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Volume 541: debated on Tuesday 28 February 2012

We are working closely with the transitional Government to provide stabilisation assistance across a range of issues, including policing, security and prison reform, as well as on projects to promote youth and women’s political participation and human rights. We have also worked to ensure that Libya’s assets are available to fund its own reconstruction.

During a recent round table on women in Libya organised by the all-party group on women, peace and security and attended by the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt), we heard about the importance of the DDRRR—disarmament, demobilisation, repatriation, resettlement and reintegration—process of integrating the militias, which helps not only the men but the women engaged in the uprising by, for example, redefining “fighter” to include women. Will the Minister outline what support the UK Government are giving to the Libyan Government in developing their DDRRR plan to ensure that it addresses the concerns of women in post-conflict Libya?

This is a very important issue. From the beginning, including in the very first visit that I made to Benghazi in June last year, during the conflict, we have gone out of our way to support the involvement of women in the transition in Libya. We are working closely with all the relevant organisations on this. We co-funded the first women’s convention in Tripoli in November. We are about to start a six-month programme of support to promote women’s and youth participation in the political process in Libya. I am pleased that the election law that was approved earlier this month will provide, in effect, for a certain proportion of the seats in the national congress to go to women.

On 21 February, Gareth Montgomery-Johnson, a freelance cameraman, and several others were arrested in Tripoli by the Saraya Swehli militia. Despite repeated requests, the militia have refused to transfer Mr Johnson and his colleagues to the Libyan Government or to provide access to Human Rights Watch. His next of kin, who are constituents of mine, are increasingly concerned about the situation. Will the Secretary of State assure them that the Foreign Office will do everything in its power to release my constituent from militia captivity?

Yes, absolutely. The hon. Gentleman is right to raise the position of his constituent. We are aware of the situation. The embassy in Tripoli is doing everything that it can to assist. It is important that consular access is given to his constituent and to one other person involved, and so, while we have not yet achieved everything that we want on this, we are continuing to work on it.