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Wednesday, 16 February 2000
Page: 11945

Senator Bourne asked the Ministerrepresenting the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 23 November 1999:

Noting that the Government encourages the Sudanese Government to comply fully with the United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 1044:

(1) (a) Are entry and transit restrictions on members and officials of the Sudanese Government and armed forces still in place; and (b) has the Government had occasion to enforce these restrictions.

(2) What other measures is the Government taking to support international efforts to end the civil war in Sudan.

(3) Has the Australian Ambassador to Egypt, Ms Victoria Owen, who is accredited to the Government of Sudan, recently visited Khartoum; if not, does she have plans to do so in the immediate future; if so: (a) what was on the agenda for discussion; and (b) was the issue of compliance with the UN resolution raised with the Sudanese Government and what was the response.

(4) What action has the Government taken at the UN to support the international efforts in trying to end the civil war in Sudan.

(5) (a) Is the Minister aware of a report by Human Rights Watch that Ugandon Acholi children are being abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan rebel group and that this group is supported by the Sudanese Government; and (b) has the Government made representations to the Sudanese Government to pressure the LRA to end the abduction, killing, torture and sexual abuse of these children.

(6) With reference to Australian assistance to Sudan, can the Minister: (a) provide details of recipient organisations of the $2.1 million pledged in 1999; and (b) outline the Government's ongoing commitment to Sudan through its aid program.

(7) With reference to arms trade with Sudan: (a) does the Government support arms trade embargoes on Sudan; and (b) has the Government made representations to those countries providing military assistance as well as participating in arms trade with Sudan, this would include China, France, Malaysia and South Africa, to cease these activities.

Senator Hill (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) (a) Yes, however, in early 1999 it was assessed that the immigration restrictions were more stringent than intended by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1054. The relevant regulation was subsequently amended in November 1999 to give the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs discretion to approve the entry or transit of certain persons covered under Resolution 1054 on compelling grounds (eg. entry of Sudanese officials or participants to the Olympic Games).

(b) Yes, in February 1999 an inquiry was made by a high level Sudanese government official regarding a visa for the Sudanese Foreign Minister to visit Australia. The official was advised that the Foreign Minister would be denied entry to Australia and no application was submitted. DIMA is not aware of any other proposed or actual applications from persons subject to these restrictions.

(2) The Australian Government continues to support efforts to end the conflict and hopes that Sudan will join with other regional parties in finding lasting solutions to the region's social, political and economic problems. Australia has supported the efforts of the United Nations in urging Sudan to commit itself to participate in negotiations sponsored by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

(3) The Australian Ambassador to Egypt, Ms Victoria Owen, who is accredited to the Republic of Sudan, visited Sudan from 18-24 April 1998. The purpose of the visit was to present credentials and to meet Sudanese Ministers and officials. The Australian Ambassador raised our concerns about human rights violations in the Sudan during that visit. The Ambassador does not have plans to visit Sudan in the near future.

(4) Australia has co-sponsored resolution on Sudan at the 54th and 55th sessions of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and at the 53rd and 54th sessions of the United Nations General Assembly. (UNGA) The resolution at the 55th session of CHR (April 1999) expressed concern at continuing serious violations of human rights, fundamental freedoms and breaches of international humanitarian law perpetrated by all parties to the current conflict.

(5) (a) Yes, the Minister is aware of the Human Rights Watch Report produced in 1997 entitled “The Scars of Death—Children Abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda”.

(b) While the Government has not made direct representations to the Sudanese Government on the activities of the Lord's Resistance Army, its concerns were registered in Australia's Country Situations Statement at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1998. In that statement Australia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva stated that “the Australian Government is also very disturbed at reports on the abduction of children from Northern Uganda by the Lord's Resistance Army and calls for the immediate safe return of these children to their families”. In addition the resolutions Australia co-sponsored at CHR and in the Third Committee of United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 1998 and 1999 expressed serious concerns at the abduction, trafficking and sale of children, kidnappings, arbitrary detention, forced conscription, indiscriminate killings and forced displacement in the Sudan and neighbouring countries.

(6) (a) The $2.1 million committed to Sudan this financial year is to cover existing contractual commitments for ongoing projects. These funds will cover: $872,000 to UNICEF Australia for the final year of a $2.6 million 3-year Emergency Basic Education Project; $658,000 to UNICEF Australia for the final year of a $1.9 million 3-year Primary Health Care Project; and $606,236 to CARE Australia for the final year of a $1.86 million 3-year Primary Health Care Project.

(b) There is an AusAID assessment mission scheduled to visit Sudan in February 2000 to report to the Government on the current situation in Sudan and to consider options for future Australian humanitarian funding.

(7) (a) The Australian Government has a standing policy of denying approval for export of arms or other military goods to any country which is subject to a United Nations Security Council or United Nations General Assembly arms embargo. The United Nations has not imposed an arms embargo against Sudan and the Government has not implemented a Prohibited Export Regulation specifically covering the Sudan. Any application to export defence or related goods to Sudan would, however, be subject to the closest of scrutiny, on a case-by-case basis, by agencies of the Standing Interdepartmental Committee for Defence Exports to ensure consistency with Australia's foreign, strategic and security policy objectives. The Government has not approved the export of any offensive weapons to Sudan for over ten years.

(b) The Government has not made specific bilateral representations in regards to arms sales to Sudan. More broadly, through Australia's participation in the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies, the Government is working to promote greater transparency and responsibility in transfers of conventional arms to regions of concern. Arms flows to countries in the Horn and Sub-Saharan region of Africa have been the subject of Wassenaar attention.