UNCHR (Special Rapporteurs)

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd March 1988.

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Photo of Mr Dennis Turner Mr Dennis Turner , Wolverhampton South East 12:00 am, 2nd March 1988

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received on the question of the reappointment of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights' special rapporteur on E1 Salvador; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Timothy Eggar Mr Timothy Eggar , Enfield North

We have received a number of representations. We find the special representative's repots balanced and objective. He states that the situation in E1 Salvador has improved, although there is still room for further progress. We will take his view into account when deciding how to vote. We shall also discuss the draft resolution with our European Community partners.

Photo of Mr Dennis Turner Mr Dennis Turner , Wolverhampton South East

I thank the Minister for his reply, although it is somewhat depressing, as there is sufficient evidence of a deterioriating human rights situation in E1 Salvador. The death squad is on the march, and killing and torturing are taking place at this moment. What do the Government need to be able to commit themselves to supporting the relacement of the special rapporteur to E1 Salvador? Will the Minister tell the House why the Government are holding back on this important issue?

Photo of Mr Timothy Eggar Mr Timothy Eggar , Enfield North

When the Human Rights Commission appoints a special representative, it is only right that all members of the Commission should take his report into account because it is the most objective report available on human rights in that particular country. If the hon. Gentleman is asking us to vote for the special representative's reappointment, surely he will agree that, in making our decision, we should take account of that special representative's report. That is what we shall do.

Photo of Mr Jacques Arnold Mr Jacques Arnold , Gravesham

Has my hon. Friend noted, from the report of the special rapporteur, Senor Ridruejo, that considerable progress has been made on the civil rights records of the armed forces and the police of E1 Salvador? Does he not think that we should now see an improvement from the guerrillas, who continue to sow mines causing innocent deaths among the civil population?

Photo of Mr Timothy Eggar Mr Timothy Eggar , Enfield North

The special representative's last report shows that the earlier improvements in the situation have continued and that President Duarte has made efforts to curb death squads. In addition, the special representative found no evidence to prove that the Government connived at human rights abuses. It is right that we should take that into account when deciding how we shall vote. We have not yet made up our mind.

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes , Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley

Will the Minister confirm that the Government are as much against repression in E1 Salvador as they are against it in the occupied territories? Does he agree that, since the special rapporteur produced his report, the situation in E1 Salvador has worsened? The human rights activist Herbert Anaya has been murdered and there have been attacks on the camp at Calle Real. Does he agree, therefore, that it would be quite intolerable and would be a green light to the death squads and a 'click in the teeth for all human rights workers if the British Government did not vote in favour of the reappointment of that special rapporteur?

Photo of Mr Timothy Eggar Mr Timothy Eggar , Enfield North

Naturally, we are concerned about human rights violations wherever they occur. It is also right that where there are improvemens we should recognise them.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the attack on the Calle Real refugee camp. We are aware of it and our chargé d'affaires visited the camp soon afterwards to ensure that the British volunteers were well. We shall take into account the hon. Gentleman's views and those of others concerned about human rights in E1 Salvador. Equally, we have a duty as a member of the Human Rights Commission to make an objective judgment on the wording of the motion, which has only just been put before us, in discussions with other members of the commission.