HL Deb 10 December 1992 vol 541 cc309-12

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will consider supporting the claims of the majority for the independence of Kosovo in the light of the possibility that Serbian forces might initiate a policy of "ethnic cleansing".

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey)

My Lords, we fully support the efforts of the special group on Kosovo established at the international conference on the former Yugoslavia to broker a political settlement in Kosovo based on genuine autonomy.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that very positive and encouraging Answer. Does she agree that if this unpleasant practice of ethnic cleansing is applied in Kosovo, it is likely that other nations, such as Turkey, will be drawn into the conflict? They will be reluctant to see fellow Moslems or indeed fellow human beings subjected to such vicious and obscene persecution. Do Her Majesty's Government have clear proposals to discourage such an eventuality?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, all ethnic cleansing, wherever it occurs, is totally against the wishes of everyone. I believe that the Security Council resolution, establishing a commission to analyse the war crimes, will be able to take the perpetrators of ethnic cleansing and hold them individually responsible for their actions. I fully accept what my noble friend said about the danger of spreading the matter. We are taking all possible action to try to prevent that.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, can the Minister tell the House whether the CSCE delegation which has recently been in Kosovo has reported its findings? Can she also inform the House of when the CSCE next intends to discuss the issue?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, to my knowledge it has not yet reported its findings. I believe that there is to be a further meeting next week.

The Earl of Lauderdale

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the premature recognition of Bosnia contributed substantially to the deterioration of the situation? May I hope that we shall be very cautious in this regard?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, if there is one thing we have all learned since this tragedy began in the former Yugoslavia it is that recognition of one part after another of the former Yugoslavia seems to have been an engine to break down the whole situation. It is right, I believe, that we keep the London Conference machinery working for peace and the prevention of tragedy in all parts of the former Yugoslavia.

Lord Finsberg

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that what has happened so far in Kosovo with the beginning of cleansing and what has happened in the rest of the former Yugoslavia show how very sad it is that the CSCE has been utterly powerless? Does she believe that the world will be able to drive the Serbs out of the territory that they have illegally and so brutally obtained?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, my noble friend is a little over-critical of CSCE. In Kosovo it has established a long-term resident monitoring presence with the aim of promoting a dialogue between the authorities concerned and the representatives of the local populations. It will also collect information on human rights violations and promote solutions. However, I understand the frustration felt by many Members. We need to work very carefully through every possible aspect of the London Conference to prevent the conflict spreading.

Earl Jellicoe

My Lords, having twice in recent months visited Albania and discussed these matters with Albanian Ministers and that country's able President, may I voice my very real fear that the present situation in Kosovo contains within it the seeds not only of another civil war, perhaps imminent, but also of another major Balkan conflagration which could well spread outside the Balkans? Given those circumstances, can my noble friend say first what progress has been made in stationing European Community monitors around the frontiers of Kosovo, including the Albanian frontier? Secondly, bearing in mind her reply to the Question of my noble friend Lord Renfrew, what representations, if any, have Her Majesty's Government recently made to Belgrade about the restoration in Kosovo of real autonomy, an autonomy that obtained under Tito?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, my noble friend has asked a number of complicated interlinked questions. The EC monitoring mission operations are being extended. We are currently in negotiation for an extension to Albania and, indeed, along the borders that he mentioned. It is of great regret that the Kosovars are not participating in the elections to be held later this month. Sadly they have forfeited the right to field Kosovar candidates. We understand why but they could still vote in the federal elections. I believe that Kosovo has to have representation, even if its long-term aim may be to have genuine autonomy with full human rights. That is what we are pressing the Serbian authorities to grant to the Kosovars. I hope that in the meantime they may be persuaded to accept something short of full independence.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, may I bring the Minister back to the question put by my noble friend Lady Blackstone; namely, the role of the CSCE? In view of the fact that it has now made the very important appointment of a commissioner for national minorities, Max Van der Stoel, a former Netherlands Foreign Minister, might it not be the case that that appointment and the CSCE may be more appropriate to deal with some of these problems than the European Community which, in my view, is not equipped for such a role?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I understand the noble Lord's wish to see the CSCE further involved. I believe that with the long-term resident monitoring presence there is a chance to do more in that regard. It may in some ways be better equipped but not in all.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, does my noble friend the Minister agree that such a terrible thing as ethnic cleansing, for example, is not a war crime as such but a crime against humanity? Does she further agree that investigation is one thing: it is another to set up an international court under the aegis of the United Nations with jurisdiction to try? What has been done towards setting up such a court? If it were set up, how would the persons to be tried be arrested and transported for trial and how would the penalties be enforced? It is a problem which one can talk about. But what can one do about it?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, Security Council Resolution 780 established an impartial commission to analyse the information on war crimes. Although there is no intention of preparing cases for prosecution, it is intended to assist the UN Secretary General. We have for a long time pressed with our European partners for the International Law Commission to be given a mandate to draft a statute for an international criminal court. I believe that that is the route we should take. I cannot answer all the detailed questions which my noble friend put because many of them depend upon the way in which the mandate is drafted.

Lord Plumb

My Lords, what action is the Security Council taking in respect of the siege of Sarajevo?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, the Security Council met yesterday and issued a statement which I shall place in the Library of the House. The Security Council strongly condemned the attacks on Sarajevo and the other attacks in Bosnia. It demanded an immediate cessation of the attacks and of all actions aimed at impeding the distribution of humanitarian assistance and forcing the inhabitants to leave the city. The Security Council further stated that if such attacks and actions continue it will consider as soon as possible further measures against those who commit or support them in order to ensure the security of UNPROFOR and of the international relief workers, the ability of UNPROFOR to fulfil its mandate and compliance with the council's relevant resolutions.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, what grounds does the Minister have for believing that the Serbians will pay any more attention to the signals sent by the United Nations, Europe and the CSCE than they have hitherto?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, we continue to work with those Serbs who appear to understand that what is happening in Bosnia is wrong. We shall do so while that is necessary.

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