HC Deb 03 May 1948 vol 450 cc884-6
22. Mr. Piekthorn

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how much longer His Majesty's Government intend to maintain international undertakings' obliging them to surrender to the Yugoslav authorities Yugoslays against whom there is a prima facie case of collaboration to the satisfaction of British legal opinion.

Mr. Mayhew

His Majesty's Government expect shortly to conclude the examination of the cases made out by the Yugoslav Government against such Yugoslays as are held at present under detention. When this work has been completed, His Majesty's Government will consider the further action to which they may be committed by their international undertakings.

23. Mr. Pickthorn

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what information he has about the treatment of Yugoslays surrendered to the Tito regime; and in particular, what has happened to Lieutenant-Colonel Cus.

Mr. Mayhew

The Yugoslav Government have informed His Majesty's Ambassador that there are no reasons calling upon them to furnish any information about Yugoslays surrendered for trial. As regards Lieutenant-Colonel Cus, the Yugoslav Government have stated that he is in detention and will be brought to public trial as soon as the prosecution's case is completed.

Mr. Thomas Reid

Is it not a fact that several of these Yugoslays have escaped from British detention?

Mr. Mayhew

Yes, Sir, I can confirm that. I regret to announce that a number of Yugoslays from the Munster Lager Camp whom we had decided must be handed back to the Yugoslav authorities, did escape recently.

Mr. Stokes

Is the hon. Gentleman's right hon. Friend satisfied that these people get a fair trial on their return to Yugoslavia?

Mr. Mayhew

I have already answered many Questions on this subject. Our attitude is that the factor of the nature of the trial they will receive when they return to Yugoslavia is a factor which clearly influences us in taking special care that a prima facie case exists against them, before agreeing to their return.

Mr. H. Macmillan

In these circumstances, and the circumstances which the right hon. Gentleman knows surround trials in Yugoslavia today, will evidence be required on something more than a charge of collaboration—a charge of breach of the recognised rules of warfare?

Mr. Mayhew

Our obligations are plainly stated in this matter, and the definition is plainly given. As I said, these factors are taken into consideration with very special care when we decide whether a prima facie case exists.

Mr. Macmillan

Will the right hon. Gentleman have regard to the fact that when we entered those obligations the situation was very different and the confidence we had in our Allies was on a much higher rate of gradation?

Mr. Pickthorn

May I ask two supplementary questions? First, when the hon. Gentleman tells us that special care is taken about prima facie evidence, does he mean to suggest that there is a certain sliding scale of what is prima facie evidence, and what is not? Is it, according to His Majesty's Government, confidence in the judicial methods of the other party, because that apparently is what he said? Secondly, does his original answer mean, for that is apparently what he said, that His Majesty's Government know nothing of what happened to any of these Yugoslays handed over, except that they did know that Lieut.-Colonel Cus—[HON. MEMBERS "Speech."] Mr. Speaker will keep me in Order, not hon. Members opposite.

Mr. Mayhew

In reply to the first part of that question, I do not accept the implication about a sliding scale, but what I say is that consideration of the nature of the justice they will receive on their return to Yugoslavia does lead us to take altogether special care in deciding whether a prima facie case exists against them, and I cannot go beyond that. In reply to the second part of the question we have not received information about those whom we have recently sent back to Yugoslavia, but in respect of cases dealt with immediately after the war, we have no evidence that such persons have been either ill treated, or given sentences out of proportion to their apparent guilt.

Mr. Sydney Silverman

In view of some of the supplementary questions, can my hon. Friend say what is the nature of the charges which are brought against these men and what is the kind of prima facie evidence he demands? Is it really a question of breaches of the rules of war, or rather a question of treason against Yugoslavia itself, such as we ourselves have always claimed the right to punish?

Mr. Mayhew

The phrase is "wilful and active collaboration." I think I can associate myself with the last part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question.

Mr. Nicholson

To what extent can the House rest assured that this investigation into prima facie evidence of guilt is the equivalent of a genuine and just trial, such as they cannot receive in Yugoslavia?

Hon. Members

Why not?

Mr. Nicholson

May I have an answer to that question? What is the nature—

Hon. Members


Mr. Nicholson

I think Mr. Speaker will keep me in Order. I want to know whether the investigations of prima facie guilt is in effect a fair trial? I have asked the hon. Gentleman a fair question.

Mr. Mayhew

I can say that I am satisfied, and my right hen. Friend is satisfied, that in all these matters British standards of justice are applied.

Mr. Ivor Thomas

Can we be assured that fighting against Communist dictatorship is not regarded as collaboration with Germany? May I have an answer?