Oral Answers to Questions — Congo (Katanga)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th January 1962.

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Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Govan 12:00 am, 29th January 1962

asked the Lord Privy Seal what representations were made to Her Majesty's Government by the United Nations, during the period in which Dr. O'Brien was the United Nations special representative in the Congo, in respect of British policy in Katanga: and what replies he sent.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

As the local representative of the United Nations in Elisabethville from June to mid-November, Dr. O'Brien was in frequent touch with Her Majesty's Consul there, and they discussed all aspects of the Katanga situation. Close contact between Her Majesty's Government and the United Nations has also naturally been maintained through our representatives both in Leopoldville and in New York.

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Govan

That reply to the question is riot complete. Is it not the case that the statement made at the time by Dr. O'Brien has been largely confirmed by the speech of the Foreign Secretary at Berwick-on-Tweed, in which he showed that he held the United Nations in very poor esteem indeed? How can the Foreign Secretary carry out the policy of a body for which he has shown such complete disregard?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's remarks about my noble Friend's speech. In any case, the House will have, a full opportunity of discussing the speech at the beginning of next week.

Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Chigwell

asked the Lord Privy Seal (1) what orders were given to United Nations troops in Katanga regarding the taking of prisoners; what inquiries have been held by the United Nations into the conduct of such troops; how many have been court-martialled; of what charges they were accused; and what were the results;

(2) what representations have been made to the United Nations by Her Majesty's Government for an investigation into the deaths of M. Serge Olivet, head of the International Red Cross in Katanga, and two other of its members, Mme. Vroonen and Mr. Smedding; and what inquiry has been made into complaints of the bombing of, or firing upon, Red Cross hospitals, vehicles and personnel in Katanga.

Photo of Mr Eric Johnson Mr Eric Johnson , Manchester, Blackley

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will instruct the United Kingdom representative in the United Nations Organisation to press for an independent inquiry into the bombing of hospitals, attacks on ambulances and civilians, rape and other acts of violence by members of the United Nations forces in Katanga.

Photo of Dr Donald Johnson Dr Donald Johnson , Carlisle

asked the Lord Privy Seal what representations he has made to the Secretary General of the United Nations in regard to the behaviour and lack of discipline of Ethiopian troops under United Nations command stationed in Elisabethville.

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

The Government have expressed their concern to the United Nations Organisation about allegations reflecting on the behaviour of United Nations forces in the Katanga. The United Nations Secretariat has informed the Government that instructions to their troops were that gendarmerie prisoners should be disarmed and held in protective custody; mercenaries should be handled in accordance with the relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions. When allegations began to circulate that United Nations troops had exceeded these instructions, special measures were taken to investigate them and to punish offenders.

Certain generalised allegations of misconduct by United Nations troops have been investigated. Two cases of rape appear to have been substantiated; one or two cases of loot have also been confirmed. I am informed that those found guilty have been punished Some cases remain to be dealt with.

As regards requests for an independent inquiry into these events, I am not convinced that a general inquiry would be useful. At the request of the Internatiolal Red Cross the United Nations have already agreed to conduct an inquiry into the deaths of Monsieur Olivet and his two fellow International Red Cross workers.

Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Chigwell

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask him whether the United Nations colonel who told the French newspaper FigaroI do not take any white prisoners is still in Katanga? Would it not be more appropriate to accede to the request by the International Committee of the Red Cross for an independent inquiry rather than have an inquiry by the United Nations, under whose orders these alleged atrocities were committed?

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

The request was from the International Red Cross to the United Nations, and I understand that the proposal has been accepted. I think we must therefore wait to see the outcome. I have no confirmation of the case of the colonel to which my hon. Friend has referred.

Photo of Mr Eric Johnson Mr Eric Johnson , Manchester, Blackley

In view of the fact that there is still a great deal of uncertainty about what has been happening in Katanga, and that we are, after all, paying these United Nations troops and are responsible for their actions, will my right hon. Friend not reconsider this matter of an independent inquiry, which seems most desirable?

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

I think that it is best to await the results of the present investigations which the United Nations is carrying out, but obviously we can make further representations later on, if necessary. There have been so many allegations from different sides—they have not merely come from one side—that it is important to get the facts clear.

Photo of Dr Donald Johnson Dr Donald Johnson , Carlisle

Is my hon. Friend aware that his reply, in the view of many people, will not meet the case? This is a crisis of confidence in the United Nations for many people in this country. Is he aware that they want a general inquiry to find out what has been happening on both sides in Katanga? Will he press this matter and issue a White Paper?

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

This is a matter for the United Nations. We have discussed it with its representatives in New York. Whenever any case arises, our representatives there discuss the matter with the United Nations Secretariat. As far as we can, we follow these cases up in that way. It is not for us to initiate the independent inquiry suggested here. Let us await the outcome of the present investigations before taking further action.

Mr. H. Wilson:

While we welcome the fullest possible inquiry into all these allegations of atrocities by both sides—by mercenaries as well as by United Nations forces—may I ask the hon. Gentleman whether, in order to get this matter in balance with his hon. Friends, he will make available information, which I understand is in the possession of the Foreign Office, about the extent to which mercenaries were using hospitals for firing on United Nations troops, about the extent to which military vehicles were being painted with the red cross, and about the extraordinary fact that the number of ambulances said to have been damaged by United Nations forces far exceeds the number of ambulances known to be in the Congo?

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

It is these counter conflicting claims which make the whole thing so difficult to see. There are certainly allegations on both sides. This is not a one-sided matter. These are matters for the United Nations rather than for Her Majesty's Government at the present time.

Photo of Sir Godfrey Nicholson Sir Godfrey Nicholson , Farnham

Is my hon. Friend aware that the United Nations is acting in our name, amongst those of other nations? Nothing is to be lost by any side in the discovery of the truth. Will he, therefore, initiate moves in the United Nations for a full and impartial inquiry into the allegations affecting both sides?

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

As I say, we have already discussed this on various occasions with the Acting Secretary-General, and, of course, our permanent representative in New York continues to do so whenever any new factors arise. It has been extremely difficult to get at the facts because there have been so many varying reports. But I think that we should wait until the findings of the existing inquiries which the United Nations is carrying out are made available.

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Rowley Regis and Tipton

Will the hon. Gentleman take this opportunity of rejecting the suggestion put forward by the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) that these atrocities were committed by order of the United Nations Command?

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Rowley Regis and Tipton

If the Minister of State is not in a position to do so, will he invite the United Nations to make an explanatory statement or a denial at the earliest possible opportunity?

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

I was not aware that my hon. Friend made such a charge. Certainly I do not think anyone would for one moment accuse the United Nations command of deliberately giving instructions of that nature.

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Woolwich East

Will the inquiry also make investigation into the details of the campaign of organised atrocity propaganda against the United Nations?

Photo of Dr Donald Johnson Dr Donald Johnson , Carlisle

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I beg to give notice that, in view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I propose to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Chigwell

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to deny that I took these allegations as established. I invite the hon. Gentleman opposite to consult HANSARD.

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

No point of order arises, but the denial will have been heard.