Religious Intolerance

House of Lords written question – answered on 7 November 2013.

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Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the governments of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Eritrea with regard to the needs of the ethnic and religious minorities in those countries.

Photo of Lord Wallace of Saltaire Lord Wallace of Saltaire Lords Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

Freedom of religion or belief is a human rights priority for this Government and a personal priority for my noble friend the right Hon. Baroness Warsi, Senior Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. During the UN General Assembly (UNGA) Ministerial Week at the end of September, Baroness Warsi convened her second meeting of international leaders to discuss what more the international community could do to combat religious intolerance, protect the human rights of minorities and promote pluralism in society.

Baroness Warsi had a frank and open discussion on minority issues with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, in the margins of UNGA in September. We have urged the government to guarantee fully the human rights of all people, particularly the most vulnerable, as laid down in the Constitution and in accordance with international standards.

We regularly discuss with the Afghan government the need to ensure the security of all their people, regardless of religion or ethnicity, and have made it clear that any political settlement must protect the progress made in Afghanistan and respect the country’s constitutional framework, including protecting minority rights.

Our Ambassador in Asmara has requested the release of all prisoners detained on political or religious grounds in Eritrea. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. friend Mr Simmonds, also urged the Eritrean Foreign Minister in July to engage with the international community on human rights issues.

Our Ambassador in Addis Ababa has raised concerns over the Ethiopian government’s approach to Muslim protestors with both the Islamic Supreme Affairs Council and the Ministry of Federal Affairs. Mr Simmonds also raised concerns over human rights issues with the Ethiopian Foreign Minister in May.

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