HC Deb 05 March 1986 vol 93 cc291-2
1. Mr. David Atkinson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last met the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth to discuss the human rights situation in member states.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Tim Eggar)

My right hon. and learned Friend has not met the Commonwealth Secretary-General specifically to discuss the human rights situation in member states and has no present plans to do so.

Mr. Atkinson

Can my hon. Friend confirm that at least a third of the member states of the Commonwealth do not satisfy the human rights criteria of the United Nations' declaration? If so, will he suggest to Sir Shridath Ramphal that the team of eminent persons currently investigating human rights in South Africa should also investigate and report on the situation in the member states of the Commonwealth?

Mr. Eggar

At Nassau, we and other Governments welcomed the recent establishment of the human rights unit in the Commonwealth secretariat. We believe that this is the best instrument to assist in promoting understanding of and respect for human rights within the Commonwealth. Where specific human rights issues arise and have come to our attention, we have made representations, where appropriate, to the Government concerned.

Mr. Tom Clarke

Does the Government's concern for human rights extend to Pakistan?

Mr. Eggar

As the hon. Gentleman knows, Pakistan is not part of the Commonwealth.

Mr. Sims

Is my hon. Friend aware that 12 months have elapsed since I visited Sri Lanka on behalf of the parliamentary human rights group, together with the hon. Member for Knowsley, North (Mr. Kilroy-Silk)? Our report on our visit listed a number of ways in which human rights are violated in respect of many members of all the communities in Sri Lanka. As the efforts of the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth and the Prime Minister of India to resolve the problems in Sri Lanka do not seem to have borne fruit, are Her Majesty's Government, who are held in high regard in that country, prepared to offer their services as a mediator?

Mr. Eggar

We see our role as continuing to support efforts by India and others to encourage direct talks between the Sri Lankan Government and Tamil representatives. India's contribution to the peace process is valuable and positive, and we believe that a negotiated settlement is the best route to a lasting peace.

Mr. Nellist

As one who, with the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway), was not acceptable to the Sri Lankan Government to make such a trip on behalf of the parliamentary human rights group, unlike the hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims), may I ask the Minister whether, if he is so concerned about the abrogation of human rights in Sri Lanka, he will break off military and police training, economic links and the support that the Government continue to give to a Government who, on any examination of the facts, are clearly guilty of a serious attack on human rights in that country?

Mr. Eggar

As we have repeatedly said, we deplore the continued violence within Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan Government have taken steps to prevent undisciplined action by their security forces and have assured us that they continue to further those efforts.

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