Can the North Korean leopard change its spots? Opinion piece for GIS Reports Online


“Can the North Korean leopard change its spots?” See opinion piece for GIS Reports Online:,defense,2625.html


For background see:



Opinion: Can the North Korean leopard change its spots?

Kim Jong-un inspects the honor guard after returning home from his meeting with Donald Trump
Pyongyang, June 14, 2018: North Korean strongman Kim Jong-un returns home from his summit meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore (source: dpa)
Fifteen years ago, with my colleague, Baroness Caroline Cox, I made my first visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), or North Korea. On return to Westminster, we founded the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea and resolved to work for change in that benighted country.

U.S. President Trump meets South Korean envoy Cheong Wa Dae

GIS Dossier: The North Korean opening

Chinese President Xi Jinping, U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un

Trump-Kim meeting marginalizes China


This, after all, was a country which was still technically at war with its South Korean neighbor and the United States – an unfinished armed conflict that between 1950 and 1953 had claimed around 3 million lives.

It was a country developing a nuclear capability. And a country with a horrendous humanitarian and human rights record. In the 1990s, while millions of dollars were being poured into its weapons program, two million people had died during a devastating famine.

Meanwhile, four years ago, a United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) described North Korea as having committed crimes against humanity and its violations of human rights as being “without parallel.”

The regime is well aware of how easy it is for democracies to become what Lenin called ‘useful idiots’

This is a country that in 2017 alone conducted six nuclear tests and has repeatedly acted in defiance of the UN Security Council resolutions. It is said to possess 5,000 tons of chemical and biological agents and 1,000 artillery pieces trained on the capital of South Korea, Seoul. It has carried out abductions and assassinations, cyberattacks, the hacking of cryptocurrencies and cyber robberies.

Mounting pressure

The North’s calibrated strategy revolves solely around the regime’s determination to survive. Toward this goal, its leaders have become masters of offering concessions that are never honored.

Recall that, in the hope of encouraging change, between 2005 and 2009 the U.S. unfroze $25 million of a North Korean fund at Banco Delta Asia – which the regime then used as a slush fund. Its members are well aware of how easy it is for democracies to become what Lenin called “useful idiots” in the hands of a well-practiced snake oil salesman.

In an attempt to break this vicious circle, U.S. President Donald Trump issued denunciations of the continuation of provocative missile tests and the ramping up of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs. The denunciations have been accompanied by displays of Western military strength and the imposition of the U.N. Security Council-backed sanctions – the harshest measures imposed on a country this century.

A picture of a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier being tugged to port
The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson arriving at the port of Busan in South Korea. President Trump’s show of force in the seas near North Korea apparently alarmed the North Korean and Chinese leaders (source: dpa)

Beijing’s compliance – it cut Chinese exports to North Korea by anything between 70 percent and 90 percent – has made a crucial difference. By comparison, Russia is reported to have broken UN sanctions. However, these steps, and what is described as “disruptive diplomacy” led to President Trump’s face-to-face meeting with Kim Jong-un at a summit in Singapore: the first time a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean dictator have had a personal encounter.

The White House policy has undoubtedly been in marked contrast to Barack Obama’s “strategic patience” – which was certainly patient but emboldened North Korea even more. The question is, how strategic is the Trump approach?

Devil in the detail

The Singapore summit was clearly better than the alternative – and the potentially catastrophic outcome of belligerent rhetoric between two nuclear-armed states. The greatest danger has always been the law of unintended consequences – and, with a stray shot fired or a missile hitting the wrong target, the danger of escalation. But if the two sides are to move forward, the devil, as always, will be in the detail.

Without the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea and the removal of its ballistic capability, the threat to its neighbors will remain.

Without verification, dependent on the opening up of North Korea, this may prove to be yet another example of Pyongyang’s lack of good faith. We recall the North Korean regime’s broken promises of 1994 and 2007, and know that its record for trustworthiness is not a good one.

A great deal will depend on what has been agreed in that other, less reported, North Korean summit – the one between China’s President Xi Jinping and Mr. Kim – and whether Mr. Xi has told the North Korean leader that China will resume tough sanctions if progress is not made on verification.

It certainly suits Kim Jong-un to have his reputation inflated on the world stage

China will be crucial if hopes are to be turned into substance – and its agenda, and China’s vision of what the future might look like, is very different from the West’s.

Parallels have been drawn with U.S. President Richard Nixon’s 1972 summit with the Chairman of the Communist Party of China Mao Zedong and U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s 1986 Reykjavík summit with Mikhail Gorbachev, general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

It certainly suits Kim Jong-un to have his reputation inflated on the world stage. It is good for domestic consumption too. But the real question is, can a leopard change its spots?

Inseparable issues

This, after all, is the same man who is alleged to have given orders for his half-brother to be murdered in Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur airport and had his uncle executed after he came to power.

It is also a leopard that does vicious and unthinkable things to its people – with every one of the 30 articles in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights denied or egregiously violated – and with between 100,000 and 200,000 people in its gulags, which the 2014 Commission of Inquiry (COI) compared to Nazi death camps.

Indeed, Thomas Buergenthal, a renowned International Court of Justice judge and Auschwitz survivor, after hearing from former North Korean prisoners and guards, also as part of an inquiry initiated by the International Bar Association, concluded that the country’s political prisons are just as bad as, and perhaps even worse, than the Nazi concentration camps. Like the COI, the judge says that Kim Jong-un should be tried for crimes against humanity.

Judge Thomas Buergenthal speaking at the United Nations
Thomas Buergenthal, a judge of the International Court of Justice, after hearing testimonies from refugees from North Korea likened that country’s gulag system to the Nazi concentration camps (source: dpa)

It has been pointed out that the Trump-Kim summit took place on 12 June – an auspicious day as it was the 31st anniversary of President Ronald Reagan’s famous Berlin Wall speech, in which he linked the security of the world with the fundamental human rights and freedoms of an oppressed people.

Ronald Reagan, with the strong backing from Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II, trenchantly argued that “Freedom and security go together: the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace.”

In urging then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall,” President Reagan knew that behind every SS-20 and SS-22 and RSD-10 Pioneer missile, ready to be fired westward, were the gulags of Siberia, mass murders, and unspeakable violations of human rights.

In honoring men like the writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and the physicist Andrei Sakharov, and the countless victims of religious and political persecution, Mr. Reagan was arguing for the whole edifice to be torn down. Human rights were central to his approach.

Key objectives

In 2010, following another visit to North Korea, I published a report: “Building Bridges, not walls.” As I have long argued for “Helsinki with a Korean face,” that report called for constructive but critical engagement, with human rights to the fore, as they were in the Helsinki process with the USSR.

Without all the elements of a free and open society, it is hard to conceive of genuine progress being made in North Korea on verifiable disarmament. Breaking the information blockade, opening the eyes of the people of North Korea, promoting human rights and encouraging economic reform should remain key objectives – and they must be given a higher profile.

This is a regime that rapes, tortures, indoctrinates and lets millions of its people starve to death

The Singapore summit has led to commitments on the repatriation of the remains of U.S. servicemen who lost their lives in the Korean War and to the resumption of contact between separated South and North Korean families. We should welcome this. But will it lead to more?

At the press conference following the summit, President Trump confirmed that he had raised the question of human rights in North Korea: “I want significant improvement. I want to start that process. Although you cannot finish that process for a while, you cannot go back.” The penultimate paragraph of the Singapore communique states:

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

That date cannot come too soon.

The Australian Judge Michael Kirby who chaired the COI on North Korea gave the summit a cautious welcome. However, he has also written:

I am glad that President Trump and Chairman Kim met in Singapore. … But I cannot put out of my mind the people who came to the public hearings of the United Nations inquiry. I will begin to respect Kim’s word when he opens up his isolated country to allow United Nations inspectors to visit the mass detention camps. Let him do this immediately, and then I can join in the rejoicing for the self-proclaimed triumph of the Singapore Summit of June 2018.

Mr. Kirby said that he continued to be haunted by the testimonies he had heard from some of the 30,000 who have escaped from North Korea. And so am I.

This is a regime that rapes, tortures, indoctrinates and lets millions of its people starve to death. Like Stalin, Kim Jong-un uses mock trials, purges and public executions. The commission of inquiry concluded that, “[t]he gravity, scale and nature,” of the human rights violations in North Korea “… reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.” In a country where an estimated 300,000 have been killed, Judge Kirby concluded, we have a “duty to address the scourge of human rights violations and crimes against humanity.”

And what of those who try to escape? A few months ago, 10 North Koreans, including women and a four-year-old child, were repatriated to North Korea from China, despite South Korea’s willingness to give them refuge and citizenship. The father of one of the children, who had reached South Korea, issued an appeal broadcast by the BBC. He said that his wife and son would, “either face execution or wither away in a political prison camp,” if sent back to North Korea. He said that he was haunted by images of his young son in detention: “I can almost hear my baby calling my name.”

On behalf of families like these, we should speak and act whenever we can.

Solemn obligation

In the Cold War, once destruction was mutually assured, and we realized that weapons used by either side would lead to obliteration, other weapons proved more effective. We should deploy them all again. The Helsinki process opened eyes and minds to systematic injustices. As walls fell, this ushered in an era of extraordinary change.

U.S. President Gerald Ford signs the Helsinki Accords
August 1, 1975: U.S. President Gerald Ford signs the Helsinki Accords. The pact improved East-West relations and its human rights clauses encouraged liberalism in the Soviet Bloc (source: dpa)

It remains the historical role of the U.S. and the western democracies to help change even the most nightmarish and oppressive of regimes. Throughout the process that will now begin, human rights should not become an afterthought.

Winston Churchill is often said to have remarked that “jaw-jaw” is to be preferred to “war-war” – and so it is – but he also warned that “an appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” In our exchanges with Kim Jong-un, we should not remain silent about the nature of his regime. Striking the right balance between engagement and appeasement will require a different kind of cautious and realistic diplomacy.

Only the future will reveal whether anything has fundamentally changed.

Lord Alton of Liverpool is an Independent Crossbench Member of the House of Lords and Joint Chairman of the Westminster All Party Group on North Korea. He coauthored the book: “Building Bridges: Is there Hope for North Korea?”

VIN GARBUTT-TEESSIDE TROUBADOUR: Four Songs That Challenge Our Prejudices, Demand Justice, and Affirm Life Itself. Listen here to songs that you will never be allowed to hear on mainstream media.



Four Songs That Challenge Our Prejudices, Demand Justice, and Affirm Life Itself. Listen here to songs that will never be heard on mainstream media.

Vin Garbutt


It’s just over a year since Vin Garbutt died. If anything, since his death, his brilliant protest songs, never to be heard on mainstream media, have acquired a new generation of followers. See:

His passionate belief in justice, including the right to life of “lost innocents” is reflected in the powerful lyrics of prophetic songs that run counter to a society that ends the life of a child in the womb every three minutes. Why did he risk being “no-platformed” by the music industry and media? Because, as he sings:  

 “I have to do my bit, I cannot bear those fascist views,
And I’ll defend the baby boy or baby girl whose death they’d choose”

InDish of Glasshe also challenges laws that have allowed destructive experiments on millions of British human embryos


“There’s a doctor hovering over me, educated
but morally blind, can’t he see,
that my size and shape he himself used to be?
I’m dying.


My humanity’s questioned but only by those
who seek to impose their will and dispose
of my unique genetic code. There’s no-one like me.”


In Lyndahe upholds the value of every life and tells the story of a woman who refused to let her disabled son be one of the babies whose lives are ended because of disability – including 90% of all babies with Down’s Syndrome. 


Here are four songs – now available on You Tube –  which should be shared with others. Clikc on the links: Lynda Dish of Glass – Not For the First Time When The Tide Turns




Today is a fateful anniversary that should be remembered throughout the world – and what now needs to be done.


Today is a fateful anniversary that should be remembered throughout the world.

As Nina Shea, one of the world’s leading campaigners against genocide  reminds us, in the summer of 2014, Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants attacked the city of Mosul and then continued an assault across the Nineveh Plains. They devastated the historic homelands of the Christian and Yezidis, displacing more than 100,000 people in a matter of days.

In the first week of August, ISIS began a brutal assault on the Yezidi community in the Shingal (Sinjar) region. In a few short days, the group had killed over 10,000 Yezidis. Another 6,417 were kidnapped, and many of them were sold into sexual slavery. In ensuing weeks, hundreds of Christians in towns across the Nineveh Plain who did not flee faced beheadings, crucifixion, sexual enslavement and forcible conversion.

Four years later, hundreds of thousands of Yezidis, Christians, and others are still displaced, unable to return securely to their homes. 3,000 Yezidi women and children and dozens of Christians remain missing. Iraq’s Christian community has been devastated, with 90 percent having fled the country since 2003. Those who have been rescued from ISIS are deeply traumatized from the experience, as are their families and communities.


What now needs to be done….

Why I Oppose HS2 – speech in the House of Lords and how the money could be better spent on improving the north’s local railways and East-West Cross Pennine rail links – July 2018 Why I have made a Freedom of Information Request to the Infrastructure and Projects Authority About The Spiralling Costs of HS2

In 2015 I warned that HS2 would overspend and was a misuse of public money.

Last week The Sunday Times revealed that the Infrastructure and Projects Authority had found that that HS2 is “highly likely” to go as much as 60% over budget at a cost of “more than £8O million”; that the project is “fundamentally flawed” and in a “precarious position”.

I 2015 I argied that these funds should be used to improve existing infrastructure, including railway lines in the north of England, and commuter services.

This week I asked the Government whether they agree with the findings of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority that HS2 will have “a very high opportunity-cost impact across other government departments “ and that HS2 management has “lack of cohesion and common vision” 

This week I received this reply from the Government: 

Baroness Sugg, the Department for Transport, has provided the following answer…

View original post 1,921 more words

Skinless Cadavers Exhibited in Birmingham Pose Questions about Ethics, Human Rights and Human Dignity. August 2nd letter to The Times. Unlike the French, the UK Government Fails To Intervene: see replies. Australians Protest against Exhibition.

Skinless Cadavers Exhibited in Birmingham Pose Questions about Ethics, Human Rights and Human Dignity


Article 16-1-1, alinéa 2, of the French Civil code asks for the remains of deceased persons to be treated with respect, dignity and decency: an exhibition of cadavers aiming at making money doesn’t respect this requirement. French Appeal Judges noted that using these dead bodies to make money was one of the objectives. 

So why is Britain not taking the same action?

Why is Britain allowing the bodies of unknown Chinese citizens – who may have been victims of torure, human rights violations, persecution or organ theft – to be tunred into a travelling circus?  


August 2nd 2018 – Letter to The Times

2018 August 2nd Body Harvesting letter to The Times





20 JULY 2018


Dear Prime Minister, Mr Corbyn, Foreign Secretary Hunt and Secretary of State Hancock,

We, the undersigned believe the Real Bodies: The Exhibition showing at Birmingham’s NEC should be shut down immediately and thoroughly investigated for the following reasons: 1. The exhibition presenters, Imagine Exhibitions have confirmed that the display, consisting of 20 whole human cadavers and over 200 human organs, human foetuses and body parts, are sourced from China and are presented without any consent documents and identification papers to confirm the origins of the deceased. The CEO of Imagine admitted there is ‘no documentation’ to prove their identities or that they agreed to donate their bodies after death1.


  1. The non-consensual display of human remains is in violation of the Human Tissue Act (2004), as well as the spirit in which it was created. The Human Tissue Authority’s Guidance for Professionals states that ‘Removing, storing or using human tissue for Scheduled Purposes without appropriate consent’ is an offence under the Human Tissue Act (2004)2. Schedule 1 of the Act also clearly states that the ‘Purposes Requiring Consent‘ includes both ‘displays‘ (Sch. 1 para. 5), and ‘Education or training relating to human health‘ (Sch. 1 para. 9)3

Commercial operations that Import human remains should also be required to abide by these standards to ensure that trafficked human bodies are not permitted to enter, and be displayed, in the UK.


  1. Using human organs and tissues without consent for financial profit is the antithesis of ethical and legal practice as set out in the Declaration of Istanbul on Organ Trafficking and Transplantation and the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs.


  1. The public display of the deceased, including foetuses of varying gestation times, without confirmed consent is a gross violation of human rights, dignity and ethics, which should not be permitted on the grounds of ‘art’ or ‘education.’


  1. The bodies and organs reportedly come from Dalian, China and were sourced from the Dalian Public Security Bureau/Police, according to the CEO of Imagine Exhibitions4.


  1. This trade in human bodies is not only facilitated by the Chinese Communist regime’s extensive use of the death penalty but also by the incarceration of other ‘unwanted’ prisoners in Chinese detention facilities.


  1. Investigative reports5 have concluded that bodies sourced from Dalian and used in plastination exhibits include prisoners of conscience detained in the vast prison/ labour camp compounds within close proximity to the Dalian plastination facility. The prisoners of conscience are primarily, but not only, practitioners of the spiritually based set of exercises Falun Gong. Dalian is an epicentre of organ transplant activity, plastination and repression of Falun Gong6. Page 2 of 3


  1. Plastinated body exhibitions from China have been banned in a growing number of places around the world, including in Israel7, France8, Hawaii9and various cities in the US. The Czech Republic10 changed its laws on 7th July 2017, meaning such an exhibition would no longer be allowed to enter its country without written proof consent from the deceased.


  1. 9. Commercial profit should not outweigh the gross violation of basic human dignity present in this exhibition.

We believe that this exhibition encroaches on our UK values and law and should be stopped. DNA tests should also be carried out so the family identifications can be made in the future.11 We also urge the Government to ensure that appropriate legislations are in place so that such exhibits cannot be freely imported into the UK.




4 Premier Exhibitions – Disclaimer

5 Bodies at an Exhibition by Ethan Gutmann, An Investigative Report on the Source of Human Cadavers Used

in the Plastination Industry in China by WOIPFG, and Der Spiegel: “Händler des Todes”






A Prague Leader Tries to Bury a Bodies Exhibition, Once and for All




Written Questions: July 24th 2018

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked:


Question text

whether they have caused inquiries to be made about the origins of the 20 unidentified skinless human bodies in an exhibition at the National Exhibition Centre and the circumstances in which these people died; what assurance they have that they are not cadavers of disappeared Chinese political and religious prisoners; and whether they are arranging for the bodies to be examined to see whether there is any remaining evidence of the removal of organs.


Date tabled

Monday 23 July 2018

Date due for answer

Monday 6 August 2018



Question text

what contact they have had, if any, with the Birmingham Coroner to establish what is known about the origins of the 20 skinless human bodies being exhibited at the National Exhibition Centre; and whether inquests will be opened to establish the facts involved in their deaths.


Date tabled

Monday 23 July 2018

Date due for answer

Monday 6 August 2018


 This exhibition raises some very serious ethical questions, particularly given the persistent reports of forced organ harvesting and other unethical treatment of prisoners of conscience in China today. It would be macabre in the extreme if it was found that the bodies displayed in an exhibition in Birmingham were in fact those of Chinese prisoners. I hope this will be fully investigated and that the very highest ethical standards are applied.


Our bodies are sacred vessels and even in death should be treated with respect and human dignity.  


I think back to the outrage rightly caused by the Alder Hey body parts scandal and by the use of aborted human remains being used to promote fashion and jewellery and the backlash this created.


 We are made Imago Dei – in God’s image – and at the lowest level human remains should be treated with decency and respect and never used for the purposes of entertainment.


But this goes even further than previous unacceptable practices and historic necromancy and body snatching.


I recently attended a hearing in Parliament where we heard accounts of forced and fatal removal of organs of Chinese political and religious dissidents. 


The doctors who have called for the Coroner to investigate the origins and cause of death of these twenty skinless bodies are right to do so.


In their open letter to Birmingham’s coroner, Dr. Louise Hunt asks the Coroner to investigate the bodies placed on show at the NEC and I too have today tabled Questions to the Government asking what they are doing to establish how these poor people died.



In this article, Dr David Nicholl, Consultant Neurologist & Honorary Senior Lecturer
City Hospital, Birmingham, poses the central argument that “The basis of consent is fundamental as to whether these exhibitions are ethical or not”. Undoubtedly, that remains the central question:

The Body Exhibition NEC says that the bodies are of Chinese origin.


And a further article in the Daily Mail reports the chief executive of Imagine Exhibitions admitting that there is no documentation to verify identities or consent to donate their bodies after death.


Due to the unethical nature of this type of exhibition, both France and Israel have banned these exhibitions;



Many believe that  

1) No direct consent, either by themselves nor their immediate families, has ever been given;

2) The bodies being used may well be from people of conscience in China who have been persecuted for their beliefs – including House Christians, Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners, and the Uyghur Muslim group in Xinjiang; and

3) The use of these bodies in such a manner is wholly unethical, immoral and frankly disturbing.


 Further background:

Government Replies

Lord Keen of Elie, the Ministry of Justice, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL9758):

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what contact they have had, if any, with the Birmingham Coroner to establish what is known about the origins of the 20 skinless human bodies being exhibited at the National Exhibition Centre; and whether inquests will be opened to establish the facts involved in their deaths. (HL9758)

Tabled on: 23 July 2018

Lord Keen of Elie:

Coroners are independent judicial office holders and as such it would be inappropriate for Ministers to intervene in or comment upon the decisions of the Birmingham and Solihull Senior Coroner.

The exhibition at the National Exhibition Centre has been licenced by the Human Tissue Authority in line with the provisions of the Human Tissue Act 2004. Responsibility for hosting the exhibition and maintaining ethical standards lies with the National Exhibition Centre.

Date and time of answer: 03 Aug 2018 at 13:07.


Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL9756):

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have caused inquiries to be made about the origins of the 20 unidentified skinless human bodies in an exhibition at the National Exhibition Centre and the circumstances in which these people died; what assurance they have that they are not cadavers of disappeared Chinese political and religious prisoners; and whether they are arranging for the bodies to be examined to see whether there is any remaining evidence of the removal of organs. (HL9756)

Tabled on: 23 July 2018

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

We have no evidence to suggest that the ‘Real Bodies’ exhibition at the National Exhibition Centre contains cadavers of Chinese political or religious prisoners. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has not been approached by any UK government department to make formal representations to the Chinese authorities.

Date and time of answer: 03 Aug 2018 at 13:01.


Letter To the Coroner: August 4th 2018

Dear Louise Hunt,

Dr.David Nicholl has kindly drawn your email to him to my attention.

I would be grateful if you would clarify whether it is your intention to seek to establish the identity of these anonymous people and how you have been able to establish that they were not dissidents, political prisoners, Tibetans, unregistered Christians, Uighhurs, Falun Gong, disappeared lawyers etc ? and whether you have made any formal request for DNA so that their identification might one day be established by relatives; and whether you looked for any evidence of the cause of death?

Could you also confirm whether you have been in touch with your French counterparts to establish on what grounds the French Courts refused to allow this exhibition of cadavers to be staged there?


I am copying this to the two Government Ministers who answered parliamentary questions about this earlier this week.


Yours sincerely,



David Alton


——– Original Message ——–
From: Lynne Boyle
Date: Mon, 23 Jul 2018, 09:50
To: “NICHOLL, David
Subject: Your email of 15 July 2018

The Senior Coroner has responded to your email as follows:


Further to your request for me to open inquests into the deaths of the bodies currently exhibited at the NEC, I confirm I have carried preliminary enquiries pursuant to S1(7) of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 to enable me to determine if there is any need for me to carry out an investigation under S1. I can confirm that following my preliminary investigation, which included an external examination of each body at the NEC by a forensic pathologist, I am satisfied that my duty to investigate does not arise and accordingly I will be taking no further action in respect of this matter.


Yours sincerely,


Louise Hunt

HM Senior Coroner

Birmingham & Solihull Districts


The Coroner’s Court

50 Newton Street


B4 6NE

Interview with the the anatomist Roy Glover  (behind Bodies Revealed) the audio file is here

ABCs 20/20 did this very good piece

See the BMJ

And the Mail on Sunday

The UK clearly need legislative change to prohibit exhibitions that dont have consent for  bodies who have died less than 100 years.

France and Czech republic have managed to block these exhibitions. Why is the UK so disgracefully indifferent?


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


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,




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:


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.



Questions In Parliament by Lord Alton of Liverpool: 


Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL9363):

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that communities in Plateau State, Nigeria, who have been victims of attacks by Fulani herder militia have been searched for weapons though the perpetrators of such attacks have not. (HL9363)

Tabled on: 10 July 2018

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

We are deeply concerned about the escalating inter-communal violence across Nigeria including in Plateau State. The situation is complex and access to information is limited. We do not have information about which groups have been searched for weapons. We welcome President Buhari’s strong condemnation of these attacks and his commitment to bring the perpetrators to justice. We call for solutions that meet the needs of all affected communities and prevent further violence.

Date and time of answer: 19 Jul 2018 at 14:08.


Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL9364):

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the recent disclosure during a plenary session of the Nigerian House of Representatives that 52 villages in four local government areas in Plateau State have been occupied by the herder militia responsible for the deaths of 238 residents of those villages. (HL9364)

Tabled on: 10 July 2018

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

We are deeply concerned about the escalating violence in parts of the Central and Middle Belt regions of Nigeria, including in Plateau State. The situation is complex and access to information is limited. We are not able to verify whether villages in Plateau State have been occupied by herders. We welcome President Buhari’s strong condemnation of the violence and his commitment to bring the perpetrators to justice. We call for solutions that meet the needs of all affected communities and prevent further violence.

Date and time of answer: 19 Jul 2018 at 12:43.


Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL9261):

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment, if any, they have made of the decision of the Nigerian House of Representatives on 4 July to declare recent killings in Plateau State to be a genocide and to direct the federal government to establish orphanages in areas affected by recent killings. (HL9261)

Tabled on: 05 July 2018

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

These clashes continue to have a devastating impact on the affected communities, as the proposal for additional orphanages shows. It is UK policy that any determination on whether genocide has occurred is a matter for competent judicial bodies, rather than for governments. The UK is fully committed to the principle that there must be no impunity for the most serious international crimes. As party to the International Criminal Court and the Geneva Conventions we continue to voice our support for this principle and for the work of the International Criminal Court and the international tribunals to tackle impunity for these crimes.

Date and time of answer: 11 Jul 2018 at 16:51.


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

APC National Convention: Lest we forget, by Tunde Rahman

The Eagle Online

Lord Alton of Liverpool raised the Nigerian security issue at the House of Lords on Thursday, drawing support from members across party lines.

UK House of Lords warns against a ‘Rwanda situation’ happening in Nigeria

Ripples Nigeria

Lord Alton of Liverpool, raised the debate, demanding to know what was Her Majesty’s Government’s assessment of the situation in Nigeria, where …

Also see Politics Home – Central Lobby

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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”.


    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



    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: