Thursday, July 17, 2008


Tuesday, particularly topical question by David Alton on the killing of seven United Nations-African Union peacekeepers in Sudan on 8 July, when the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court had published draft charges against President al-Bashir the day before, of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. I asked whether al-Bashir had a period of about three months’ grace while the ICC considers whether to prefer an indictment on these charges, and that if in the meanwhile he facilitates the work of UNAMID, causes the Janjaweed to be stopped in its tracks and facilitates the arrest and prosecution of war criminals, the court would have the power to suspend the indictment for a while. Lord Malloch-Brown was absent and Lord Bach, answering instead of him, gave a very non-committal reply.

Wednesday, Janet Whitaker had a question about Gyspies and Travellers and the 2011 Census. I was pleased to hear the Minister Brian Davies confirm that a tick-box would be included for them on the form, but asked him to agree that at the census content workshop in March, representatives of the Gypsies and Travellers, and of the CRE, were unanimous in asking for two separate categories to be included; namely, Gypsy and Irish Traveller, and that the only reason given by the ONS for not doing so was lack of space on the form. I wanted the Minister ask the ONS to divide the available space into two, using a smaller typeface if necessary, so that the two separate categories can be accommodated and local authorities would have the data that they need for their local development frameworks, in which Gypsies and Irish Travellers have to be provided with separate land. Again, the answer was non-committal and I fear its too late to consider amending the form.

Later, I spoke in the Grand Committee on three immigration orders, introducing biometric identity cards for immigrants. The Tories think its OK to make immigrants apply for these cards, but not natives. We can see that it may be convenient for the Government, and it may be hard to resist when the European Union is going that way, but it smacks of Big Brother.

Thursday morning, annual general meeting of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group. Then after lunch, a meeting with Sheikh Hasina, leader of the Awami League of Bangladesh, after which I took part in a one hour debate on 'strengthening Parliaments in Africa', based on a report by the All-Party Africa Group (of which I'm a vice-president).

Every conversation this week in the Palace of Westminster has turned to the recess,which begins next Tuesday, and where people are going in August. For some, its the bucket and spade, but I'm looking forward to my first ever visit to Bangladesh, as co-chair of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Commission, an informal group that was elected at a recent international meeting in Copenhagen. he purpose is to see what progress is being made with the implementation of the CHT Peace Accords of 1997, see

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