HC Deb 21 October 1987 vol 120 cc709-10
4. Mr. Tony Lloyd

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the current human rights situation in Guatemala.

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

Her Majesty's ambassador regularly reports on the human rights situation in Guatemala. We believe it has improved since President Cerezo took office in January 1986. The United Nations Human Rights Commission shares our view.

Mr. Lloyd

If that is the Government's response, how does the Minister assess the reports that there are still about 100 murders every month in Guatemala, and that figure does not include abductions that are not reported? Many of those are widely believed to have occurred at the behest and with the connivance of the agencies of the state, if not of the President himself. On that basis, what representations is the Minister making to the new Guatemalan ambassador about the importance that Britain attaches to an improvement in human rights in Guatemala, and what pressures are Her Majesty's Government putting on the United States Government, who have a direct responsibility for the situation in Guatemala?

Mr. Eggar

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State raised the question of human rights in New York when he met President Cerezo. I discussed the matter with Minister Sosa yesterday in the Foreign Office. The hon. Gentleman asked what evidence we have for forming our view. We rely on our own reporting and that of the United Nations. A United Nations human rights expert visited Guatemala in September this year and expressed satisfaction with the progress made by Guatemala with regard to human rights. We keep the matter closely under review, and the Guatemalan Government are aware of our concern.

Mr. Wilkinson

Does my hon. Friend agree that the main cause of the atrocities in Guatemala is the continued insurgency of Marxist terrorists within that country? Is it not important for the stability and security of the region that British forces remain in Belize alongside Guatemala?

Mr. Eggar

It is certainly true that the worst human rights abuses happened before the present Government took office. We have no plans to make any changes with regard to forces in Belize.

Mr. Mullin

While we are on the subject of Central America, will the Minister confirm——

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. We are on the subject of Guatemala.