Act recognised that some children would be born here and grow up here without parents who were themselves British. The law categorically states that they,

 

“shall be entitled to be registered as a British citizen”.

 

In other circumstances, the Act also retained the discretion from the British Nationality Act 1948 enabling the Home Secretary to register a child as British where, for instance, parents have become estranged or deceased and status is problematic.

 

The 1983 fee for registration was £35. Today, as I have said, it is £1,012. That is inflation on quite some scale. As the noble Baroness said, the opportunity to make a profit was taken in 2007 and the fees have risen inexorably since then. This statutory right was never supposed to have been about income generation or supporting Home Office officials. We are talking here about British citizenship, not the National Lottery or a nice little earner on the side. The argument put forward by the Home Office, that a child can apply for leave to remain instead of citizenship, is flaccid and insulting. That is not what Parliament intended and it is not a tenable substitute.

 

In 2016, the Minister said that the money needed to go into the general pot to,

 

“achieve a self-funded border, immigration and citizenship system by 2019-20”.

 

He asked why resident taxpayers should,

 

“be the ones who have to pay”.

 

He went on to say:

 

“Citizenship can never be an absolute right, nor is it necessary in order for a person to reside in the UK and access our public services”.—[Official Report, 21/3/16; cols. 2217-18.]

 

But this is like Don Quixote inviting us to tilt at imaginary windmills. These children should not be categorised in the first place as migrants: children born here are not migrants. For them to be used to subsidise the UK immigration system is an affront and an injustice.

 

 8.15 pm

 

The opportunistic conflation of adult naturalisation and children’s registration is not what the law intended. Worse, it makes us derelict in our duties under the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and our duty to protect children’s best interests. Some would argue that we are technically in breach of the letter of the convention; it is certainly true that we are in breach of its spirit. Mr Javid should ask his officials to provide him with a copy of the convention and a copy of Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009. He should ask why his officials have failed to undertake a children’s best interest assessment—as advocated by the noble Baroness tonight—before hiking up these fees yet again. Officials should be asked how they justify the conflation of vulnerable British children with adults from overseas seeking citizenship and how they square this with the charter obligations that this Government have affirmed.

 

The noble Baroness is right to have tabled this Motion tonight, and I hope that Mr Javid’s promise of change will lead to a rapid change in this policy.

Latest Parliamentary Replies As Burmese Military Extends Its Attacks In Kachin and Shan States – Calls in Parliament for Generals to be referred to the International Criminal Court and for An Independent Assessment of Whether Genocide Has Occurred against Rohingyas and Kachin

See…First they came for the Rohingya Muslims https://www.forbes.com/sites/ewelinaochab/2018/06/11/first-they-came-for-the-rohingya-muslims/#661249ff2cde   by Ewelina Ochab

Questions in Parliament….

Burma

From: Written Parliamentary Questions and Answers
Sent: Wednesday, June 27, 2018 1:30:03 PM
To: ALTON OF LIVERPOOL, Lord
Subject: Written answer to your QWA HL8755 received from Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

 

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL8755):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to evidence suggesting genocidal techniques being used by the government of Burma against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine, Christian minorities in Kachin, and other protected groups, including (1) killing members of those groups, (2) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of those groups, and (3) deliberately inflicting on those groups conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction in whole or in part. (HL8755)

Tabled on: 19 June 2018

Answer:
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

The Foreign Secretary has been clear that ethnic cleansing has taken place in Rakhine, and that the violence of August and September 2017 may even constitute genocide, though that would be a determination for an international court to make. We are supporting the UN Fact Finding Mission into human rights violations and abuses in Burma, in particular Rakhine; we await its final report in September 2018. On 31 May, the Burmese Government announced a Commission of Inquiry. We have made clear that there must be a credible, transparent and impartial investigation, which holds to account the perpetrators of atrocities in Rakhine State.

As I told the House of Lords on 12 June, the Government is currently unable to make a full assessment of the situation in Kachin State due to access restrictions.

Date and time of answer: 27 Jun 2018 at 13:29.

From: Written Parliamentary Questions and Answers
Sent: Wednesday, June 27, 2018 1:31:01 PM
To: ALTON OF LIVERPOOL, Lord
Subject: Written answer to your QWA HL8678 received from Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

 

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL8678):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what actions they have taken following reports that crimes against humanity are being committed against religious or ethno-religious minorities in Burma. (HL8678)

Tabled on: 18 June 2018

Answer:
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

The Foreign Secretary expressed his deep concern about fighting in Kachin on 5 June, and the Minister for Asia and the Pacific called on 11 May for Burma’s military to respect International Humanitarian Law, show restraint and protect civilians in Kachin. In their meeting on 3 May the British Ambassador called on Burma’s Commander in Chief to ensure Burma’s military protected civilians during operations in Kachin.

The UK has ensured the UN Security Council has called for accountability for human rights violations in Rakhine including through its 31 May letter to Burma calling on it to establish an independent and transparent investigation with international involvement. The UK also continues to support the UN Fact Finding Mission into human rights violations and abuses in Burma; we await its final report in September 2018.

Date and time of answer: 27 Jun 2018 at 13:30.

From: Written Parliamentary Questions and Answers
Sent: Wednesday, June 27, 2018 1:31:01 PM
To: ALTON OF LIVERPOOL, Lord
Subject: Written answer to your QWA HL8680 received from Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

 

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL8680):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that the violence perpetrated by the government of Burma against the Rohingya Muslims, Christian minorities and others may constitute genocide. (HL8680)

Tabled on: 18 June 2018

This question was grouped with the following question(s) for answer:

  1. To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the nature of the violence perpetrated by the government of Burma against the Rohingya Muslims, Christian minorities and other minority groups. (HL8679)
    Tabled on: 18 June 2018

Answer:
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

The Foreign Secretary has made clear that the military operations conducted in Rakhine in August and September 2017 constitute ethnic cleansing, and may even be genocide, though that should be a determination for an international court to make.

The Foreign Secretary expressed his deep concern about the intensifying conflict in Kachin on 5 June, and called for Burma’s military to exercise restraint and allow humanitarian access when he spoke to Burma’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on 11 June. Officials from the British Embassy have visited Kachin in May and in June, but as I told the House of Lords on 12 June, the Government is unable to make a full assessment of the situation in Kachin State due to access restrictions.

Date and time of answer: 27 Jun 2018 at 13:30.

From: Written Parliamentary Questions and Answers
Sent: Wednesday, June 27, 2018 1:31:01 PM
To: ALTON OF LIVERPOOL, Lord
Subject: Written answer to your QWA HL8679 received from Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

 

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL8679):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the nature of the violence perpetrated by the government of Burma against the Rohingya Muslims, Christian minorities and other minority groups. (HL8679)

Tabled on: 18 June 2018

This question was grouped with the following question(s) for answer:

  1. To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that the violence perpetrated by the government of Burma against the Rohingya Muslims, Christian minorities and others may constitute genocide. (HL8680)
    Tabled on: 18 June 2018

Answer:
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

The Foreign Secretary has made clear that the military operations conducted in Rakhine in August and September 2017 constitute ethnic cleansing, and may even be genocide, though that should be a determination for an international court to make.

The Foreign Secretary expressed his deep concern about the intensifying conflict in Kachin on 5 June, and called for Burma’s military to exercise restraint and allow humanitarian access when he spoke to Burma’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on 11 June. Officials from the British Embassy have visited Kachin in May and in June, but as I told the House of Lords on 12 June, the Government is unable to make a full assessment of the situation in Kachin State due to access restrictions.

Date and time of answer: 27 Jun 2018 at 13:30.

From: Written Parliamentary Questions and Answers
Sent: Wednesday, June 27, 2018 1:32:01 PM
To: ALTON OF LIVERPOOL, Lord
Subject: Written answer to your QWA HL8681 received from Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

 

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL8681):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the International Criminal Court consideration of its jurisdiction over the displacement of the Rohingya Muslims, what consideration they have given to tabling a resolution at the UN Security Council to establish an investigative team to collect and preserve the evidence for possible prosecutions. (HL8681)

Tabled on: 18 June 2018

Answer:
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

If the Court were to consider that it has jurisdiction over the crime of deportation in the context of the situation in Bangladesh, it would be for the appropriate organs of the Court to consider how to progress any investigation in line with the provisions of the Rome Statute.

The UK co-sponsored the UN Human Rights Council resolution which set up a UN Fact Finding Mission (FFM) on human rights abuses in Burma, and subsequent resolutions that gave it the mandate and resources to collect, preserve and share evidence. Following the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations, the Government is discussing with international partners how to support evidence-collecting efforts, especially in relation to sexual violence

Pressure from the UN Security Council on accountability helped persuade Burma to announce plans for a Commission of Inquiry into violence in Rakhine State. We continue to emphasise that we need an accountability mechanism which is credible, transparent and impartial, and which can hold to account the perpetrators of atrocities.

Date and time of answer: 27 Jun 2018 at 13:31.

From: Written Parliamentary Questions and Answers
Sent: Wednesday, June 27, 2018 1:33:01 PM
To: ALTON OF LIVERPOOL, Lord
Subject: Written answer to your QWA HL8682 received from Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

 

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL8682):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what options they have considered to ensure that the violence perpetrated in Burma is adequately assessed and those responsible brought to justice. (HL8682)

Tabled on: 18 June 2018

Answer:
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

The UK co-sponsored the UN Human Rights Council Resolution in March 2017 that commissioned the Fact Finding Mission into human rights violations by military and security forces, and abuses, in Burma, in particular in Rakhine State; we await its final report in September 2018.

Burma announced on 31 May that it plans to establish a Commission of Inquiry into human rights abuses in Rakhine. We have made clear that there must be a credible, transparent and impartial investigation, which holds to account the perpetrators of atrocities in Rakhine State. We will continue to work with our international partners to support those building evidence and testimony for the victims of the violence in Rakhine.

The Minister for Asia and the Pacific called on 11 May for Burma’s military to respect International Humanitarian Law, show restraint and protect civilians in Kachin.

Date and time of answer: 27 Jun 2018 at 13:32.

From: Written Parliamentary Questions and Answers
Sent: Wednesday, June 27, 2018 1:33:02 PM
To: ALTON OF LIVERPOOL, Lord
Subject: Written answer to your QWA HL8757 received from Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

 

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL8757):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they have taken in international fora or bilaterally to address the situation of religious and ethno-religious groups in Burma. (HL8757)

Tabled on: 19 June 2018

Answer:
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

I raised the UK’s concerns about the persecution faced by Rohingya Muslims, Christians and other minorities in Burma in my speech to the Human Rights Council of 27 February 2018.

Our Embassy in Burma has been supporting local projects addressing the drivers of prejudice and inter-communal violence. In 2017 it delivered a two-day inter-faith dialogue in partnership with the Myanmar Institute of Theology; and a workshop for civil servants, parliamentarians and non-governmental organisations.

We ensured that the UN Security Council letter of 31 May to Burma called for an independent and transparent domestic investigation with international involvement.

Date and time of answer: 27 Jun 2018 at 13:32.

 

Baroness Fairhead, Department for International Trade, provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL8544):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answer by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on 12 June, whether they plan to issue official guidance to British companies not to engage in any form of business with companies owned by the Burmese military. (HL8544)

Tabled on: 12 June 2018

Answer:
Baroness Fairhead:

DIT continues to support trade with Burma as an important part of driving mutual prosperity. We believe responsible trade and investment has a role to play in Burma’s long-term transition from a military dictatorship with a closed economy to a democracy with an open economy.

UK businesses have their own internal processes for determining their investment and trading partners. DIT offers advice and support on working with local partners and encourages all British companies to undertake appropriate due diligence on any investment projects. DIT also ensures companies are aware of UK legislation including the UK Bribery Act (2010) and any relevant sanctions.

Date and time of answer: 26 Jun 2018 at 18:02.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL8543):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answer by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on 12 June, what assessment they have made of claims that the lack of international action taken against Burmese military leaders in response to the Rohingya crisis has emboldened them to escalate violence against Christians and other religious minority groups in Myanmar; whether they plan to make a public statement of support for a UN mandated global arms embargo against Myanmar; and whether they plan to support any targeted financial sanctions and travel restrictions against members of the Burmese military. (HL8543)

Tabled on: 12 June 2018

Answer:
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

Since the Burmese military’s operations in Rakhine in August and September 2017, the UK has secured: EU agreement to introduce new sanctions targeting individual Burmese military commanders responsible for clearance operations in Rakhine; a strengthened EU Arms Embargo; and a UN Security Council Presidential Statement calling for Burma to hold to account those responsible for human rights violations in Rakhine State. The Government continues to assess that there is insufficient support at present for a UN Security Council Resolution instituting a global arms embargo for Burma.

The UK has made clear its deep concern about the resumption of hostilities in Kachin, Shan and Karen States in recent months and called for Burma’s military to exercise restraint, including in the Foreign Secretary’s call with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on 11 June and the British Ambassador’s meeting with Burma’s Commander in Chief Min Aung Hlaing on 3 May.

 

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL8545):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answer by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on 12 June, what practical steps they are taking to facilitate the referral of members of the Burmese military to the International Criminal Court. (HL8545)

Tabled on: 12 June 2018

Answer:
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

The International Criminal Court (ICC) takes up cases when national authorities are unable or unwilling to prosecute. On 31 May, the Burmese Government announced a Commission of Inquiry to investigate human rights violations in Rakhine. The UK has welcomed the Commission while making clear that it needs to be credible, transparent and impartial. If adequate, a Burmese-led process offers the best chance of convictions which are accepted by the population.

Following the UN Security Council’s visit to Burma the UK discussed accountability options with Council members. There remains insufficient support in the Council for an ICC referral at this time, but this may change should we judge the Burmese Commission of Inquiry prove to be not credible.

Date and time of answer: 26 Jun 2018 at 17:32.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL8546):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government (1) what practical steps they are taking, and (2) what resources they are making available, to give effect to the UN doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect in response to reports of identity-based violence in Kachin; and how they are addressing any gaps in their approaches to predicting, preventing and responding to mass atrocities; to developing a cross-departmental strategy on atrocity prevention; and the integration of mass atrocity prevention into existing policy commitments and decision-making processes. (HL8546)

Tabled on: 12 June 2018

Answer:
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

The Foreign Secretary spoke to Burma’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on 11 June and called for the Burmese military to exercise restraint and allow humanitarian access to those affected by recent fighting in Kachin. The UK’s cross-Government approach to atrocity prevention includes the prediction and prevention of identity-based mass violence, alongside other forms of violence and instability, and is set within the Government’s wider work on conflict prevention. Our early warning systems, such as our annual internal report on Countries at Risk of Instability, are complemented by shorter-term horizon-scanning tools, which assist policymakers in prioritising and directing Government engagement and activity on atrocity prevention and the Responsibility to Protect.

Date and time of answer: 26 Jun 2018 at 17:33.

=====================

12 June 2018

Question

2.59 pm

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of recent reports of the Burmese military attacking Christians in Kachin, and other ethnic minorities in Burma; what representations they have made to the government of Burma about these reports; and what consideration they have given to the case for referring the government of Burma to the International Criminal Court.

My Lords, the Government have expressed their deep concern at the surge of fighting in Kachin since April. We have called upon the Burmese military and all parties to cease hostilities and allow the humanitarian access that is required to be provided to displaced people. Turning to Rakhine, the Burmese authorities must show that the commission of inquiry can deliver accountability for the perpetrators of atrocities. If not, the Government will consider supporting international routes to justice.

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Those responsible have been emboldened by the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Rohingya Muslims, the destruction of villages and killings, torture and rape. What practical things do we intend to do in response to the United Nations estimate that fighting in Kachin and Shan states has now driven a further 120,000 people into 167 inaccessible displacement camps? How are we responding to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court’s request that these unconscionable war crimes and crimes against humanity be referred to her court? Is not it high time that senior members of the Burmese military such as General Min Aung Hlaing are targeted with sanctions and brought to justice?

On the noble Lord’s final point, of course we have exercised the tool of sanctions against several members of the military, and continue to use that tool. On his more specific point on the displacement of people in Kachin, there has been an emboldening. Not only has the Rohingya community suffered immensely following its displacement—with almost 1 million in Bangladesh, if you take it over a longer period—but so too have specific communities in Kachin, predominantly Christian minority communities. There has been internal displacement, and quite often the full extent of that displacement has not been revealed because of lack of access. There is a glimmer of hope from the civilian Administration in that, for the first time, we have seen Burma sign an MoU with the UN agencies concerned—the UNHCR and the UNDP—which took place on 7 June. In a recent conversation with the civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary reiterated the importance of ensuring the full return of all refugees, be they from Rakhine or from Kachin.

My Lords, remembering the role that the late Robin Cook played as Labour Foreign Secretary in his advocacy of the International Criminal Court, have the Government ever referred anyone to that court?

In terms of how many times there have been actual referrals, I will have to write to the noble and learned Lord. I assure him that the Government are fully supportive of the ICC and its efforts in this regard. We support all mechanisms in bringing the perpetrators of crime to justice.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the last time I was in Kachin state I visited a village where I was told of how a local woman was abducted by the Burmese army, tied to a post in the army camp in full view of her family, repeatedly dragged away presumably for rape or other maltreatment, and eventually disappeared? A recent statement from the Kachin global network claims that:

“There have also been ongoing abductions, deaths, and injuries by landmine explosion, torture and subsequent health problems, and mortar shells exploding on civilians’ houses”.

Will Her Majesty’s Government raise as a priority with the Burmese Government the issue of the atrocities and violations of human rights perpetrated with impunity by the Burmese army?

Let me assure the noble Baroness that we are doing just that. We have all been horrified, first by what we saw in the Rohingya crisis, and now by the situation we see unravelling in Kachin. I assure her and all noble Lords that we will continue to implore the Burmese authorities, and that includes bilateral visits such as those made by my right honourable friends the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of State for Asia, Mark Field. We will continue to raise this through international fora, both at the UN and at the Human Rights Council.

My Lords, the reported atrocities against the Rohingya have been described as crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and genocide. What assessment have Her Majesty’s Government made as to whether the human rights violations in Kachin and Shan states meet the criteria of at least crimes against humanity and war crimes?

The right reverend Prelate is correct on the issue of the Rohingya, and as a Government we think that ethnic cleansing has taken place. Indeed, that is self-evident because of the number of refugees we have seen pour into Bangladesh. As I said in response to an earlier question, the situation in Kachin is of deep concern, but because of the lack of access for international agencies it is difficult to determine the issue of genocide more specifically. As regards judicial opinion, we will be guided appropriately, but we have certainly seen ethnic cleansing take place in Rakhine state—there is no better term for it—as well as in Kachin. What we are seeing is very troubling, but a full assessment cannot be made because of the lack of access.

My Lords, 32% of Burma’s population are from ethnic minorities, so we are seeing the systematic persecution of people spread from one group like the Rohingya to another like those in Rakhine state. Can my noble friend the Minister please outline whether this systematic persecution has had any impact on the ability of the UK Government to employ people from the Burmese ethnic-minority population in our embassy in Rangoon? I understand that around 70% of the embassy’s staff are normally recruited locally. Can he confirm that we are not restricted in who we can recruit by virtue of this persecution?

Our recruitment policy reflects the impartiality we would employ in any circumstances. It would be beneficial for all noble Lords to know the exact numbers and I will look into that. My noble friend, who speaks from great experience, makes an important point; namely, that we need to ensure that we demonstrate the inclusive nature of our operations in all our actions, including the efforts we are making on the ground in Rangoon. As I have said, there is a degree of hope, in that for the first time the United Nations is now gaining access to parts of Burma. We will continue to impress on both the civilian and military authorities for that access to be applicable universally across the country.

 Questions raised in Parliament.

Q

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 11 June 2018

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

HL8476

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to the report by the Karen Peace Network The Nightmare Returns: Karen hopes for peace and stability dashed by Burma Army’s actions, published in April, and to reports of the displacement of civilians following fighting between the Burma Army and the Karen National Liberation Army.

 

Q

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 11 June 2018

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

HL8477

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of whether UN documentation of attacks on ethnic groups in Burma provides evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

 

Q

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 11 June 2018

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

HL8478

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with (1) the government of Burma about the culture of impunity which has enabled the Burmese military potentially to carry out crimes against humanity, and (2) international partners about holding perpetrators to account through international judicial mechanisms.

 

Q

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 11 June 2018

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

HL8479

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with international partners about the reintroduction of targeted sanctions directed at members of the Burmese military who have been involved in ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

 

Q

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 11 June 2018

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

HL8480

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the implications for human rights of the breaking of the 2012 ceasefire in Burma’s Karen State.

Also see these Questions tabled on June 13th 2018:

Burma WPQs

===================================================================

For Immediate Release from CSW

13 June 2018

 

BURMA: LORDS QUESTION GOVERNMENT ON BURMA ARMY ATTACKS ON CHRISTIANS IN KACHIN STATE

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool tabled a debate in the House of Lords on 12 June, drawing attention to reports of the Burma Army attacking Christians in Burma’s Kachin State and asking about the UK government’s response, including “what consideration they have given to the case for referring the government of Burma to the International Criminal Court?”

According to the United Nations (UN), renewed fighting between the Burma Army and Kachin Independence Army has led to the displacement of at least 4,000 civilians since early April. In a statement on 9 June, to mark the seventh anniversary of the resumption of conflict in Kachin State, Global Kachin Communities claimed as many as 7,000 have been displaced in the past two months.

In his response, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), expressed the government’s “deep concern” at the situation in Kachin State since April:

“We have called upon the Burmese military and all parties to cease hostilities and allow the humanitarian access that is required to be provided to displaced people. Turning to Rakhine, the Burmese authorities must show that the commission of inquiry can deliver accountability for the perpetrators of atrocities. If not, the Government will consider supporting international routes to justice.”

The Lord Bishop of St Albans noted that “the reported atrocities against the Rohingya have been described as crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and genocide”, and asked “whether the human rights violations in Kachin and Shan states meet the criteria of at least crimes against humanity and war crimes?”

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon agreed that ethnic cleansing has taken place against the Rohingya, adding that “the situation in Kachin is of deep concern, but because of the lack of access for international agencies it is difficult to determine the issue of genocide more specifically. As regards judicial opinion, we will be guided appropriately, but we have certainly seen ethnic cleansing take place in Rakhine state—there is no better term for it—as well as in Kachin. What we are seeing is very troubling, but a full assessment cannot be made because of the lack of access.”

He later said that “there is a degree of hope, in that for the first time the United Nations is now gaining access to parts of Burma. We will continue to impress on both the civilian and military authorities for that access to be applicable universally across the country.”

On 26 April, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres announced the appointment of Christine Schraner Burgener of Switzerland, an experienced diplomat, as his new Special Envoy on Myanmar.

Benedict Rogers, CSW’s East Asia Team Leader, said: “We welcome this short debate in the House of Lords to highlight the appalling plight of the Kachin people. Seven years after the Burma Army broke a ceasefire with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the humanitarian consequences of this conflict are very grave and the human rights violations continue to be perpetrated with impunity. The world has, understandably, focused on the terrible suffering of the Rohingyas, but it is essential that the Kachin and others in northern Burma are not forgotten, and that urgent steps are taken to end this conflict, bring about a genuine, meaningful and inclusive peace process through political dialogue, ensure unrestricted access for humanitarian aid to reach those displaced by war, and address impunity.”


For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press and Public Affairs Team Leader at CSW on +44 (0) 208 329 0045, +44 (0) 782 332 9663 or email kiri@csw.org.uk.

 CSW – Burma Briefing Kachin

CSW is an advocacy organisation defending and promoting the right to freedom of religion or belief in over 20 countries across Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. As Christians, we stand with everyone facing injustice because of their religion or belief. www.csw.org.uk

 


8,894,355 reasons why over one third of Ireland’s voters were right to vote No. Why Northern Ireland Should Not be Forced to Accept British laws – with one abortion taking place every three minutes of every day. The BBC tell a moving story about a baby rescued from the clinical waste. Why Both lives matter.

The Burkean:  July 2018 – what Edmund Burke might have made of Britain and Ireland’s abortion laws:

https://www.theburkean.co.uk/lord-alton-of-liverpool-edmund-burke-on-abortion/

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/magazine-post/alt-liberalism-at-westminster/

The mutant ideology that’s driving MPs to impose abortion on Northern Ireland: published June 15th 2018

The ‘alt-liberals’ are all-knowing, self-regarding and autocratic

The Northern Ireland minister Lord Duncan of Springbank recently remarked that the province’s insistence that the only lawful justification for abortion should be a threat to the mother’s life was “Victorian”. This ill-considered and patronising remark was not random. It was part of a concerted attempt to force abortion legislation on Northern Ireland.

The Conservative MPs Justine Greening and Amber Rudd have joined forces with Labour’s Stella Creasy, who goes even further, and who has been demanding the repeal of the 1861 Offences Against the Persons Act. This would decriminalise abortion across the United Kingdom, removing the few remaining protections for an unborn child, and potentially permitting abortion up to term and the removal of conscience provisions.

Creasy and her allies have form, having persuaded the Conservative Government to pay £1,400 to pregnant women wishing to travel from Northern Ireland to Britain to end the life of their unborn child (with no comparable sum for women continuing their pregnancy).

In response, Theresa May has sent mixed messages, saying she supports change but then, under pressure from the Democratic Unionist MPs and Conservative MPs Fiona Bruce and Maria Caulfield, stating that the change should only be made by a restored Northern Ireland Assembly, not by Westminster.

The Prime Minister is absolutely right in insisting that abortion remain a devolved matter. I once served as a Northern Ireland party spokesman and was later part of the cross-community, cross-party delegation that successfully persuaded John Major to make abortion a devolved matter (as it is in Scotland too). This was part of the discussions around the 1995 framework documents that proposed North-South institutions and a Northern Ireland Assembly – paving the way for the Good Friday Agreement. Those trying to unpick these sensitive matters should tread with great care.

Significantly, the most recent vote on abortion within any UK legislature was 18 months ago in the Northern Ireland Assembly. It voted against a change to the law. But British political parties, once champions of devolution, have turned full circle when it comes to abortion.

This is only the latest example of what the philosopher John Gray calls “alt-liberalism”, a mutant version of liberal ideology: all-knowing, self-regarding and autocratic. It’s the phenomenon that led to Tim Farron packing his bags as Liberal Democrat leader, saying it had become impossible to reconcile his Christian faith with this new ideology. One Labour MP told me that he daren’t say what he believes for fear of retaliation. Free speech is going the same way as devolution and conscience.

The judiciary, meanwhile, is becoming increasingly politicised. Last week the Supreme Court found that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission had no legal standing in bringing its case challenging the North’s abortion laws. Yet this did not deter judges from offering a series of non-binding opinions.

Paradoxically, the court’s unanimous finding that there is no human rights requirement to allow for abortion on the grounds of disability has implications for Great Britain, where abortion up to birth on grounds of disability is both barbaric and discriminatory.

The court reaffirmed that there is no human right to abortion and there is nothing in the judgment to say that abortion on request is required by human rights law – but it’s worth remembering that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights holds that everyone has the right to life.

I recently spoke at meetings in Lisburn and Belfast organised by the group Both Lives Matter. Great dismay was expressed about the abortion industry coming to Northern Ireland. A report was cited from the Times highlighting the 22 employees working for Marie Stopes International who were paid salaries of more than £100,000 in 2015.

The chief executive earned £420,000 (nearly four times that of the Prime Minister). Also mentioned were the conclusions of a Care Quality Commission investigation which found dead unborn babies in open bins in Marie Stopes abortion clinics. The commission reported that there had been nearly 400 botched abortions in just two months.

So before we excoriate Northern Ireland and its “Victorian” laws, think of the province as the perfect control group in a grim social science experiment that had a starting date of 1968. Fifty years later, in Northern Ireland’s control group there are 100,000 people alive (5 per cent of the population) who would not have been born if our laws had applied.

By contrast, in Great Britain there have been almost 9 million abortions: one abortion every three minutes, 20 every hour and 600 every working day, with one in five pregnancies now ended by abortion. We have abortion up to birth in the case of babies with disabilities – leading to 90 per cent of babies with Down’s syndrome being aborted – and of little girls merely because of their gender.

With perfect laboratory conditions, you would carefully study the evidence, look at the outcomes and draw conclusions. Again, one hundred thousand people are alive in Northern Ireland who would be dead had the 1967 Abortion Act applied there. Why would anyone want to change that – and what right do we have to impose such laws upon the people of Northern Ireland?

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Human Beings Are Not Trash

This moving  story, reported by the BBC, about a baby who survived an abortion underlines both the  vulnerable  humanity of the lives we end and the reality that there is no such thing as a safe abortion for a baby in the womb. This woman began her life as discarded clinical waste but the actions of a good nurse and a loving family point to the radical alternatives we should be able to offer the babies whose lives are ended every three minutes in Britain.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-44357373

===============

Parliament: June 6th 2018

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

My Lords, will the Minister agree that the caricature of the people of Northern Ireland as living in some antediluvian society has to be measured against a law that has led in Great Britain to some 9 million abortions—that is one every three minutes, 20 every single hour and 600 every working day, with one in five pregnancies now ended by abortion, and abortion up to and even during birth in the case of babies with disabilities, leading to 90% of all babies with Down’s syndrome being aborted. Is that something that we have a right to export to Northern Ireland, or do we not have a belief in devolution and the right of people in Northern Ireland to make up their mind on that issue for themselves?

 

Lord O’Shaughnessy (Government Minister)

 

I would not presume to make a caricature of the people of Northern Ireland in one way or another. What this debate has demonstrated is that there are deeply held beliefs in this area and, of course, there are significant consequences of decisions on abortion law in one regard or another. It has emphasised that those decisions, which are incredibly significant, ought to be made by the people whom they affect, via the elected representatives whom they put in power.

==============

 

Supreme Court and Northern Ireland  

The coverage of the Supreme Court ruling has been highly selective.  These are simply non binding opinions and the Court found that the NIHRC had no standing to bring the case.

The unanimous finding of the Court was that there is no human rights requirement to allow for abortion on the grounds of disability.  

The Court again reaffirmed that there is no human right to abortion and that there is nothing in the judgment to say that abortion on request is required by human rights law

By contrast, the Universal Declaration of Human  Rights  declares that everyone has the right to life, and see: 

https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/human-rights-act/article-2-right-life

 Tell that to the 600 babies whose lives are ended every day in Britain.

======================

 The Taking Of Life Is Nothing To Celebrate

http://www.ncregister.com/blog/kturley/lord-alton-makes-impassioned-speech-after-irish-abortion-referendum-result

Ireland’s vote to remove constitutional protection for babies in the womb is being celebrated and hailed as a great triumph for humanity. It’s nothing of the kind. 

 

The cruel and barbaric procedures used to abort babies are an infamy – the antithesis of everything that a civilised society should hold dear. 

 

Every three minutes of every day a baby is aborted in Britain – nearly 9 million since England paved the way for legal abortion. Some, with disabilities, are aborted up to birth. 

 

Those who have exported this anti life culture, and those who have relentlessly promoted it, will one day be seen to have been on the wrong side of history. For now, we must simply weep for the children whose lives will be lost.

There’s nothing here for them to celebrate.

 Both Lives Matter

===============================================================

Speaking in Clitheroe, at the Bank Holiday Monday Right to Life Whit Walk, David Alton reminded walkers that St.Teresa of Calcutta had said that in the struggle to safeguard the sanctity of human life that “we are not called upon to be successful but faithful.”

 

Reflecting on the Irish referendum David Alton said that the sponsored walk through Lancashire’s Ribble Valley, to raise funds for the Right to Life charity, was “a chance to both witness and to express solidarity with the three quarters of a million Irish people who had voted against removing protection for the unborn child from the Irish constitution.” He said “they campaigned under the slogans that “both lives mater” and that “we must always “love both” – mother and child –this should remain the clarion call of the pro-life movement.”

 

He said that “no one ever said this would be an easy fight paved with victories but every life saved, every mind changed, is how we must measure success.”

 

David Alton, whose late mother was a native Irish speaker has, along with his children, Irish as well as British Citizenship; and he reflected that anyone who loved Ireland and its people would inevitably “feel dispirited and distressed by this outcome.”

 

He added that “every abortion is a tragedy .   With one abortion in England, every three minutes, Ireland will come to regret following the British law – a law that  allows abortion up to and even during birth in the case of disability – leading to the death of 90% of babies with Downs Syndrome.”

 

He said: “It was bordering on the obscene to watch people celebrating an event that will lead to the ending of innocent life. Ireland will become like Ramah where Rachel was found weeping and mourning the children that are no more.”

 

The spectacle of crowds gathering in castle Yard in Dublin, where mobs once gathered to cheer the public  execution of prisoners, was distasteful in the extreme.  And now they will seek to do the same in Northern Ireland.

 

“It is beyond belief that liberals, who say they believe in devolution, quickly abandon their belief in devolution when it comes to abortion. They gather in the restaurants of Richmond Upon Thames or the Islington wine bars and plot to impose their political ideology and agenda on the people of Northern Ireland – where 100,000 people are alive today, 5% of the population, precisely because Northern Ireland refused to introduce British abortion laws.  This is a matter to be settled in the North by the North and not by Westminster.

 

Lord Alton said that “time and again those in favour of abortion, embryo experimentation, coercive overseas abortions,  and euthanasia have relentlessly campaigned to change laws that since Hippocrates crafted the Hippocratic Oath – with explicit condemnation of abortion and euthanasia –  have served society well. There is no such thing as a safe abortion for the baby in the womb.”

 

Quoting G.K.Chesterton he said that “when we marry the spirit of the age we become widowers in the next” and added that when we kill the unborn we will be childless in the next.

 

He said that “ In Britain and now Ireland this is the most dangerous time in history to be an unborn child. For now we weep and stand with Rachel but, as the baton passes to the next generation, we will redouble our efforts until we change hearts, minds, attitudes, culture, and laws. ”

Both Lives Matter1.jpg

 

8 million Reasons For Voting NO: Click on this link –

https://davidalton.net/2018/01/12/8894355-reasons-why-ireland-should-continue-to-uphold-the-sanctity-and-dignity-of-every-human-life-because-every-life-matters-count-the-missing-britons-and-the-people-of-ireland-would-be-2/

 

Alive but not born yet.jpg

 

Larissa Nolan – and a point of view that deserves to be heard

I am a feminist, a progressive, a liberal and a free thinker – and for all these reasons, I am voting No on Friday.

https://www.irishmirror.ie/news/irish-news/health-news/larissa-nolan-comment-im-voting-12585262

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/05/22/ireland-having-discuss-truth-abortion-way-britain-never-has/

And hear this speech by Maria Steen to the Citizens’ Assembly

Smoking may well kill your unborn child – Abortion most certainly does. There’s no such thing as a safe abortion for a baby in the womb.

===========================================================================

Article from the Irish Times

Removal of Eighth would create law more inhumane than Britain’s

https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/removal-of-eighth-would-create-law-more-inhumane-than-britain-s-1.3480588?mode=sample&auth-failed=1&pw-origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.irishtimes.com%2Fopinion%2Fremoval-of-eighth-would-create-law-more-inhumane-than-britain-s-1.3480588

Recently, the Irish Government released a paper setting out 21 principles that would inform their prospective abortion legislation, were the Eighth Amendment to be repealed.

Looking at this from a British perspective, it’s worryingly hard not to see shadows of our own law, the Abortion Act 1967.

When it was introduced just over 50 years ago, the 1967 Act was sold to the public and to the Westminster Parliament as a restrictive law. The evidence of half a century, however, shows this claim was utterly empty. The everyday reality in Britain today is that abortion is available on demand, for any reason, up to 24 weeks. In 2016, just over one in five British pregnancies ended in abortion.

The false assurances we heard in 1967 are echoed by certain pro-repeal politicians today, as they claim that abortion law after any removal of Eighth Amendment protections for unborn children would be modest and more restrictive than those across the Irish Sea. The truth is that, if anything, it would create a law not just as permissive and inhumane as Britain’s – but even more so.

The reason why the Abortion Act has led to abortion on demand is because section 1(1)(a) of the Act allows abortion under what we now call Ground C: when two doctors agree that “the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of her family”.

‘Mental health’ reasons

Some 97 per cent of all abortions in Britain take place under this ground; 99.8 per cent of which are carried out for “mental health” reasons.

Of course, no evidence exists that abortion helps safeguard mental health. As pro-choice Prof David Fergusson reported in a longitudinal study on mental health and abortion, the “evidence clearly poses a challenge to the use of psychiatric reasons to justify abortion”. Uncoincidentally, no verification is required regarding the alleged underlying psychological condition, nor is even one of the two doctors required to be formally qualified to be able to identify such a condition.

As a consequence of this, abortion in Britain can take place for functionally any reason whatever up to 24 weeks – the explicit “upper limit” introduced in 1990. This has meant a situation of normalised laxity, which a media investigation in 2012 showed even allows for the ugly spectre of misogynistic sex-selective abortion.

This permissive abortion system has not only led to the destruction of girls in the womb, but to the deeply tragic suicides of young women. Examples include 13-year-old Ashli Blake in 2014, whose abortion helped to cover up her sexual abuse; young mother Jade Rees in 2015 after the abortion of her baby daughter, and the artist Emma Beck in 2007 after the abortion of her twin girls.

Compare the British model to the principles of the Irish Government’s Health paper on prospective abortion legislation. These state that under any legislation they introduce, abortions would be provided “without indication” (ie on demand) up to 12 weeks, but also on the grounds of “risk to health” to a pregnant woman with no gestational restriction.

Moreover, no distinction would be made between physical and mental health. This would establish the same supposedly limited “health grounds” for abortion as in UK law, but by crucial contrast, with no “upper limit” applying in such cases. This would lead to a de facto situation of abortion on demand, for any reason, up to birth.

Sex-selective abortion

“Any reason” would include the sex-selective abortion that has been shown to be possible in British practice. The Stop Gendercide campaign started by women’s groups Jeena International and Karma Nirvana, in analysing currently debated proposals for permissive abortion on the Isle of Man, has noted that due to improvements in prenatal testing technology, foetal gender can now be detected after seven weeks’ gestation. Not only would introducing abortion on demand up to 12 weeks formally legalise sex-selective abortion in the first trimester, but providing de facto abortion on demand would enable sex-selection throughout all of pregnancy.

While the Irish Government’s proposals may seem restrictive, just as the Abortion Act did in the 1960s, long British experience shows that any legislation enacted based on their “principles” would introduce a radically permissive abortion regime all throughout pregnancy.

Ireland would suffer a system even more extreme than the British, which itself has destroyed so many lives, not only of unborn children, but of pregnant mothers. Both lives matter: every life counts.

In considering how to vote in the upcoming referendum, I hope the Irish public realises that if the Eighth Amendment is repealed, the Republic would go down a road even darker than that of British practice. Knowing this, I hope voters will opt instead to Vote No to maintain Ireland’s Constitution as a civilised standard of human dignity and rights.

David Alton is a member of the House of Lords and a long-time anti-abortion campaigner

Join The Rebellion And Vote No – Because Both Lives Matter

Both Lives Matter1.jpg

Unborn child and smoking kills 2

Smoking may well kill your unborn child – Abortion most certainly does.

Secular and Religious Voices Unite To Urge Ireland To Vote No And To Insist That Both Lives Matter

As Ireland faces a referendum on whether to introduce British-style laws to allow the abortion of babies in the womb (and which in Britain have led to one abortion every three minutes) there has been an increase in opposition to such change from secular and religious voices.

Wendy Grace in a really succinct and well-argued article puts the case for a No vote which deserves to be shared far and wide. https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/a-no-vote-is-our-opportunity-to-do-better-for-women-and-babies-36878030.html#

Ms Grace says “We are at a key moment in Irish history where we have the opportunity to be truly progressive, unlike countries in the past, we cannot plead ignorance, with this knowledge comes a responsibility.

 

“I refuse to be part of a system that pits mother against baby. This is not equality. Abortion is the tragic sign that the real needs of women are not being met.

A No vote is our opportunity to unite together and say we can do a lot better for women, for babies, for Ireland.”

The latest poll in the Sunday Independent shows more and more people joining the rebellion: You can find it here-https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/abortion-referendum/poll-young-urban-women-giving-yes-side-referendum-edge-but-it-is-a-narrow-lead-36877996.html.  While Yes remains in the lead, their lead has dramatically declined since February.

Archbishop Eamon Martin has spoken out with great clarity and profession arguing that both lives matter. His interview to the Belfast Telegraph can be read at:

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/archbishop-martin-will-continue-to-push-for-pope-to-visit-northern-ireland-36882908.html

The Archbishop said: “Those who are voting can be in no doubt that this is not just the removal of an amendment in order to be compassionate in hard cases, such as rape, incest or life-threatening situations.

 

“This is the removal of the only remaining protection for unborn life in order to introduce a very liberal abortion regime which, I believe, the people of Ireland do not want.

 

“The Supreme Court has told us that once you remove the eighth amendment, there is no recognition at all for the rights of the unborn.

 

“Once that is gone, I find it difficult to believe that we would not move to probably becoming one of the most liberal abortion regimes in the world.

 

“Once we elevate personal choice above the right to life, where do we stand?

 

“If we enshrine in our laws the right to choose to end life, where does that place us? I see this not as a Church versus State battle, but as an opportunity to highlight that we must choose life and not death.”

Archbishop Martin said that abortion was “not a matter of private choice but of the common good”. “Society can never tolerate the direct and intentional taking of innocent human life, and I am conscious that many of my brothers and sisters in other Christian denominations and in other faiths hold a similar view.”

He also stated his belief that the outcome of the referendum was not a foregone conclusion and that many people are still undecided.

“I would like to think that when people go in to vote that they will pause, listen to their heartbeat, look at the fingerprints, and realise they have had these since they themselves were in the womb.

 

“I would love them to think of two lives as they make their decision.”

The Irish Times also has a report on a host of pastoral letters read out in parishes across the Republic this past Sunday. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/bishops-warn-against-abortion-on-demand-1.3487675

Underlining that this view is echoed across denominations, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Ken Good, has trenchantly spelt out his opposition to the proposed changes https://www.donegalnow.com/news/bishop-derry-raphoe-rt-rev-ken-good-referendum-eighth-amendment/223252.

He says:

“Often, in the past, the protection of vulnerable women and children in Ireland left a lot to be desired, but legislating now to allow the lives of the most defenceless among us to be terminated is not the answer.”

 

For the Child In The Womb there is no such thing as “a safe abortion”…

https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/removal-of-eighth-would-create-law-more-inhumane-than-britain-s-1.3480588?mode=sample&auth-failed=1&pw-origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.irishtimes.com%2Fopinion%2Fremoval-of-eighth-would-create-law-more-inhumane-than-britain-s-1.3480588

Join The Rebellion: 8  million reasons for voting no… Opposition echoed by Ireland’s former Taoiseach

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/former-taoiseach-says-ireland-should-be-proud-of-eighth-amendment-1.3423831 <https://protect-eu.mimecast.com/s/h-9FCK13nCqQRY3cvbRYw?domain=irishtimes.com&gt;

8 million Reasons For Voting NO: Click on this link –

https://davidalton.net/2018/01/12/8894355-reasons-why-ireland-should-continue-to-uphold-the-sanctity-and-dignity-of-every-human-life-because-every-life-matters-count-the-missing-britons-and-the-people-of-ireland-would-be-2/

 

Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s Faith and Fiction – article for Venerabile

 

tolkien-books-2

Also see…

Liverpool Hope University Lecture: Tolkien Faith and Fiction

tolkien2

https://davidalton.net/2016/11/10/tolkien-faith-and-fiction-liverpool-hope-university-lecture-marking-the-fiftieth-anniversary-of-j-r-r-tolkiens-involvement-in-the-translation-of-the-jerusalem-bible-and-the-link-between-his-faith/ 

Click link for You Tube presentatuon of the lecture

You can follow the lecture with the link to the power point presentation slides at:

faith-in-the-work-of-tolkien

Universe 14-4-17 page 10 (2)

and to discover the Tolkien Trail – the perfect spring or summer walk.

http://www.christianheritagecentre.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/CHC-Tolkien-Booklet.pdf