War Criminals

Oral Answers to Questions — San Francisco Conference – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 28 March 1945.

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Photo of Mr Charles Challen Mr Charles Challen , Hampstead 12:00, 28 March 1945

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will attempt to secure the agreement of all foreign Governments to the establishment of international principles which would prevent a country from providing asylum for a person wanted for trial as a war criminal.

Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington

The right of asylum is one which by international law States are entitled to exercise at their discretion. How- ever, as the House is aware, His Majesty's Government have made plain to neutral Governments their hope and expectation that the right of asylum will not be used for the protection of war criminals. They have received from these Governments answers which I described in the House on 6th December as broadly speaking not unsatisfactory.

Photo of Mr Charles Challen Mr Charles Challen , Hampstead

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that my Question is directed not to so-called neutral Governments but to any country whatever? We have undertaken to pursue these criminals to the uttermost ends of the earth, and I am urging some principles which would be applicable to any country, not merely to present neutrals.

Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington

My hon. and gallant Friend can surely take it that Allied Governments will refuse to deal with these people, enemy countries will be defeated, and all that is left are the neutral countries. That is why I referred to them.

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Maldon

Could my right hon. Friend say whether the reply of the Portuguese Government was more or less unsatisfactory?

Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington

I said that, collectively, they were not unsatisfactory. So far as I remember the Portuguese reply, it was a pretty good one.

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Maldon

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps are being taken by His Majesty's Government, or the War Crimes Commission, to secure the attendance for trial or questioning of an enemy or former enemy leader, alleged by a member of the United Nations to be a war criminal, who has already taken refuge in a neutral country.

Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington

The situation to which the hon. Member refers has not yet, so far as I know, arisen. If it does arise, it will be for the Allied Governments, and not for the War Crimes Commission, to concert together and to take appropriate joint action in the circumstances of each case. Meanwhile, the assurances on this subject received from neutral Governments, in reply to representations made by His Majesty's Government and the United States Government are not unsatisfactory, as I have already informed the House.

Mr. Driberģ:

Could my right hon. Friend say when he is going to abandon the use of the phrase "not unsatisfactory," and describe something as satisfactory?

Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington

I do not propose to abandon it. It seems to me a pretty good description.

Photo of Sir William Davison Sir William Davison , Kensington South

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will take immediate steps, with a view to securing agreement among all our Allies, that no consideration be given to devising legal machinery for the trial of Hitler, seeing that, as Commander-in-Chief of the German armed forces, he must have authorised or approved of the atrocities committed by such forces in Russia, Poland and elsewhere, and so has already merited summary execution.

Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington

Under the terms of the Moscow Declaration on German Atrocities, published on 1st November, 1943, those major war criminals whose crimes have no particular geographical localisation will be punished by a joint decision of the Governments of the Allies. I need hardly add that Hitler is regarded by His Majesty's Government as one of the major war criminals, coming within the scope of the Declaration.

Photo of Sir William Davison Sir William Davison , Kensington South

Is it fully realised by the Allies that Hitler, as Commander-in-Chief of the German armies, has directly concerned himself with the smallest details of German military operations, and is fully aware of all actions taken or not taken by all German forces in the field?

Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington

If Hitler's only crime was to be concerned with the military machine, it would be one which in certain respects we might almost forgive.

Photo of Mr Ivor Thomas Mr Ivor Thomas , Keighley

Will it be the duty of a British soldier who sees Hitler to shoot him, or to bring him back alive?

Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington

I am content to leave that to the judgment of any British soldier.