Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Chagos Islands

Tuesday I joined ina Question about the previous Government's last minute decision to make the British Indian Ocean Territory a 'marine protected area' in which no fishing would be allowed. The Coakition Government is looking into the proposal, which would make it far harder for the Chagossians who were kicked out of Diego Garcia to make room for a US base in the sixties ever to return to the outer islands, because fishing was an important component of their livelihoods, and the exiles still fish there in cooperation with Mauritians.

Refugee and Migrant Justice

Monday, my Question on the demise of Refugee and Migrant Justice, a tragedy for many of their 10,000 clients for whom new providers will have to be found by the administrators. What will happen to the unlucky ones whose cases are about to be heard on appeal or at judicial review. Can the hearings be postponed while the new providers get up to speed, and will the clients get the same quality of service from the alternative providers? I don't think so. And since the Legal Services Commission will have to pay the whole fee to the new provider, as well as the amount due for work in progress to the RMJ, plus the administrator's costs, redundancy payments to RMJ staff, rent to the landlords etc., the cost to the taxpayer is sure to be higher. Tom McNally's answer to an earlier written question makes it clear that we have no idea how the arithmetic is going to pan out, though I should imagine that Ministry of Justice accountants must have done some work on it.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Aorta and narrowed artery

Good news from Mr S at KIng's! He managed to book the echo and CPX appointments for July 7, the day before I'm due to see Mr R the vascular surgeon for him to explain the two operations. The first is to unblock the artery serving my right kidney, and the second to deal with the Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm. I gather it is the intention to do endovascular surgery, though one reference says that ( "Not all aneurysms can be fixed in this manner and there may not be a long-term benefit to this type of surgery. Though the post-operative course is shorter, there is a need for closer follow-up and testing". I'm hoping to get a copy of the scan when I see Mr R.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Wednesday evening, chaired a very useful discussion with lawyers from the International Bar Association on their report to the Parliamentary Human Rights Group on the war crimes legislation of Bangladesh, and the observations on behalf of the government received from the High Commissioner two days before the seminar. The following day I released a statement:

Statement by the office of Lord Avebury, Vice-Chair, Parliamentary Human Rights Group

June 24, 2010

War Crimes trials should comply with international standards

At the request of the All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group (PHRG), the War Crimes Committee of the International Bar Association (IBA) examined the compatibility with international standards of the legislation under which the government of Bangladesh intends to hold trials of persons accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the war of independence in 1971[1]. The purpose was not to challenge the right of Bangladesh to try the perpetrators of these crimes, but to ensure that no objection to the proceedings would be likely to arise on the grounds that the 1973 Act was not in conformity with developments in the legal standards developed over the last 37 years.

At the end of 2009 the War Crimes Committee reported its findings to the PHRG, and after internal consideration, the report was sent to the Bangladesh High Commissioner under cover of a letter from the Chair of the PHRG, Ms Ann Clwyd, requesting that it be transmitted to relevant Ministers in Bangladesh, and asking for their comments.

A seminar was held on June 24 in Committee Room 3 of the House of Lords to discuss the IBA report, and the High Commissioner finally sent his government’s comments on June 21. He was unable to attend the seminar or to send a representative.

The main speakers were:

Stuart Alford, Chair of the War Crimes Committee of the International Bar Association

Khandker Mahbub Hossain, President of Supreme Court Bar Association of Bangladesh

Christopher Keith Hall, Senior Legal Adviser, International Justice Project, Amnesty International

Toby Cadman, International Bar Association

The representatives of the IBA reiterated that they would be ready to give detailed advice to the government of Bangladesh on how the legislation could be amended so as to comply with recent norms of international law, in line with models such as the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court, the International Criminal Tribunal on the former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda, and national tribunals such as those in East Timor and Sierra Leone. They added that there no doubt were other international legal authorities who would be prepared to offer constructive advice if it were requested.

Lord Avebury undertook to convey this offer of a dialogue to the authorities in Bangladesh

[1] The International War Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973, as amended by the Act of 2009

Yesterday I wrote to the High Commissioner asking him to convey the IBA's offer to his government. Clearly its in the interest of the government, as well as the victims of the war crimes, that the law under which the trials are held is above criticism.

Yesterday I spoke in a three-hour debate on Latin America in the House, see In these timed debates, members are asked to keep within a certain number of minutes calculated by dividing the time available by the number of speakers, and on this occasion that worked out at 11 minutes. It can be difficult if you have too much or too little material, and on such a huge subject I had to confine my remarks to cuts in our embassies, and the situation in Peru and Colombia.

On the surgery front, I have some tests coming up to see whether my heart and lungs are able to withstand the two operations - a bit awkward if they aren't! - and a meeting with the head of vascular surgery on July 8.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Yesterday, co-chaired a meeting on North Korea to hear from the UN Rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn, who is coming to the end of a six year stint in post. He had to acknowledge that the results of his labour were almost invisible, and in his last report he wrote about the 'broad range of systematic and widespread human rights violations in the DPRK'. There was limited engagement on economic rights such as the right to food, because there is endemic starvation in the population, and they need help from the World Food Programme and other donors. No wonder their football team was soundly trounced in the World Cup. It really is hard to see what the international community's approach should be considering that even the Chinese seem to have very little influence with the psychopathic dynasty that rules the country.

Today I joined in a questin by Navnit Dholakia on whether the Government would suspend deportations of failed asylum-seekers to the central provinces of Iraq. The UNHCR has warned us twice about the dangers to which returnees are exposed, and I asked about the steps being taken about the Kurdish Regional Government's ban on flights to Erbil. This means that deported Kurds are landed in Baghdad, being left to make their own arrangement to get back to the Kurdish-ruled province.

An email from Mr S at KCH this afternoon, saying that Mr R the vascular surgeon will see me on July 6 "to explain the outcome of the multidisciplinary meeting discussion with regard to your Abdmonial Aortic Aneurysm". He will explain in detail the management plan and also answer any questions or concerns I might have. In the mean time he is arranging for me to have an echocardiogram and CPX tests, non invasive tests to assess the heart and lung function so they can plan the surgery. Mr S assumes that I know CPX stands for Cardiopulmonary exercise testing, a non-invasive and objective method of evaluating both cardiac and pulmonary function. It allowing a very accurate numerical assessment of possible cardiac failure, in a quantified
fashion, used
routinely to evaluate all elderly patients prior to major intra-cavity surgery. I don't remember having it before the maltoma operation in 2006, but perhaps I wasn't considered elderly then.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Spoke to Mr S about the procedures to be carried out at King's. The first, to put a stent in the artery feeding the right kidney, is dependent on the timetable of the radiologists, who continuously monitor the procedure from the initial penetration of the catheter in the artery in the groin, so they will notify me of the date when it can be put into their timetable. The second, to deal with the aortic aneurysm, is a 3-6 hour operation followed by a probable 8 days in hospital, and an unspecified period of convalescence. This will be scheduled for soon after the renal artery procedure, and will be on a Monday, but not July 12 when Mr R the surgeon is away. So we're looking at July 19 as a likely option.

I'm not taking on new engagements from the end of June to be on the safe side, and to give me some chance of clearing the decks beforehand, though my previous experience of major surgery is that there are always too many loose ends when the date comes round.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Our outgoing Ambassador to Peru came to lunch with me at the House and we had a useful chat about the current situation there, also about his last posting, Colombia. We have a debate coming up on Latin America next week, so it was timely.

Then to the Foreign Office for a meeting with Alastair Burt MP, the Minister who deals with Pakistan, to discuss the recent atrocities in Lahore against the Ahmadiyya Muslim community - first at the Friday prayers in their principal mosques, where 86 Ahmadis were killed, and then at the hospital where the injured were being treated. If the Pakistani authorities don't act against the sources of incitement to religious hatred, no matter how much they spend on security the situation will continue to deteriorate. They need to repeal the anti-Ahmadi laws, to enact new laws making incitement to religious hatred a criminal offence, and stop the money coming into fundamentalist madrassas from Saudi Arabia.

Back to the Palace of Westminster for the AGM of the Zimbabwe All-Party Group, chaired by Kate Hoey MP, our hardworking and effective local MP.

Back home, to get a message via Lindsay from Dr S at King's, to say they had their 'multi-disciplinary case conference' on my aorta, and it was decided that before they do that operation they need to put a stent in the artery that serves my right kidney, which the scan showed was narrower than it should be. This procedure is done under local anaesthetic as a day patient. I will have a chat with Dr S in the morning.

Visit to Parliament by York University LibDems yesterday

Abbott Award

Monday evening, attended the Abbott Award presentation by Mr Speaker. I'm one of the judges for the award, which is presented to a journalist who has upheld the principle of freedom of expression in a dangerous environment. This year the award was to have been given to a Somali journalist, the BBC correspondent in Mogadishu, but he was refused a visa by the UKBA. The reason I was told, at second hand, was that he hadn't submitted payslips showing his earnings from the BBC with his application for a visa. We must establish an agreed protocol for ensuring that in future years problems over visas for the Abbott award winners don't prevent them attending at the last moment.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Monday, June 14, 2010

Receiving an award from Group Manager Erin Power at the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group's annual celebration on Friday. Erin's kind citation:

"The work of UKLGIG has always had an important political component and we could not have achieved our successes without strong political backing.

Lord Avebury has done much outstanding work in tackling social injustice in relation to immigration. His energy is equally, and strongly, spread across many significant issues - however politically appealing or isolating they may be. It is impossible to do justice to his contribution and achievements in a few words.

On wider immigration issues, he led a great deal of the scrutiny of the UK Borders Bill – for example, the automatic deportation provisions would have received little scrutiny without him.

On the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill, he was one of the few, if not the only one, to raise concerns about 'Special Immigration Status', which places asylum seekers who are not protected by the Refugee Convention but can't be returned to their countries of origin, in permanent limbo and destitution. He was instrumental in retaining discretion with regards to the HC321 (automatic bans); and played a major role in achieving concessions with regards to: the Immigration and Nationality (Fees) (Amendment) Regulations 2008; the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 (Duty to Share Information and Disclosure of Information for Security Purposes) Order 2008; and Immigration (Biometric Registration) Regulations 2008. He has been consistently vocal on welfare of children and detainees.

On behalf of lesbian and gay asylum seekers, he has been tireless in raising awareness of the perverse situation whereby countries in which gay men and lesbians are known to be persecuted, are nonetheless deemed ‘safe’ by the Home Office. He continues to fight for the ‘safe’ designation to be lifted and we know will continue to do so under the new government.

Only yesterday he was raising in the House of Lords the very real concern that Refugee and Migrant Justice (formerly the refugee legal centre) may close, leaving many more asylum seekers unrepresented.

Lord Avebury, UKLGIG would like to acknowledge your work on our behalf. Please accept your award for selfless long-term commitment to the pursuit of justice"

Posted by Picasa

With Lara, former Organiser of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission, and her friend Mac Hyne, the Bangladeshi singer
Posted by Picasa

Friday, June 11, 2010


This morning, a discussion with Dr N in haematology at King's. He said that apart from the low haemoglobin, the platelet count is raised, and the two together indicate a leakage of blood from the circulation system. The results hadn't come through from the samples left yesterday but the CT scan of the aorta showed that the aneurism had increased from 5.0 in January to 5.8 on June 1. At this rate of increase it would reach the level of 6.0 when surgery would be considered for patients over 80, but it would be for Mr R to advise when I see him on July 15.

Then, a very agreeable lunch at the Garrick with Geoffrey and Anne Blainey, and a look at the various Kemble portraits, particularly the Lawrence one of John Philip Kemble, whose life by Boaden I'm reading at the moment. In the late afternoon, a visit from my old friend Ishfaq Ahmed, director of the Kashmir International Relief Fund, and Dr Aabid Haider, who is helping the KIRF in a voluntary capacity. We talked about the project for growing fruit trees on hilly ground in Azad Kashmir, and exporting the produce, dried or natural. They are putting together a short note on what is needed, and I will see what I can do to help with supporters and funding.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A busy day

To the House at 11.00, to ask a supplementary on David Chidgey's question on human rights abuses in the run-up to the recent elections in Sudan (, and also Roger Roberts' question on the return of unaccompanied 16-17 year old child failed asylum seekers to Afghanistan (

Then back home to cycle up to King's College Hospital with three faeces samples taken over the last three days, and to have five ampoules of blood taken as ordered by the consultant gastroeenterologist who is investigating whether my blood loss is occurring somewhere within his domain.

Then back to the House again, to speak in a 2 1/2 hour debate on Zimbabwe. Generally there are so many speakers that one is confined to just a few minutes, but this afternoon the arithmetic allowed us 12 minutes each ( While there was general agreement that the economic situation had improved, as long as the 86-year old Mugabe's grip on power remains, there can never be good governance, the rule of law and observance of human rights norms. Nor can there be a return to the country's former prosperity when the leaders of Zanu-PF and the military are bent on controlling agriculture. mineral extraction and the extraordinarily lucrative diamond fields for their own enrichment.

With Akin Birdal (on my right), Akif Wan (on my left) and Ali Has (far left), see below
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Last Friday I had yet another visit to the dentist to repair the artificial tooth with a spike that extends into all that was left of the root of its genuine predecessor. Her two previous attempts to glue the tooth in didn't work, and it just fell out. Maybe its third time lucky.


Saturday I met Akin Birdal, Diyarbakır MP for the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), Akif Wan, UK representative of Kurdistan National Congress (KNK), and Ali Has, lawyer and member of Kurdistan National Congress (KNK). They had a sad story to tell about the repressive measures taken recently by the Turkish government against representatives of the Kurdish people in Turkey.

The arrest of some 80 leading members of the new Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) that took place in Turkey last Christmas Eve was very serious for the country’s future peace and stability. The action followed the banning of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) on December 11, 2009 by Turkey’s Constitutional Court, and it was the prelude to further mass arrests of some 1,500 ordinary members of the party at every level. The Party is unable to provide lists of the detainees because their offices are constantly being raided and their members taken into custody.

The leaders detained were all former pro-Kurdish deputies or mayors and included the former DEP deputy and co-president of Democratic Society Congress, Mr Hatip Dicle; the Mayor of Sur Municipality, Mr Abdullah Demirbas,; the Mayor of Kayapinar, Mr Zülkif Karatekin; the former DEP Deputy and Mayor of Siirt, Mr Selim Sadak; the Mayor of Batman, Mr Necdet Atalay; the Mayor of Viransehir; a member of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, Mrs Leyla Guven; the Mayor of Kiziltepe, Mr Ferhan Turk and vice-president of Human Rights Association, Mr Muharrem Erbey. There is an online petition calling for the release of all these political detainees: Free Kurdish Mayors, Politicians, DTP and BDP Members from Turkish Prisons

And since our meeting, the Ankara Republic Court Prosecutor has opened a case against the ex-Chairman of Turkey's Democratic Society Party (DTP), Ahmet Turk, for a speech he has made in Kurdish on February 24, 2009, in the Turkish National Assembly's DTP Group Meeting. He had spoken in Turkish on February 21 - the World Languages Day's Celebration – when he said: "The public should have the right to express themselves in their own language" and followed this up three days later in Kurdish. The offence he is alleged to have committed, carrying a minimum sentence of 6 months imprisonment, is a violation of Article 117 of Political Parties Law in Turkey.


Yesterday I saw the consultant gastroenterologist at King's, who will try to find out where I'm losing blood. He ordered samples of blood and faeces to be analysed.


Today I saw Romany Rose, who told me that Germany, with 70,000 Roma, is making an effective contribution towards recognition of Romany culture in Europe, and are actively commemorating Roma and Sinti victims of the Holocaust. He is here as part of our Gypsy/Roma/Traveller History Month, which has been supported by the Government. There is no guarantee that funding will continue in the future.

This evening, the AGM of the Peru All Party Support Group.

Thursday, June 03, 2010


I asked a supplementary question about the two Pakistanis whose successful appeal to SIAC against the decision to deport them was not appealed by the Crown. It was rightly considered that no point of law had arisen, on which an appeal might have been founded, and SIAC left the door ajar for their deportation later, if their two co-conspirators who had returned to Pakistan voluntarily were not subjected to torture or cruel or degrading treatment.

Then I asked a question about prostitution on behalf of Navnit Dholakia, who had tabled it but was unavoidably absent, see A woman who was acquitted at Luton crown court with keeping a brothel on the grounds that sex services were offered at her bungalow in Bedfordshire by three other women. It is widely accepted that women in small groups are ten times safer than women providing sex services on their own, and I was asking the Government (1) if the CPS would issue guidance to the police not to prosecute women in these circumstances and (2) to consult with stakeholders on how women providing sex services could be better protected, having regard to the successful changes in the law in New Zealand.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Not of sufficient urgency or importance! Over 100 people slaughtered and about the same number injured. Terrorists killing worshippers at their prayers, and then killing more people at the hospital where survivors are being treated. If this isn't urgent or important by those who decide these matters, I can't imagine what their scale of values must be. What I do know is that Ahmadi Muslims in this country and around the world find this attitude, and the silence of both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, difficult to comprehend.
Posted by Picasa