HC Deb 10 February 1964 vol 689 cc15-7
17. Mr. Thorpe

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will instruct the British delegation at the United Nations to raise immediately, in the Security Council, as a threat to peace, the killing of members of the Tutsi Tribe by the Rwanda Republican Government, as a violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted by the General Assembly on 9th December, 1948.

18. Mr. Rankin

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware of the policy of genocide now being pursued by the Rwanda Government in East Africa; and if he will raise the matter, as a threat to peace, in the Security Council of the United Nations.

Mr. P. Thomas

No, Sir. While Her Majesty's Government regard these events as deplorable, I am doubtful whether the Security Council would be an appropriate forum for this matter at present. The Secretary-General is already in touch with the Governments of Rwanda and Burundi and is sending a personal representative, Mr. Dorsinville, to consult with them for the second time, about the situation. The Secretary-General has been made aware of the deep concern which is felt in this country. The situation in Rwanda is now reported to have improved.

Mr. Thorpe

Will the hon. Gentleman not agree, first, that these actions are in flagrant violation of the spirit of the Convention on Genocide? Although Her Majesty's Government have not seen fit either to sign or ratify this Convention, does the hon. Gentleman not feel that Her Majesty's Government should be doing more to stir the conscience of the world against these barbaric acts?

Mr. Thomas

Although the reports received have been far from clear I agree that it appears that these deplorable acts are acts of genocide, but it is not clear what the circumstances are. I believe that the Ruanda Government are taking steps to prevent any further indiscriminate killing, and Her Majesty's Ambassador reports that the great majority of these events took place a month ago. Apparently, these events seem to have occurred in the panic which was caused among the general population by Tutsi raids from neighbouring country.

Mr. Rankin

Has the hon. Gentleman noticed that the numbers alleged to have been massacred vary according to the Press from 8,000 to 15,000? Could he say which of those figures represents the more accurate estimate? In view of the fact that the hon. Gentleman has just indicated that little can be done quickly by the United Nations, would it be possible for him to make approaches to the Commonwealth Governments in East Africa to see what can be done -where necessary to provide sanctuary to those refugees from this massacre who may want it?

Mr. Thomas

It is impossible to give the numbers, because the reports have varied so considerably. As for the other part of the supplementary question, I have seen a report that the Prime Minister of Burundi has suggested that a conference of the Organisation for African Unity be convened to undertake responsibility in this matter.

Mr. F. M. Bennett

Does my hon. Friend realise that the concern is shared in all parts of the House? Is he unable to say that he can do anything at all in this matter? Can my hon. Friend imagine the row there would be in the House if anything approaching one-tenth of this had gone on in a country in Africa under Western control or influence?

Mr. Thomas

I certainly agree that concern is shared throughout the whole of the House. We have let the Secretary-General know of the concern in this country. We are certainly willing to do all we can to assist, and at the moment I think that the Secretary-General is doing all he can.

Mr. Mayhew

Does the hon. Gentleman know what the High Commissioner for Refugees is doing in the matter'? Can we have an assurance that the Government are doing all possible to help him in helping the refugees who escape?

Mr. Thomas

The High Commissioner has allocated £35,000 as emergency aid for refugees who recently tied to Uganda and Burundi, and a representative of the High Commissioner has recently visited the territory.