Saturday, May 03, 2008

This week

Monday: Peter Kessler of UNHCR came to lunch. We discussed the People's Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI) personnel still in Camp Ashraf and those who left the camp and went to the US-managed Temporary International Protection Facility (TIPF). I had heard that some 300 decided to return to Iran with the help of the ICRC, where they were compelled by the regime to participate in humiliating propaganda exercises. Of those who went to the TIPF, some 80 still remain there, 55 are in the Kurdish region, and 30 crossed into Turkey. Unfortunately, states that normally accept refugee resettlement cases including the UK aren't prepared to consider helping with these people. I suspect that our own Government's attitude is conditioned by the case now awaiting a hearing in the House of Lords, in which they are appealing to theHouse of Lords against the High Court and Court of Appeal decision to grant the PMOI's application for 'deproscription' under the Terrorism Act 2000.

Second, we talked about the 'Special Immigration Status' created in the Criminal Justice & Immigration Bill, for people like the Afghans who hijacked an airliner to escape from Kabul in 2000 when the Taliban were in power. This was due to be discussed for the third time on Wednesday on Third Reading of the Bill. We unsuccessfully sought to add a condition for a person to be designated as SIS, that the Secretary of State should certify that he was a danger to the public (

In the afternoon, Select Committee on International Organisations, taking evidence via a videolink from Mrs Zsuzsannna Jakab, Director of the European Centre for Disease Control. This session can be seen at

Early evening, to the Sudanese Embassy, to meet the Foreign Minister Mr Deng Alor and the Adviser to the President Dr Mustafa Osman Ismail. We talked about the delaus in UNAMID deployment, which they said were the fault of the troop-supplying states and the states which hadn't provided the transport for Egyptian and Ethiopian contingents that were ready.

The Census they said was going well, but the government of the South had said that they would only accept the result if it confirmed their view that the population of the south was a third at least of the total. This was important because the census would determine the number of MPs from North and South, and the Parliament would enact the Referendum Law.

They said that while the international community was spending $1.2 billion on Darfur, the East was being neglected, though it was the region suffering from most deprovation including killer diseases such as drug-resistant TB.

Tuesday, to Oxford for the Annual Maurice Lubbock Memorial Lecture at the Said Business school, delivered by Nicky Oppenheimer, hed of De Beers. The title was Diamonds,Development and Democracy, largely drawing on the history of De Beers in Botswana, the country with the highest rate of continuous growth in the world over a 40-year period. Nicky Oppenheimer showed that the so-called 'resource curse' was a myth, and that with good governance, poor countries could leverage their natural resources to escape from poverty.

Wednesday, apart from sitting in the Criminal Justice Bill for several hours, I had the topical question, on the BBC's allegations of trading weapons for gold by peacekeeping forces in the DRC. The Minister Mark Malloch-Brown acknowledged that small-scale illicit trading had taken place, but claimed there was no evidence of weapons being exchanged for gold. I have since sent him references to the Human Rights Watch material on the subject published May 2 under the headline UN: Tackle Wrongdoing by Peacekeepers (

Thursday, to the Geological society for a discussion on 'The Role of Business in Transforming Africa’s Natural Resources to Shared National Wealth', continuing Nicky Oppenheimer's theme with an expert panel - Paul Collier, author of 'The Bottom Billion'; Nkosane Moyo of the private investment group ACTIS, and Jane Nelso, Senior Fellow, Harvard Busines School. Nobody mentioned the UN or African Conventions against Corruption, or the OECD Code of Conduct for Multinational Corporations.

The President of the Geological Society, Richard Fortey, said that the Society's Lyell Centre was digitising their records and making them available to learned institutions,though I didn't gather whether this was going to be a chargeable service. Among the treasures in the Library, on show, was an early copy of Georgius Agricola's De Re Metallica, though not the first edition of 1556.

Friday, a meeting with the Qaran political leaders from Somaliland. The consitution is ambiguous, but President Riyaale relies on a clause which stipulates that no more than three parties may contest elections, to exclude the Qaran from the elections, which have now been deferred until the end of 2008 - also, paradoxically, against the constitution!

Today, Saturday, to the Dale Farm Travellers' site in Essex, to open their new community centre. The event was a great success, but the residents are under threat of eviction by Basildon Council. Next Friday is the day the High Court delivers judgement on the residents' judicial review application against the decision to kick them out, making all the people homeless. Such an outcome would be utterly disgraceful, and Mr Justice Collins has already hinted that the era of forced evictions of Gypsies and Travellers is over.

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