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Volume 455: debated on Monday 15 January 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps have been taken by the UK Government to promote the protection of the rights of the Christian Community in Sudan. (115185)

The Government remains strongly committed to the protection of the human rights of all Sudan’s citizens. We call on the Sudanese Government to ensure that all religions can be practised without fear of harassment or intimidation. We take seriously any infringement of religious freedom, such as an incident involving the use of tear gas at All Saints Church in Khartoum on new year’s eve. We are pressing the Sudanese police to undertake a thorough investigation of the incident, and will remain in contact with church leaders. In addition, the Government are a strong supporter of the North/South Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Under this agreement, a range of peace building commissions are being established including a national Human Rights Commission and the Commission for the Protection of non-Muslim Rights in the National Capital.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government are taking to ensure that the International Commission of Inquiry on the situation in Darfur can operate effectively. (113802)

The International Commission of Inquiry reported in January 2005. It detailed the many atrocities that had taken place in Darfur and recommended that the situation there be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The UK co-sponsored UN Security Council Resolution 1593 in March 2005 which gave effect to this recommendation.

In his most recent briefing to the Security Council on 14 December 2006, the ICC prosecutor highlighted evidence of large-scale massacres, targeting of civilians and systematic sexual violence. He also informed the Security Council that his office was moving towards completion of its investigations based on crimes committed in 2003-04 and expected to present evidence to ICC judges in relation to the first case by February 2007.

The ICC will continue to have our full support for its activities. It must also have the full and unconditional co-operation of the Government of Sudan. We have made this clear to the authorities in Khartoum.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps she is taking to support United Nations personnel in Darfur; when she expects the UN to provide further (a) military advisers and (b) police advisers; and when she expects the hybrid United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force to be deployed. (113836)

UN support to the African Union (AU) Mission in Sudan (AMIS) will come in three phases. The UN is in the process of deploying its light support package to AMIS—with 34 UN personnel deploying to Darfur to date. The heavy support package is due to be implemented over the coming months. The final phase of support will be a UN-AU hybrid peacekeeping force in Darfur. We are pressing the UN and AU to ensure that this is deployed as soon as possible. It will be vital that the necessary infrastructure, training and equipment is in place to permit the full force to be deployed.

The UK has played a leading role in international efforts to secure a UN deployment in Darfur and will continue to provide political and other support to the UN as it deploys. At the request of the UN we are providing two police advisers to assist the UN advance team with planning for the hybrid force, in addition to two military officers and one Ministry of Defence secondee who are already assisting the UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations with planning for Sudan.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations she has made to seek to ensure that all signatories adhere to the principles of the Darfur Peace Agreement. (113839)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development stressed the need to implement the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) when he met both President Bashir and Minni Minawi, the main signatories of the DPA, during his visit to Khartoum in October 2006.

We welcome the commitment by the Government of Sudan at the 16 November 2006 meeting in Addis Ababa to a renewed political process for Darfur, including bringing the non-signatories into the DPA. Our permanent representative at the UN met the newly appointed UN envoy for the DPA at a contact group meeting on 5 January in New York to urge rapid progress on the political track.