HC Deb 07 November 1966 vol 735 cc958-61
19. Mr. Archer

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what inquiries he has made into the incidents referred to in the Report on Aden submitted to him by Amnesty International; and with what result.

38. Mr. Fisher

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement about the representations made to him by Amnesty International regarding the treatment of detainees in Aden prison.

42. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what representations he has received from the Swedish section of Amnesty International about the methods used by British servicemen against prisoners in Aden; and what action he intends to take.

45. Mr. Handing

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what instructions he has given to the special investigator he is sending to Aden to investigate allegations of maltreatment of political prisoners; and whether he will make a statement.

72. Mr. Stratton Mills

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on his investigation into the treatment of detainees in Aden.

80. Mr. Goodhart

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what has been the result of his inquiry into the allegations made against British personnel in the Amnesty report on Aden.

Mr. George Brown

I have asked Mr. Roderic Bowen, Q.C., to go to Aden as my personal representative. His terms of reference are to examine on my behalf the procedures current in Aden for the arrest, interrogation and detention of persons suspected of terrorist activities; and to advise me whether there are any ways in which these procedures may be improved, having in mind on the one hand the rights of the individual and on the other the duty of the authorities to safeguard the community as a whole from lawless acts. Mr. Bowen will naturally take into account the recently publicised allegations and will have full access to all detainees and persons held for interrogation.

Mr. Archer

I thank my hon. Friend for that Answer. Will he confirm that Mr. Bowen will specifically examine the particular allegations which have been made? If so, will there be an opportunity for all those with evidence to give to submit it orally to Mr. Bowen?

Mr. Brown

As I said, Mr. Bowen has access to all detainees and prisoners and anybody else from whom he wishes to take evidence. As to the specific allegations, I have seen a good many newspaper reports about this. I have not received the full text of the reports of the representative of Amnesty International, so I cannot comment on them until I do.

Mr. Fisher

Bearing in mind the tremendous row four years ago from right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite—including the present Chancellor of the Duchy—which I had to answer from that Box about a few canings in Aden Prison, surely these far more serious allegations warrant a little more information than that which the right hon. Gentleman has given. Why cannot he publish the report of the Red Cross and of Mr. Bowen when he returns?

Mr. Brown

But I am taking very much more direct action about this matter than the hon. Gentleman took about the issue then. I cannot publish the report of the International Red Cross, because there has been no such report from the International Red Cross to Her Majesty's Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] No. There have been reports on a confidential basis from the International Red Cross delegate there to the High Commissioner, and he has said —he is reported again as recently as this morning, in The Times, as saying—that it would be very damaging to that organisation's work if they were published. As to Mr. Bowen's report, I will, of course, consider publication when I see the report.

Mr. Hamilton

Can my right hon. Friend confirm or deny the allegation that several prisoners are held without trial? If so, how many? Can he say when the Bowen Report will be published, or give some kind of a time scale?

Mr. Brown

Mr. Bowen knows that I wish to receive the report as quickly as possible and, as I said, I have made no commitment to publish; I will consider publication when I have the report. I want to get it as soon as possible, of course, but I do not want to force Mr. Bowen against a time-table, or the report may be less than good when it comes.

The question of detaining people for periods of time without trial—or proper production, as they say—is something that gives me cause for concern, and is one of the reasons for my asking Mr. Bowen to look into the matter. But I ask the House to recognise that what I want is to make a balance between the just rights of individuals, which I would wish to preserve, and the difficulties our forces have in a period of such active terrorism in carrying out their task.

Mr. Stratton Mills

Having just returned from Aden, may I ask the Foreign Secretary whether he will pay tribute to the very heavy duties our troops are carrying out in security work? Secondly, can he give any information concerning reports received today that those who complained through Amnesty International have not appeared before Mr. Bowen to put their case?

Mr. Brown

I cannot comment on the latter part of the hon. Member's supplementary question—this is the first I have heard of it. I would regret it very much if it were true.

As to the first part, I thought that I had already done so, but I do. This is a very, very difficult exercise for people to carry out, and I am sure they do it with the utmost consideration for people. It is, of course, much easier to make an allegation of this kind than to disprove it. And anyone who gives information voluntarily almost naturally afterwards would want to assert that he was forced to give it, from the very nature of the case. I am well aware of this, and because of that I framed Mr. Bowen's terms of reference as carefully as I did.

Mr. Hamling

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the allegations by Amnesty International are not against Her Majesty's Government—they are against the investigators at the political detention centre?

Mr. Brown

I am not at all sure that they are right, even then, and until I see the report I fail to see how I or anyone else can comment on what they are alleged to have said.