War Crimes

Oral Answers to Questions — Attorney-General – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th April 1995.

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Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham , Coventry South East 12:00 am, 24th April 1995

To ask the Attorney-General if he will make a statement on the Government's latest position on war crimes in respect of (a) the second world war and (b) Rwanda. [18745]

Photo of Sir Nicholas Lyell Sir Nicholas Lyell Attorney General (Law Officers)

With regard to second world war crimes, having carefully considered the initial advice from senior Treasury counsel, further inquiries are in hand in relation to certain potential defendants.

With regard to Rwanda, the United Kingdom was a co-sponsor of United Nations Security Council resolution 955, which has established the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Investigations and the conduct of any prosecutions will be in the hands of the appointed prosecutor, Mr. Richard Goldstone.

Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham , Coventry South East

On Rwanda, given the events of the weekend, particularly in relation to massacres, will the Attorney-General say what discussions he has had with the Foreign Secretary with a view to talking to the Rwandan Government through the UN to bring the perpetrators to book?

Is the Attorney-General aware that many people in this country, especially war veterans, are extremely concerned about the lack of progress made in bringing people guilty of war crimes in the second world war to book? Is he equally aware that serious concern also exists among the vast majority of the public about people who deserted the German army during the war and refused to fight against this country not being allowed to receive pensions?

Photo of Sir Nicholas Lyell Sir Nicholas Lyell Attorney General (Law Officers)

Although the hon. Gentleman raises a matter of concern, he will not expect me to answer the final point in relation to pensions. Although the House will be keeping a careful watch on the tragic events in Rwanda, I must say that these are primarily matters for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, and they will no doubt arise in Overseas Development questions which are to follow.

In relation to the investigation of war crimes during the second world war, I can tell the House, as I did five weeks ago, that these matters are being examined with great care and with no delay or hanging about. None the less, they have to be investigated extremely carefully and in detail before any decisions can be taken.

Photo of Mr Jacques Arnold Mr Jacques Arnold , Gravesham

Will my right hon. and learned Friend note that bringing such people to justice for their crimes during the second world war has been hanging about for 50 years? Could he please ask the Director of Public Prosecutions to get on with it?

Photo of Sir Nicholas Lyell Sir Nicholas Lyell Attorney General (Law Officers)

I understand my hon. Friend's point, but the House reached its own determination only four and a bit years ago. Investigations have been carried out extremely carefully by the police who, earlier this year, provided a detailed report to the Director of Public Prosecutions, who has obtained the advice prepared by senior Treasury counsel, and matters are now being examined in great detail. I understand my hon. Friend's point, but one does not rush carelessly to justice in such matters—one examines the issue very closely.