PARLIMENT of the UK -- 2 Dec 2004 : Column 549

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Iran: Human Rights -- Lord Clarke of Hampstead asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether improvement of Iran's human rights record has been removed as an element of the diplomatic agreement with the EU3 group (United Kingdom, Germany and France) on Iran's nuclear weapons development programme.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, the focus of the recent agreement is Iran's nuclear programme. The agreement does not refer to all elements of our dialogue with Iran, nor all of our concerns about Iranian policy. We continue to have serious concerns about human rights and regularly raise them with the Iranian authorities. The United Kingdom and other European Union governments co-sponsored the resolution on human rights in Iran adopted by the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly on 17 November.

Lord Clarke of Hampstead: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for her helpful answer. Does she agree with the conclusions that appear on the EU website about its serious concern about serious violations of human rights? In 2002, 2003 and as recently as October of this year, the Iranian regime promised to do certain things about human rights, but violations continue to take place.

Further, does my noble friend believe that it is right for this country or the European Union to enter trade agreements with a government who systematically murder hundreds of their people? In particular, I ask her about two children, Kaveh Habibi-Nejad, a 14 year-old boy flogged to death for eating in public during Ramadan and Atefeh Rajabi, a 16 year-old girl publicly hanged for what they call an act incompatible with chastity. Will my noble friend ask the Iranian authorities what justification they have for carrying out such wicked atrocities?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, on the question about the EU website, it is because we agree with so much of what our colleagues elsewhere in the European Union are saying that we supported the General Assembly resolution to which I referred in my initial Answer. My noble friend will also be interested to know that, with our support, on 24 November the European Union called on the Iranian authorities to express concern at the increasing number of arrests and incidence of harassment of journalists and non-governmental organisations activists, as well as the Christian and Bahá'- communities.

However, my noble friend is especially exercised by the question of the execution of juveniles. I myself have raised some of these cases with the Iranian authorities. The deeply disturbing case of the young girl of 16 who was executed in public is an appalling example of the dispatch of a child in horrendous circumstances. I have also raised the case of a 13 year-old allegedly sentenced to death by stoning for incest. We have been told that she will not be executed and that she and her brother have been transferred to welfare organisations. So I am aware of those abuses of human rights and I and my colleagues raise them with the Iranian authorities.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, does the Minister agree that there will be a lot of sympathy with the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Clarke of Hampstead, about those revolting practices? Does she recall that, on Monday, I asked her whether the Iranian undertaking to suspend uranium enrichment, which was part of the deal under the diplomatic agreement with the EU foreign ministers, had any time limit? She replied that the aim was to provide long-term objectives. Since then, we have heard from Tehran that in fact the agreement is purely temporary. That does not sound very long term at all. Can she explain the discrepancy? What is the right story here?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, first, I hope that I made clear that I not only have sympathy with but support the points raised by my noble friend about the particular practices that he adduced to your Lordships.

On the agreement that we have reached, which the noble Lord said is claimed to be a temporary arrangement by the Iranians, if he reads the terms of the agreement, he will see that it mentions sustaining the suspension of those activities. The agreement that we reached on Monday through the International Atomic Energy Agency involves the suspension of the activities that have given cause for concern while negotiations on a long-term agreement are under way. The negotiations on that long-term agreement will begin within the next few weeks—I think that the timescale is the first couple of weeks of December—and it is that long-term agreement that will provide the objective guarantees. Monday's agreement will stay in place until the long-term agreement can be put in place through negotiation.




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