HC Deb 29 June 2000 vol 352 cc257-98WH

[Relevant documents: Second Report from the International Development Committee, Session 1999-2000 HC67, and Government response HC473]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—[Mr. Pope.]

2.30 pm
Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford)

I am delighted to be able to open this debate on sanctions. The Select Committee on International Development decided to investigate sanctions because of the humanitarian effect on the people of the countries affected. The compelling evidence that was given to us by many international organisations concerned with children and women, and with the humanitarian affairs of the targeted countries, showed that the policy was having a severe effect on the poorest people in the countries concerned, and very little effect in terms of achieving the aims of the Foreign Office and the international community. The major example is the compulsory economic sanctions that were imposed on Iraq, which have now been in place for 10 years. Inevitably, therefore, our report concentrates on Iraq.

The International Development Committee is particularly concerned by the statements made to us by organisations such as UNICEF and the Save the Children Fund. In 1999, UNICEF published the extraordinary estimate that an additional 500,000 Iraqi children under the age of five died between 1991 and 1998. During those eight years, in an average three-hour period—the length of today's debate—there would be 21 additional deaths of under-fives in a country whose population is one third of the size of the United Kingdom's. UNICEF's most recent child malnutrition survey, in south and central Iraq, found little, if any, change since 1997.

That is the result of the imposition by the international community of sanctions on Iraq. When they were imposed, the sanctions were designed to change the behaviour—or, indeed, the leadership—of the Government of Iraq. They were supposed to ensure that Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq, was denied the means by which he could continue to manufacture, and threaten his immediate vicinity with, weapons of mass destruction, and to prevent him from carrying out aggressive wars and incursions into neighbouring countries such as Kuwait.

What have been the effects of those sanctions on Saddam Hussein's behaviour 10 years later? He is still in power, more certainly than he was when the sanctions were imposed. He and his family are considerably richer than they were 10 years ago. The imposition of sanctions has enabled him to impose a rationing system for food, medical supplies, health and education on all the people of Iraq, who have thus become totally dependent on him.

That shows the ineffectiveness of sanctions on Iraq. The Foreign Office's reply to the Committee's report is complacent and, in many ways, flabby. Before there are cries of pain from the Foreign Office, I point out that one would have thought that, in making a reply to a Select Committee, it would have made every effort to ensure that its facts were correct. It states that the United Kingdom has imposed universal sanctions only once since the second world war, but that is not the case. It has applied them three times, in Argentina and elsewhere. That illustrates a disregard for accuracy and a determination not to listen to the Select Committee's arguments for trying to do something more effective, and with fewer bad humanitarian effects for the countries being targeted.

Sanctions have never been effective anywhere. They are a diplomatic tool used to reply to a population's cry for the Foreign Office to do something. Doing something, for the Foreign Office, involves taking the easy option of saying that it will apply sanctions. The Foreign Office's—and the international community's—readiness to impose sanctions in answer to the demand to do something has increased since the end of the cold war. It is now involved in more than 25 sanctions regimes, most of which have been applied since then, and I fear that the number is growing.

Other regional examples of sanctions exist, in which we find severe humanitarian suffering—for example, in Burundi.

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)

I am sorry to have to disagree with the Chairman of our Committee, but paragraph 39 of the Committee's conclusions clearly states: Not all this humanitarian distress is the direct result of the sanctions regime. There is a tendency to blame all such distress on sanctions in the absence of clear evidence…The responsibility for the plight of the Iraqi people must ultimately lie with the Iraqi leadership. It is only fair to point out that that formed part of our report's conclusions.

Mr. Wells

I entirely accept that. I was coming to that point later in my speech. Of course Saddam Hussein is responsible for all the distress in his country. His people are suffering as a result of serious maladministration, fraud, and the corrupt nature of his regime. However, without the sanctions, he would not have been helped to stay in power and to apply the rationing system to which I have referred. We cannot deny that, in Iraq and elsewhere, the perpetrators of serious international crimes are responsible for the humanitarian effects of those crimes on their countries, but we do not have to help them.

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby)

There is a great deal of common ground between my hon. Friend and myself. We all went through the lengthy business of compiling the report. However, I am not entirely sure that we have been helping Saddam Hussein as he appears to suggest. I do not disagree with him fundamentally, but I do not believe that the people of Iraq would have been in a much better position without sanctions.

Mr. Wells

I have to disagree with my hon. Friend. I do not think that Saddam Hussein would have remained quite so securely in power if he had not been assisted in doing so by international sanctions. Those sanctions legitimise his domestic position as far as the Iraqi people are concerned, because they are seen as an external threat not only to his regime but to the whole population. That gives him greater authority. The countries imposing the sanctions are not responsible for causing the suffering of the people of Iraq, however. Saddam Hussein is.

The sanctions against Burundi are among the examples of regional sanctions that have not worked and have produced severe humanitarian disasters. The sanctions imposed by three African countries on Burundi prevented the provision of medical assistance for well over a year. The result was severe outbreaks of disease for which no medical help was available. The civilian population also faced serious shortages of food and other vital supplies.

The other obvious failure was in Angola, where sanctions still apply. The evidence given to the Committee suggested that Dr. Savimbi is receiving the contents of at least seven flights a day, despite the international community's sanctions. Some of the aircraft are, in fact, so large that he is taking delivery of tanks. Such is the ineffectiveness of the sanctions against Angola that Savimbi is able to carry on a civil war. Angola provides some of the worst examples of human deprivation and, although it is potentially a rich country, it has become one of the poorest in the world. The effectiveness of the sanctions must be questioned, but the impact on innocent civilians and their children is substantial.

My next example relates to a real farce. I refer to the political ineptitude shown by the European Union—acting with the support of the United Kingdom—in the fuel for democracy regime that was imposed on Serbia at the end of last year. In that case, although the European Union had imposed sanctions on fuel supplies to Serbia, we chose to break our own sanctions. The world was conscious that, during the severe winter in Serbia and Kosovo, there could be a serious number of deaths from hypothermia among the weaker members of the population—especially young children and elderly people—as a result of the bombing of the region and the elimination of the power supply, so the European Union, supported by the United Kingdom, decided to supply fuel to those mayors of Serbian towns close to the border with Kosovo who would declare themselves for democracy and against Milosevic. That was done in the name of humanitarian assistance.

The bandying around of the term "humanitarian" in that context was deplorable. Since the Geneva convention, the understanding has been that any assistance provided under the humanitarian banner should be universal—it should go to all sides in a war. Those delivering such aid must be seen to be neutral, so that they will not come under attack from any side. Fuel for democracy violated all humanitarian considerations. It was supplied only to those mayors who were opposed to Milosevic. That is a serious undermining of the whole credibility of sanctions and humanitarian assistance and it should cease forthwith. In any case, that programme did not result in the overthrow of Milosevic, as had been hoped. The people of Serbia were saved from death in the cold by the Chinese, who supplied fuel, and the Swiss Government, who repaired many of their power stations. In terms of humanitarian efforts and focus, the Foreign Office and the European Union are unlikely to be effective in that example.

The question arises whether we should be using sanctions at all—whether we should give them up as a means of trying to exert pressure on countries that offend against international law. The Committee concluded that that would not be sensible. The evidence suggested that we should make sanctions sharper and more focused, and perhaps concentrate them on financial assets.

In recent years there has been a flurry of activity to examine how financial sanctions might be implemented. A major initiative has been the Swiss-sponsored Interlaken process, which has been examining proposals to improve the effectiveness of financial sanctions. The United Kingdom has been supportive of the Interlaken process, but the Committee thought that there was a gap between rhetoric and practice. For example, at the time of its inquiry, the Treasury informed the Committee that in the case of Angola only two accounts had been frozen and that the amounts frozen were not significant. Similarly, while the Government in their response stated that they take financial sanctions seriously, they also stated that it is the responsibility of financial institutions to ensure that targeted accounts are frozen, and up to them to decide which systems they wish to use to achieve this end. The Government's rejection of interdiction software, which is widely used in the United States and elsewhere, contrasts with the speech of the United Kingdom ambassador to the United Nations Security Council during a debate on sanctions on 17 April when he stated: I hope that modern technology will be able to help us in the financial area. The Government also rejected the Committee's recommendation that an office for foreign assets control be established.

How many accounts have been frozen under the financial sanctions regimes against Iraq, UNITA in Angola, the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia? Is the situation satisfactory, or should the Government and the Bank of England be examining further options for freezing the funds of targeted individuals? Are the Government satisfied that the recommendations of the Interlaken process were taken into account when the most recent financial sanctions regime was implemented, against the Taliban in Afghanistan? The Foreign Office rejected the Committee's approach and I believe that it was seriously mistaken to do so. If we are to apply financial sanctions, the co-operation of not only the Foreign Office, but the Treasury, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Bank of England, Customs and Excise, the UK mission in New York and so on will be needed.

It is incorrect to say that the United Kingdom has never imposed unilateral financial sanctions. We did so on 2 April 1982 against Argentina and on 2 August 1990 against Kuwait, which was then part of Iraq. On both occasions, the Emergency Powers Act 1920 was used and the fact that the Kuwait measures were protective is irrelevant. The Committee's basic point is unassailable. There will be coherent administration of sanctions only if responsibility rests with a single body that is responsive to the financial centre being policed.

The Bank of England used to do the job very well, but since the internationalisation of the banking system and the proposed transfer to Brussels of the Bank of England's powers to discipline the banking sector, its powers and capacity have been seriously undermined. Therefore, we need to replace those powers with a co-operative effort on an international and European Union basis which includes the United States and Japan at least. The Foreign Office should reconsider its rejection of that demand. I ask it to do so urgently. The whole Government must reconsider their position if they are serious about finding a means of targeting sanctions on the leaders of countries without creating unnecessary suffering for their unempowered people. It is illogical to apply sanctions that impact on people who have no power, in particular, no power to change the regime. They have no power because they have no money, because the very leaders whom we are trying to influence have taken it away. Sanctions should instead be targeted on the people whom we need to get at.

The Committee examined the present system of humanitarian exemptions and concluded that they should be based on a thorough assessment of the likely impact of the sanctions on the targeted population, and of other issues such as the level of economic development in the country targeted and groups that are likely to be disproportionately affected by the imposition of sanctions. The Committee further recommended that sanctions regimes should be sufficiently flexible so as to allow for fine-tuning in response to any…adverse humanitarian consequences. For example, in northern Iraq the universal food ration, which was introduced as part of the oil for food programme, resulted in the dramatic collapse of markets in key agricultural products such as wheat, flour, rice, oil, chick peas and lentils, impoverishing the farmers in that region. That mistake has been made time and again in international efforts to help people, particularly by the World Food Programme. We should have learnt from such mistakes by now, but in this case we apparently have not. It is vital that the humanitarian response to sanctions takes account of local procurement and the local economy.

Finally, the Committee looked at the capacity of the United Nations. The Government agreed with the Committee that there is a need for a dedicated and properly resourced capacity—not only in Britain but in the United Nations secretariat—to provide advice and support to the Security Council, sanctions committees, member states and regional organisations on all aspects of sanctions, including the targeting, implementation and enforcement of financial sanctions. The Government's response makes frequent reference to a Canadian proposal to establish a working group on sanctions in the United Nations Security Council. Has that group been established? Who will be involved and what will be its remit? How will it be funded and supported, both financially and logistically?

This is a very serious issue, and the Committee has made a major contribution to persuading the international community and the Foreign Office to do a lot better than they are doing at the moment. Among those who gave important evidence to the Committee was Mr. Jeremy Carver, who is a representative of one of the most important and best informed legal practices in this country. He believes that the Committee is right to press the Foreign Office to be more constructive and recognise the needs of those in the targeted nations who, because they are unable to respond to sanctions, are suffering seriously.

This debate is long overdue, and I hope that it will help to ensure a more sustainable, rigorous and disciplined policy that we can applaud and support in future.

2.53 pm
Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)

I also want to quote from Mr. Jeremy Carver, who, as the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) suggested, is a partner and head of international law at Clifford Chance. Mr. Carver took part in the Interlaken process, so he is well versed in these arguments. He told the Committee: It is not the imposition or maintenance of international sanctions, but the policies of the Iraqi government which are the primary cause of this suffering. The Iraqi regime has cynically exploited sanctions: both to justify its neglect of its own population and as a tool to solicit external support for its reconstructed ambitions. A government which delights in showing foreign parliamentarians suffering infants, when its warehouses are overflowing with food and medicine undistributed for years, surely reveals itself, save to the gullible. Representatives of the Iraqi opposition groups who gave evidence to us agreed. They questioned the extent to which the humanitarian impact of sanctions was the responsibility of the countries imposing the sanctions or of the Iraqi Government. They said that the sanctions had had an effect. None of us would argue that they had not—of course they have. The British Government have agreed that the humanitarian situation in Iraq has deteriorated since sanctions were imposed in 1990, but obviously there are differing opinions about the causes.

The opposition groups said: After 60 or 90 days at the most the regime had the opportunity to remove sanctions if the international community's will had been accepted by Iraq— and if it had been implemented. However, they said: Iraq has dragged its feet by denying the Iraqi population a better life in economic, political and even social terms…it has challenged the international community and the UN resolutions. I could give hon. Members a list longer than both arms that would show the ways in which the Iraqi Government have refused to honour those resolutions and continued to go their own way.

The Iraqi opposition groups of course acknowledge that the sanctions are hurting the people, but they say: they are absolutely necessary to keep pressure on the regime. The solution, it is argued, lies in maintaining sanctions, albeit with improved exemption mechanisms. We should bring education, transport and the environment into the equation. That is the solution, not the total removal of sanctions.

That was the opposition groups' argument, and it must be said that those people have family in Iraq, both north and south, and they know what they are talking about. The trouble is that it is difficult for us to establish for ourselves where the truth lies, apart from by listening to reports from other people.

Mr. Robathan

The hon. Lady and I share much common ground on the matter. I would like to raise one issue before she moves on from considering the Iraqi opposition. They made a point that is worth repeating. They were asked by the hon. Member for Stevenage (Barbara Follett) whether the people of Iraq wanted sanctions to be lifted. In response, Dr. Latif Rashid from the Iraqi National Congress said: I think that it would be a nightmare for the Iraqi people if the pressure on the regime was reduced. That speaks volumes, does it not?

Ann Clwyd

That is an important point. The report is bulky and we took a long time to prepare it. The evidence in it is an accumulation of opinions, which is worth reading, if I may plug it. The then head of the middle east department at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Edward Chaplin, said: there are other, rather startling anomalies in the way that, for example, Iraq exports food to Syria in significant quantities, while claiming that its people do not have enough to eat. Further, Mr. Chaplin said that the regime had reduced the amount of the calorific value of the food basket but put in large sums of money for the import of bank-note counting machines and telecommunications equipment, tens of millions of dollars for those items, but less than before going on the food basket. And then there is the problem of distribution, even the stuff that does get into the country. Iraqi Kurdistan and northern Iraq are the subject of both UN sanctions and Saddam Hussein's sanctions. The UN and other humanitarian agencies have assumed responsibility for the provision of food and medicine there. Other witnesses noted the stark contrast between those areas and central and southern Iraq, where Saddam Hussein remains in control. The people in northern Iraq will certainly substantiate that.

I want to concentrate today on the human rights abuses of the Iraqi regime, because they are a factor that it is important to consider within the subject of sanctions. Like many of my hon. Friends, I went round the holocaust exhibition in the Imperial War museum. I spent two hours there the other week looking at the evidence of the terrible effects of the holocaust on peoples of various countries and the debris that was left of people's personal effects: the buttons off their coats, scraps of material, tin mugs, half combs, and many things that were dug out of mass graves. When one looks at the film of events that took place at the time, one sees the sheer terror on people's faces—on the faces of small children and old men and women.

As I walked around, I thought that in a few years' time we would see the same thing in Iraq, because of the extent of the persecution by that regime of the Kurds in the north, the Shi'ites in the south and the Iranians, with the use of chemical weapons on the people of Halabja and the written instructions given by many leading members of the regime.

The Iraqi regime is very like the Nazis and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, who kept explicit instructions about what should be done with people. For example, in the case of a group of Kurdish shepherds who were rounded up, a telegram was sent back to Baghdad to ask what should be done with them. The command was, "Dispose of them." They were shot. Afterwards, letters were sent out to their relatives asking them to come and collect the bodies. When they collected the bodies, they had to sign for them and pay for the bullets that had been used to kill their relatives. That is documented in meticulous detail by the regime, and that will be very useful in the future when the perpetrators appear before a war crimes tribunal.

I want to highlight the Government's response to part of the Committee's report. The report said: Any move away from comprehensive sanctions should go hand in hand with measures designed to target the real culprits, not the poor of Iraq but their leadership. Possibilities include a concerted attempt to target and either freeze or sequester the assets of Saddam Hussein and those connected to him, and the indictment of Saddam Hussein and his close associated as war criminals. To bring to justice Saddam Hussein is also a humanitarian imperative and this should be done without delay. The Government agreed with that view. They referred to the fact that the UN special rapporteur for Iraq concluded in his most recent report that he had observed no improvement in the human rights situation there since his appointment as human rights rapporteur in 1992. In fact, he said that the situation was getting worse. The prevailing regime of systematic human rights violations is contrary to Iraq's many international obligations and remains a threat to peace and security in the region.

The Government share the view that Saddam Hussein and other members of his regime should be brought to account for the atrocities that they have committed over the years. The Government support Indict and other organisations that seek to bring them to justice. I should explain my own interest as chair of Indict, from which I receive no personal finances. That organisation is committed to bringing some of the main perpetrators of continuing human rights abuses before an international criminal tribunal.

One of the problems with the proposed International Criminal Court is that it will not be able to act retrospectively and, given the slow pace at which countries are ratifying it, it will be many years before it is set up. That is why I suggest that the action of organisations such as Indict to bring Saddam Hussein before an international war crimes tribunal could be an alternative to the easing of sanctions—that is, if the regime agrees to resolution 1284, which the United Kingdom spent so much time pushing through the UN, only to be told by Tariq Aziz that Iraq had no intention of agreeing to it. The resolution is all about the easing of sanctions. If the regime or its supporters favour the easing of sanctions, they should back it. They should also back the creation of an ad hoc tribunal at the UN to indict Saddam Hussein and some of his closest cronies.

It seems extremely ironic to me that those abuses are so well documented—better documented than many war crimes perpetrated in the century that has just passed—yet no international tribunal has been set up at the UN. I know that the Government have been busy in relation to resolution 1284 and will continue to press for it to be accepted, but they should concentrate at the same time on trying to secure the establishment of an ad hoc tribunal. In a recent letter to Ambassador Holbrooke at the UN, Human Rights Watch pressed the Security Council to establish an international criminal tribunal like those that have already been set up for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

Human Rights Watch noted that such a step was entirely warranted on the basis of the evidence that it had uncovered and would help to dispel any suggestion that addressing Iraq's humanitarian crisis implies leniency towards the Iraqi regime. An article in The Economist on 8 April said: Sanctions remain the world's only leverage over a ruthless and bellicose tyrant. Yet almost ten years into the embargo they have not budged him. That point was also made by the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford.

Perhaps America and Britain need to rethink a policy that has so embittered and impoverished the people of Iraq. I can never understand why the UN annual report on human rights in Iraq does not receive more publicity when it documents some of the most awful human rights abuses ever. In his latest report to the UN, Max van der Stoel, human rights rapporteur on Iraq since 1992, said: the gravity of human rights abuses in Iraq has few comparisons in the world since the end of the second world war. He regrets that since saying that in 1992 he has had no cause to change his view, and concludes that the regime has effectively eliminated the civil rights to life, liberty and physical integrity; eliminated freedoms of thought, expression, association and assembly; flouted rights to political participation; banned all political parties except the Ba'ath party; and failed to use all available resources to ensure the enjoyment of their economic, social and cultural rights by the Iraqi people. He says that the political and legal order in Iraq is not compatible with respect for human rights and entails systematic violations throughout the country, affecting almost the entire population.

I shall list some of the abuses that have taken place in the past year. The special rapporteur has a list of 21 people from Basra who in late March 1999 were arrested, executed by firing squad and buried in a mass grave near the town of Zubair. Their so-called crime was demonstrating. In addition, the houses of their families were demolished and their relatives detained. That was under the direct supervision of Ali Hassan Al-Majid, commonly known outside Iraq as "Chemical Ali", the man who ordered the destruction of Halabja by chemical and biological weapons.

Other lists contained the names of 56 prisoners who were executed en masse in the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad in April 1999 and of 26 prisoners executed en masse on 10 August 1999. Their so-called crime was inflicting damage on the state. Since 1997 2,500 prisoners have been executed without trial as part of Iraq's prison cleansing campaign.

The special rapporteur has lists of hundreds arrested and detained without trial. For example, 70 people in Kerbal were arrested and taken to detention centres in Baghdad and prisons in Al-Amara. Those arrests were ordered by Saddam's son Qusay to intimidate the population of the southern marshes by taking hostages. Eight Shi'ite clerics have been sentenced to death. Two Shi'ite religious scholars have been murdered in what the special rapporteur feels may have been an organised attack by the Iraqi Government.

The Iraqis in exile do not make enough of these facts. When I went to northern Iraq I met thousands of people camping out in what had been the headquarters of the Iraqi secret police. They had been deported. They were given 24 hours to get out of their homes and clear off to northern Iraq. That internal deportation, to relocate and Arabise the Kurds, continues. Kurdish property and land have been seized and Arab settlements have been built in Kurdish areas.

Iraq has the highest number of disappearances in the world. The human rights working group has stated that there are more than 16,000 outstanding cases of disappearances, including those of more than 600 Kuwaitis. The special rapporteur has reports of the Iraqi army destroying houses and villages. In late March 1999, armoured division 6 destroyed the residential areas of some of the tribes and bulldozed 56 homes of political opponents in Basra.

Since the beginning of last year, the special rapporteur has received regular reports that the Government of Iraq has been destroying the houses of opponents with bulldozers in broad daylight. Recently, 52 houses were demolished in Basra. There is a list of names of hundreds of people treated in that way. We know their addresses and the action that was taken against their families. We know of arrests, executions and expulsions.

I am reminded of a visit to the then Iraqi ambassador in London in about 1977 or 1978, when I was not a politician but part of a group from Wales. There were many Iraqi and Kurdish students in Wales then. We came with a list of missing women and children. I did not understand then why all the Iraqis decided to stay at the top of the road. After all, they had made the journey from Wales with us. However, they said, "No, no, we are not coming anywhere near there." At the Iraqi embassy we were given tea, smiles and greetings. Then I passed to the ambassador a list of the missing women and children. He did not even look at it. He just pushed it aside, got up and shouted "Out! Out!" Then I understood why the Iraqis and Kurds had stayed at the top of the street. That was the first of many visits to the Iraqi embassy. I cannot say that my treatment was any better on subsequent occasions. In fact, I think it got progressively worse.

Over the years, among the organisations that have given evidence—I have chaired an Iraqi opposition group, too, since 1984—has been the Iraqi Communist party, which was badly treated by the regime. Its members went to see the UN special rapporteur in Geneva with more lists—the lists are always reliable—showing what has happened this year. A group of 58 prisoners who had been held in solitary confinement at the Abu Ghraib prison were executed on 9 March. Among those victims, 14 had been sentenced to death for political offences ranging from being affiliated to opposition parties to participating in opposition activities. The rest were sentenced for criminal offences. The bodies of the latter were handed to the families; the bodies of the political prisoners were removed using vehicles that belonged to special security, which is headed by Saddam's son Qusay. They were buried at night and the relatives do not know where.

I could go on: 21 political prisoners were executed on 3 February; 43 were executed on 12 February; and 101 were executed later in the year. I understand that 73 citizens are now being held in solitary confinement at the Abu Ghraib prison in cells that are usually used for people who are sentenced to death. They have been there since 1991. Those who went to see the UN special rapporteur proposed activating UN resolution 688, which deals with human rights in Iraq. Like so many other UN resolutions, however, it has not been honoured by the regime. The regime's officials, headed by Saddam Hussein, should face trial before an international tribunal.

One sanction that would make it impossible for Saddam Hussein or other members of the regime to travel is indictment. Other war criminals who have been chased around the globe have eventually been caught. If the members of the regime are indicted, they are less likely to move outside the country. I have had many dealings with Ambassador David Scheffer, whose remit includes war crimes committed throughout the world. He believes that Saddam Hussein and his henchmen are still viewed by some Governments as the legitimate leaders of a country that is under siege by the international community. In reality, they are thugs who are terrorising what was once, and could be again, a great nation.

We, the United States and many other countries have said that that group of Iraqi criminals should be stripped of their power and, if possible, brought to justice. They should not benefit from contracts, trade or initiatives that would bestow any legitimacy on their regime in Baghdad. They should be isolated, cut off and brought before the gates of justice.

The organisation that I chair has named 12 members of the regime, including Saddam Hussein, his two sons Qusay and Uday, his cousin Hassan Al-Majid—the infamous "Chemical Ali"—and a small number of associates who share responsibility for the crimes. From time to time, we hear that a member of the regime may be travelling in Europe. Last year, Ezzat Ibrahim Al-Douri, vice-chairman of the revolutionary command council, visited Vienna last summer for medical attention. The United States, other nations and the organisation that I chair approached the Austrian authorities to try to have him detained there. Unfortunately, the Austrian official who tried to get him arrested did not have sufficient material. It is necessary to get witness statements, videos if possible, signed orders and a variety of admissible evidence for an indictment.

In our organisation, we have had to build up such information from scratch. We began with empty box files. Despite all the evidence that is held in the United States and the United Kingdom, we have had to piece it together ourselves. If the rest of the world, and the Government, are serious about indictment, they should give more assistance to those who are trying to bring it about.

I want to mention nine major criminal episodes under Saddam Hussein's rule in Iraq. In the 1980s, crimes against humanity and possible genocide occurred in the Anfal campaign against the Kurds, including the use of poison gas in Halabja in 1988, which killed an estimated 5,000 people in a single attack. Also in the 1980s, crimes against humanity and war crimes were committed involving the use of poison gas against Iran. There were other war crimes against Iran and the Iranian people. In 1990 and 1991, there were crimes against humanity and war crimes against Kuwait, its people and its environment, during the illegal invasion and occupation, and in the same year there were war crimes against coalition forces during the Gulf war. During the 1990s there were possible crimes against humanity and war crimes with respect to illegal human experimentation. Since the 1980s, possible crimes against humanity have related to killings in Iraq, mainly of political opponents. Since 1991, crimes against humanity and possibly genocide have been committed against the Iraqi Kurds in the north and against the people of the southern Iraqi marshes. Possible crimes against humanity and war crimes have been committed in killing Iranian prisoners of war.

Among the documents held by the Americans are 5.5 million pages of captured Iraqi documents taken out of northern Iraq by Human Rights Watch and the United States Government. An archive of more than 4 million pages of Iraqi documents was captured, and videos were shot by US cameramen during the Gulf war. Classified Iraqi archives are held. No one can doubt the Iraqi regime's continuing assaults on its own civilians. Anyone who calls for the unilateral lifting of sanctions without underlying agreements is being irresponsible.

I hear that some countries now talk about trade with Iraq and sending trade delegations. I hear of a recent agreement with Turkey. There must not be a memory lapse about the war crimes of Saddam Hussein and his inner circle. That man and his regime have for years brutally and systematically committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. They are committing them now and will continue to do so until the international community finally says no.

The Security Council could, I believe, set up an ad hoc tribunal. I have heard Ambassador Scheffer mention the use of an interim arrangement in the setting up of war crimes tribunals in the past. That was done in the cases of former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, when a commission of experts was set up to investigate the facts. However, he believes that that is unnecessary in this case. The facts are well known, and an ad-hoc tribunal could be set up now.

Last year, when the Select Committee went to the United Nations and we spoke to the Secretary-General, I asked him specifically what the UN would do if some of those war criminals were indicted. He said, "I suppose we would set up an ad hoc tribunal." Indict hopes soon to put that to the test. We have copies of 176 CD-ROMs, which the US has made available to us. Our researchers have been going through that information and collecting the kind of evidence that is needed to bring about an indictment. There is no shortage of information.

It is important to place on the record one of the most brutal crimes of Saddam Hussein's regime—the Anfal campaign against the Kurds. I have been to that part of the world several times, and that campaign never came home to me in all its brutality until I crossed the border from Iran into Iraq at night during Saddam Hussein's attack on the Kurds. They were fleeing across the mountains to Iran and elsewhere, wherever they could cross a border, in the most pitiful state. We could hear the bombardment going on. As we drove into northern Iraq, we saw that every few miles there were masses of rubble. I realised that those were some of the 3,000 villages that had just been bulldozed by Saddam Hussein, and had once been people's homes. Those people had been transported to the desert area of Iraq. That was when I recognised the sheer awfulness of the Anfal campaign.

"Chemical Ali", who was in the late 1980s the man responsible for implementing the policy against the Kurds, said in a speech to security commanders in January 1989: I'll certainly look after the Kurds. I'll do it by burying them with bulldozers. That's how I'll do it. He was true to his word. The policy was simple and direct.

Orders for the treatment of people who were rounded up were explicit, as in the case of the shepherds whom I mentioned earlier. An order of June 1987, again from Ali Hassan Al-Majid, stated: The armed forces must kill any human being or animal present within these areas. They are totally prohibited. That order was repeated often, because apparently some units in the field were not as active in implementing the policy as the high command wished. Another command stated: The core command shall carry out random bombardments using artillery, helicopters and aircraft at all times in order to kill the largest number of persons present in those prohibited areas. All persons captured in those villages shall be detained, and those between the ages of 15 and 70 must be executed after any useful information has been obtained from them. Another cold-blooded edict stated: The 1st Army Corps issued an order as requested by comrade Ali Hassan Al-Majid to execute the wounded civilians after the party organisation confirmed their hostility towards the authorities. The best known incident was the attack on Halabja, where 5,000 civilians died from the effects of mustard and nerve gases. I went to see some of them in hospital in London about a month later. They had the most horrifying burns, and some could not speak. The devastating effects of Halabja are felt to this day, including abnormal rates of birth defects, cancers and infertility.

The Foreign Secretary and the Minister have spelt out their intentions many times, and I agree with them. I have always supported the view that they have taken. After all, what alternative do we have when there is no agreement that weapons production—which I am certain is still going on in that country—can be inspected? Do we just cross our fingers as Saddam Hussein smuggles in a new stock of weapons, and wish the Kurds, the Shias and the Iranians—and anyone else whom he plans to attack—the best of luck? The answer to that must be no.

If we are responsible human beings, as I hope, we must realise that Saddam Hussein's is an awful regime. Unless it is brought to book—for example, through resolution 1284 or through the indictment of Iraqi war criminals—it will continue to persecute its own people and make their lives a misery, and continue to be a threat to neighbouring countries and, perhaps, countries further afield. We must say to him that there is no hiding place in the world for war criminals any more, as the spokesperson for the Attorney General said at Question Time this afternoon. We must say that it is the responsibility of every country, under international law, to prosecute Iraqi war criminals wherever they might be. That must be the message to any future dictators and perpetrators of atrocities such as the holocaust and the many other terrible things that have happened to us over the past century.

3.32 pm
Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie)

I want to take the emphasis away from Iraq and to look at sanctions more generally. I shall look particularly at the question of what are called smart sanctions, or financial sanctions.

There are many imperfections in the kind of sanctions that have generally been imposed, and the advantages of smart sanctions are listed in paragraph 65 of our report. It points out that smarter sanctions ought, among other things, to hurt the regime more than the general population; that they avoid the humanitarian costs of comprehensive trade embargoes; and that they make it more difficult for the target regime to rally domestic and foreign support against the sanctions. There is an attractiveness about smart sanctions. I went into this investigation thinking that it would be interesting to hear about them. I wondered what they were and how they operated.

I must say that I emerged from working on the report deeply disillusioned about smart sanctions, because I did not find much smartness going on. The report refers to that in strong terms in paragraph 78, which says: We consider it totally unacceptable that there is no individual or organisation within the United Nations with overall responsibility for targeting financial sanctions, for example against those who continue to enrich themselves while their people suffer. It is impossible to have smart sanctions when the United Nations does not have a brain. It does not have a brain because no one there is responsible for gathering information. No person or organisation within the United Nations is responsible for the imposition of smart sanctions. We must address that. The Foreign Office's response to the report does not deal adequately with that point.

If hon. Members want to know how dumb the United Nations is in this respect, they should read the evidence of Ambassador Fowler on the resources that he has and the information that he receives as chair of the Angola sanctions committee. He said that he received whatever information any nation deigned to give him, which was not much.

I can illustrate the point about smart sanctions by referring to the issue of diamonds. It is fair to say that, if we were serious about preventing conflict in Africa, we would have done something about diamond mining and smuggling a long time ago. The Angola crisis has been going on for 25 years, and it is calculated that, in the 1990s, Savimbi gathered in $3.7 billion from the diamond trade. The Congo and, for the past 10 years, Sierra Leone have also been affected.

I received some information from De Beers, which controls about 65 per cent. of the world's diamonds. The figure has gone down in recent years because of the collapse of the Soviet Union, but we are still talking about a big player. Everyone who considers the situations in Angola, Sierra Leone and the Congo comes to the conclusion that diamonds are fuelling the wars. In a press release, De Beers Canada said that it had long ago ceased buying diamonds in Angola from the informal sector of the economy. The document also says: The intake of diamonds being purchased by De Beers and its associated companies and being sold into the market through the Sight system does not include any diamonds which come from any area in Africa controlled by forces rebelling against the legitimate and internationally recognised government of the relevant country. De Beers is saying that its hands are clean.

De Beers also wrote to me about something that I said in a previous debate. In evidence to Congress, the corporation said that, for a variety of reasons, it had been appalled by the link that has been made between diamonds and the funding of weapons purchases by rebel armies in Africa. In the letter that I received, it said: Moreover, as part of its (well publicised) programme to deny rebel movements in Africa access to the world's diamond markets, De Beers has closed down all its outside buying operations in Africa and instructed its offices in Antwerp and Tel Aviv not to buy any African-sourced diamonds. That is why it is able to ensure that all the diamonds it sells onto the market are conflict-free. That is an enormous statement, and it conflicts with what has been said by others who have carried out research into the matter.

Ms Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate)

Does the hon. Gentleman not find it surprising that world diamond prices have remained fairly stable? If there were a quantity of diamonds available outside the official channels, the price of diamonds would have plummeted.

Mr. Worthington

One of the major reasons for the existence of De Beers is to protect world diamond prices. We ought to be able to use it to help to clear up diamond smuggling, as it is easier to control operations with such a huge organisation.

A report by an organisation called Partnership Africa-Canada, entitled "The Heart of the Matter: Sierra Leone, Diamonds and Human Security", says: De Beers says that it does not purchase Sierra Leonean diamonds. Through its companies and buying offices in West Africa, however, and in its attempts to mop up supplies everywhere in the world, it is virtually inconceivable that the company is not—in one way or another—purchasing diamonds that have been smuggled out of Sierra Leone. There are important questions to be asked. Although the Government of Sierra Leone recorded exports of only 8,500 carats in 1998, the Diamond High Council in Belgium recorded imports from Sierra Leone of 770,000 carats. In Liberia, where little diamond mining takes place, the annual diamond mining capacity is between 100,000 and 150,000 carats, but Liberian imports to Belgium of more than 31 million carats have been recorded between 1994 and 1998. In other words, although the capacity of the Liberian diamond industry was said to be about 100,000 carats, Belgium was allegedly importing 6 million carats a year during that period. That is a highly significant accusation.

The Canadian report states: De Beers is part of the problem. In its efforts to control as much of the international diamond market as possible, it is no doubt purchasing diamonds from a wide variety of dubious sources, either wittingly or unwittingly. That is also a considerable accusation. Global Witness, a London-based organisation with which the Foreign Office occasionally deals, has stated: Governments and the trade must finally accept it is their responsibility to ensure that diamonds are not involved in the funding of conflict, and take action accordingly. Global Witness is a well-accredited organisation, and I see the Minister nodding in agreement. It continues: If any of these diamond funded conflicts in Africa are to have a chance of peaceful conclusion and if the threat to the international market is to be negated, then the international community, through the G8, G77, UN, SADC and EU must act swiftly and decisively to prohibit the sale and marketing of these "blood diamonds". Conflicts have continued in Angola for 25 years, and in Sierra Leone for 10 years. Diamonds are relatively simple to control compared with offshore financial trading activities. They pose problems, in the sense that they are small and very valuable, but they are subject to powerful controls. The diamond market in Belgium, which controls 75 per cent. of the world's diamonds, is secretive, and it is because it has been designed to be so that hon. Members probably know little about it.

The world community cannot cope with this problem. Like everyone else, Ambassador Fowler accepts that diamonds are at the root of it, but as far as I can tell, his team consists of not much more than one other person and a dog—and I am not even sure about the dog. He has no information-gathering mechanisms, no power, and is unable to understand the situation in Angola, whether in respect of diamonds or of anything else. We asked him about the problem of small arms in Angola, and he replied, "Small arms? Huge, 50-tonne tanks are being smuggled in and I can't stop them."

We must get serious about this problem. If sanctions are to be imposed, it is no use giving in to the "something must be done" syndrome. Where sanctions have been imposed, there have been terrible consequences for innocent people in almost every case. We have allowed black markets to be set up, and often strengthened the villains whom we are trying to bring down. The Minister and the Foreign Office know that I am right. The United Nations is not equipped, in terms of information gathering or singleness of purpose, to impose smart or other sanctions. That matter must be addressed soon.

I am not criticising the Minister. I recently received a parliamentary answer saying that representatives from the Foreign Office have met the diamond people in Belgium. That is a welcome step forward. However, we must go much further. We have the most active Africa Minister that I can remember, but he and the Government must get to grips with smart sanctions, especially in relation to diamonds.

3.45 pm
Ms Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate)

I congratulate the International Development Committee on an immensely detailed and thought- provoking report on sanctions. I must admit that, on first reading it, I was somewhat startled, because my perception was that the Committee was arguing forcefully—because of the evidence that had been so tellingly presented to it—that sanctions can create even more humanitarian havoc for the people of the countries on which they are imposed.

I clearly remember, after the apartheid regime in South Africa had finally been dispatched, buying my first bottle of South African wine, and shaking all the way from the shelf, through the checkout, to the exit. For my entire life, it had seemed that anything that had anything to do with South Africa was not to be touched—and was certainly not touched by me. I have always believed in the power of sanctions and have participated in them in so far as it is possible for an individual consumer so to do. I was therefore relieved that paragraph 3 of the Government response to the Committee's report stated: The Government believes that the case for sanctions remains compelling. The paragraph concludes: Our sanctions policy will remain under constant review in the light of these and other international consultations and of feedback received from UK civil society. Having said that, I strongly agree with many aspects of the Committee's report. I could not agree more with the argument in favour of infinitely smarter sanctions that was so forcefully presented by my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington)—in terms not only of their implementation, but of those on whom they are imposed and of the information that is provided to us, as consumers, about regimes that warrant their imposition.

The Committee concentrated mainly on the sanctions imposed on Iraq, but it also took evidence on Burma, and I should like to raise the strong case for the introduction of investment and financial sanctions against that country. I shall not take up hon. Members' time by detailing the evidence that is already in the Committee's report, as I am sure that everyone in the Chamber is aware of the appalling nature of the illegal and brutal regime that claims to govern the people of Burma. My argument is supported by those who are working for the introduction of sanctions against Burma and by Aung San Suu Kyi, the only democratic leader of Burma and the only person, in my view, who has any right to speak for that country and its people. She argues forcefully for the introduction of such sanctions against her country.

The situation for the people of Burma is appalling, and it is getting worse every year. The comparative tables for countries around Burma reveal that, in terms of infant mortality, mortality of children under the age of five and maternal mortality, Burma is by the far the worst country in that part of the world. As we know, millions of men, women and children are in forced labour there. Indeed, on 17 June 1999 the International Labour Organisation—an agency of the United Nations, as I am sure all hon. Members are aware—passed an unprecedented resolution that virtually expelled Burma from its ranks. The resolution was overwhelmingly adopted at the ILO annual assembly in Geneva. That came as the result of an inquiry by the ILO's commission, which accused Burma's ruling military of the widespread and systematic use of forced labour. The commission charges that any person who violates the prohibition of recourse to forced labour under the (ILO) Convention is guilty of an international crime that is also, if committed in a widespread or systematic manner, a crime against humanity. I do not believe that anyone in the Chamber would argue with that assessment.

The commission has gathered evidence of threats to the life and security and the extrajudicial punishment of those who are unwilling, slow or unable to comply with the demand for forced labour. Such punishments or reprisals range from money demands to physical abuse, beatings, torture, rape and murder. The commission also has evidence that forced labour in Burma is widely performed by women, children and elderly persons, as well as persons unfit to work.

More than 1.5 million people have been internally displaced in Burma. There are more than 1,500 political prisoners. Thousands upon thousands of refugees have had to flee their country. The standard of living for people in Burma, which is naturally rich, is falling year on year as the economy deteriorates. In the main, that is because its so-called Government are interested only in increasing the size of the army, continually expanding their military and buying more weapons. The country has no enemies outside its borders. It is under no threat from anyone. The only threat that the illegal regime can discern is from the people of Burma itself.

The hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) argued, with regard to Saddam Hussein, that, far from removing the illegal regime, sanctions have assisted in the maintenance of his criminal activities. If one turned that argument on its head, one could say that the non-introduction of sanctions would remove such regimes. That is certainly not the case as far as Burma is concerned. The situation for the people of Burma could not be worse. The majority of the economy is based on rice and the majority of rice farmers must sell their rice to the army and to the Government for far less than it would raise on the open market. Such minimal sums as are spent on what we in this country would regard as a caring social infrastructure must be spent on lauding the regime.

I would argue for the introduction of some form of economic sanctions and for active, energetic proselytising among our indigenous companies and those of our European partners that would regard investment in Burma as profitable. We should argue that any company in the European Union already in Burma should disinvest and not consider future investment there. The United States has already introduced such a system.

To go back to a point that my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie made, there are difficulties in achieving agreement, not only on obtaining information, but on unity of action in the international community. I congratulate the Government on the work that they have already undertaken in the UK and the EU on attempting to freeze Burmese assets.

I agree with the Chairman of the Committee about the difficulties of introducing a cohesive programme of economic sanctions. They should not only work, but target the leaders of regimes. He said that it would require close co-ordination between every arm of Government, but our Government pride themselves on being joined up, so that should not present a problem. I would argue that the present Government in Burma are criminals; if they were called a mafia, no one would hesitate to consider introducing an international regime to freeze or take away the criminal assets of the perpetrators.

It would not be impossible to introduce such sanctions. They would have a beneficial effect on the people of Burma by shortening the life of that illegal regime. History shows that all such repressive regimes are eventually overturned. We pray that it will happen peacefully, but time is a factor. We, as consumers, are quite prepared not to buy products from companies that we believe are investing in illegal regimes whose practices are regarded as unethical and which we believe will damage not only human beings, but the environment. We have reached a point in the world's history when Governments should be able to harness the energy and commitment of people around the world to play their part as consumers to help to reduce the power of regimes such as that in Burma.

I congratulate the Government on what they and our European partners have done. I urge them to continue to work strongly together. They should tell the UK's financial and business community what they regard as the wrong kind of investment. They should proselytise in the international community, saying that the regime has placed the most appalling burdens on a people who are innately gentle and peace-loving. The regime has destroyed the economy of one of the richest countries in that part of the world, and it continues to stop, harass and imprison its people. It will not allow the only truly democratically elected leader of that country, Aung San Suu Kyi, to play her proper part in taking her people out of the darkness in which they are now enveloped and into the light.

We are talking about a regime that sends small children along jungle paths to ensure that, if land mines have been laid, only the children die and not the soldiers. That is one example of its brutality and its total lack of appreciation of what is essential to achieve civilised relations in the international community.

I thank the Select Committee for its hard work; its report is immensely detailed. I acknowledge that sanctions must be infinitely smarter, but I still hold to the belief that they have a major role to play in ensuring a peaceful change, so that those regimes that are unacceptable to those who believe in democracy, human rights and justice can be removed and overturned.

3.59 pm
Barbara Follett (Stevenage)

I welcome the debate. The subject is long overdue for an airing. As other hon. Members and my Select Committee colleagues have covered so much ground so eloquently, I shall confine my remarks to something of which I have personal experience.

Between the early 1960s and the late 1970s I lived under a sanctions regime in South Africa. The Select Committee set itself the task of assessing the impact of sanctions on target regimes and examining proposals to reduce their unintended harm. I should like to consider those two aims in the light of my experience in South Africa. Sanctions are as old as democracy itself. The first recorded incident of sanctions led to the Peloponnesian war in 432 BC, when I believe that Athens imposed sanctions on a neighbouring state, which then called in Sparta. The imposition of sanctions often ends in war. We saw that in the case of sanctions by the United States against Japan in 1938, which some people say led to Pearl harbour. Sanctions have also been imposed against Britain. In 1807, President Jefferson imposed an embargo on trade with European countries because of our actions against United States merchant ships.

Sanctions have been applied to many countries, with some success or no success, but on the whole with qualified success. Most people would say that, even if sanctions are not successful in bringing down a regime, they may change some conditions and make things better for some people. The only case of sanctions that people such as economic historians and economists agree was a success was in relation to South Africa. The sanctions introduced there eventually produced the fall of apartheid, but I should like to talk about the effect of those sanctions.

There is no doubt that, as in the case of Iraq, and as the Select Committee report stresses, the sanctions imposed on South Africa, especially initially, had a disproportionate effect on the poor, just as they are having in Iraq. Sanctions on Iraq have been in place for nine years. They were in place in South Africa for many more years than that, and the apartheid regime was in place for 44 years in total. To be effective, sanctions must be multilateral, and nothing illustrates that better than the case of South Africa. In the early '60s, I was a student at university in South Africa. The apartheid regime had been in place since 1948 and was really beginning to bite. We were forbidden to go to university with members of other races, except under special qualifying conditions. The Group Areas Act was in place. Infant mortality among the black races was 50 per cent. Half of African children born in South Africa in the 1960s died before they reached their first birthday. The infant mortality rate among the whites, who then comprised 4 million of the population compared with 26 million blacks, was lower than the World Health Organisation's best—a statistic of about 19 in 1,000.

In the 1960s, South Africa was suffering under the apartheid regime. The Organisation of African Unity imposed the first trade embargo on South Africa. It was not effective because South Africa's economy was not especially involved with other African economies, and the few border states with which it was involved, such as Zambia, Botswana and Swaziland, were too enmeshed in the South African economy to withdraw effectively.

Sanctions continued until about 1977. In 1961, South Africa withdrew from the Commonwealth because it faced United Nations Security Council resolutions and embargoes by other Commonwealth countries. In the early 1960s, South Africa either withdrew or was expelled from a variety of regional and international organisations such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation, UNESCO and various others. In 1963, the Security Council introduced limited military sanctions and the situation in South Africa grew worse. By 1976, the first strike by school children took place. Black children were told that, instead of being taught in English—still not their mother tongue—they would be taught in Afrikaans, so they revolted.

That situation created a great deal of publicity about apartheid South Africa. There had already been a substantial amount of publicity, in which my hon. Friend the Minister of State had played his part. However, the real change came in the late 1970s. Until then, I saw almost no difference in South Africa as a result of sanctions, other than that the South African economy became more self-sufficient. There were petrol restrictions, which meant that the number of deaths on South African roads—astronomically high to this day—was reduced.

Overall, the difference for the whites was not great, but the sanctions had an effect on the blacks, who were the oppressed. That is because sanctions were not targeted. However, from the early 1970s, people in South Africa, including me, were calling for targeted sanctions on South Africa's financial institutions—on gold. Nobody heard and nobody did anything, because people did not have the psychological will to impose targeted sanctions. That is a second strong prerequisite. One can have the physical ability to impose sanctions, but one must also have the psychological will.

People in Britain debated sanctions, and I saw and heard those debates. I remember listening to a debate just after I had visited a township where the homes of about 100 people had been flattened by bulldozers. At the time, I wondered how anyone could say that sanctions were wrong. Sanctions were vital, but they needed to be better sanctions. That is what the report should be about.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) said, currently sanctions are not smart. I doubt that they ever will be smart, but they are definitely better than entering into armed conflict. We must ensure that they are imposed effectively and to a time scale. Had sanctions been imposed on South Africa's financial institutions by the United States earlier than 1985, we might have seen some change sooner. That was when the US imposed selective sanctions on computers and computer software used in security operations, on nuclear technology and on financial assistance to United States firms that hoped to invest in South Africa. Those sanctions began to hit the oppressor rather than the oppressed because the Pretoria regime was tied in to western credit facilities and western banking.

When the European Union imposed similar sanctions, the measures really began to bite. Actions by my hon. Friend the Minister of State on the sporting and cultural front had an effect on the psychological ability of people to impose sanctions, which is why my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson) found it so difficult to buy South African wine and why so many people boycotted a certain brand of chocolate and milk for many years. To this day, I sometimes feel guilty about eating that particular brand of chocolate, but I remember the difference that those sanctions made. That is why I appeal to my hon. Friend the Minister of State to do everything that he can to ensure that the UN's imposition of sanctions on Iraq is strengthened.

As I have already said, sanctions must be multilateral to be effective, and they must be targeted, as they were in South Africa. We began to target effectively in 1985, but it took until 1992 for the South African economy to reach such a parlous state that apartheid started to be dismantled. How many lives could we have saved, how much suffering could we have stopped, how many generations of people could we have prevented from being tainted in the way that people will be tainted in South Africa by the effects of those 44 years of apartheid, had we had the ability and the psychological will to impose those sanctions, and, most importantly, had we targeted the oppressor and not the oppressed? For far too many people, sanctions are window dressing. People ask politicians, "What are you doing about it?" Politicians hate being asked that question, although they are asked it all the time. The need to do something about a situation is fuelled by the CNN effect—being able to see what is happening in a country. We can say that we are imposing sanctions, but we are not imposing the right sanctions. I hope that the debate will lead to the pursuit of the right sanctions at the right time by the right people, aimed at the oppressor, not the oppressed.

4.10 pm
Ms Tess Kingham (Gloucester)

As we have heard from several hon. Members, Angola features prominently in the Select Committee's report on sanctions. It became clear to us during the course of the inquiry that the international sanctions imposed on UNITA in Angola, in an attempt to pressure it into adhering to agreed peace accords, have unconditionally failed the people and the Government of that country, despite the fact that the Angolan Government have done all that the international community has required it to do during its long battle with UNITA.

The background to the situation in Angola makes clear both the need for sanctions and the way in which the sanctions have not been effective. Following Angola's independence in 1975, UNITA unleashed a campaign of terrorism against the Angolan people. Backed by apartheid South Africa and the United States, the campaign's hallmarks were brutal massacres, hostage taking and bomb planting—in short, the whole terrorist repertoire—along with the illegal sale of ivory, which resulted in the slaughter of more than 100,000 elephants.

The countryside was terrorised by many massacres. They included a massacre on 8 February 1986 in Camabatela, Kwanza Norte, in which 107 people were hacked to death with machetes, including the Methodist pastor and four of his children. In 1994, during the occupation of Huambo, UNITA murdered 2,500 people. Many bodies were found down wells. In September 1995, there was a massacre of displaced persons in Celepi centre, where 105 people were slaughtered. The dead included women and children.

There is no doubt that UNITA has devastated Angola. The Minister of State who is here today spoke at the Action for Southern Africa conference last November. I hope that it is in order for me to quote him. He said of Angola: I am haunted by my visit there in September 1995. Limbless starving people begging everywhere. Gaunt ghost cities like Huambo, its streets lined with stark concrete edifices, every house office or shop gutted. Thirty-five years of endless war fuelled by arms and ammunition from Europe. Hopelessness and despair etched on the faces of the people, nearly two million of them displaced. That was the handiwork of Jonas Savimbi, a creation of the west and the leader of UNITA. Despite their military advances against UNITA, the Angolan Government were committed to co-operating with the international community and initiated a lengthy diplomatic process. On the demand of the international community, the Angolan Government held multi-party elections in 1992 with United Nations monitoring. UNITA fared badly. Savimbi rejected the election results and returned to war. He took 75 per cent. of the country; the UN called it the worst war in the world. In 1994, the Lusaka protocol failed and UNITA did not disarm. Under considerable pressure from the west, the Angolan Government made more major concessions, with UNITA representatives being offered high office. Sadly, that was not to be the stepping stone to peace and reconciliation for which everybody had hoped. Rather, Savimbi and UNITA used the breathing space to rebuild militarily and to re-arm. Re-arming took place under the noses of MONUA, the UN observer mission in Angola. Since 1992, the death toll and destruction inflicted by UNITA has hit record heights.

The international community via the UN targeted UNITA with sanctions. The financial sanctions in place since 1998 and the arms embargo sound good in theory. The intent is sound—to strangle UNITA's supply lines and to deprive Savimbi of resources to continue the war. However, the Select Committee discovered that, in reality, the sanctions have been totally ineffective, as the UN has had pathetically few resources to monitor them and no teeth with which to enforce them. The Committee concluded that The failure to enforce effectively the sanctions regime against UNITA is a scandal that must be urgently addressed by the international community. Despite the international ban on diamond sales from UNITA areas, UNITA diamonds regularly find their way on to European diamond markets, as my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) noted, and, despite the arms embargo, UNITA has found access to large-scale military equipment, as the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) pointed out.

In his evidence to the Select Committee, Ambassador Fowler, the chairman of the UN sanctions committee on Angola, said: Savimbi has earned between US$3 and US$4 billion from diamond marketing over the past eight years. That buys an awful lot of military equipment. Savimbi is reported to be receiving between five and seven flights an evening, carrying vehicles, guns and even tanks. Ambassador Fowler said: His part of Angola is landlocked. It's not easy to get 50 tonne tanks into that part of Angola—yet he does that. We might usefully concentrate on how he does that. No sanctions regime could realistically be expected to stop the sale of UNITA diamonds or to stop arms getting into UNITA's hands, particularly with the amount of small arms floating around Africa as a result of past conflicts. However, one would expect that, once the international community had committed itself to sanctions, it would do all in its power to ensure the resources and political will to enforce them. The blatant and gargantuan flouting of sanctions against UNITA makes a mockery of the process.

The Select Committee discovered during its inquiry how little is dedicated to monitoring sanctions within the UN. The UN has no information-gathering capacity of its own. We were told that the Angolan sanctions committee relied on information passed on to it by member states, non-governmental organisations and journalists. Even when information is received, it is unlikely to be followed up, given the derisory resourcing of the sanctions committee. The summary of the meeting of the chairmen of the Security Council sanctions committees in April 1999 noted that some committees were practically non-operational.

Administrative capacity is so low that it would be laughable if the consequences were not so serious. In evidence to the Committee, Ambassador Fowler said: I have about one third of a person in a UN Secretariat who helps me arrange meetings. My own expenses are paid by the Canadian Government. That was a shock to the Committee. Once the big, dramatic gesture is made by the international community, we assume that sanctions will be set up, that the UN wheels will go into motion, that resources will be provided, including offices and staff, and that the intelligence gathering networks will swing into action. However, as was said earlier, it is rather like one man and his dog—or perhaps one woman and a dog.

That member states should take the funding of sanctions so lightly is an insult to the millions who have perished directly or indirectly as a result of the Angolan war. It is also an insult to the Angolan Government, who have followed UN advice at each stage in the hope for peace. Until peace comes to Angola, its people will never benefit from development. The infrastructure is shot to pieces, the health and education systems are decimated and extreme poverty is the norm. Angola must sit alongside Rwanda as a country that has been totally let down by the United Nations and its member states.

Despite the odds stacked against him, Ambassador Fowler has done a remarkable job. Many were impressed when he gave evidence to the Committee. He has established two expert panels to investigate the flow of diamond money and weapons to Savimbi. I am pleased to say that the UK Government have taken a leading role in the funding of that operation. I was also delighted yesterday to hear the Foreign Office announce a new initiative on the global certification of diamonds. I hope that the Government will support the campaign to indict Jonas Savimbi as a war criminal. The Select Committee heard that it may spur UN member states to enforce sanctions against UNITA more vigorously if Savimbi is known to be a wanted war criminal.

Due to the work of Ambassador Fowler, there is hope that sanctions against UNITA may be made more effective and may contribute towards the end of the war and the future development of Angola. It is imperative that the overall resourcing, status and effectiveness of the UN sanctions committee is reviewed. The Select Committee recommends establishing a properly staffed and financed UN sanctions unit to receive and co- ordinate information on financial sanctions and to press Governments to implement them. That is the least that many of those countries should demand from the international community. I hope that the Government will press for that urgently. Smart UN sanctions, properly applied and enforced, could be a useful tool in resolving conflicts. At present, however, member states seem content with making diplomatic gestures—what my hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage (Barbara Follett) called window dressing—rather than making sanctions work. The casualties of that apathy are the people of countries such as Angola.

In the autumn, world leaders will gather for the UN millennium General Assembly. I hope that they will use that opportunity to reaffirm their commitment to meeting the development assistance committee's targets to halve world poverty by 2015. I hope, too, that the opportunity will be grasped to consider some of the more fundamental structural and resourcing changes that are needed to make the UN an effective body in the new millennium. The role of sanctions committees could be raised at that summit, and I hope that the Government will use every opportunity to do so.

Angola celebrates its 25th anniversary of independence later this year. It can never truly reap the benefits of independence while its people suffer poverty and under-development. If sanctions against UNITA work, and Savimbi is destroyed, the people of Angola would have a silver jubilee to celebrate. I hope that the Government, with their renewed commitment to Angola will contribute to making that happen.

4.20 pm
Ms Oona King (Bethnal Green and Bow)

The debate has seen an inherent tension, almost a contradiction, between two inescapable facts—first, that Saddam Hussein is ultimately responsible for the suffering of the Iraqi people, and, secondly, that the comprehensive economic sanctions imposed by the international community have caused the serious deterioration of the humanitarian and developmental situation in Iraq.

My thoughts at the beginning of the inquiry were informed largely by the former view. After all, we must remember that Saddam Hussein is willing to commit genocide at the drop of a hat. When the Iraqi football team lost a match, he had the footballers taken off the plane and tortured—the English football team might be relieved that we do not employ the same tactics. Saddam Hussein is also intent on manufacturing weapons of mass destruction. There is incontrovertible evidence that that is the case, and the international community and the Government have a responsibility to take action.

As the Select Committee found, however, although sanctions are a low-cost alternative to war, they are all too often as damaging in humanitarian and developmental terms as armed conflict. My hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) gave a devastating critique of Saddam's regime. She listed in detail the grotesque human rights abuses committed by Hussein. He, his army and his death squads have been responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people—20,000, 30,000, 50,000, even 100,000, who knows?

However, as the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) pointed out, UNICEF estimates that sanctions have caused the death of 500,000 children. That is another contradiction. As it might be controversial, I shall quote the report. It states: UNICEF estimated that, if the substantial reductions in child mortality achieved throughout Iraq in the 1980s had continued into the 1990s, there would have been half a million fewer deaths under five in the country as a whole in the eight year period from 1991 to 1998. Whether or not those figures are exact, two facts remain—first, that sanctions have failed to dislodge Saddam Hussein, and, secondly, that sanctions have hurt the ordinary people of Iraq, particularly children, and that those people have been hurt more than the ruling elite. That is why the Committee concluded that If sanctions are to be retained as a credible instrument of foreign policy, they must increasingly seek to target the assets of specific groups or individuals responsible for breaches of international law…The Committee recommends that the United Kingdom argue and gather support for the establishment of a properly staffed and financed sanctions unit within the United Nations to receive and coordinate information on the enforcement of financial sanctions. I hope that the Minister will respond to that point.

Everybody knows that ordinary Iraqis are suffering. British people know that. One of my constituents, Andrea Needham, travelled to Iraq in 1998 carrying medicines to a children's hospital. Andrea and I have disagreed. I took a view fundamentally different from hers, and more or less suggested that the suffering of the people of Iraqi people must be laid at the door of Saddam Hussein. None the less, I agreed with her comments when she wrote to me and said: even if you believe that the responsibility for the suffering in Iraq lies with Saddam Hussein, the UN Security Council remains accountable to human rights principles regardless of the conduct of the Iraqi government. Intransigence by a government does not give the Security Council the right to punish that country's citizens. Human rights are based on the inherent dignity and worth of every human being, and are owed directly to individuals. They are not forfeited because of a government's alleged misconduct, especially when—as in the case of Iraq—citizens have no voice in the decisions of the government. Many of my colleagues have argued convincingly that, although we need a sanctions regime in Iraq to deal with the behaviour of Saddam Hussein, we must change the policy that we have at the moment. I will not rehearse those arguments because we have heard them in full. A sanction that is not applied currently but which should be applied is that of the International Criminal Court. We have touched on that subject, but it is important to recognise that individual criminal liability already exists.

We must consider the UK record. We have had no prosecutions under the Geneva conventions, or under the United Nations convention against torture. We have had only one prosecution under the post-war treaties, and that was under the War Crimes Act 1991 and specifically concerned crimes in Belarus during the second world war. However, if we wanted to take responsibility on certain matters, we could. We could follow the Swiss example, for instance. The Swiss have indicted war criminals living in Switzerland. We have war criminals in Britain. We are talking in general about sanctions, but if we allow the culture of impunity to continue, we will do nothing in the long term to discourage criminals such as Saddam Hussein.

There have been criticisms regarding delays affecting humanitarian goods going to Iraq. Richardson Supply Company Ltd., in my constituency, was requested by the World Food Programme to supply computers for its project in Iraq. The managing director, Justin McArdle, explained: We received an order for…computers and software…Accompanying the order were United Nations Security Council Authorisation letters acknowledging notification of the intention… We subsequently sent copies of the purchase order and the UN letters of authorisation to the DTI Sanctions Unit on 3rd April 1998 to support our request for an export licence… We finally received the export licence…on 9th July 1998…The World Food Programme have indicated to us that they are considering abandoning the United Kingdom as a source for computer products because of the inexplicable delay which they have experienced in receiving this order…An element of common sense would have allowed these humanitarian supplies to be despatched with the minimum of delay—the World Food Programme is a United Nations agency. The problem is that there has been a significant absence of common sense in the sanctions debate. That point was brought back to me most clearly to me when I visited Burundi, where regional sanctions had been imposed. The United Kingdom Government were not involved with the imposition of those regional sanctions, but we had imposed our own form of sanctions to the extent that we were involved in providing humanitarian assistance but not developmental assistance.

When I talk about a lack of common sense, I am referring, for example, to young children being taken to the feeding centre funded by our Government, leaving when they reached a certain body weight to return to their village, only to return within a month or two because the Government have stopped our programmes to provide clean water—that was termed development assistance, not humanitarian assistance—they have fallen sick; our money again pays to get them up to a certain weight. That does no one any good, nor does it help us to achieve our aims.

The British Government have been strident in their efforts to seek out abusers of human rights, and to adopt an ethical foreign policy, for which we have received little thanks, I might add. I support the Foreign Office fully when it says that it is better to try to take an ethical approach than not to make the effort in the first place.

The British Government should consider seriously how to improve the targeting of sanctions, which has been argued for cogently today. For example, the current sanctions regime against Iraq is not working. It is not achieving our goals and it is harming the lives of ordinary Iraqis. I hope that the Minister will be able to take the Committee's inquiry into account. It was a long inquiry, and at its outset I was entirely in agreement with those who argued that we must maintain the present sanctions regime, and that the problems were entirely Saddam Hussein's fault. That last point is, of course, true. If he wanted to divert resources towards feeding his people, he could. However, he does not want to. The Select Committee report states: A sanctions regime which relies on the good faith of Saddam Hussein is fundamentally flawed.

4.33 pm
Mr. Nigel Jones (Cheltenham)

This has been a very good debate so far, and I congratulate the Select Committee, of which I have fairly recently become a member, on producing such a readable and detailed report. It addresses some very serious issues. I should also like to thank the Minister for the useful Government response.

I want to comment mainly on the sections of the report that concern Iraq. I want also to thank the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) for taking me back a decade or more to the time when I worked in Iraq for five months and was able to experience Saddam Hussein's regime at first hand. I can confirm many of the points that she made. For example, the stories about deserters being rounded up and shot, and their families being called in and given the bodies while being charged for the bullets, were circulating when I was in Iraq in 1987 and 1988.

I should explain that I was in Iraq to put in a computer for the university, and agreed to go for a year. On the second day, a military wagon pulled up outside the university and a major got out. I was asked if I wanted to see the Ministry of Defence computers. I agreed—I do not know what would have happened if I had said no—and we went to six different computer sites, all of which had British equipment. There was an arms embargo at the time because of Iraq's war against Iran and I do not know how the equipment got through to the Iraqi Ministry of Defence. During the conflict over the invasion of Kuwait, I was able to identify on television some of the buildings being obliterated by allied bombers. I had been in some of those buildings.

The Saddam Hussein regime is very harsh and has no regard for human rights. A large notice on the board at work stated that under no circumstances should the Government be criticised in any way because it would lead to an automatic life sentence. Everyone in this country would have been locked up had that rule applied under the previous Government.

I was supposed to remain in Iraq for a year, but stayed for only five months, having got the job done super quick, and I can honestly say that that was the worst five months of my life. I have a firm line on sanctions, which is that we need to continue them, although we certainly need to make them smarter. It is 10 years since the tanks rolled across the border into Kuwait. Saddam Hussein is still in power, but most of the western leaders who opposed him are not. The right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) is still a Member of the House but is no longer Prime Minister and President Bush is no longer President of the United States. Saddam Hussein has become the albatross around the neck of the international community. He is a constant reminder of defiance in the face of, initially, overwhelming force and, later, unending economic and diplomatic pressure. He does not need to confront irritating elections, but he cannot slip into retirement. The only alternative for him and his cohorts in the Ba'ath party, other than remaining in power, is oblivion. That is a basic fact of Iraqi political life and the starting point for all his strategic consultations. Such is the bluntness of the tools available to the international community—the United Nations and allied powers—that Iraq's cheat and retreat strategy is remarkably successful in sustaining the Ba'ath party and transferring the blame for the suffering of its people on to the international community and particularly the USA.

Saddam has been successful in slowly defusing the alliance against him. Only Britain and the United States now stand prepared to oppose Iraq militarily. Other partners, both in Europe and the middle east, although concurring with the necessity to contain Iraq, are not prepared to sustain the united front that ejected Iraqi troops from Kuwait.

Russia is owed approximately $5 billion and is keen to see the Iraqi regime in a position to begin repayment. Ankara is also owed a considerable sum. There has been informed speculation that the interests of French oil companies have been instrumental in France's reticence to contribute to the maintenance of the no-fly zones and its stance in the Security Council. The computers that I saw in Iraq's Ministry of Defence 12 years ago were obtained with loans from the Export Credits Guarantee Department, which have not been repaid. The British taxpayer paid for the computers in Saddam Hussein's military installations.

Kofi Annan is worried that Saddam is winning the propaganda war and stated: the humanitarian situation in Iraq poses a serious moral dilemma for the Organisation. The United Nations has always been on the side of the vulnerable and the weak, and has always sought to relieve suffering, yet here we are accused of causing suffering to an entire population. We are in danger of losing the argument, or the propaganda war—if we haven't lost it already—about who is responsible for this situation in Iraq—President Saddam Hussein or the United Nations. Clearly, it is President Saddam Hussein. The sanctions are necessary to stop him building up his arsenal. He has a huge number of weapons. I have a list that shows his potential for causing significant damage in the region. It says that with sufficient black market uranium or plutonium, Iraq could fabricate a nuclear weapon within one year. Iraq does not yet have that uranium or plutonium, but, if we lift sanctions, those items will be first on the shopping list. Iraq could produce weapons-grade fissile material within several years.

Iraq retains stockpiles of chemical weapon munitions, including special chemical-biological al-Hussein ballistic missile warheads. I was in Iraq when it proudly announced that it had made its own missile—the al-Hussein—which was a variation of an imported missile. Iraq has 2,000 aerial bombs, between 15,000 and 20,000 rockets and 15,000 artillery shells. It has biological weapons, which it has used. It has components for dozens of Scud B and al-Hussein missiles, as well as indigenously produced scud missile engines. It has cruise missile equivalents and Exocets—I wonder where they came from—and delivery systems that include approximately 300 fixed-wing aircraft. There is still a lot of stuff, and, if we lift the sanctions, Saddam will build up his arsenal and begin the development of nuclear weapons with which to threaten his neighbours and others.

We have heard that the sanctions are having a devastating effect on the people of Iraq. It is estimated that, as a result of the war and sanctions, Iraq's gross domestic product fell by nearly two thirds in 1991, because of an 85 per cent. decline in oil production. Per capita income fell from $3,416 a year to $1,500 in 1991, and has since decreased to less than $1,036. In 1995, it was estimated to be as low as $450. Most of the Iraqi people are being asked to live on about $4 a day. Meanwhile, average shop prices for essential commodities stand at 850 times the level in July 1990. When I visited Iraq, I saw how the shelves in supermarkets would be stacked with just one product. One week, it was corn oil, so everyone bought that; the following week, the corn oil was gone, but there were toilet rolls—that was a good week. Even then, during the Iran-Iraq war, there was little in the shops. Prices have since gone up, and the people face shortages. The Government's response tells us that Iraq's oil revenues are back to—if not above—their peak historical level of around $15 billion per annum, seen only briefly in 1980— and— this means a potential $10 billion a year is available for the humanitarian programme. We must get the message to the people of Iraq that it is Saddam Hussein who is preventing $10 billion of humanitarian assistance from coming into the country.

The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) said that we should get away from the "something must be done" syndrome and identify what can be done. There are two strategies. One is to increase international pressure, and the other is to sweeten the current sanctions. The key is to co-opt Russia. Russia's President Putin is vital to putting pressure on Saddam, whether through a visit or a Russo-Iraqi conference. That might break the deadlock, and our Government should try to persuade President Putin to play that important role. Iraq owes Russia £5 billion for equipment purchased, including weapons and fighter aircraft, so it is in the president's interest to get Iraq back into the international community.

We need to ease the pain that sanctions against Iraq are indirectly inflicting on neighbouring countries, particularly Jordan, Turkey and Russia. That should be considered to prevent unilateral moves to break the UN embargo. Various countries, particularly Turkey, are breaking the sanctions. On a visit to Bahrain a couple of years ago, I boarded HMS Cumberland, which was on sanctions duty. Every night, it left the Shatt al-Arab waterway to try to stop Saddam Hussein's oil tankers from disappearing into the night with illegal shipments of oil. That sanctions duty continues to be fulfilled by other vessels.

We must continue to repair relations with Iran. Notwithstanding legitimate human rights concerns and Iran's continuing support of terrorism, the balance of power in the middle east requires that Iraq be particularly sensitive to Iranian diplomacy. A non-rogue Iran would boost the position of the majority Shi'ite population and undermine the Ba'athist regime.

Peace in the middle east is also very important. I visited Israel just two weeks ago, and met President Weizman, who is retiring shortly. I also met Shimon Peres, who said that peace in the middle east must be sorted out between Israel, Syria and the other countries, before one of them develops nuclear weapons. He did not mention Iraq, but I think that he had Iraq in mind. Most countries in the middle east have accepted that Israel has a right to exist, but I wish that something could be done about the Palestinian settlements. I visited one settlement, and the conditions were pretty squalid. The peace issue must be resolved, so that Saddam Hussein will know that he is taking on not just Israel but other countries in the region.

We also need to win the propaganda war. Were Saddam to comply with the current Security Council resolution, sanctions could be lifted in 120 days. There should be a 120-days campaign in Jordan and the Gulf states, so that people in the region can start to put pressure on Saddam.

We must also reform the United Nations. The inspection regimes are too western oriented, and there should be more Arabs on the inspection bodies to help ensure Iraqi compliance. That would sweeten the implementation of UN security resolution 1284, and might encourage Saddam to realise that there is another purpose to it. Otherwise, we are engaged in mere containment. If containment were not damaging the population of Iraq, we could live with it, but, as the figures have shown, the number of deaths, particularly among children, is increasing. We must persuade the United Nations to review the sanctions and to make them smarter, and to move in the direction that I have outlined.

4.50 pm
Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk)

I wholeheartedly welcome the debate and praise the Select Committee, under the distinguished chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells), on its report.

The report has raised a number of important issues about the effectiveness of sanctions and their impact on the populations affected by them. We have heard some excellent speeches this afternoon on matters ranging from what happened in South Africa in the past to the current situation in Angola, Burma, Sierra Leone and, most pertinently, in Iraq. The speeches have been comprehensive and worthwhile. On a personal note, I am delighted to see the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Jones) in his place.

The key question is how best sanctions can be targeted against countries and particularly against individual leaders without harming civilian members of the population. That is dealt with comprehensively in the Committee's report. We now look to the Government to take on board the Committee's conclusions, so that innocent civilian populations do not bear the brunt of sanctions and that the ruling elite of the country that is subject to the sanctions is effectively punished. The Committee's discussion of smart sanctions is a positive way forward and should be looked at carefully.

I was pleased to see from the Government's response that they share the Committee's belief that the most careful consideration must be given to the humanitarian impact of sanctions. I share that belief. The Committee suggested that sanctions, if not properly implemented, may have an unforeseen humanitarian impact on a country's population. The Committee concluded that, based on clear evidence, the impact of sanctions may fall disproportionately on certain vulnerable groups in society such as women, children, those with disabilities, and refugee groups.

The UN Security Council has invoked chapter VII of the UN charter in 15 cases to date with sanctions having been lifted in four of those cases and suspended in one. The Committee looked at such cases in detail and it has highlighted a vacuum in international relations between military intervention on one hand and diplomacy on the other. If that vacuum can be filled through effective and targeted use of sanctions, it will mean not only that innocent populations suffer less, but also that the world community will have greater confidence in the use of sanctions.

The report details two strands in the concept of smarter sanctions: to improve their efficacy by targeting those in power and those who support them, and to reduce their humanitarian impact on civilian populations. That is to be welcomed. The Committee concludes that some sanctions implemented in the past may in fact have had a greater impact on the innocent population than on the leadership of that country. That is important. In evidence to the Select Committee, the Government seem to have accepted that, in their review of sanctions policy, there is a need to move away from the so-called blunderbuss approach, which hits the whole population with sanctions rather than targets the regime specifically. We support that stance.

One form of smarter sanctions that the Committee explored was so-called private sanctions targeted specifically on individuals of the ruling elite rather than on the population as a whole. The Committee's report at paragraph 64 states: Witnesses have suggested that targeted financial sanctions might offer significant potential to exert pressure on the political elite of a target country, for example, by freezing their assets. However, during the discussions at Interlaken 2, the chairman, Ambassador Rolf Jeker stated in his report that it was indicated that much of the conceptual, technical and practical elements required to bring targeted financial sanctions into effect are available and could be effected whenever the Security Council decides to impose targeted financial sanctions. I agree with the ambassador's conclusions at the end of the Interlaken seminar that: if you shoot at a big target, your weapon does not need to be very accurate—it can be a scatter gun like the comprehensive sanctions applied in the past. If the target is small, the weapon must be very accurate. Indeed, even smarter sanctions targeted against individuals in the ruling elite of a sanctioned country need careful and considered implementation if the weapon of private sanctions is not to fire like a scattergun.

However, the Committee was right to note in its report that the potential of private financial sanctions remains untested. We must therefore proceed with caution. The UN has rarely mandated the use of financial sanctions against individual members of a transgressor state.

States are free to impose whatever sanctions they wish, so long as they do not conflict with other obligations. Switzerland is often singled out as an example, because it is not a member of the United Nations and is therefore not subject to UN Security Council resolutions. However, it voluntarily introduces its own legislation to track UN legislation. That is necessary to ensure that, when sanctions are implemented, they have the full backing of all those who will enforce them. That will be all the more necessary in future, as some of the concepts of smarter sanctions detailed in the Committee's report remain, as yet, untested.

Some have said that unilateral economic sanctions sometimes prove counterproductive, because they undermine a target country's emerging middle classes, not its political leaders. Many countries, such as Chile, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand, have seen that the development of a large, financially secure middle class is necessary before authoritarian Governments can give way to democracy.

The report states that withdrawal of development assistance can sometimes have a greater impact than traditional sanctions. The Government seem unsure of their policy on that subject, and I hope that the Minister of State will provide some clarification. For example, the Government refused to stop Government-to-Government aid to Zimbabwe, but seriously cut aid to Ethiopia, although both countries were undergoing a period of considerable instability and tension. Will the Minister of State clarify the criteria that the Government use when deciding to suspend Government-to-Government aid? Does he agree that, instead of withdrawing aid altogether, more aid should be provided through non-governmental organisations?

The Committee was right to address the enforcement of sanctions, especially with regard to arms embargoes. Arms embargoes are becoming widely used by the Security Council, so we must ensure that, where sanctions are imposed, they are effectively implemented. The Committee underlined the need to tighten controls on arms embargoes. What do the Government plan to do in response to that?

Sanctions are effective only if they are properly monitored. I share the Committee's concerns that the quality of reporting to sanctions committees remains low. The report rightly concludes that the United Kingdom must take a lead by putting in place a system that can target and monitor sanctions effectively. The current approach is somewhat casual. That is not helped by the Government's failure to allow NGOs formally to input evidence on the review of sanctions. Surely, NGO reports are vital. What do the Government intend to do to ensure that NGOs are formally consulted on Government approaches and attitudes to sanctions?

The failure of the Security Council's sanctions committees in effecting sanctions against sanctioned countries must be addressed to end the passive nature of monitoring and enforcement. The principle of smart sanctions used as a tool against oppressive regimes will be redundant unless there is effective supervision of their execution against sanctioned countries. The use of sanctions against President Mugabe stopped the Land Rover project and implemented arms embargoes. Under what circumstances will they be lifted, and do the Government have any plans to do so?

We must recognise where the blame for suffering in countries such as Iraq really lies. We were all moved by hon. Members' speeches on Iraq. Its people face an horrific situation. Last Friday, The Independent carried a report from Hans Blix, chairman of the new UN commission for inspecting arms in Iraq, in which he warned that Baghdad might block his inspections because of its "fury" over sanctions. Indeed, a former UN weapons inspector, Carl Ritter, has called for economic sanctions against Iraq to be lifted.

Saddam Hussein has chosen not to use the oil for food arrangements to provide adequate health care and social services for his citizens. He has instead chosen to purchase weapons. The hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) movingly pointed out the comment made by Jeremy Carver, the partner and head of international law at Clifford Chance, that It is not the imposition or maintenance of international sanctions, but the policies of the Iraqi Government which are the primary cause of this suffering. I absolutely believe that to be true.

The use of smart sanctions outlined in the report, if properly targeted against the ruling elites of sanctioned countries, can help to ensure that in future the guilty will ultimately be punished and that the innocent populations of those countries do not suffer as they have so often. That is a worthy objective. The Committee's findings in this excellent report on the future of sanctions are indeed to be supported.

5 pm

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Peter Hain)

I agree with the hon. Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring) that the International Development Committee's report on sanctions provides a valuable and thought-provoking contribution to the debate, which the Government are taking very seriously. Having considered it, we are seeking to modify and improve our approach.

I must, however, disagree with the Committee's Chairman, the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells), who said that sanctions had never been effective in any case in which they had been applied. His fellow Committee member, my hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage (Barbara Follett), refuted that statement by speaking from her own experience of the conclusive effect of sanctions on bringing down apartheid. I also agree with her that, if those sanctions had been more rigorously applied earlier and had been better targeted, apartheid might have been brought down even earlier.

Sanctions are the only coercive measure available to us, other than the use of force, to respond to threats to international peace and security as provided for under the United Nations charter. Over the past decade, the UN Security Council and the European Union have made increasing use of sanctions. When Britain sees a pressing need for sanctions to exert pressure on a rogue regime, but a Security Council resolution is not achievable, we shall press for European Union action, as was the case most recently over Burma.

I agree with all the arguments put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson) on the atrocious denial of human rights and democracy in Burma. In response to the severe and systematic violation of human rights and continuing repression in that country, the United Kingdom persuaded its partners in Europe to adopt, on 16 April, a common position strengthening the existing sanctions against Burma by the addition of an asset freeze targeted at key figures in the leadership and military and a ban on the export of equipment that might be used for internal repression. I think that that answers many of the points that my hon. Friend raised.

With experience, we have become better able to design sanctions regimes to have the maximum impact on leadership elites and/or their military capability while minimising their impact on ordinary people. Britain has played a leading role in shaping the emerging international consensus in favour of smarter sanctions, to which the Committee has rightly directed its attention, and about which my hon. Friends the Members for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) and for Stevenage, among others, spoke.

At the request of the Department for International Development, the Overseas Development Institute hosted an international symposium in December 1998 on smarter sanctions. Since then, we have played an active part in seminars sponsored by the Swiss Government on developing targeted financial sanctions, and by the German Government on arms embargoes and travel sanctions. In the United Nations Security Council, we check the fine print of draft sanctions resolutions—as we are doing at present in relation to Sierra Leone—to ensure that the findings of those seminars are fully taken into account.

We strongly supported the recent establishment of a Security Council working group to develop recommendations on improving the effectiveness of UN sanctions. The answer to the question raised by the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford on that issue is yes, the working group has already been established and all members of the Security Council belong to it. The secretariat is providing administrative support, and Britain is devoting resources to ensure that the working group develops practical recommendations that will improve the effectiveness of United Nations sanctions.

We shall feed into that group the conclusions of the recent Foreign Office and Department for International Development mission to the United Nations, which examined ways to strengthen the UN secretariat's capacity to support the Security Council and the sanctions committee in respect of sanctions. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie and others—

Mr. Worthington

My constituency is difficult to pronounce. Milngavie is pronounced "mullguy".

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody)

The hon. Gentleman has borne it very well—we had already noticed.

Mr. Hain

I represent one of the Welsh constituencies, some of which hon. Members have even more difficulty pronouncing, so I plead guilty.

The Committee invited the Government to make a statement on our sanctions policy, the core of which can be summarised simply. Sanctions are most effective when they are multilateral, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage noted. They are not intended to be punitive, and they should be imposed to achieve specified objectives. The criteria for lifting sanctions should be made clear from the outset, and they should not be lifted until the target has complied with the criteria. As far as is possible, sanctions should be targeted to hit leadership elites and impact minimally on ordinary people. They should be tailored to circumstances, and there should be effective implementation, enforcement and monitoring arrangements. Humanitarian exemptions and the mechanisms for their effective implementation should be built into sanctions regimes, as appropriate, from the outset.

That is the ideal for which we will strive. Multilateral sanctions are, of necessity, the result of a negotiation process. We are doing our utmost to enhance existing procedures for implementing sanctions, often in the face of considerable opposition from member states in the United Nations. As far as I know, Britain is the only country in the world that has established a dedicated sanctions unit that co-ordinates all aspects of Government sanctions policy and administration. We have ensured that the lessons learned from one sanctions regime are taken into account when designing others.

The Committee noted the potential of financial sanctions, as a form of smarter sanctions, to target leadership elites. The UK currently implements UN financial sanctions in relation to the Taliban, Angola's UNITA rebel army and Iraq. We also implement EU sanctions in relation to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Burma. In answer to the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford, British banks and building societies hold more than $850 million in frozen funds that were identified as belonging to the targets of UN or EU sanctions.

We take our international obligation to implement financial sanctions seriously, and go to considerable lengths to ensure that they are implemented effectively. The Bank of England, which acts as an agent for the Treasury in the administration of financial sanctions, has a dedicated unit—the sanctions emergency unit—that works solely on that task. We want financial sanctions to become a more effective tool for putting pressure on international pariahs, such as UNITA's Jonas Savimbi.

Barbara Follett

With regard to Angola, will my hon. Friend do all that he can to ensure that other countries take their obligations as seriously as Britain does? For example, Burkina Faso, Liberia, Zambia and Rwanda are supplying the UNITA regime, as are business men such as Mr. Victor Bout, whose planes are transporting supplies to UNITA in Angola.

Mr. Hain

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Victor Bout is the main sanctions-buster in respect of Angola and Sierra Leone. Together with our agencies, the Government are taking what action we can to try to ensure that that activity stops. She is also right to say that he and others use light planes to transport supplies from Kigali airport, Burkina Faso, Monrovia and other places to airstrips in Angola that are controlled by UNITA. It is imperative that the Governments of all the countries to which she referred take the maximum possible action to stop the flights. After all, they are African countries, and a fellow African state is being destroyed and its people devastated by the continuing civil war.

Effective enforcement depends on agencies proactively seeking information on targets and sharing it with members of the international community. To that end, British sanctions experts liaise regularly with experts in other countries. International meetings at which sanctions-related issues are discussed are held regularly, and information is exchanged between the United Kingdom and other United Nations and European Union member states.

The hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford made a strong case on Iraq, but it was brilliantly answered by my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) with the most detailed and devastating indictment of Saddam Hussein's murderous activity and repression of his people. We have made a serious difference to the lives of the Iraqi people. United Nations resolution 1284, which we drove through the Security Council in seven to eight months of painstaking negotiation, could create a totally new situation in Iraq and is beginning to do so. We should urge Iraq to comply with that resolution, rather than continue to identify the problems associated with the past regime, which we have sought to reform with the new resolution.

The new resolution provides for the early suspension of sanctions: it was designed to do so. Britain took the lead in achieving that. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley said, there is a simple answer to those who want the sanctions on Iraq lifted or suspended—they should back resolution 1284. That is what I say to the Chairman of the Committee. Even though Baghdad has not accepted it, the resolution has already raised the ceiling on Iraqi oil exports. An estimated $10 billion will be available for the humanitarian programme this year. That is a huge amount, and it will make a real difference to the people of Iraq.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Ms King) quoted UNICEF statistics. Other UNICEF statistics show that child mortality rates in northern Iraq—where Saddam Hussein's writ does not run, but where exactly the same sanctions apply—are lower than they were before sanctions were applied. We ought to recognise that comparison with northern Iraq.

If the Iraqi people continue to suffer, it will be clearer than ever that it is Saddam Hussein who is denying his people food and medicine. He wants to play on our emotions with their undoubted suffering in the hope of weakening our resolve, while he rebuilds weapons of mass destruction with which to threaten the region. The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Jones) expertly described that scenario.

We continue to refine and streamline procedures at the United Nations to ensure that more humanitarian contracts are approved and approved more quickly. On our initiative, the sanctions committee has agreed lists of foodstuffs, medical, agricultural and educational goods and spare parts for the oil industry that no longer need to be referred to the committee, only notified to the United Nations secretariat. Already, contracts worth almost $1 billion have been processed through that accelerated procedure. That makes a real difference.

European Union sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia were put in place because Milosevic was responsible for the most brutal campaign of terror in Kosovo. He continues to wage a campaign of repression against his own people. We shall continue to target sanctions as closely as possible on that regime and its supporters and we shall monitor the situation for any adverse humanitarian impact.

The plight of the Angolan people was eloquently described by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Ms Kingham)—perhaps no more eloquently than when she quoted me. The United Kingdom has put extra resources and diplomatic energy into turning the spotlight on violations of UN sanctions against UNITA.

On a personal note, when I became Minister of State 11 months ago, I was amazed at how little active energy was put into using the enormous intelligence in sanctions-busting to put pressure on Jonas Savimbi's UNITA group. We are now beginning to do that, and we are calling on others to do the same. We are particularly alert to suggestions of sanction busting by UK nationals or from UK territory. We shall immediately inform the appropriate authorities of such reports. The sanctions in place include arms and fuel embargoes, a targeted asset freeze, the closure of UNITA's overseas offices, a travel ban on senior UNITA officials, restrictions on the sale of mining equipment and a ban on the import of uncertificated Angolan diamonds. All those measures have been carefully calculated to put pressure on UNITA and undermine its ability to continue fighting without harming ordinary Angolans. In that sense, they are a good example of smarter sanctions.

Last year, the Security Council established an expert panel to investigate reports of sanctions violations and to make recommendations on how to improve the implementation of sanctions. I accept many of the points that my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie made about it being a somewhat toothless operation. Nevertheless, by UN standards it is and has been an effective body. As the members of the Committee have said, Ambassador Fowler deserves considerable praise for the way in which he drove it through against many obstacles. We strongly supported the panel's efforts and contributed $200,000 to fund its work.

In resolution 1295 of 18 April, the Security Council formally welcomed the panel's report, which contained valuable information on sanctions busting. In response to the panel's recommendation, the council requested the Secretary-General to establish a monitoring mechanism, which I shall describe. Five experts will collect additional relevant information and investigate allegations. We hope that a UK national will be appointed. We shall give the monitors every support in that important task. I look to the new monitoring mechanism to take forward the pioneering work of the expert panel. It is essential that international sanctions should be made more effective.

I respond next to the well expressed points made by my hon. Friends the Members for Bethnal Green and Bow and for Clydebank and Milngavie. Enforcement of UN sanctions is the responsibility of United Nations member states, not the UN itself. The United States of America, Russia and other countries would strongly resist giving the UN greater investigative powers. That is one of the problems with which we are grappling, and we need to deal with that as best we can.

On the question of diamonds, my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie mentioned Liberia. I agree that the revolutionary united front would not be able to carry out its war of mutilation against the people of Sierra Leone were it not for the diamonds that it smuggles across the border to Liberia. Indeed, they do not need to be smuggled; one can simply walk across the border. Liberia must account for its role in fuelling that bloody war. A United Nations Security Council resolution to enforce diamond sanctions on Sierra Leone will, I hope, be agreed shortly—perhaps in days—mainly as a result of British pressure. I think that Liberia will have to be included in the scope of the measure as well.

I have given special priority to the enforcement of sanctions against traders in blood diamonds from Angola, Sierra Leone and the Congo. The Government continue to play a leading role in international efforts to tackle the problem. We want to ensure that when people buy a diamond from a jeweller's shop they will know when they put it on the finger of their loved one that they are not pledging a diamond that has cut off the finger of a child in Sierra Leone or Angola. That message must go out to people buying diamonds in jewellery shops across the world.

Yesterday, I hosted a ground-breaking meeting of leading diamond importing and marketing countries to discuss the way forward: never before had representatives of Belgium, India, Israel, the United States and the international diamond industry, with Canadians and Russians also attending, gathered to discuss the problem. I called on importing and marketing states to continue to intensify their efforts to deny blood diamonds access to their markets, stressing the urgency of denying UNITA, the RUF in Sierra Leone and groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo the means to wage the vicious wars in which so many innocent lives are being lost. I also emphasised the need to improve the transparency of the international diamond trade to maintain consumer confidence and to protect the legitimate trade on which so many livelihoods depend. Clean diamond producers in countries such as Botswana, Namibia and South Africa must be protected. It is in their interests and those of the whole industry to block the trade in blood diamonds.

Yesterday's meeting agreed several specific steps that could be taken straight away to help. They included, most importantly, working with others to explore the feasibility of a global certification scheme for rough diamonds. I strongly support that proposal, and hope that other Governments, especially in southern Africa, will join us in pressing for it. We will encourage diamond banks, insurance companies and shipping companies with links to the diamond industry to require customers to sign a declaration that they will not trade in conflict diamonds. The trade bodies of Antwerp and Tel Aviv have already, I am glad to say, agreed to suspend or to expel members found trading in conflict diamonds. We will call on those trade bodies and others internationally and nationally to encourage their members to make it clear that no diamonds are feeding conflicts in any of their diamond parcels.

The meeting also agreed important steps for sharing expertise to help to combat illegal trafficking. They included offers of training, including technical assistance, to diamond authorities in producer countries and co-operation between national customs authorities and the industry to identify practical measures to improve the availability of diamond identification expertise.

We also want to ensure that hard currency is involved in diamond trades. Sanctions busters such as Victor Bout fly into UNITA territory with a plane full of arms and take off with bags of diamonds not paid for in hard currency. We want the international diamond regime to insist on proper transactions being properly accounted for and receipted and made in hard currency or being conducted using properly certificated financial exchange, without which diamonds would not be allowed to enter the international trading loop. That would take us a big step forward. We want to help to crack down on the illicit diamond trade and to restore consumer confidence in the legitimate diamond industry.

I will respond to a few of the points made by the hon. Member for West Suffolk. He compared Ethiopia with Zimbabwe. There was a war in Ethiopia—it is still going on to some extent—and we could not increase our aid in items that could have been diverted easily into maintaining that war, although we continued to supply food aid because of the famine. Zimbabwe's situation was different. We have imposed an arms embargo on Zimbabwe and have restricted aid to a minimal level to deal with severe problems, such as AIDS and anti-poverty measures.

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman would want us to cut aid to tackle the crisis of AIDS in Zimbabwe, where one in four citizens are infected. We will not increase aid to Zimbabwe by an extra £36 million—we have promised that we could do so to deal with problem of land reform—unless its policies change. The President of Zimbabwe has imposed a sort of negative sanctions regime on himself by adopting policies that do not allow countries such as Britain to provide the support that we want to provide. We agree that NGOs play a vital role in the provision of development aid and assistance. The Secretary of State for International Development has a clear policy on that. We consult NGOs on sanctions policy, as well as on wider policies. Indeed, there has never been a more open-door policy towards NGOs than the one pursued by the present Government.

Controls on arms are now stricter than they have been under any previous British Government, and certainly are much stricter than they were under the previous Government, which exported hundreds of millions of arms to the Suharto regime in Indonesia to crack down on the people of East Timor. The Scott committee reported on the scandal of arms to Iraq. We now have a more accountable, open and transparent arms export regime. We do not export arms where they could be used for internal repression or external aggression. That might not be perfect, and we are always looking for improvements, but it is a better regime than has ever existed before. In addition, we have pledged to introduce legislation to curb the trafficking and brokering of arms, which continues despite our tightened policy. I am grateful to the Committee for its hard work on the report, which we take very seriously, and to hon. Members who have contributed to an excellent debate this afternoon.

Ann Clwyd

As we have three minutes left, may I use the time to put a question to the Minister?

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I take it that the hon. Lady has the leave of the Chamber.

Ann Clwyd

Before my hon. Friend leaves the Chamber, I should like to press him on one question that he did not answer. In addition to pressing for the acceptance of resolution 1284, will the United Kingdom make some attempt to secure the official establishment of an ad hoc tribunal on Iraqi war crimes by the United Nations? That is very important, especially as war crimes tribunals have been set up for so many other countries. So much evidence is available that I can see no reason why the UN should not take that action.

Mr. Hain


Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I take it that the Minister has the permission of the Chamber to speak again.

Mr. Hain

I agree that Saddam Hussein is a war criminal: no one could dispute that. The issue is how such a tribunal could be created, but I am extremely sympathetic to the idea. As my hon. Friend will know, I have spoken on platforms for Indict, the campaign which she chairs and which the Foreign Office and I strongly support. The problem that she has identified is not easy to solve, but we will certainly bear in mind the points that she has argued so forcefully and do what we can.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at twenty-nine minutes past Five o'clock.

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