HC Deb 23 October 1961 vol 646 cc554-6
32. Sir B. Janner

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he has yet decided to accede to the Convention on Genocide; and if he will make a statement.

46. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Lord Privy Seal how many, and which, nations have acceded to the Convention on Genocide up to date; and what steps he has taken, and with what result, to promote the accession of Britain to that Convention.

Mr. Godber

Sixty-five countries have ratified or acceded to the Genocide Convention to date. I will, with permission, circulate the list in the OFFICIAL REPORT. We are at this moment giving very active consideration to the question of whether we can become a party to this Convention and the House will be informed as soon as a decision is reached.

Sir B. Janner

Is not the Minister aware that this matter has been hanging fire for a very considerable time? A number of members of the Commonwealth, amongst many others, have agreed to the Convention and we are lagging very far behind. Is the Minister also aware that there are cases which cannot be dealt with in any other way than by this Convention? Is he aware, for example, that should one of the officers who come over here leading German troops happen to have been guilty of this crime we have no power at all to deal with him? Will he please do something quickly about it?

Mr. Godber

In a speech in reply to the hon. Member on 5th June, I explained some of the difficulties with regard to this matter and gave an undertaking that the Government were pursuing it urgently. There are considerable difficulties, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we are determined to come to a definite conclusion as soon as possible.

Mr. Hughes

Has the Minister realised that considerable damage has been done to sections of the population by the long delay in this matter on the part of the Government, and what does he propose to do to compensate those people?

Mr. Godber

I do not accept that that has happened. It has not made any material difference whatever with regard to this country. There are certain obligations which we have, and which we mean to safeguard. One is the right to give political asylum, which I should have thought all hon. Members would support.

Mr. M. Foot

If the Minister finds it difficult for the Government to make up their mind about the advantages and disadvantages of genocide, how does he think that they will make up their mind about the Common Market?

Mr. Godber

The Government have not as much difficulty in making up their mind as hon. Members opposite.

Mr. S. Silverman

Will the right hon. Gentleman make clear to the House what are the difficulties of the Government? This Convention was agreed on long ago. He has told us already that a great many countries have acceded to it. What is it that causes the Government to have doubts and hesitations or causes delay? Is it the difficulty of reconciling the signing of the Convention on Genocide with a nuclear defence strategy? Is that the difficulty?

Mr. Godber

No, it certainly is not. The problem relates largely to Article 7 of the Convention which, as I indicated in a previous answer, impinges on the right to give political asylum. There is also the fact that genocide is very broadly described in the Convention, and it would mean making large amendments in our criminal law in order to take account of it.

Following is the list:

Countries which have ratified Countries which have acceded
Australia. Afghanistan.
Belgium. Albania.
Brazil. Argentina.
Burma. Austria.
Byelorussia. Bulgaria.
Canada. Cambodia.
Chile. Ceylon.
China (Formosa). Costa Rica.
Colombia. Finland.
Cuba. German Federal Republic.
Denmark. Ghana.
Ecuador. Hungary.
Ethiopia. Iraq.
France. Italy.
Greece. Jordan.
Guatemala. Korea.
Haiti. Laos.
Honduras. Monaco.
Iceland. Morocco.
India. Nicaragua.
Iran. Poland.
Israel. Roumania.
Lebanon. Saudi Arabia.
Liberia. Tunisia.
Mexico. Turkey.
Norway. United Arab Republic(Syria)
Panama. Venezuela.
Peru. Vietnam.
Soviet Union.
United Arab Republic (Egypt).

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