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17 Nov 2003 : Column 660Wcontinued
John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress of the peace process between the Government of Sudan and the Darfur rebel group. 
Mr. Mullin: There has been a joint communiqué by the Government of Sudan (GoS) and the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) agreeing to return to Abeche in one month to discuss the political and wealth sharing annexes. The parties have also reached agreement on humanitarian access, which will be under the supervision of the Humanitarian Aid Commission, with the Tri-Partite Committee (GoS, Government of Chad and the SLM) being informed of developments.
We are not directly involved in the Abeche talks and it is difficult at this stage to make an assessment of progress. There have been allegations that the GoS have resumed military activities near SLM areas, and some indication that the SLM are disappointed that some of their proposals have been rejected.
Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the main points were of the ceasefire agreement of 15 October 2002 between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army; what assessment his Department has made of the Sudanese bombings in Darfur on 2 November and their impact on the on-going negotiations in that region; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Mullin: The main points of the Memorandum of Understanding on Cessation of Hostilities signed on 15 October 2002 in Kenya between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) are as follows:
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separate. We are aware of reports that the Government of Sudan have resumed military activities close to Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) areas. The Government of Sudan has stated that it had bombed areas controlled by other militias who rejected the cease-fire. We are seeking corroboration of the reports including by visits by members of our embassy to the area.
The parties have now signed a joint communiqué resolving to meet in one month to discuss the political and wealth sharing annexes of the draft agreement. There has also been agreement on humanitarian access. We view these as positive steps.
Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the progress made in negotiations between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army since the signing of the ceasefire agreement of 15 October 2002; what help his Department has (a) offered and (b) delivered to facilitate the process; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Mullin: The Memorandum of Understanding on Cessation of Hostilities between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army has continued to hold. The parties have made substantial progress in the past year. A Framework Agreement on Security Arrangements during the Interim Period, signed on 25 September 2003, is a further indication of the commitment of both parties to peace. The talks have adjourned for Ramadan and will resume on 30 November. We remain hopeful that a comprehensive peace agreement will be signed in the new year.
The UK observer team has consisted of an official based in Nairobi who can attend every session of the talks and handle local co-ordination between sessions, and the UK Special Representative for Sudan and the Head of the joint FCO/DFID Sudan Unit from London. In addition to financial contributions to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the Government have provided experts on legal and security issues. We also contribute funding and personnel to the missions monitoring the agreements already reached.
Mr. Rammell [holding answer 10 November 2003]: Tariq Aziz is in US custody. As the detaining power, these questions are a matter for the US authorities, who have said that they do not comment on the cases of individual detainees.
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Mr. Mullin: I am sorry that officials did not answer UKvisas telephone number 0207 008 8446. Officials in UKvisas are expected to respond to all telephone calls and to use the voicemail facility. Unfortunately, on this occasion, this voicemail facility had not been updated to show that the official was out of the office, and did not give an alternative point of contact. Guidance has been re-issued to ensure that officials are aware of these procedures.
A full list of contact numbers for the Visa Correspondence Section has been circulated to MPs' offices and is also available on the parliamentary internet. UKvisas recently introduced a dedicated telephone hotline for Members of Parliament to deal with urgent cases and inquiries. This is manned throughout office hours. UKvisas has now resent a copy of this list to my hon. Friend's office.
Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list payments from the United Nations Compensation Commission to (a) the UK Government and (b) other UK beneficiaries broken down by (i) amount and (ii) date; what disbursements have been made by the UK Government; to whom; for what amount; on what dates; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Mullin: From 1996 to date, the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) has paid a total of US$286,028,428.89 to the UK Government for distribution to individuals, companies and Government Departments. US$100,595,509.28 has been paid to individuals, US$180,329,020.61 to companies, and US$5,103,899.00 to Government Departments. All payments are routed through the UK Government. Details of the 420 payments to companies and six payments to Government Departments can be found on the UNCC website at www.uncc.ch. Details of payments to individuals cannot be disclosed for reasons of confidentiality.
Mr. Rammell: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Truro and St. Austell (Matthew Taylor) on 20 June 2003, Official Report, column 437W, and the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock) on 21 October 2003, Official Report, column 536W.
Mr. Rammell: Uzbekistan has not agreed to BBC World Service re-broadcasting effectively from within Uzbekistan despite representations made to the Uzbek authorities by our embassy in Tashkent. We shall continue to lobby the Uzbek authorities on this issue.
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Mr. Woodward: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what funding other than that provided for the translating and printing of his Department's publications in Uzbek will be provided for assistance to Uzbekistan in judicial reform. 
Mr. Rammell: In 2002, the Global Conflict Prevention Pool (GCPP) funded a £71,000 pilot electronic court reporting project in Uzbekistan. As part of the project, new electronic court reporting equipment was installed in four criminal courts in the Ferghana Region. Sadly, while receiving some positive reports from defence lawyers, this assistance has had its limitations; the equipment was abused or not used in practice and court reports were not made available when cases were appealed. Further plans to install the equipment in over 150 courts nation wide have been suspended until we receive firm evidence that the equipment provided thus far is being used effectively.
We shall continue to look for viable opportunities to assist Uzbekistan in reforming its judiciary and improving its human rights record in conjunction with EU, OSCE and other partners. We believe that lessening the dependence on often doubtful confessions and improving the focus on material and forensic evidence is the key to reducing levels of brutality and improving fairness in the judicial process. Through engagement with the authorities on development of an action plan to combat torture, we are also pressing for the political will for such reforms. Regionally we are organising a training workshop in Almaty in December to train judges and prosecutors in the judicial control of the practice of torture. Members of the Uzbek judiciary and procuracy will be invited to attend.
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