HC Deb 04 March 1881 vol 259 cc327-8

asked the Secretary of State for War, Whether natural born subjects of Her Majesty the Queen, or of neutral powers, serving in arms against Her Majesty in the forces of the Transvaal Boers will be treated as belligerents like the Boors, and what instructions regarding the disposal of such persons when taken prisoners have been issued to the General and other officers in command in South Africa?


, in reply, said, that certain instructions, as was known to the House, had been sent out directing the mode in which the Boers of the Transvaal were to be treated during the present hostilities. The Secretary of State for War had already stated that he had sent out instructions contained in the following telegram:— That, though the occasion had not arisen for determining any question of belligerent rights, the Boers were to be treated according to the recognized rules of civilized warfare, including the exchange of prisoners. Those instructions were applicable to the Boers of the Transvaal exclusively. Their case was peculiar, and therefore justly excited a desire for information as to the course Her Majesty's Government had taken, or might take, in regard to them. As regarded other subjects of Her Majesty, or the subjects of neutral Powers, he did not see any reason why their case should not fall under the general rules which were applicable to other cases of hostility. At any rate, Her Majesty's Government, placing confidence in the discretion of the Commander, did not at present see the necessity of making any new rules on the subject.


asked, Whether the House was to understand, from the right hon. Gentleman's answer, that Dutchmen from Holland, or from States bordering on the Transvaal, were, if captured, to be treated as rebels and hanged, rather than dealt with as belligerents?


The same Question might be asked with regard to hostilities in any country whatever, and it would have to be dealt with according to its merits. It is not a case in which, I think, it would be wise for us to issue instructions, and I apprehend that it would be much more likely to do harm than good.