HC Deb 09 February 1944 vol 396 cc1776-7
Major Sir Jocelyn Lucas

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the fact that five escaped British prisoners of war, since recaptured, have been condemned to death by the Italian police, and what action he has taken in the matter.

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir. In the course of yesterday a report was circulated by the German News Agency to the effect that six British escaped prisoners of war who have been in hiding in Northern Italy had been recaptured and that five of them had been sentenced to death. On receipt of this report, His Majesty's Government immediately issued a statement in which they made it clear that these men, being prisoners of war, are entitled to the full protection of the Geneva Convention. Article 66 of this Convention provides that, in the event of a sentence of death being passed on a prisoner of war, that sentence shall not be carried out until three months after full particulars of the case have been communicated to the Protecting Power. His Majesty's Government have also made an immediate communication to the Swiss Government, asking for information as to this report and for an assurance from the German Government that the provisions of the Geneva Convention to which I have just referred will in any event be respected.

Sir J. Lucas

While we all thank my right hon. Friend for the great promptitude with which he has acted, is it not a fact that the police as such have no jurisdiction over prisoners of war except for arrest and temporary detention?

Mr. Eden

The position is governed by the Geneva Convention, and I think I do well to rest on that.

Mr. Turton

By what tribunal is it alleged that these men were sentenced?

Mr. Eden

I am afraid I have no details except such as were issued by the German News Agency itself. That is why I have asked the Swiss Government to give us a report.