HC Deb 22 February 1954 vol 524 cc20-1
39. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission has now ceased its activities; whether the Indian Custodian Force has returned to India; and what decision has now been taken with regard to the Chinese prisoners against whom charges of murder have been made.

Mr. Eden

The Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission in Korea ceased to function on 21st February. The Commander of the Indian Custodian Force sailed for India with 600 men on 20th February. The last contingent leaves tomorrow.

I understand from the Press that the prisoners charged with murder were handed 'by the Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission to the United Nations Command on 18th February but I await official confirmation of this. The United Nations Command have stated that they would pass the prisoners on to the South Korean and Chinese Nationalist authorities with any recommendations for trial which the Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission might make.

I should like to take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the manner in which the Indian forces and their commanding officers have discharged a very difficult task. They have justly won world-wide respect.

Mr. Henderson

In associating right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the House with the tribute paid by the Foreign Secretary to the officers and men of the Indian Custodian Force, may I ask him whether he will ensure, so far as Her Majesty's Government are concerned, that full investigation is made into these cases in which a charge of murder has been made? Would it not be entirely wrong if these men were to be released without a full investigation having been made in accordance with the due process of law?

Mr. Eden

I will certainly look into that matter, but I do not think we have any powers in this respect as regards other nations. According to the terms of the Armistice, there was no alternative but to release the men concerned to one of the parties, but I will look into the observations of the right hon. and learned Gentleman.

Mr. Driberg

On that point will the Foreign Secretary also look into the report that, quite apart from the people accused of murder themselves, witnesses are being, or have been dispersed by the United Nations Command? Would the right hon. Gentleman also look into another point, which is that the Reports of the Repatriation Commission, which he was good enough to put into the Library a week or two ago, are incomplete because they have not the annexures to which frequent reference is made in the actual Reports? Would he try to place these in the Library also?

Mr. Eden

I will look into the last matter. As regards the witnesses being dispersed, that is because prisoners being released must be allowed to go. I am informed that it was also the Communists who refused to allow their people to bear witness.