The Danube Institute Conference on Invisible Victims and Religious Freedom, April 9th, 2019, The Reform Club, London.

Address by David Alton (Lord Alton of Liverpool):

The Danube Institute Conference on Invisible Victims and Religious Freedom, April 9th 2019, The Reform Club, London

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/04/11/can-government-pour-billions-countries-ignore-unspeakable-persecution/


In 1896, at the age of 87, William Ewart Gladstone made his last public speech.

At Liverpool’s Hengler’s Circus, before an audience of 6000, he described what he called the “monstrous crime” of the massacre of 2000 Armenians.

Gladstone2

The Hamburger Nachrichten,responded: “For us [Germans] the sound bones of a single Pomeranian [German] grenadier are worth more than the lives of 10,000 Armenians.”

Nineteen years later 1.5 million Armenians were murdered in a genocide still unrecognized as such by the UK, let alone by Turkey.

In 1933, the Jewish writer,Franz Werfel published, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, a novel about the Armenian genocide.


Werfel’s books were burnt by the Nazis, no doubt to give substance to Hitler’s famous remark:

“Who now remembers the Armenians?”

From the Armenian genocide to Hitler’s concentration camps and the depredations of Stalin’s gulags; from the pestilential nature of persecution, demonisation, scapegoating, and hateful prejudice, in 1948 the international community created a Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

It emerged from warped ideologies that elevated nation and race, insisting on 30 foundational freedoms. Article 18 proclaimed the right to believe, not to believe, to manifest belief, or to change belief:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
article 18 an orphaned right

Understanding how these prized rights have been won; understanding the interaction of religions with one another and with the contemporary secular world; understanding authentic religion, and the forces that threaten it, is more of a foreign affairs imperative than ever before, and, as I shall argue, the resources and determination we put into promoting Article 18 – often described as“an orphaned right” – should reflect that reality.

It is the reality of the surveillance, persecution and incarceration of Christians in North Korea, the demolition of churches in Sudan and China; the unfolding Jihad in Nigeria to outright persecution in Pakistan; and, from the historic attempts to annihilate Christian Armenians, to the contemporary genocide of Christians in Iraq and Syria.

The aim is to stamp out the Christian faith wherever it is found.

The 1948 Declaration’s stated objective was to realise:

“a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations…without distinction to race, sex, language or religion”.

Eleanor Roosevelt, the formidable chairman of the drafting committee, argued that freedom of religion was one of the four essential freedoms of mankind, asserting that freedom of religion was an

“international Magna Carta for all mankind.”

Eleanor Roosevelt
The Hebrew Scriptures are the foundation of such Declarations – and of our belief in universal justice and the rule of law. Today, both are under renewed threat.

Recall the violence last year in the US that led to the deaths of 11 worshippers in a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Reflect that on March 15th nearly 50 Muslims were massacred as they gathered for Friday prayers in Christchurch, New Zealand; remember the 75 Christians murdered in Lahore as they celebrated Easter; mourn the deaths, day after day, in Northern Nigeria which follows the genocide of Christians and Yazidis and other minorities in Iraq and Syria: all tragedies to which hatred of difference can lead.

I have just read Stefan Zweig’s magnificent“The World of Yesterday – Memoirs of a European” published in 1942.


Read Zweig if you doubt how quickly a relatively civilised and humane society, and a seemingly permanent golden age, can be ruthlessly and swiftly destroyed.

His masterful autobiography charts the rise of visceral hatred; how scapegoating and xenophobia, cultivated by populist leaders, can rapidly morph into the hecatombs of the concentration camps.

And consider that, beyond the ugly spectre of Anti-Semitism, appearing in mainstream British politics, in 2019, for the first time since 1945, there are Nazis in the Reichstag; Austria has a coalition government which includes a party whose first leader was as an officer in the SS; Italy has a governing party which is home to fascist throwbacks; while some “yellow vests” in France mighty more appropriately wear black shirts after recently being involved in anti-Semitic abuse of the French philosopher, Alain Finkielkraut; while the far right is capturing seats from Sweden to Spain. And watch with anxiety the coming elections to the European Parliament.

Twenty first century Project Hate can also be seen in the Anti-Semitic memes which accompany digital Nazism – even the live streaming of mass murders courtesy of multi-media outlets.

Other shades of viral hatred – from anti-Semitism to homophobia and overt racism – readily and effortlessly morph from virtual reality into violence.

In his autobiography Zweig wrote that:

“Man was separated by man on the grounds of absurd theories of blood, race and origins” – and so it is again today.

Zweig said:

“The greatest curse brought down on us by technology is that it prevents us from escaping the present even for a brief time. Previous generations could retreat into solitude and seclusion when disaster struck; it was our fate to be aware of everything catastrophic happening anywhere in the world at the hour and the second when it happened.”

And that was the 1940s.

Now it is live streamed and in every living room and on every mobile device within seconds – including pre- arranged broadcast of mass shootings: St. Bartholomew’s Eve Massacres courtesy of Facebook and Google.


ISIS has used social media to express its genocidal intent and, in its recruitment, and propaganda newsletters and videos.
The crucifixion and death of one young man – crucified for wearing a cross – was boastfully posted on the internet.
From the same town, local girls were taken as sex slaves. ISIS returned their body parts to the front door of their parents’ homes with a videotape of them being raped.

The internet is a new tool in the hands of dictatorships and non-state ideologues, intensifying the persecution of minorities.

In China, the State uses digital technology to promote its atheistic opposition to religion but also to collect data against the observant religious adherent whom they see as a threat to their hegemony.

In Russia, subversion of the internet is used to manipulate opinion and to traduce opposition.

And there is a direct correlation between freedom of religion or belief and censorship: Articles 18 and 19 of the UDHR.

There are 44 countries worldwide that control and censor the internet – and the five worst offenders are Saudi Arabia, China, Vietnam, Yemen and Qatar – while North Korea completely bans the internet.

But the Devil doesn’t have to have all the good tunes and just as the Gutenberg revolution of the printed word opened the pages of the Bible the web can also be a place where Faith is shared, and human dignity and rights promoted.

For good or bad it reaches every corner of the Globe and makes ever more urgent the challenge for religious leaders to use it to promote respect for difference and to better understand how their Scriptures and teachings can be rapidly disseminated and distorted to sow division and hatred.

In 1942, in a presentiment of what lay ahead Zweig also remarked:

“We are none of us very proud of our political blindness at that time and we are horrified to see where it has brought us.”

He saw how, in the face of indifference and the desire for a quiet life, the thin veneer that separates civilised values from mob rule very quickly cracked; describing how university professors were forced to scrub streets with their bare hands; devout Jews humiliated in their synagogues; apartments broken into and jewels torn out of the ears of trembling women – calling it “Hitler’s most diabolical triumph.”
Judge Kirby has drawn parallels with Auschwitz, with Hitler and with Stalin and says that the country’s leadership and the system which it sustains - “policies established at the highest level of State” – must be held to account and brought to justice.

Today, persecuted faith-led communities should be natural allies of secularists in combatting neo-Nazis, but deeply intolerant “liberal” voices so despise religion that that they seek to eliminate it from political discourse and the public square. They both need to defend plurality and difference of religion and belief.

Dag Hammarskjold, a Christian, who served Secretary General of the United Nations from 1953-1961 said:
“God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason”

and who said of the UN

“It wasn’t created to take mankind into paradise, but rather, to save humanity from hell.”

With the loss of 100 million lives, hellish ideologies made the twentieth century the bloodiest century in human history. It produced the four great murderers of the 20th century—Mao, Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot— all united by their hatred of religious faith and liberal democracy.

Now, in the twenty-first century new forms of ideology – some claiming a religious legitimacy – have unleashed new forms of slaughter; and although the UDHR has acquired a normative character within general international law, there has never been universal approbation of Article 18 and the right of freedom of religion or belief remains a contested principle.

Article 18 is proclaimed as a key human right and yet is under attack in almost every corner of the world.

When first adopted by the UN General Assembly, the eight abstentions included the Soviet Union and Saudi Arabia – which argued that there was a conflict with Sharia Law – an issue given sharp focus in Brunei this week.

jinnah

Mohammed Ali Jinnah – Pakistan’s enlightened founding father who insisted that minorities should be given respect and protection in the new country.


In 1948, Jinnah’s Pakistan believed that there was compatibility between Article 18 and Islam – although, as I saw during a visit to Pakistan last November Jinnah’s legacy is often honoured only in its breach.

Note that Open Doors say 80% of the persecution of Christians is the work of people who claim to be religious and most certainly do not subscribe to the principle of “religious freedom for all.”
Open Doors

Repeating history, initial indifference to prejudice and discrimination – made worse by religious illiteracy – rapidly morphs into violence and persecution and then to crimes against humanity and even genocide.

84% of the world population has faith; a third are Christian. But, according to Pew Research Centre 74% of the world’s population live in the countries where there are violations of Article 18 at the hands of Islamists or Marxists.


2.4 billion people live in the Commonwealth —roughly one-third of the world’s population, spanning all six continents—95% of people in the Commonwealth profess a religious belief. Around 70% live with high or very high government restrictions on the right to freedom of religion and belief.

Worldwide, in every country where there are violations, an estimated 250 million Christians are persecuted with 24 of the 37 Anglican provinces in conflict or post-conflict areas.

Although Christians are persecuted in every country where there are violations of Article 18—from Syria and Iraq, to Sudan, Pakistan, China, Eritrea, Nigeria, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, and many other countries — Muslims, and others, suffer too, not least in the Sunni-Shia religious wars so reminiscent of 17th-century Europe.

In Burma, where Buddhists have turned on Muslims, I visited a mosque burnt down the night before, with Muslim villagers driven out of a place where, for generations, they had lived alongside their Buddhist neighbours.


In Rakhine State the Rohingyas have been subjected to appalling brutality along with the Christian Kachin. Now Burma proposes to restrict interfaith marriage and religious conversions.

Think too of the more than 1 million Muslim Uighurs who are detained in re-education camps in President Xi Jinping’s China– so reminiscent of Stalin’s gulags.

Article 18 is also about the right not to believe – such as Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian atheist and blogger sentenced to 1,000 public lashes for publicly expressing his atheism, described by the UN as “a form of cruel and inhuman punishment”; or Alexander Aan, imprisoned in Indonesia for two years after saying he did not believe in God.
raif badawi

And the situation is getting worse.

In 2018, in Parliament, I hosted the launch of the Aid to the Church in Need biannual report on Global Religious Freedom in 196 countries. In 38 it found evidence of significant religious freedom violations and in 18 -including Eritrea, North Korea and Saudi Arabia – it has worsened.

I also attended the launch of the Open Doors 2018 World Watch List. It reports that over 3,000 Christians were killed for their faith in the reporting period; identified the 50 countries where it is most dangerous to be a Christian; and listed the countries where over 200 million Christians experience a “high” level of persecution or worse.

Of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s 30 priority countries, listed in its latest Human Rights and Democracy Report, 24 are ranked on the 2018 World Watch List.

In the face of all this ACN says there is “a curtain of indifference.”

kolbe-on-deadly-poison-of-indifference
It calls to mind the words of that great Pole, St. Maximilian Kolbe, murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz, who said: “The deadliest poison of our times is indifference.”

Lord sacks
Jonathan (Lord) Sacks, our former Chief Rabbi, insists that “Religious freedom is about our common humanity, and we must fight for it if we are not to lose it. This, I believe, is the issue of our time.” But in the face of “one of the crimes against humanity of our time” he is “appalled at the lack of protest it has evoked.”

This indifference is fed by ignorance.

Lyse Doucet
As the BBC’s courageous chief international correspondent, Lyse Doucet, says:

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

In a valiant attempt to understand the relationship between foreign policy and religion the Foreign Secretary has established an Inquiry into persecution of Christians.

Welcome though this is, it will be incapable of radically altering the appalling treatment of Christians unless it has within its mandate DFID’s aid policies and the asylum policies of the Home Office – both currently excluded from the Inquiry’s mandate.

Let me give some examples and describe how indifference to discrimination can lead to persecution and outright genocide.

Discrimination can range from last week’s news that Tajik authorities have implemented a new law barring children from attending religious services and the burning of thousands of calendars with Bible verses to Brunei’s decison to enforce strict Sharia law; to the report today that Iraq’s Parliament has introduced a Bill excluding Christian women from a new Bill recognising the depredations and suffering they experienced at the hands at ISIS.


Religious Discrimination in Eritrea leads to 5,000 people every month a – total of 350,000 people, 10% of the population, fleeing Eritrea. This directly plays into the migration crisis.

In Iran, it led to the arrest and detention of 114 Iranians in a single week for suspected proselytism. It’s illegal to preach or to convert, and converts can spend a decade in prisons like Evin, known as the “black hole of evil”, where torture and abuse are commonplace.

The Iranian Constitution permits worship, but not for converts.

In November last, ITN News, reported on the handfuls of Iranians trying to make it to England in small boats, said that most they spoke to were Christian, some recently converted from Islam.

Ignorance can lead to absurd, unjust and discriminatory asylum decisions – like a recent Home Office refusal of an Iranian convert who was told by an official that Christianity was a religion of violence and if he was a true convert he should “trust God” and go back to Iran – and face the death penalty for apostasy.

Indifference and ignorance also turn a blind eye to aid policies which consolidate discrimination and worse.


Pakistan receives an average of £383,000 in British taxpayers’ money, each and every single day – £2.8 billion over 20 years. Yet freedom of religion and belief is systematically violated.

I have visited and written about the detention centres where thousands of fleeing Pakistani Christians have been incarcerated.


This exodus undermines the prospect of a diverse and respectful society and fails to harness the skills and commitment of ostracised people who are needed to drive down poverty, promote sustainability, and to create a good society.


Propping up a culture of impunity and degraded servility, leads to the murderers of the country’s Christian Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, never being brought to justice; and to an innocent woman, Asia Bibi, given the death sentence and wrongly jailed for nine years for so called “blasphemy.”

Despite the remarkably brave decision of the Supreme Court to affirm her innocence she has still been unable to leave the country, despite acquittal. This is a disgrace.

When I called for her to be offered asylum in the UK, Dr. Taj Hargey, a Muslim Imam based in Oxford, courageously wrote to The Telegraph, demanding that Asia Bibi be given asylum here and spoke of “the deafening silence” from British people of Pakistani origin and of“our collective shame in not preventing her cruel incarceration.”

And this same cruelty leads to children being forced to watch their Christian parents being burnt alive in a kiln.

If a country cannot bring to justice the killer of a Government Minister what chance do these children have of seeing their parents’ murderers brought to justice?

In Pakistan I heard testimonies of abduction, rape, the forced marriage of a nine-year-old, forced conversion, death sentences for so-called blasphemy.

In a left-over from the caste system, menial jobs are reserved for Christians as street sweepers or latrine cleaners.

I recently raised the case of a 13-year-old, excluded from a classroom because he had touched the water supply in that classroom? He was beaten, and his mother was told he had no place in that school because he was only fit for menial and degrading jobs.

Such prejudice is reinforced by school text books funded by Saudi Arabia, and compulsory Quranic teachings in Punjab which demean and stigmatise minorities.

In November I visited some of the “colonies” – ghettos- on the periphery of cities like Islamabad. Here, Pakistan’s Christians live in festering and foul conditions without running water or basic amenities.


Think of South Africa’s apartheid shanty towns – but without the attendant mass movement protests by the Left.

Dirt floors in shacks without running water or electricity. Little education or health provision. Squalid and primitive conditions which are completely off the DFID radar.

dfid
No UK funds are targeted specially at these persecuted minorities.

When you question Ministers, they respond by saying,

“We do not collect disaggregated population data on minority groups.”

Well, why not?

These are inevitably the most vulnerable of the vulnerable but, for DFID, ignorance is bliss.

When I asked about child labour from religious minorities in Pakistan I was told: “Child labour is widespread in Pakistan but there is a severe lack of data on the issue” – the data they don’t collect.

But, although they will now undertake a survey, “The information will not be broken down by religious status.”

Nor do they collect data on the girls from minorities who have been raped, forcefully converted and married against their will.

At least 1,000 women belonging to religious minorities, some of them minors, have been abducted, forcibly converted and often married to those very abductors.

From the very poorest sectors of society, they are easy targets for the perpetrators of sexual violence; while the law- enforcement agencies often show little or no interest in helping aggrieved parents to register a police case against the kidnappers.

Even if the case reaches the courts, the abducted are threatened and told that if they tell the court about their kidnappings, their parents and siblings will be killed, forcing them to admit in court that their conversion was voluntary.


In the past few weeks, there have been at least six such cases, which I have drawn to the Government’s attention.

These include a 13-year-old Christian girl, Sadaf Masih, who was kidnapped, forcibly converted and married on 6 February, in Punjab.

On 20 March, two teenaged Hindu girls, Reena, aged 15, and Raveena, aged 13, were similarly kidnapped, forcibly converted and married within a matter of hours, in Sindh.

The kidnappers were married already, with children, but that that did not prevent them from forcibly marrying those girls too. In the worst cases, after sexual and physical abuse, the kidnappers sell the girls into slavery and send them to brothels.

And then there is Pakistan’s corruption.

After government bureaucracy and poor infrastructure, the World Economic Forum identifies corruption as the third-greatest problem for companies doing business in Pakistan.

I recently raised the case of the £41 million Khyber Puktonkhua Education Sector programme, amidst allegations of ghost schools and phantom projects.

Corruption affects all Pakistanis, but it disproportionately affects vulnerable populations—the poor, women, and religious minorities. The Dalit Solidarity Network are right to recommend that DFID should prepare vulnerability mapping tools, inclusion monitoring tools and methods for inclusive response programming.

It is a disgrace that when Christian churches and NGOs seek funds, DFID says no because they say they are “religion blind.”

jinnah
Paradoxically, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s illustrious Founder said the country’s minorities must be given equal citizenship – and even insisted that the white in the nation’s flag should represent the country’s minorities.

In that same tradition, Salman Taseer, the Muslim Governor of Punjab, a friend of Shahbaz Bhatti, and also assassinated for speaking out on behalf of Asia Bibi, once said:

“My observation on minorities: A man or nation is judged by how they support those weaker than them not how they lean on those stronger.”

In honouring the memory of Jinnah, Bhatti, and Taseer, Britain’s DFID needs to ensure that some of the £383,000 we pour in to Pakistan every day reaches the persecuted minorities while the Home Office needs to reassess its country classification and admit that discrimination is not a word that does justice to the systematic persecution of Christians in Pakistan.

DFID should reflect on the work of Professor Brian J. Grim into the link between religious freedom and diversity with prosperity.

The poorest basket case countries are those who discriminate or persecute while the most prosperous, happy, and buoyant countries, are those who learn to respect difference and uphold religious freedom.
FORB and Prosperity

In 2014 Professor Grim examined economic growth in 173 countries and considered 24 different factors that could impact economic growth.

He found that,

“religious freedom contributes to better economic and business outcomes and that advances in religious freedom”, contribute to,“successful and sustainable enterprises that benefit societies and individuals.”

Where Article 18 is trampled on, the reverse is also true, as a cursory examination of the hobbled economies of countries such as Pakistan, North Korea and Eritrea immediately reveals.

Driving out talented committed minorities deprives a country of ingenuity and skills but also adds to the global migration crisis.


UNHCR says 44,400 people flee their homes every day; that 68.5 million people are displaced worldwide. Yet, like DFID, the Home Office refuse to examine the link between fleeing asylum seekers and religious persecution.

Across Departments, the Government repeatedly says it is“religion blind”but in practice it is religion averse and its policies result in further discrimination and persecution.

By way of example, in the first three months of 2018 out of 1112 Syrian refugees were given the right to enter the UK but not one was a Christian.

no entry
Rank discrimination quickly morphs into persecution.


Think of Meriam Ibrahim in Sudan – a young mother of two was charged, and sentenced to death for apostasy and to 100 lashes. Refusing to renounce her faith, and before being freed, she was forced to give birth shackled in a prison cell.
Icon of the 21 Coptic Christians beheaded in Libya in February 2015ny-copts-protest_04
And who can ever forget the execution by ISIS of Egyptian Copts in Libya – after refusing to renounce their faith – or the burning or bombing of more than 50 of Egypt’s churches in Egypt’s Kristallnacht?

In North Korea a United Nations Commission of Inquiry has concluded that around 200,000 people are incarcerated: that it is a “State without parallel”.

Along with assassinations, executions, and torture

“there is an almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” and that“Severe punishments are inflicted on people caught practising Christianity.”

One escapee, Hae Woo, a Christian woman gave graphic evidence to a Hearing which I chaired in Parliament of her time inside a camp – where torture and beatings are routine, and where prisoners were so hungry they were reduced to eating rats, snakes, or even searching for grains in cow dung. She said that in such places

“the dignity of human life counted for nothing.”

Recall, too, that on 27 March 2016, Easter Sunday, at least 75 people were killed and over 340 injured in a suicide bombing that hit the main entrance of Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, one of the largest parks in Lahore, Pakistan. The attack targeted Christians who were celebrating Easter.


We see Christians, like Asia Bibi, sentenced to death for blasphemy; Christians burned in brick ovens with their children forced to watch; girls abducted and enslaved – but the Home Office say it isn’t persecution.

We have seen Yazidis hunted down and trapped on Mount Sinjar, their women raped and turned into sex slaves; but the Government say it isn’t genocide.

From the Philippines to Syria and Iraq we have seen churches, synagogues, mosques and ancient cultural monuments and graves bombed or dynamited with attempts to erase memory, belief, tradition and a whole people’s story.

And now a new tragedy is unfolding in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country – where indifference to discrimination and a failure by the country’s Government to admit to the ideological nature of the wave of violence – is having devastating consequences.

The Foreign Office say it’s down to squabbles between herders and farmers.
leah sharibu
What do you call it when, one year ago, Boko Haram seized a 15-year-old, girl named Leah Sharibu?

They refused to release Leah because she rejected their demand that she renounce her faith and convert to Islam.

Supported with funds and weapons from outside Nigeria, in just one weekend Fulani militia killed more than 200 people, mostly women and children, in sustained attacks on 50 villages.

Localised squabbles or a ruthless ideology?

Last year, I led a parliamentary debate in which I described events over just three days: 140 people were killed in carnage in Benue State.

Later in that month during early morning Mass, militants in Makurdi killed two priests and 17 members of the congregation.

The local chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria recently revealed that since 2011 herdsmen have destroyed over 500 churches in Benue state alone.

During many of these well-planned attacks by Fulani militia they are often reported by survivors to have shouted “Allahu Akbar.”

A spokesman said:“It is purely a religious jihad in disguise”; another that it is 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 an organised and systematic campaign of targeted attacks.

The Foreign Office must ask from where do this group of nomadic herdsmen get such sophisticated weaponry.

Fulani
As in Darfur, where I saw the attacks by Janjaweed militias, right across the Sahel, there have often disputes between nomadic herders and farming communities over land, grazing and scarce resources and occasionally there have been retaliatory violence – but the stark asymmetry and escalation of attacks, by well-armed Fulani herders upon predominately Christian farming communities, is fueled by radical Islamist ideology.

The UK and other governments remain in denial about this.

In March, the Revd. Joseph Bature Fidelis, of the Diocese of Maiduguri, in north-east Nigeria said:

“Nigeria today has the highest levels of Islamist terrorist activity in the world…Our country is, so to speak, the future hope of Islamist fundamentalists.”

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, capital of Plateau State says Fulani gunmen exhibit a “new audacity” and the Archbishop of Abuja has warned of “territorial conquest’”and “ethnic cleansing” and said: “The very survival of our nation is at stake.”

Buhari
In a statement to President Buhari issued by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, they 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 an awesome statement from a Bishops’ Conference, while the respected former army chief of staff and Defence Minister, Lieutenant General Theophilus Y. Danjuma, says the armed forces have not been,“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.”

The slaughter of another 130 Christians, within six recent weeks – from the mostly Christian Adara tribe, in the State of Kaduna – goes virtually unremarked and yet it has become the new centre of Islamist extremism.

The Revd. Williams Kaura Abba of the Archdiocese of Kaduna said:

“These latest attacks have reduced many village communities to rubble and raised the level of the humanitarian crisis here to one of extreme gravity,”

adding

“The latest wave of killings began on 10th February, when the Fulani herdsmen murdered 10 Christians, including a pregnant woman, in the village of Ungwar Barde, near Kajuru.”

He described an attack on a five-year-old, during which, failing to kill him with a gun and then a machete, the Fulani finally beat him with sticks in an attack that left him paralysed.

“Not even animals kill people like that…We cannot remain silent in the face of this human slaughter.”

Where is the international indignation; where are the flags at half-mast; where are the protests? In our silence we become complicit in these atrocities.


Will Nigeria go the way of Sudan – where attempts to impose a theocratic State led to a civil war, 2 million deaths, partition and, in Darfur, to genocide?

With increasing numbers of deaths, with 1.8 million displaced persons, 5,000 widows, 15,000 orphans, and more than 200 desecrated churches and chapels, it is unsurprising that the Nigerian House of Representatives last July described the herdsmen’s sustained attacks as“Genocide.”

And here is a challenge to teachers in Islamic countries where co-existence is at a premium.

One of the finest texts in the Koran is that “There is no compulsion in religion.”
Quran no compulsion in religion

If that is so, let Article 18 be upheld by good Muslim men and women, along with people of other faiths and none.

In the face of such atrocities as those unfolding in Nigeria religious and political leaders have no right to remain silent as another genocide – comparable to Rwanda, Darfur or Bosnia – plays out its macabre and lethal consequences.


The crime of genocide – the crime above all crimes was defined by the Polish Jewish lawyer, Raphael Lemkin – who had lost 49 of his relatives in the Holocaust. Combined with his own family’s experience, he studied the Armenian Genocide, the massacre of Assyrian Christians at Simele, in Iraq, in 1933.

Raphael Lemkin argued that “international co-operation” was needed,“to liberate mankind from such an odious scourge.”

The 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide states that the 149 signature countries have a moral and legal duty to, “undertake to prevent and to punish.”

But do they?

Think back to the obvious early warning signs of danger in northern Iraq.

Canaries were singing in the mine to warn of impending danger.


On 26 November 2008, I specifically drew attention to,

“the Chaldeans, the Syriacs, the Yazidis and other minorities, whose lives are endangered on the Nineveh plains”. — [Official Report, 26/11/08; col. 1439.];and subsequently, through questions and interventions in Parliament, on 65 occasions.

On 21 April 2016, following mass executions at Mount Sinjar in 2014, I drew attention to,

“accounts of crucifixions, beheadings, systematic rape and mass graves”. — [Official Report, 21/4/16; col. 765.]

and called for UK policies to reflect these realities in our asylum, aid and security policies. I said that too often “Genocide is the crime that day not speak its name.”

We must call it what it is.

This is about the annihilation of peoples and their stories and culture.
edmund burke
Edmund Burke once remarked that,

“Our past is the capital of life.”

Which is why ISIS and their fellow travellers, from Boko Haram to the Taliban, think nothing of defiling Shia mosques, destroying Christian churches, blowing up Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Buddhas and eradicating the Sufi monuments in Mali.

This slow burn genocide, which began with the Armenians, seeks to eliminate humanity’s collective memory, and to eliminate difference and diversity.

And this is not to exaggerate.


In 1914, Christians made up a quarter of the population of the Middle East. Now they are less than 5%.

Last Easter, speaking about this remnant, the Prince of Wales said:

prince charles
“I have met many who have had to flee for their faith and for their life – or have somehow endured the terrifying consequences of remaining in their country – and I have been so deeply moved, and humbled, by their truly remarkable courage and by their selfless capacity for forgiveness, despite all that they have suffered.”

But now consider what happens after the genocide when these embattled brave people try to return to their homes and communities.

In 2017, Ministers confirmed to me that funding would be available for 80 projects benefiting Yazidis and 171 benefiting Christian communities targeted by the ISIS genocide; £40 million had been earmarked for urgent humanitarian assistance and more than £25 million for UN stabilisation efforts.

On their return to the region, 746,000 Iraqis from these communities were meant to benefit from these Funding Facility for Stabilization projects managed by the United Nations Development Programme.

Over subsequent months, news circulated that the money was not reaching the affected communities.

One of the main reasons for this failure was corruption.

NGOs drew this to the attention of the Government and I attended a meeting with Ministers at which the details of a phantom project were described.

At the end of 2017, in response to a freedom of information request, the Department for International Development refused to provide information describing how these projects were benefiting those minorities and how they were being implemented.

DFID relied on several exceptions, saying that disclosure would or might prejudice relations between the United Kingdom, Iraq and international organisations or courts, and would or might prejudice the prevention or detection of crime. Such information could easily have been disclosed without identifying any details that could jeopardise the various interests cited.

This is public money and taxpayers are entitled to know how it is being spent and who is benefiting.

When comparable concerns about corruption in Iraq were raised with the US Administration, they responded with admirable urgency, transparency and openness, initiating internal inspector-general investigations into the destination of US funds sent to the UNDP which has itself initiated several internal investigations into allegations of corruption.

But not DFID.

So much for restitution but what about our duty to punish those responsible for the genocide in Iraq?

Over many years the Government’s response to the question of genocide determination has been the same: that it is simply for the international judicial systems—which are either inadequate, non-existent or compromised by Security Council vetoes—to make the determination and not for politicians, regardless of the evidence, to support such a determination.

As it stands, the Government do not have any formal mechanism that allows for the consideration and recognition of mass atrocities that meet the threshold of genocide, as defined in article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide—the Genocide Convention.

So how can they fulfil their duty to protect, prevent and punish?

The lack of a formal mechanism, whether grounded in law or policy, has been severely criticised in a House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee report published in December 2017.


With Fiona Bruce MP, I have laid the Genocide Determination Bill before Parliament. It seeks to address the lack of a formal mechanism to make the determination of genocide.

Having just commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Genocide Convention, it is high time the Government looked at new approaches to ensure that they are fully equipped to fulfil their obligations under the Convention and to bring those responsible to justice.

Instead of justice, too often we salve our consciences and boast of the money we send but it’s no substitute for real engagement.

Let me conclude.


I think back to a visit I made to a 1,900-year-old Syrian Orthodox community in Tur Abdin, which was literally under siege. On return, I was told by our UK representative that his role was to represent Britain’s commercial and security interests; that religious freedom was a domestic matter in which he did not want to become involved.

Happily, the British public do not share that indifference. A ComRes poll found that nearly half of all British citizens expect their politicians to understand religion and belief.

They understand that you cannot disinvent religion; you can’t order people to leave their faith at home; and properly harnessed they know that religion can be a force for great good in society.

However, it is blindingly obvious that liberal democracy simply does not understand this. At best, the upholding of Article 18 has Cinderella status.

Meanwhile, the classic contours of genocide continue to unfold –“never again all over again” from Nigeria to Burma.

On 42 occasions since 2000, in Parliament, I have raised the plight of Burma’s Christian minorities and on 58 occasions I have raised the plight of the Rohingya Muslims, but we do little or nothing to prevent, protect or punish.

Our best weapon in preventing genocide, persecution and discrimination must surely be the systematic and determined promotion of religious freedom.

Multiple dangers confront humanity today: resurgent nationalism egged on by dictators and autocrats; Islamist and neo-Nazi terrorism; refugees and mass migration; digital technology and cyberwarfare; varying forms of totalitarianism; ideologies hostile to free societies; the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; the abject failure to resolve conflicts, whether in Yemen, Sudan, Syria or Afghanistan; let alone the blights of natural disasters, famine, poverty and inequality.

But it is increasingly obvious that liberal democracy simply does not understand the power of the forces that oppose it or how best to counter them.

It is a moral outrage that whole swathes of humanity are being murdered, terrorised, victimised, intimidated, deprived of their belongings and driven from their homes, simply because of the way they worship God or practise their faith.

In this new dispensation, as secular liberalism has become increasingly intolerant of religion, old certainties have been displaced while ideology is used to pursue their beliefs in a manner that countenances no alternative view of life.

It is against this backdrop that we must insist on the importance of religious literacy as a competence; encourage Government departments to produce strategies, provide adequate resources, to make religious literacy training available for their staff; and recognise the crossover between freedom of religion and belief and a nation’s prosperity and stability.

And, from the comforts of our fragile liberal democracies, we can also learn a lot – and even be inspired – by the suffering of those denied this foundational freedom.


It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great Protestant theologian executed by the Nazis, said that

“not to speak is to speak, not to act is to act”

Far too often we are guilty of silence and inaction.

I hope that this conference stirs us to speak and to act in the name of religious freedom.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/04/11/can-government-pour-billions-countries-ignore-unspeakable-persecution/
How can the Government pour billions into countries that ignore the unspeakable persecution of Christians?
Islamist students throw footwear toward effigies representing Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who was recently released after spending eight years on death row for blasphemy
Surrounded by the crash and roar of Brexit’s tempest, it’s all too easy to forget that for many millions of people around the world to live with some slight constitutional upheaval would be a blissful relief. Across the Middle East, Africa and much of Asia, Christians are subject to incomprehensible persecution and brutality. But comprehension is vital, for this is an issue we in the West shall have to deal with before very long – or risk sitting by complacently while a global religious holocaust happens.
Earlier this week, a hundred journalists, academics, politicians, aid workers, priests and members of the public met in central London for a conference called Invisible Victims. Convened by think tanks The Danube Institute and The New Culture Forum, and Hungary Helps, the world’s only government humanitarian aid programme directly concerned with religious persecution, the point was not only to tell people about the atrocities occurring under our very noses but to issue a call to arms.
Lord Alton of Liverpool told the audience how Article 18 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, is being ignored in every corner of the world, while liberal voices remain strangely silent. Religious discrimination against Christians in Eritrea leads to 350,000 people a year fleeing the country, contributing directly to the migrant crisis.
One of the litany of unbearable stories heard throughout the day, which ought to shame Penny Mordaunt and the civil servants at the Department for International Development (DfID), was the story of the two Christian Pakistani children, forced to watch as their parents were burnt alive in a kiln.
Lord Alton told us of the multiple cases of kidnap, forced conversion and forced marriage of teenage girls in Pakistan he has raised with DfID. ‘Discrimination is not a word that does justice to the systematic persecution of Christians in Pakistan,’ he said, mentioning the £383,000 a day in British aid Pakistan receives. ‘Instead of justice, we too often salve our consciences and boast of the money we send.’
This is utterly shameful, yet far from unique. Of the top twenty beneficiaries of UK aid, nine – Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, Sudan, Yemen, Syrian, Nigeria, Iraq and Burma – are in Open Doors’ list of the twenty worst countries for religious persecution. They receive between them £2,036 million a year, 54 per cent of the total for the top twenty recipients.
It should be a stipulation of aid being granted that in future the governments of those countries where Christians are known to be persecuted demonstrate stringent measures to eradicate the problem. The UK should not be giving financial assistance of any sort to nations where religious persecution goes unpunished – still less to those where governing parties condone anti-Christian action.
As we heard repeatedly from Parliamentarians, the UK Government refuses to accept the Islamist nature of attacks on Christians in Nigeria. The Foreign Office refuses to accept that Fulani herdsmen armed with AK-47s attacking unarmed Christian farmers do so as jihadists, describing it as ‘tit-for-tat clashes’.
The media and governing classes of our country refuse to accept that persecution of Christians is endemic to large parts of the world as a direct result of militant Islamism, preferring to hide behind the condescending notion it is all just a little local difficulty and will stop once the natives have had a scrap.
In part this is due, as Damian Thompson of the Catholic Herald, said, to the ‘extraordinary indifference to the importance of religion as a subject [for coverage], even among practising Christians. It’s as though they’re embarrassed to write about the subject.’
It is also, and more perniciously, an aspect of misplaced post-colonial guilt, as though those Christians who are Christian because of the work done by Victorian missionaries deserve the persecution they suffer.
While this remains a fringe issue in public debate, governments and major media agencies will have no impetus to act.
Into what moral turpitude will we have fallen if we allow this persecution to continue unchecked, if we turn our faces against millions of people crying out for help we could give so easily? Though the victims are for the most part Christian – a major exception being the Uighur Muslims of China – this is not a problem to which Christians alone must respond. The onus is on every one of us who considers him or herself a moral being to stand up and say: enough.
David Oldroyd-Bolt is a writer, cultural commentator and communications consultant. He tweets as @david_oldbolt.

Three speeches in Parliament this week: War in the Yemen and the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia; Corruption and aid programmes to countries like Pakistan; and the lack of legal mechanisms to hold to account those who use rape as a weapon on war in countries like the Congo

Three speeches in Parliament this week: War in the Yemen and the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia; Corruption and aid programmes to countries like Pakistan; and the lack of legal mechanisms to hold to account those who use rape as a weapon on war in countries like the Congo.

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

 House of Lords debate on Yemen    April 1st 2019

 

 5.56 pm

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

 

My Lords, in the aftermath of António Guterres’s assertion that Yemen is,

 

“the world’s worst humanitarian crisis”,

 

the International Affairs Committee has provided the House with a succinct, brave and timely report. 

 

Yemen’s victims are disfigured by grinding poverty, caught in a cycle of declining GDP, the collapsing Yemeni rial, accelerating food and fuel prices and, as the United Nations Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs described in a recent report, it has,

 

“A higher percentage of people face death, hunger and disease than in any other country … 

 

Eighty percent of the entire population requires some form of humanitarian assistance and protection … 

 

Twenty million Yemenis need help securing food and a staggering 14 million people are in acute humanitarian need … 

 

Ten million people are one step away from famine and starvation … 

 

Seven million, four hundred thousand people, nearly a quarter of the entire population, are malnourished, many acutely so … 

 

Two million malnourished children under five and 1.1 million pregnant and lactating women require urgent treatment to survive … 

 

Conditions are worsening at a nearly unprecedented rate”.

 

In what is, increasingly, a breeding ground for the next wave of ISIS recruiting sergeants, it is reported that in western Yemen hidden landmines have taken the lives of 267 civilians, also claiming the lives of five charity workers who were demining the area. 

 

Aid agencies estimate a 63% increase in gender-based violence, 1.3 million suspected cases of cholera—the worst outbreak in modem history—with coalition airstrikes destroying water treatment facilities, crippling access to clean water. 

 

In a war crime warranting prosecution, five medical facilities run by Médecins Sans Frontières have been bombed since 2015. 

 

Despite the three-month-old truce in Hodeidah, according to UNICEF,

 

“At least one child dies every 10 minutes in Yemen from malnutrition and preventable diseases”.

 

In December, UNICEF reported:

 

“Over 6,700 children were verified killed or severely injured. Nearly 1.5 million children have been displaced, many of them living a life that is a mere shadow of what childhood should be. In Yemen today, 7 million children go to sleep hungry every night. Every single day, 400,000 children face life-threatening severe acute malnutrition and could die any minute. More than 2 million children are out of school; those who are in school often have to settle for poor quality education in overcrowded classrooms”.

 

As the conflict and the humanitarian crisis rage on, the estimated cost, as we have heard during this debate, has reached staggering sums of billions of dollars. 

 

In evidence to the committee, the then Minister Alistair Burt—an old friend of mine—described Iran’s and Saudi Arabia’s,

 

“huge existential fears for their states”,

 

but, as the report says, he also said that,

 

“Opponents of the Saudi-led coalition had used a ‘very easy narrative’ that had ‘misunderstood the nature of this conflict’”.

 

He insisted that the UK was,

 

“not a party to the military conflict as part of the coalition”,

 

but this is a very elastic definition. 

 

Last week, as we have heard, national newspapers reported:

 

“Members of the Special Boat Service … were shot while fighting in the Saadah area in the north of the country”.

 

How is that not taking part in the military conflict?

 

However, it is far worse than that. 

 

Over four years, the coalition has carried out over 19,000 air strikes—one every 106 minutes. 

 

In 2019, the UN panel of experts on Yemen said that precautionary measures to protect civilians are “largely inadequate and ineffective”. 

 

The UK has provided training in targeting weapons, along with liaison officers at Saudi headquarters, resupplied Saudi air capability and provided technical maintenance and spare parts. 

 

We have licensed £4.7 billion of arms exports to the Saudis, along with a further £860 million of arms to their coalition partners. 

 

As only second to the United States in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, we have stoked the fires of this conflict by selling arms to a country which has exported terror and ideology. 

 

We have acted as quartermaster to the conflict and then salve our consciences by boasting about how much aid we have given to the suffering people of Yemen.

 

Although Ministers have played a constructive role in promoting United Nations Security Council Resolution 2451 and encouraging the work of the admirable Martin Griffiths, special envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General, in brokering the Stockholm agreement, our own credibility in this process is damaged when, as the report says, in their licensing of arms sales to Saudi Arabia the Government are “narrowly on the wrong side” of international law,

 

“given the volume and type of arms being exported to the Saudi-led coalition”.

 

The report goes on to say that these sales,

 

“are highly likely to be the cause of significant civilian casualties in Yemen”.

 

When he comes to reply, I hope that the Minister will respond to the call of the 25 Yemeni and global NGOs which have called on Germany to extend its moratorium on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and tell us whether he is comfortable that we have not done the same. 

 

The UK’s response and that of France—countries which both produce arms that require parts and components of German origin—has been for the UK to actively lobby Germany to lift its moratorium. 

 

This demonstrates again how we are stepping over the line, and it risks weakening international standards for arms control. 

 

Indeed, it may violate our obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty including:

 

“Respecting and ensuring respect for international humanitarian law”,

 

and preventing human suffering. 

 

I might add that, as we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, the US Congress has voted to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen—although the White House has signalled that, if necessary, it will veto this

 

Knowing of the attacks on civilians and atrocities in Yemen while still providing the weapons to Saudi Arabia makes Her Majesty’s Government complicit in those atrocities. 

 

Your Lordships may recall that both Yemen and Saudi Arabia are accused of having committed war crimes; hence, Her Majesty’s Government could fall within the ambit of complicity. 

 

Contrary to Yemen and Saudi Arabia, Her Majesty’s Government are subject to the International Criminal Court, and Ministers should urgently seek the advice of the Government’s law officers on this matter.

 

 If they seriously want to see an end to the carnage and suffering in Yemen, the Government should immediately end their complicity in this disgraceful business and make it clear that this appalling campaign of killing is not to be conducted in our name.

 

 6.03 pm

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

 

Aid and Corruption-  House of Lords Debate 

 

 

 3.53 pm

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

 

My Lords, the World Bank identifies corruption as a major obstacle to ending extreme poverty by 2030 and its detrimental effect on the poorest 40% of people in developing countries. It is estimated that, every year, up to £2 trillion is lost globally to corruption.

 

My brief remarks will centre on the dangers of corruption in the post-conflict, post-ISIS Iraq referred to by the noble Lords, Lord McInnes and Lord Anderson, and on British aid to Pakistan—I should declare that I am co-chair of the Pakistani Minorities All-Party Group and visited Lahore and Islamabad last November.

 

On 11 October 2017, Ministers confirmed to me funding for 80 projects benefiting Yazidis and 171 benefiting Christian communities targeted by the ISIS genocide; £40 million had been earmarked for urgent humanitarian assistance and more than £25 million for UN stabilisation efforts. 

 

On their return to the region, 746,000 Iraqis from minority communities were meant to benefit from these Funding Facility for Stabilization projects managed by the United Nations Development Programme. 

 

Over subsequent months, news circulated that the money was not reaching the affected communities. 

 

One of the main reasons for this failure was corruption. NGOs drew this to the attention of the Government and I attended a meeting with Ministers at which the details of a phantom project were described.

 

At the end of 2017, in response to a freedom of information request, the Department for International Development refused to provide information describing how these projects were benefiting those minorities and how they were being implemented. 

 

DfID relied on several exceptions, saying that disclosure would or might prejudice relations between the United Kingdom, Iraq and international organisations or courts, and would or might prejudice the prevention or detection of crime. In reality, the information could easily have been disclosed without identifying any details that could jeopardise the various interests cited. 

 

As many NGOs assisting survivors in Iraq insist that the money does not reach the intended recipients, such a lack of transparency is extremely disturbing.

 

Retrospectively, DfID now uses independent monitoring, which should have been in place from inception, rather than coming into play months if not years after the projects began. 

 

Perhaps the Minister can tell us what the department’s current assessment is of the situation in Iraq. 

 

What issues concerning corruption have been detected, how have they been addressed, what steps have been taken to address the issues identified by several NGOs and raised in 2018 in a letter to the Government from Dr Russell Blacker on behalf of the National Caucus for the Persecuted Church acting on behalf of communities targeted by ISIS? 

 

This is public money and taxpayers are entitled to know the answers.

 

When comparable concerns about corruption in Iraq were raised with the US Administration, they responded with admirable urgency, transparency and openness, initiating internal inspector-general investigations into the final destination of US funds sent to the UNDP Funding Facility for Stabilization. The UNDP has itself initiated several internal investigations into allegations of corruption, and we should do the same.

 

A comparable challenge applies in Pakistan, which receives a staggering £383,000 of British taxpayers’ money every single day—£2.8 billion over 20 years. 

 

The World Economic Forum identifies corruption as the third-greatest problem for companies doing business in Pakistan, after government bureaucracy and poor infrastructure. It affects all Pakistanis but it disproportionately affects vulnerable populations—the poor, women, and religious minorities. In its report Equality in Aid, the International Dalit Solidarity Network recommended that DfID should prepare vulnerability mapping tools, inclusion monitoring tools and methods for inclusive response programming, issues I have probed with the Minister in Questions for Written Answer. 

 

Two weeks ago, I sent him news reports that one of the top three DfID spending programmes in 2018-19, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Education Sector Programme, which secured £41 million, also needs to be carefully scrutinised.

 

 I know that the noble Lord, Lord Bates, has asked officials to do that. 

 

It is alleged that in several districts, money allocated to establish new educational institutions and refurbish schools was misappropriated and that these are phantom projects—ghost schools. 

 

How does the Minister intend to establish the facts? Waiting for NGOs or newspapers to report such cases simply is not good enough.

 

I therefore hope that today’s debate will point us towards the far more rigorous and effective use of British resources. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McInnes, for giving us the opportunity to raise these issues.

 

 3.58 pm

 

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

Debate led by Baroness Hodgson of Abinger – To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the adequacy of international mechanisms to hold perpetrators of sexual violence to account; and what steps they are taking to ensure justice for survivors

 

 

 6.50 pm

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

My Lords, the noble Lady, Baroness Hodgson, has consistently and tenaciously championed the cause of those who have been subjected to unspeakable violence. In her moving and powerful speech this evening, she rightly demanded more effective ways of holding perpetrators to account and ensuring justice. I think we should all express our gratitude to her for that.

 

I should declare that I am joint chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Groups on North Korea and Pakistani Minorities, vice-chair of the APPGs on Burma and the DRC and an officer of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Sudan and South Sudan. All of these are countries I have visited and are all disfigured by the use of rape as a weapon of war. I am also a trustee of Arise, a charity that works with women who have been trafficked or enslaved.

 

Last year, Denis Mukwege—who was referred to by the noble Baroness—with Nadia Murad, a Yazidi woman I have had the privilege to meet, jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize, given, as it says in the citation:

 

“for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict”,

 

 

In the DRC, where more than 5 million people are estimated to have died in the long-running conflicts—a greater number than in any other conflict since World War II—Dr Mukwege has treated thousands of women who were raped, performing up to 10 operations every day. 

 

Since Panzi Hospital, in Bukavu, was founded by Dr Mukwege in 1999, it has treated more than 82,000 patients with complex gynaecological damage and trauma. An estimated 60% of these injuries were caused by sexual violence. Dr Mukwege describes how his patients arrive at the hospital sometimes naked, usually in horrific conditions, victims of different armed groups.

 

Throughout this discussion of international mechanisms to hold perpetrators of sexual violence to account, we should keep Dr Mukwege and Nadia Murad—tortured and raped by Islamic State militants during their genocide—at the heart of our deliberations.

 

 It is crucial to begin with one important fact: that there are not many adequate mechanisms in place to end the current culture of impunity. 

 

Indeed, the only permanent international criminal tribunal, the International Criminal Court, despite being able to deal with cases of sexual violence, genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or crimes of aggression, often lacks the jurisdiction to be able to investigate the crimes and to prosecute the perpetrators. 

 

The ICC is a treaty-bound court and its competence is limited by ​that fact alone. This is graphically illustrated by the genocidal campaign unleashed by ISIS against religious and other minorities in Syria and Iraq—people like Nadia Murad.

 

As the House knows, in 2014, ISIS, driven by its hatred of difference, instigated mass murder, torture, abuse, rape, sexual violence, and forced displacement. 

 

To this day, more than 3,000 Yazidi women and girls are still missing after they were abducted from Sinjar in September 2014 and are suspected to be in Syria.

 

 For more than four years, these women and girls have been subjected to most atrocious abuse imaginable. In her testimony, Nadia says:

 

“One moment I was a farm girl, going to school in my village in northern Iraq and the next I was an ISIS sex slave, ‘owned’ by militants. My peaceful existence was shattered simply because my religious beliefs were deemed sub-human by a group of men who believed they were superior. ISIS murdered my family and took me captive, exposing me to horrors which would be impossible to imagine had I not endured every moment and felt each brutal blow”.

 

She says she chose to speak because:

 

“I believed the world needed to know the truth and I wanted justice. I wanted ISIS held accountable. If we cannot achieve this, with all the evidence and our justice systems, then we are giving a green light to these groups”.

 

Yet, despite the level and nature of these atrocities, the ICC cannot get involved. 

 

The ICC does not have territorial jurisdiction in Syria or Iraq, and, currently, there is no other international or regional criminal court that could deal with prosecutions. 

 

Another option would be for the Security Council to establish an ad hoc tribunal to prosecute the ISIS fighters, modelled on the precedent set by the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia or the international criminal tribunal for Rwanda. The Minister knows that I have been in touch with him and the Foreign Office on a number of occasions to put forward that proposal.

 

Under Security Council Resolution 2379, an investigative team is already mandated to collect, preserve and prepare for future prosecutions the evidence of the crimes perpetrated by ISIS in Iraq. As the next step, the Security Council could establish the international criminal tribunal for ISIS, modelled on the ICTY or the ICTR, with a tailored mandate.

 

In June 2018, work in this direction was initiated by Pieter Omtzigt, a Dutch MP, who convened a meeting between the Iraqi Government’s representatives and experts to explore the need to assist Iraq in prosecuting ISIS fighters and looking into the available options. 

 

The Iraqi representatives agreed that as the issue of ISIS is not only a problem of Iraq but of international concern and an international responsibility, Iraq would need assistance with the prosecutions. 

 

More than 850 people from the UK travelled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS and were directly involved there in every aspect of the genocide, including systematic rape and enslavement. The UK clearly needs to be involved in prosecuting the fighters. 

 

Stripping them of citizenship is not the way to bring about justice, a point I raised during Question Time recently. It merely makes it harder.

 

For months, I have I have been urging the Government to explore the initiation of international or regional prosecutions, especially as the investigative team has just begun the excavations of the first mass grave in ​Sinjar. 

 

The international option is crucial if there is to be justice.

 

 Survivors of rape and sexual violence are not involved in the proceedings of Iraqi domestic courts, giving little hope that justice will be served. 

 

How can we ensure justice if the very people affected by the atrocities are not even asked to testify, to tell the stories of what happened to them, and do not have the opportunity to see justice being done or to hear an apology?

 

Considering the territorial limitations of the ICC, it may be crucial to reconsider whether we need a new mechanism that would be better suited to address the growing impunity. If the Minister would be willing, I would be most grateful for a meeting to discuss this troubling situation and possible ways forward.

 

Let me also briefly mention Pakistan, which I visited in November, and where the Minister also was recently. 

 

At least 1,000 women belonging to religious minorities, some of them minors, have been abducted, forcibly converted and often married to those very abductors. 

 

They come from the very poorest sectors of society and are easy targets for the perpetrators of sexual violence. 

 

The law-enforcement agencies often show little or no interest in helping aggrieved parents to register a police case against the kidnappers. 

 

Even if the parents persist and somehow reach the courts and the abductors are forced to bring victims to the court, the abducted are threatened and told that if they tell the court about their kidnappings, their parents and siblings will be killed. Thus they have no option but to admit in the court that their conversion was voluntary.

 

In the past few weeks, there have been at least six such cases, which I have drawn to the Minister’s attention. These include a 13 year-old Christian girl, Sadaf Masih, who was kidnapped, forcibly converted and married on 6 February, in Punjab. 

 

On 20 March, two teenaged Hindu girls, Reena, aged 15, and Raveena, aged 13, were similarly kidnapped, forcibly converted and married within a matter of hours, in Sindh. 

 

The kidnappers were married already, with children, but that that did not prevent them from forcibly marrying those girls. In the worst-case scenarios, the kidnappers after sexual and physical abuse, sell them into slavery and they are sent to brothels.

 

We give Pakistan £383,000 in aid each and every day—£2.8 billion over 20 years. 

 

Surely we can use our aid programmes with leverage to ensure justice for the victims and to save many broken lives and families? 

 

The noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson, is to be thanked for encouraging us to address this important issue this evening, and I reiterate my gratitude to her.

 

The World of Yesterday – Memoirs of a European – Stefan Zweig:  and its relevance to Project Hate 2019.

The World of Yesterday – Memoirs of a European – Stefan Zweig:  and its relevance to Project Hate 2019.

 

A friend recently gave me a copy of Stefan Zweig’s The World of Yesterday – Memoirs of a European, first published in 1942. The manuscript was completed by this acclaimed Jewish writer and posted to his publisher the day before he and his wife took their own lives.

 

The tragic end of Zweig’s life was a mirror image of the end of the civilised world in which he and so many of his compatriots had grown up and flourished in early twentieth century Vienna.

 

I was introduced to Zweig’s autobiography after I had told my friend about my interest in Franz Werfel, a Jewish Austrian novelist and playwriter who was a contemporary and acquaintance of Zweig. In 1933 Werfel had written The Forty Days of Musa Dagh – a brilliant novel based on the Armenian genocide of 1915.  Like Zweig his books were burnt and banned by Hitler’s National Socialists.     

 

What happened to Zweig and Werfel – to their work and to millions of other Jews and minorities – is especially relevant today in the context of Project Hate 2019 – which we see manifesting itself globally.

 

Zweig’s masterful autobiography charts the rise of visceral hatred; how scapegoating and xenophobia, cultivated by populist leaders, can rapidly morph into the hecatombs of the concentration camps. As the history of the twentieth century graphically demonstrates, the hatred of difference invariably begins with anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews, but it never ends there.

 

If you doubt how quickly a relatively civilised and humane society, and a seemingly permanent golden age, can be ruthlessly and swiftly destroyed, then read Zweig. 

 

And consider that beyond the ugly spectre of Anti-Semitism appearing in main stream British politics, in 2019, for the first time since 1945, there are Nazis in the Reichstag; Austria has a coalition government which includes a party whose first leader was as an officer in the SS; Italy has a governing party which is home to fascist throwbacks; while some “yellow vests” in France mighty more appropriately wear black shirts after recently being  involved in anti-Semitic abuse of the French philosopher, Alain Finkielkraut; while the far right is capturing  seats from Sweden to Spain. And watch with anxiety the coming elections to the European Parliament. 

 

Project Hate can also be seen in the Anti-Semitic memes which accompany digital Nazism – even the live streaming of mass murders courtesy of multi-media outlets. Other shades of viral hatred – from anti-Semitism to homophobia and overt racism – readily and effortlessly morph from virtual reality into violence. 

 

In his autobiography Zweig wrote that:

 

“Man was separated by man on the grounds of absurd theories of blood, race and origins” – and so it is again today.  For three years running vicious attacks against Jews in the U.K. have reached new highs.

 

Zweig said:

 

 

“The greatest curse brought down on us by technology is that it prevents us from escaping the present even for a brief time. Previous generations could retreat into solitude and seclusion when disaster struck; it was our fate to be aware of everything catastrophic happening anywhere in the world at the hour and the second when it happened.”

 

And that was 1945. Now it is live streamed and in every living room and on every mobile device within seconds – including pre- arranged broadcast of mass shootings: St. Bartholomew’s Eve Massacres courtesy of Facebook and Google.

 

 

The use of social media to spread violent ideologies had a tragic outcome on March 15th with the horrific deaths of nearly 50 Muslims gathered for Friday prayers in Christchurch, New Zealand.  But we also saw the same hatred of difference at work in the Synagogue in Pittsburgh where 11 Jewish worshippers were gunned down; and in Lahore where 75 Christians were murdered as they gathered to celebrate Easter; and deaths, day after day in Northern Nigeria, following the genocide of Christians and Yazidis and other minorities in Iraq and Syria.

 

 

And what can we learn from Zweig about our response to such phenomena and events?

 

In a presentiment of what lay ahead he wrote that “Europe in its state of derangement had passed its own death sentence”  and yet the elites kept turning a blind eye, hoping that the problem would simply go away – leading him to remark: “We are none of us very proud of our political blindness at that time and we are horrified to see where it has brought us.”

 

Zweig saw how, in the face of indifference and the desire for a quiet life, the thin veneer that separates civilised values from mob rule very quickly cracked. He describes how university professors were forced to scrub streets with their bare hands; devout Jews humiliated in their synagogues; apartments broken into and jewels torn out of the ears of trembling women.

 

He says, “one man had succeeded in deadening every idea of what is just and right by the constant attrition of excess “Hitler’s most diabolical triumph.”  In 1938 the conscience of the world kept quiet “or murmured just a little before forgetting and forgiving.”

 

On meeting groups of fleeing refugees, Zweig says” They (the Jews) were told don’t live here with us but no one told them where they were to live.”

 

He concludes his remarkable account of those tortured years be saying

 

“I knew like the patriarch Lot, in the Bible, that all behind me was dust and ashes, the past transformed into a pillar of bitter salt.”

 

The haunting question remains: can we do better in our own generation?

 

 

 

Gladys Aylward, the little woman, and China’s Inn of The Sixth Happiness – or more accurately, the Inn of the Eight Happinesses

David Alton

Gladys Aylward, the little woman, and China’s Inn of The Sixth Happiness – or, more accurately, the Inn of the Eight Happinesses

Gladys Aylward - the little woman Gladys Aylward – the little woman

Alan Burgess The Small Woman - Gladys Aylwardscan0006

The Inn of The Sixth Happiness - which gives a distorted account of Gladys Aylward's life The Inn of The Sixth Happiness – which gives a distorted account of Gladys Aylward’s life

The Inn of The Sixth Happiness - Gladys Aylward was no Ingrid Bergman The Inn of The Sixth Happiness – Gladys Aylward was no Ingrid Bergman

Gladys Aylward with her orphans Gladys Aylward with some of her converts  and Muleteers praying over Jeannie Lawson’s coffin.

Gladys Aylward with her orphans - fleeing from the Japanese army Gladys Aylward with her orphans – fleeing from the Japanese army

Gladys Aylward with her orphans - fleeing from the Japanese army Gladys Aylward with her orphans – fleeing from the Japanese army

Gladys Aylward Gladys Aylward

Gladys-Aylward 5

There is a lovely movie, staring Ingrid Bergman, called “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.” Made in 1958 it celebrates the remarkable life of a petite woman, born in 1902 in Edwardian England, called Gladys Aylward. It’s a charming film but on recently reading a biography of Miss Aylward I realised that the Hollywood make-over…

View original post 3,121 more words

Please support disabled children like Amy by giving them a voice – while I remain siLENT for 24 hours for Million Minutes

Please support disabled children like Amy by giving them a voice – while I remain siLENT for 24 hours for Million Minutes.  

135d8ec6-6135-4ddb-8973-5df2fc3434fc-512-512

Tomorrow, Friday.  I am staying siLENT with Million Minutes this Lent to raise money for young people who don’t have a voice. I will not speak, use my phone or social media for 24 hours! Please sponsor me. 

 

Your sponsorship will help young people like Amy. Amy always wanted to show people who she was, but she wasn’t able to. Instead growing up as a young person with a disability, she was often judged and bullied. Now that is changing. Million Minutes is working with For Jimmy to give Amy her voice. Our help enables her to use her experience of being rejected and bullied to support other young people living with disabilities, and to reduce the stigma of the label ‘disabled’. Your sponsorship will support people like Amy to change their lives and their world. 

 

Further details, click here

https://wonderful.org/fundraiser/lorddavidaultonssilent-9aeb8046

 

Image result for quotes about silence

Aegis Trust ceremony at the House of Lords as Ambassador Kenneth Quinn is given an Aegis Award for Combating Genocide in Cambodia; Report of Parliamentary Meeting about Hong Kong British Nationals Overseas Passport Holders And Home Office Signals Progress In A Letter From Ministers

Aegis Trust ceremony at the House of Lords as Ambassador Kenneth Quinn is given an Aegis Award For Combating Genocide in Cambodia

Ambassador Kenneth Quinn Genocide Award

 

also see:

https://davidalton.net/2018/11/28/the-genocide-convention-at-70-lessons-learned-and-yet-to-be-learned-70th-anniversary-of-the-genocide-convention-recalled-in-mr-speakers-house-november-27th-2018-government-answers-to-ques/

Remarks by David Alton who hosted the event:

Aegis Trust

I would like to warmly welcome you all to this event recognising Ambassador Quinn for his work on the issue of genocide.

Ambassador Kenneth Quinn

Welcome to the Hume Room.  It is named for Alec Douglas Home – Lord Home of the Hirsel – who, in 1963, following the resignation of Harold Macmillan, as Prime Minister, emerged as a compromise candidate and replaced him as Prime Minister but narrowly failed to win the subsequent 1964 General Election.

A former Foreign Secretary he often appeared to be a grey figure but those who knew him say he was often modestly self-deprecating, kind and capable of wit.

In 1940, he had been diagnosed with spinal tuberculosis and was immobilised for two years. Afterwards, he said that it was the first time in medical history that they had succeeded in inserting a backbone into a politician: not something that can be said of the formidable politicians and diplomats gathered here today.

 

 

It’s a pleasure to be hosting an event here for the Aegis Trust, founded in the Millennium Year – and which, in 2004, following my visit to Darfur, did so much to encourage me.   

 

Genocide has been referred to as the crime of crimes, and rightly so.  What could be worse than a crime that seeks the annihilation of protected groups in whole or in part, whether on grounds of ethnicity, religion, orientation, disability or some other characteristic that signifies difference.

 

Yet, despite its position as the crime of crimes, many turn a blind eye to such atrocities. 

 

Perhaps this is in part because atrocities like genocide often happen far from home – in the killing fields of Bosnia, Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur, Syria, Iraq or Burma.

 

Out of sight can all too easily morph into out of mind – especially if the genocide dies not affect us personally.

 

And it is not always easy to engage parliaments, governments and international institutions and get them to act. Many of you know that by now.

 

Indeed, even here in the Lords, Parliamentarians have been trying to ensure that the UK Government takes a stronger approach to genocidal atrocities whenever and wherever they occur. 

 

Sadly, thus far, the UK Government continues to resist even making a preliminary determination of genocide to inform its response – and to fulfil its duty under the 1948 Genocide Convention, to protect, to prevent and to punish.

 

Therefore, it is important to recognise those people who do take a stand against crimes like genocide and ensure that silence is not an option.

 

We will hear a great deal more about Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn and his wife Lay Son whom I warmly welcome here today.

 

I would also like to welcome many distinguished guests, including…

 

Friends from the United States, among whom are the representative of the US Ambassador, Steven Noah, Chair of the Steven Krulis Champion of Humanity Award organising committee.

 

Sir Trevor Pears who is founding patron of Aegis and honorary chair of the Aegis Champions of Humanity leaders circle; 

 

Dr James Smith and Aegis Trust that have been supporting the APPG on genocide in Parliament for many years.

 

I would also like to welcome Sokphal, a survivor of the Cambodian genocide.
and many other distinguished guests, that I cannot name within these brief remarks. However, it is a great honour to have you joined us here today.

 

After standing down from the Commons, and on becoming a member of this place, I chose as my motto for the coat of arms which is given to new members, two words from the Hebrew bible:  the words, ‘choose Life’.  In many respects that is exactly what the award presented today to Ambassador Quinn represents. Those who have chosen pathways of life, through confronting and countering genocide, provide a role model and inspiration to others. We need more people like Ambassador Quinn  to be able to deliver on the oft repeated promise that genocides should happen “never again.”

 

Choosing Life also means focusing on ref flag genocide prevention and preventing mass atrocities from occurring – a challenge which the international community has not mastered yet. That is why a group of us have proposed that the house of lords establishes an ad hoc committee to examine the Government’s response to genocide and tomorrow we will learn whether the proposal will be agreed.

 

Now, it is my pleasure to introduce Tom Tugendhat MP, a former officer in our armed forces and Chair of the house of Commons foreign affairs select committee who will introduce the recipient of the 2019 award: Ambassador Kenneth Quinn.

https://spark.adobe.com/page/K7wM4eU8yzJTD/

  Aegis Trust

 

Also see:

https://davidalton.net/2019/01/02/jeremy-hunts-promised-foreign-office-review-into-persecution-will-have-no-credibility-if-it-simply-seeks-to-justify-the-indifference-that-led-to-the-mass-graves-of-nineveh-read-christina-lambs-ac/

 

 

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

 

Home Office Signals Progress for Hong Kong’s Holders of British Nationals Overseas Passports.

Click here for Home Office Minister’s Reply:

bno

Passports

On Monday March 4th David Alton chaired a  meeting at the House of Lords on behalf of the charity, Hong Kong Watch.  A capacity audience heard accounts from five activists from Hong Kong.  The main focus of the meeting was about the 152,350 Hong Kongers who hold a BNO passport.

 

David Alton said;

 

 “It is positive that the United Kingdom is looking to become world leaders in automated passenger clearance, but it is puzzling that privileged access is being given to foreign nationals from the United States, Japan, South Korea and elsewhere, while people holding British passports continue to wait in line.

It is particularly confusing that the Hong Kong SAR passport has access to the e-passport gates, but BNO passports do not.

 

What does it communicate to the rest of the world that British passports holders are being forced to queue not only behind every European, but also foreign nationals?

 

It is easy to forget that there are hundreds of BNO passport holders who fought for the British army when they were British citizens prior to handover. Does their service not matter to us? Should they really be waiting behind the Japanese or South Koreans?

 

I campaigned for British Dependent Territory Citizens in Hong Kong to be given right of abode, or at least the choice to retain their citizenship, when the handover discussions were taking place. Unfortunately, our negotiations with China denied them their right to self-determination, offering only the BNO passport as a token compromise. These passports were designed to acknowledge the historic ties the United Kingdom has with Hong Kong, and our ongoing commitment to the people of Hong Kong under the Sino-British Joint Declaration. This is a cost-free way of ensuring that these British passports mean something.”

 

 

Following the meeting, Baroness Williams of Trafford, a Home Office Minister has promised, in a letter to Lord Alton (attached), that the Home Office will examine the restrictions on BNO passport holders being able to use automated passenger clearance.

 

Reports of the meeting from the East Asian media:

 

 

Apple Daily

https://hk.news.appledaily.com/local/realtime/article/20190305/59334640

 

Local Press

http://www.localpresshk.com/2019/03/bnorights/

 

Standnews

https://thestandnews.com/international/%E8%8B%B1%E5%9C%8B%E4%B8%8A%E8%AD%B0%E9%99%A2%E8%A8%8E%E8%AB%96bno%E6%AC%8A%E5%88%A9-%E6%B8%AF%E4%BA%BA%E4%BF%83%E4%BA%88bno%E6%8C%81%E6%9C%89%E4%BA%BA%E5%B1%85%E8%8B%B1%E6%AC%8A/

 

852 post

https://www.post852.com/270952/%e8%8b%b1%e5%9c%8b%e4%b8%8a%e8%ad%b0%e9%99%a2%e7%a0%94%e8%a8%8e%e6%9c%83%e4%bf%83%e6%93%b4%e5%a4%a7bno%e6%8c%81%e6%9c%89%e4%ba%ba%e6%ac%8a%e5%88%a9%e3%80%80%e6%89%b9%e8%8b%b1%e6%94%bf%e5%ba%9c/

 

Yahoo news

https://hk.mobi.yahoo.com/news/%E8%8B%B1%E8%AD%B0%E6%9C%83%E9%A6%96%E8%88%89%E8%A1%8Cbno%E5%B9%B3%E6%AC%8A%E6%9C%83%E8%AD%B0-%E8%88%87%E6%9C%83%E8%80%85%E5%80%A1%E9%87%8D%E8%A8%AD%E5%B1%85%E8%8B%B1%E6%AC%8A-141157652.html

 

Secret China

https://m.secretchina.com/news/b5/2019/03/06/886636.html

 

 

Passports

Primodos: A Welcome Review Into A Drug That Did Enormous Harm – including follow up letter from the Minister for Health.

Primodos: A Welcome Review Into A Drug That Did Enormous Harm

primados 1

 

House of Lords February 28th 2019

Letter from Baroness Blackwood to Lord Alton

HPT studies_quality assessment

2.31 pm

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

 

My Lords, I join others in congratulating my noble friend Lord Carrington on his very well-judged maiden speech today.

 

In this welcome debate, my remarks will centre on Primodos—an issue I raised with the noble Lord, Lord O’Shaughnessy, while he was a Minister. 

 

Like the noble Lord, I pay tribute to Marie Lyon, who chairs the Association for Children Damaged by Hormone Pregnancy Tests. Assiduously and tenaciously, she has fought for justice for those whom big pharmaceuticals have often treated with irresponsible contempt. She and her husband have travelled down from Wigan today and are watching our debate.

 

Marie Lyon wishes me to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, and the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review for taking the campaigners seriously. She tells me:

 

“The sensitivity shown to our members by the”,

 

review,

 

“team is appreciated and commended. I really do feel that”,

 

they and,

 

“Baroness Cumberlege … are committed to discovering the truth about the failures of the Drug Company and the Government Regulators and have a genuine desire to ensure justice is served”.

 

I add my own thanks to the noble Lord, Lord O’Shaughnessy, for his role in encouraging the establishment of the independent review, and I wholly endorse what he said earlier about the desirability of creating a national office for patient safety.

 

My interest in Primodos began in 2010, when a gentleman born with severe birth defects asked to see me at my university office in Liverpool. 

 

He believed that his disabilities were attributable to Primodos, a hormone-based pregnancy test first marketed in the UK in 1959 and produced by Schering AG, which was subsequently taken over by Bayer AG. 

 

Withdrawn from sale in the United Kingdom in 1978, tellingly it was also used in South Korea to abort the child in the womb.

 

Dr Isabel Gal’s 1960 research at Queen Mary’s Hospital for Children demonstrated a link between the drug and severe birth defects, and a review by the Committee on Safety of Medicines concluded that pregnant women should not use it. However, subsequent court cases failed to provide a conclusive outcome, as did a 2014 review by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

 

On 26 October 2010, I asked the Government several Questions. 

 

One was about the dosage of the constituents of Primodos; one asked for any documents that the Government held about its dangers to be placed in the Library; one was about the nature of the disabilities; one was about the help given to those affected; and one requested Ministers to meet the Association for Children Damaged by Hormone Pregnancy Tests.

 

In his reply at the time, the noble Earl, Lord Howe, said that the regulatory agency had no information on the number of children who are born with disabilities, nor did it have evidence. 

 

If there was no evidence, why did they ban the drug? As for meeting the victims:

 

“The MHRA therefore has no current plans to meet members of the Association for Children Damaged by Hormone Pregnancy Tests, people suspected to have been adversely affected by the drug Primodos, or with the pharmaceutical company, Bayer”.—[Official Report, 26/10/10; col. WA 265.]

 

Despite further letters and Questions, a 2017 report of an expert working group of the UK Commission on Human Medicines continued to state that there was no causal association. Yet in that same year, Sky News broadcast “The Secret Drug Scandal”, which found that evidence of an association had been destroyed by a UK regulator in the 1970s. I asked the Government for their response and,

 

“whether they will consider establishing a public inquiry into the alleged failure of the regulator at that time to protect public safety”.

 

In another Question, I asked whether they would examine why,

 

“no toxicology or testing was undertaken prior to the drug Primodos being licensed”,

 

and whether they were aware that,

 

“Primodos was being used as an abortifacient in some parts of the world whilst being sold in the UK for the purposes of pregnancy testing, and … that there may have been collusion between the drug manufacturer and the regulatory bodies”.

 

In another, I asked why Primodos had stayed on the market and no tests had been,

 

“ordered by the Committee for the Safety of Medicines under the Medicines Act 1971”.

 

In another, I asked them to,

 

“meet with Marie Lyon and representatives of the Primodos victims support group”,

 

and in another, asked why they were not funding research in Aberdeen and Cambridge examining the,

 

“likely effects on the child in the womb”.

 

Then, in February 2018, the right honourable Jeremy Hunt announced his welcome review to be led by the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege. 

 

I hope that when the Minister replies, she will tell us when it is likely to report and—perhaps more importantly—who will be responsible for taking forward its recommendations. 

 

Among other things, as we heard from the noble Baroness, the review will investigate any association between hormone pregnancy tests and their teratogenic effects, and whether the regulatory bodies could, and should, have acted on concerns sooner—and if they did not, why.

 

Meanwhile, a team at Oxford, led by Professor Carl Heneghan, the scientist responsible for identifying Thalidomide association, has discovered that pooled data show “a clear association” with several forms of malformation. 

 

Professor Neil Vargesson has carried out other work on zebrafish, which revealed anomalies that mirrored the adverse effects on victims of Primodos. Their studies were peer-reviewed and remain in the top percentile of scientific studies.

 

In the House of Commons, the Prime Minister said:

 

“Ministers are aware of the new study that has come out … and … that study will be looked at very carefully”.—[Official Report, Commons, 16/1/19; col. 1160.]

 

I welcome that. 

 

However, the raw data that Professor Heneghan needs to complete his review has not been made available. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hormone Pregnancy Tests, chaired by Yasmin Qureshi MP, and of which I am vice-chairman, has sent a freedom of information request for the data, but to date has not received a response.

 

Mrs Lyon has twice emailed the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, but has not received a response. I gave the Minister notice of my intention to raise this question today. 

 

This is tardy and unco-operative on the part of that body. I hope the Minister will be able tell us whether more can be done to take that forward.

 

Severely disabled children, cared for by family members now in their late 70s, are increasingly becoming the responsibility of their siblings. 

 

While their health deteriorates, many battle every day to support themselves. Some have died fighting to the very end to reveal the truth about the failures of the drugs company and the regulatory agencies. 

 

They have faced the implacable determination of regulatory bodies spending huge amounts of public money on ad hoc scientific reviews to cast doubt on the work of highly reputable scientists. Those who have suffered so grievously deserve much better than this.

Also see:

Primodos – The Secret Drugs Scandal. Congratulations to Jason Farrell and Sky TV – Why there should be a full Public Inquiry:

https://davidalton.net/2017/03/21/primados-the-secret-drugs-scandal-congratulations-to-jason-farrell-and-sky-tv-why-there-should-be-a-full-public-inquiry/

House of Commons debate on forced organ harvesting. Follow up Questions and Minister’s reply- April 4th 2019 – in the Lords. Spectator Article. How To watch the China Tribunal on line. Questions in Parliament on the Muslim Uighurs . Ministers Questioned in the House of Lords about tortured lawyers; demolished Christian churches; abducted Pastor; organ harvesting and incarceration of Uighurs and how the continued deterioration of human rights in China will fuel resentment and radicalisation across the globe and threaten China’s desire to create a harmonious society. Speech by Fiona Bruce MP about the Uighurs.

 

Jim Shannon,  MP for Strangford and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) tabled the following Motion for debate in the House of Commons on March 26th:  forced live organ extraction in China

Here is a link to the debate

https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2019-03-26/debates/E1634734-6C27-4AE8-947D-417E13A99A3B/ForcedLiveOrganExtraction

He is also one of the signatories to an Early Day Motion on the same subject:

You can find the details about the EDM here:

https://edm.parliament.uk/early-day-motion/52641/forced-live-organ-extraction-from-prisoners-of-conscience-in-china
=========================================

Spectator article April 3rd 2019

https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2019/04/the-world-cant-ignore-the-accusations-that-china-has-forcibly-harvested-organs/

April 4th 2019

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

 

Has the Minister had a chance to read yesterday’s Spectator and last week’s Westminster Hall debate about forced organ harvesting from China’s religious minorities, including Falun Gong, Uyghur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists and, possibly, Christian dissidents along with prisoners of conscience? 

 

Fiona Bruce, Member of Parliament and chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, described it as,

 

“potentially nothing less than a 21st century genocide”,

 

and “almost a perfect crime” because “no one survives”.

 

Will the Government attend this week’s China Tribunal hearings, chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC—who prosecuted Slobodan Milošević—and modelled on the people’s tribunal into the Vietnam War, pioneered by Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre? 

 

Their interim findings say that tribunal members are,

 

“certain—unanimously, and sure beyond reasonable doubt—that in China forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience has been practised for a substantial period of time involving a very substantial number of victims”.

 

Will the Government ask China for its response to these deeply disturbing findings?

 

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon

 

I read the debate that took place, not the article, but I will do so. 

 

On a number of occasions, the noble Lord and I have talked about the specific issue of organ harvesting. 

 

I assure him that we are watching and working closely on the outcomes of Sir Geoffrey Nice’s review. The detailed report will also be out later this year. 

 

Our officials have attended every evidence session and will continue to do so and update accordingly. 

 

In raising this issue directly, I am deeply concerned, like the noble Lord, particularly because there is an issue of organ harvesting not just from people elsewhere: I have heard it suggested and was briefed on prisoners in the system being used for this purpose. 

 

The situation is deeply concerning and we are raising it at all levels.

 

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab)

 

Is the noble Lord prepared to raise this issue with the World Health Organization? Its responses to concerns raised about the use of organs in the appalling way suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, were very weak.

 

 I hope that the Government will be as vigorous in dealing with the WHO as they appear to be with the Chinese Government.

 

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon

 

The noble Lord makes a valid point. I assure him that, as the UK’s Human Rights Minister, I will raise this issue with all appropriate organisations.

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

You can join an online viewing of the second public hearings of the Independent Tribunal into Forced Organ Harvesting from Prisoners of Conscience in China, taking place in CENTRAL LONDON – 6TH AND 7TH APRIL, 2019.

REGISTER TO WATCH ONLINE –https://chinatribunal.com/the-hearings-april-2019/

CHINA TRIBUNAL BACKGROUND & INTERIM JUDGEMENT
The China Tribunal is an independent peoples tribunal, established to determine what criminal offences, if any, have been committed by state or state-approved bodies, organisations or individuals in China that may have engaged in forced organ harvesting. 

The Tribunal is chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice, QC who worked at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia – the ICTY – and led the prosecution of Slobodan Milosevic. 

The Tribunal held public hearings in December, 2018 with 30 fact witnesses, experts and investigators appearing before the Tribunal in London.http://WWW.CHINATRIBUNAL.COM/THE-HEARINGS/

On the final day the Tribunal issued an INTERIM JUDGEMENT that in part stated:

“The Tribunal’s members are all certain – unanimously, and sure beyond reasonable doubt – that in China forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience has been practiced for a substantial period of time involving a very substantial number of victims.”

APRIL HEARINGS
During the upcoming April hearings the Tribunal panel will speak with experts, investigators and fact witnesses who will appear via video link from various locations around the world to present and be questioned on their evidence. We hope you may be interested to watch this important event online.

Register to view the China Tribunal Hearings online via this link – 

https://chinatribunal.com/the-hearings-april-2019/

Further information about the Tribunal, including the Interim Judgement and videos of the December hearings please visithttp://WWW.CHINATRIBUNAL.COM

Yours sincerely,
Rebecca James, Outreach Manager

Becky.james@chinatribunal.com
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Forbes – ‘ORGAN HARVESTING IN CHINA AND THE MANY QUESTIONS TO BE ANSWERED’
British Medical Journal – ‘CHINA HARVESTED ORGANS FROM POLITICAL PRISONERS ON SUBSTANTIAL SCALE, SAYS TRIBUNAL’
Forbes – ‘HOW CHINESE DOCTORS WHO HARVEST ORGANS GET AWAY WITH MURDER’

David Alton

February 25th 2019.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL13634):

Question:
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that Uighur Muslims detained in China have undergone unwanted blood, tissue and DNA tests; what they believe to be the purpose of any such tests; and whether there is evidence of state-sanctioned organ harvesting from non-consenting religious prisoners of conscience, including Uighur Muslims. (HL13634)

Tabled on: 12 February 2019

Answer:
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

We have serious concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjiang and reports of the Chinese Government’s deepening crackdown; including credible reports of re-education camps and widespread surveillance and restrictions targeted at ethnic minorities. We are aware of media reports that some Uyghurs may have been subject to unwanted DNA tests.

More broadly, we…

View original post 6,423 more words

2019 marks the centenary of Jallianwala Bagh – the Amritsar Massacre which Churchill condemned as “an extraordinary event, a monstrous event… which stands in singular and sinister isolation.” We must learn the lessons of history.

2019 marks the centenary of Jallianwala Bagh – the Amritsar Massacre which Churchill condemned as “the inflicting of great slaughter or massacre …with the intention of terrorizing not merely the rest of the crowd but the whole district or country.”

We must learn the lessons of history.

Megnat (Lord) Desai, in his erudite account of what happened, details the the consequences of the Amritsar Massacre  in his book “The Rediscovery of India.”

He reminds us that at the culmination of World War One, brave soldiers from the Sub-Continent returned from the European trenches, radicalized and ready to insist on change.

Onto that stage walked two entirely different men.  

Here was Mahatma Gandhi with his commitment to peaceful change, and General Reginald Dyer whom Winston Churchill said had resorted to a doctrine of “frightfulness” In the Commons he described “frightfulness” as “the inflicting of great slaughter or massacre …with the intention of terrorizing not merely the rest of the crowd but the whole district or country.”

The loss of hundreds of lives and the injuries of countless others in the Punjab – a territory I visited in November –  was an act of brutality that stunned this nation.  Although the House of Commons denounced Dyer. The House of Lords initially offered Dyer accolades.

The 13th of April will mark 100 years since the Jallianwala Bagh – the Amritsar Massacre – but as time passes that tragedy must not be forgotten.

One hundred years later, perhaps today we can atone and help to heal that shocking moment of history.

Recall that a group of people had gathered to hold a peaceful public meeting – a public meeting that was prohibited by British law. The response to this disobedience was wholly disproportionate and excessive. Nothing can ever justify such an excessive use of force that day.

This remains true in our own times.  So often we fall into the definition of insanity often credited to Albert Einstein that “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.”

Yet, while we are marking the Amritsar Massacre other insane contemporary tragedies are unfolding in many parts of the world. And those responsible for them should not expect different results from those that flowed from Jallianwala Bagh.

Take, for instance, what happened on 12 February 2019 in Burma when over a thousand Karenni protesters gathered to hold a peaceful protest the erection of the statue to General Aung San, the founder of the Tatmadaw, the Burmese Army, and failed to honour the promise of autonomy for ethnic minorities in a federal Burma.

The response to the peaceful protest was excessive and violent. The UN reported: ‘Police fired rubber bullets and used batons and water cannons injuring up to 15 protesters in Loikaw, the capital of Kayah State and home to the Karenni ethnic minority.’ Furthermore, since the beginning of February, police have arrested at least 55 people who protested the erection of new statute.

The date of that peaceful protest is not irrelevant. 12 February 2019 marks 72 years since the 12 February 1947 when the pact was made with many of the country’s ethnic minorities promising a federal Burma- a great promise still waiting to be fulfilled as the position of ethnic and religious minorities in Burma – including the Rohingya and Kachin – continues to deteriorate and their rights neglected and trampled on.

 

Elsewhere, a few weeks earlier, in January 2019, the UN reported on the use of excessive force in Sudan against protesters – on a greater scale than the insurrections of 1964 and 1985 and which have been going on countrywide for weeks in the biggest popular uprising since 1956.

Only last week I met with Opposition leaders from Sudan.

They described the use of live ammunition by security forces against protesters; egregious human rights violations, including at least 57 killings, torture, rape; and imprisonment of women and children

Hundreds have been arrested and, according to the UN, they include journalists, civil society representatives and opposition leaders. Others such as Channel 4s, Yousrall Baghir, have been severely harassed.

The UN says that the security forces fired tear gas and live ammunition inside the premises of the Omdurman Hospital where some of the protesters sought refuge. It is reported that attacks also took place at the Bahri Teaching Hospital and Haj Al-Safi Hospital. Doctors have been prohibited from treating the wounded.

These events in Burma and Sudan – both countries I have visited – are just two examples from the last two months.

But the picture elsewhere in the world also suggests that we have a long way to go before we learn the lessons of Jallianwala Bagh.

In 2018, in Nicaragua, thousands of people took to the streets to protest against its repressive regime. The Council of the European Union noted that these protests were, ‘brutally repressed by security forces and pro-government armed groups leading to clashes, several hundreds dead and injured and the arrest of hundreds of citizens, with widespread irregularities and arbitrariness in detention and judicial procedures.’ The victims of this excessive use of force include young students; and as I learnt from a Nicaraguan I met last week this dire situation in Nicaragua continues and I have sent a full report to the Foreign Secretary.

Peaceful protests or public gatherings are protected under the right to freedom of expression and the right of peaceful assembly, both enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Articles 19 and 21.

Regardless of whether a State has ratified the ICCPR, people’s rights are also protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in Articles 19 and 20. UDHR constitutes a part of the customary international law and hence is binding upon all States.

Perhaps the best memorial to the victims of Jallianwala Bagh would be for the international community to finally find ways of insisting that these rights are adequately recognized and enforced.

the British government must use all diplomatic means to deliver such a message.

The Amritsar massacre will never be erased from our history books.

But when Britain puts itself in the vanguard by fearlessly speaking out for the people who cannot do it for themselves; by protecting communities in need; by vociferously insisting on the protection of human rights, and specifically, the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly; it can help to redeem the callous and violent use of power which one hundred years ago at Amritsar Churchill described as “ an extraordinary event, a monstrous event, an event which stands in singular and sinister isolation.”

The Battle Against Asbestos Related Diseases Such As Mesothelioma – which will kill another 60,000 British people unless we find a cure – Raised In Parliament. 

The Battle Against Asbestos Related Diseases Such As Mesothelioma – which will kill another 60,000 British people Unless We Find A Cure – Raised In Parliament Thursday February 14th 2019. 

mesothelioma

 

Also see:

https://davidalton.net/2017/03/18/mesothelioma-and-the-threat-to-pupils-and-teachers-in-schools/

 

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

 

 

 

My Lords, if the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, does not mind, I would rather change the metaphor and say that I am very pleased to be part of the infantry; on this issue she is a very good general.

 

The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Winchester, made her case admirably, too and I am grateful to the Minister for the way in which she introduced the orders.

 

I return to an issue that I have raised often in your Lordships House: the harrowing and lethal effects of mesothelioma, something which unites all of us in all parts of the House. 

 

Many of us in the Chamber today have been involved in the fight against mesothelioma for many years and I am pleased to see this important issue again being debated in your Lordships’ House.

 

I wholeheartedly support the uprating of the lump sum payments in line with inflation. It is a matter of compassion, of justice—I will return to that issue—and of equalisation. 

 

In that last respect, I was disappointed by one thing that the Minister said, although I rather anticipated that she would say it—I shall return to that matter, too.

 

As the Minister told us, mesothelioma is an invasive type of cancer caused by prior exposure to asbestos.

 

 It grows in the pleural membrane, which lines the outside of the lung and the inside of the chest. Less commonly, it can also affect a similar lining around the abdomen or heart. There is currently no cure and mesothelioma patients often have a short life expectancy and experience complex, debilitating symptoms.

 

 I vividly remember when I was a Member of House of Commons, representing an inner-city area of Liverpool, constituents coming to see me once there had been a diagnosis and then meeting the widow only weeks later, their loved one having died.

 

The UK has the highest rate of the disease in the world. Mortality rates have more than quadrupled over the past 30 years. It is estimated that around 2,400 people die of the disease every year and that, over the next 30 years, around 60,000 people will die of mesothelioma in the United Kingdom unless new treatments are found.

 

When these regulations were discussed in the other place, a number of Members of the House of Commons asked whether future increases could be made automatic rather than be made at the discretion of Parliament. 

 

The Minister there agreed to consider this. 

 

It is important that the Government carefully consider the argument. Has any consideration been given since the Commons stages about making the payments automatic? It is vital that we continue to support people and their families affected by these awful diseases.

 

Back in 2014 I tabled an amendment to the Mesothelioma Bill, and in 2015 I introduced a Private Member’s Bill which would have set up a small levy on participating insurance firms to help secure long-term funding for research into mesothelioma, an issue on which the noble Lords, Lord Wills and Lord Giddens, played an important part. 

 

At the time, it was estimated that 150 insurance firms were active in the employers’ liability insurance market, and this had the potential to raise around £1.5 million a year for research. 

 

This represented a very small amount of money to each of the insurance companies, but would have resulted in a great number of research opportunities. It would also have given great hope to people living with mesothelioma and to their families. 

 

Unfortunately, the amendment and the Bill were defeated.

 

Since then, the Government have allocated £5 million for a National Centre for Mesothelioma Research at Imperial College, and I thank Ministers who put in considerable effort to secure that and to look at voluntary funding from the insurance industry. 

 

I am very pleased that the British Lung Foundation, referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, was also able to secure match funding for this £5 million from a philanthropist who has seen the devastation wreaked by this disease. 

 

Unfortunately, although several individual insurance companies, including Aviva, Zurich, RSA and Allianz, had also, to their credit, previously contributed towards research into mesothelioma, negotiations for a broader, long-term funding commitment from the insurance industry came to a standstill. 

 

More recently, there have been some impressive results in mesothelioma research, which demonstrates why it is important for us to find more funding. 

 

Through the match funding, the BLF set up the Mesothelioma Research Network to bring researchers together to share ideas and support each other’s research. Our understanding of the genetics of mesothelioma has increased at the same time as a breakthrough in harnessing the immune system against cancer, and a clinical trial, the first of its type, has just opened in Leicester.

 

Another BLF-funded project is currently looking at ways to treat mesothelioma with immunotherapy. 

 

The creation of the MesobanK project now allows researchers across the world to access tissue and blood samples and other clinical data. The first MesobanK-British Lung Foundation fellowship is helping to develop gold nanotubes as potential new mesothelioma therapies. The British Lung Foundation continues to raise awareness of occupational lung disease, most recently through the creation of the Taskforce for Lung Health. 

 

The task force is a coalition of 30 organisations from across the lung health sector, including royal colleges, patients and the Health and Safety Executive, who came together to develop a five-year national plan to improve lung health in England. It makes recommendations to improve awareness of and compliance with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 and to embed understanding of occupational lung disease in healthcare professional training.

 

Because this field is so underfunded, every pound of investment is likely to be worth while and to attract further funding.

 

 I pay particular tribute to Penny Woods and the British Lung Foundation, which continues its work to secure that funding for vital mesothelioma research. It has recently been able to leverage further research through the success of previous projects, helping to secure a £10 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. 

 

While I fully support compensation for the victims of these diseases, it is surely in everyone’s interest—the victims, the Government and insurers—to invest in finding a cure. This would, in the long term, remove the need for lump sum payments or any insurance industry levies. Investment in research is crucial.

 

On the subject of lump sum payments, as the noble Baroness told us, two statutory schemes make payments to mesothelioma sufferers, both of which make payments according to the age of the sufferer and their level of disablement. 

 

Both make payments either to mesothelioma sufferers who claim a payment in life—so-called in-life claims—or to their dependants where a claim is made after death. These are so-called dependency claims. 

 

However, there is significant inequality between dependency and in-life payments. 

 

From April 2019, the maximum in-life payment for a sufferer aged 77 is £14,334 and for a sufferer aged 37 is £92,259. From the same date, the maximum dependency payment for a sufferer aged 77 is £7,949 and £48,013 for a sufferer aged 37. Dependency payments are 45% less for a sufferer aged 77 and 48% less for a sufferer aged 37.

 

 1.15 pm

 

The disparity between payments is partly the result of the difference in assessment of disablement and age of the sufferer. In-life payments under the 1979 Act are assessed at a maximum of 100% disablement. Dependency payments are assessed at 50% or over. In-life payments under the 1979 Act are paid on a rising scale up to the age of 77 and over. Dependency payments are paid on a rising scale up to the age of 67 and over. 

 

Most dependency payments are made to women—widows of mesothelioma sufferers who are doubly disadvantaged by low dependency payments. As the average age of sufferers is approximately 77, many widows, who traditionally may not have a full record of employment, may have very poor pensions, a point alluded to in our discussions on the earlier orders. 

 

Personal injury compensation payments to dependants are higher than compensation payments to sufferers paid in life.

 

The law recognises the financial loss incurred by widows of mesothelioma sufferers. The number of dependency claims compared to in-life claims is very small. In 2017 under the 2008 Act, there were 20 dependency payments and 370 in-life payments. In that year, under the 1979 Act, there were 240 dependency payments and 2,770 in-life payments. As a percentage of total payments, dependency payments make up 8.2%. In 2017, the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum estimated that the percentage was approximately 10%. 

 

One reason for the decline in dependency payments is the success of the Employers’ Liability Tracing Office in identifying employers’ liability insurance. This has resulted in an increase in the amount of benefit and lump sum payments recovered by the Government. In 2017, the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum estimated that the cost of equalising payments would be approximately £1.5 million. 

 

In the same year, the Government estimated the cost at £2 million. Yet in 2018, the Government estimated the cost of equalising payments to be £5 million. 

 

Can the Minister explain why this estimate has more than doubled and how that figure of £5 million was reached?

 

It was in 2010 that the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, the then Minister, to whom I pay particular tribute, committed the Government to equalising payments and went on to do so. 

 

In that year, he increased dependency payments to commence a gradual process of equalising payments. Nothing has been done since the noble Lord did that back in 2010. 

 

Manifestly, there is an unjustifiable disparity between dependency and in-life payments. The number of dependency payments is a fraction of total payments, just 8.2%. The cost of equalising payments is modest: between £1.5 million and £2 million. 

 

Meanwhile, it is worth noting that the Government have benefited from increased benefits and lump sum recoveries as a result of the stimulus to the Employers’ Liability Tracing Office in finding employment liability insurers once the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme made employers’ liability insurers responsible for untraced insurance. Furthermore, the Government have recovered millions in benefits and lump sum recoveries as a result of the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme payments which incur such recoveries. 

 

The millions of pounds in recoveries dwarf the modest cost of equalising the payments.

 

So I welcome the Government’s decision to accept their duty to honour the previous Government’s commitment to equalise payments. However, successive Ministers have excused themselves in the manner of the noble Lord, Lord Henley, who said:

 

“However, we do not intend to equalise payments this year. Instead, we will continue to keep this matter under review and consider equalisation, once resources allow”.—[Official Report, 28/2/17; col. GC 193.]

 

Can the Minister, when she comes to reply, tell us when that elusive date might finally be reached?

 

I have two other brief questions for the Minister, of which I have given her notice. 

 

I sent her an email last night; I hope it arrived. 

 

During the passage of the Mesothelioma Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Freud, gave a commitment to increase DMPS payments in line with CPI. Despite his commitment, this has not been done. Would the Minister explain why the commitment of the noble Lord, Lord Freud, to implement annual CPI increases, at a time when it was already known that the scheme would not make 100% awards, has not been honoured since the establishment of the DMPS?

 

My final point, alluded to a moment ago by the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, is on the position of people in the Armed Forces and those affected at a step’s remove, such as those who might have been washing overalls. 

 

I recall, in some of the debates I referred to earlier, that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, movingly described how his own sister had died through washing her husband’s overalls after he came home from the factory. 

 

The MoD mesothelioma scheme—to which the noble Lord, Lord West of Spithead, also referred in previous debates—pays lump sum compensation in lieu of a war disablement pension to veterans exposed to asbestos while serving in the Armed Forces. 

 

As the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, said, there has been little research on why these things occur in the Armed Forces. 

 

Why have we not increased payments since the scheme’s inception in 2016? 

 

Do the Government have any plans to increase the level of payments made under the MoD scheme? If not, why not?

 

Full debate at:

 

https://hansard.parliament.uk/Lords/2019-02-14/debates/BF1A0AF1-ABCA-4944-A8F3-DE0D12963DED/MesotheliomaLumpSumPayments(ConditionsAndAmounts)(Amendment)Regulations2019