HC Deb 18 November 1987 vol 122 cc1053-5
8. Mrs. Mahon

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will give details of representations received about South Africans under sentence of death in South Africa; and what response he is making.

Mrs. Chalker

We have received various representa-tions about South Africans under sentence of death. We are ready to consider making appeals for clemency in cases where the crime is clearly political and there are extenuating circumstances, or where there are strong humanitarian grounds for doing so.

Mrs. Mahon

As this House rejects capital punishment, will the Minister make the strongest representations, because there are still approximately 150 people on Death Row? Will she give an undertaking that, when the United Nations Security Council intervenes, Britain will not vote alone, as it did before, to veto that intervention. leaving us isolated yet again?

Mrs. Chalker

We make inquiries into every case that comes up. The case to which the hon. Lady refers is that of Mr. Mulungisi Luphondo. His offence was clearly a criminal act. He and two others were on the run from the police. Their car ran out of petrol and they waved down another car. An argument ensued and the three drew guns. Luphondo shot dead a black female passenger and an accomplice shot dead the black driver of the car. That is in no way a political act; it is clearly a criminal act. Frankly, if we expend credit in making appeals to the South African Government about cases that are clearly criminal cases, we shall devalue our representations and risk the consequences that the South African Government will take less notice of the appeals for clemency that we always make in cases of a political character, such as that of the Sharpeville six.

Mr. John Carlisle

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the crimes committed by the so-called Sharpeville six were horrendous? Those under sentence of death dragged the deputy mayor of Sharpeville out of his house, having stoned and petrol bombed it. They put him in his car, turned it over, poured petrol on him and set light to him, causing his death. Does my right hon. Friend accept that in this case the British Government are in no position to make any comment at all on the just sentence passed upon these evil men?

Mrs. Chalker

I understand what my hon. Friend says. In the case of the Sharpeville six, the matter went to appeal. The case was heard on 2 and 3 November, but the court reserved judgment. It would not be appropriate or right for us to make representations until judgment is given. I shall comment no further.

Mr. Anderson

Has the Prime Minister personally ever criticised sentences in cases that are clearly political cases? Has the Prime Minister personally ever criticised the torture of children in South Africa?

Mrs. Chalker

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has repeatedly criticised the torture of persons in South Africa, particularly young people. I am not aware of the answer to the hon. Gentleman's other question, but I shall look into the matter.

Mr. Forth

Does my right hon. Friend agree that were we to make representations to another country, such as South Africa, about its domestic judicial arrangements, it would be entitled to react in exactly the same way as we would if South Africa made representations to us about our domestic judicial arrangements?

Mrs. Chalker

I understand entirely what my hon. Friend says. However, he must realise that there is a difference between cases that are brought to court and the general appalling state of apartheid in South Africa. We believe firmly that we do, indeed, have a right to express our views on apartheid.

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