HC Deb 16 July 1946 vol 425 cc1059-60
Mr. Eden

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—whom we are all glad to welcome back to the House after his exacting labours in Paris—a Question of which I have given him private notice: Whether, in view of the fact that General Mihailovitch was the first to wage guerilla warfare against the enemy, and that His Majesty's Government supported him for over two years in this struggle, they will now request the Yugoslav Government to take his services during this period into consideration, in connection with the death sentence imposed upon him.

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Ernest Bevin)

As the House was informed on 3rd June, His Majesty's representative in Belgrade communicated to the Yugoslav Government on 18th May evidence drawn up by five British liaison officers who served with Mihailovitch up till May, 1944, showing that, in their experience, he actively fought against the enemy. This evidence was published in the British Press, but it seems that it was not communicated to the court in Belgrade—[An HON. MEMBER: "Shame."] His Majesty's Government did not com- sider that they had any right to intervene further in a trial conducted according to the laws of a sovereign State. They assume that the Yugoslav Praesidium will, before confirming the death sentence, take account of all the facts that have been laid before them. I should like to take this opportunity of saying that His Majesty's Government do not accept the numerous charges, implied and direct, which have been made against British liaison officers during the course of the trial, and which have clearly been intended to show that they encouraged Mihailovitch to liquidate the partisans. No such instructions were ever sent to these officers by His Majesty's Government. On the contrary, their whole endeavour was to unite the Chetniks and the partisans, and to persuade both factions to combine against the enemy. I am willing to accept the assurances of the officers concerned that this was, in fact, the object to which they devoted their efforts, and that on no occasion did they encourage Mihailovitch to attack the partisans

Mr. William Teeling

In view of the fact that, according to Yugoslav law, General Mihailovitch will have to be executed in 48 hours—[HON. MEMBERS: "24 hours"]—48 hours, I believe—will the right hon. Gentleman make sure that those reports which appeared in the British Press, and which, he said, did not reach the court in Yugoslavia, will, through our British Minister, reach them before the 48 hours are over?

Mr. Bevin

I think that has been done.