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International Humanitarian Law: Protecting Civilians in Conflict — [Mr Peter Bone in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:26 am on 18th June 2019.

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Photo of Khalid Mahmood Khalid Mahmood Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) (Europe) 10:26 am, 18th June 2019

I thank the right hon. Gentleman, who makes a valid point. That was perhaps a slip of my tongue, which I should clarify, and I thank him for correcting me.

Save the Children also advocates a commitment to share expertise. In a conflict area we must be able to address some of the issues it has raised.

I declare an interest as I begin the next section of my remarks, about Kashmir—a region that has not been mentioned by many speakers in the debate—and human rights. The situation there has continued for 70 years, over the period we have been considering. Protection is given by the Indian state to the military and it cannot be held accountable in a court of law within the civil structure of India. Abuses happen day in, day out, and mass graves have been found. Torture is commonplace—including of children, women and people with disabilities. We need an open arena where the issues can be discussed, rather than just pointing fingers. However, people must be held accountable. The country that purports to be the largest democracy in the world should be held to account for the way it treats its people. My constituents from Punjab in India raise significant issues in that respect and we should be keen for development and progress on those issues.

It is also important to reiterate the role of the United Nations. The hon. Member for Henley mentioned peacekeepers in relation to the United Nations, and it is important that we consider that, but the United Nations should be not just a peacekeeper, but a peacemaker.

Part of the failure of the United Nations is due to the partisan issues that have arisen in the Security Council and the inability to get resolutions through. There should be a far greater presence of the United Nations in these conflict areas, to avoid further escalation of violence there. That would certainly help. There has been too much political side-taking by different nations and countries—again, I point to where that has happened in the Security Council—but, if the purposes of the United Nations are to be fulfilled, the organisation must be fit for purpose. Over the 19 years of this century, at least, we have seen huge conflicts escalate.

We, as countries and nations, must also understand that when we put arms into an arena, when we do not like someone and want to support the fighters against them, we add additional weaponry to that arena. We have no guarantee who gets hold of that weaponry and no say over what they will do with it. It is important to recognise that fact in terms of Syria. The US needs to learn some lessons on this and perhaps we, in some instances, need to learn lessons on it: if we are prepared to put more arms into those conflict areas, they will get used, and we cannot be guarantors of who gets to use them and how things move forward.

I have asked the Minister a lot of the questions that Save the Children has raised and other hon. Members have raised. In addition, we need to understand that, after 70 years of this great legislation that we are here to support, it would be far better for countries and nations to have more jaw-jaw and less war-war.