HC Deb 02 February 1994 vol 236 cc883-4
9. Mr. McFall

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Peruvian Government regarding implementation of the death penalty in that country following the national referendum in October 1993.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

We have made no representations.

Mr. McFall

The Minister will be aware that a central issue in the report by the parliamentary group for human rights, which I shall present next week, is the death penalty. Is he aware that the death penalty is administered by military judges who have no legal qualifications and who convict more than 95 per cent. of the people who come before them? Will he accept from me that the young people whom I met in the Huallaga valley last September will be the innocent victims of that penalty and that their only crime is to find themselves crushed between Sendero Luminoso and the army? Will he therefore impress on Peru that it is in violation of its international obligations under the American convention and that what is needed is not the death penalty but an independent and untainted judiciary?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

Last year, Peru amended its constitution to permit an extension of the death penalty and to apply it to terrorist offences. That constitution was agreed in a referendum and it is up to the people and the Government of Peru to apply their own laws in their own way. I can give the hon. Gentleman one assurance: the new constitution refers to the use of the death penalty being in conformity with the laws and treaties to which Peru subscribes, which may answer the second point that he made.

Mr. Allason

Is my hon. Friend aware that there was a referendum on the death penalty in Bermuda about three years ago, but that did not seem to prevent the Government on that occasion from interfering and recommending that Bermuda should change its mind about the death penalty?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

The international status and relationship with this country in the case of Bermuda are rather different to those in the case of Peru, as the hon. Gentleman surely knows.

Mr. Bennett

Does the Minister accept that we ought to get rid of the death penalty from our own statutes so that we could then campaign around the world to get rid of that barbaric practice in all countries?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

Whatever our views about the death penalty, Conservative Members believe that it is up to sovereign states to amend their constitutions in their own way. As I have said, in this case that was done by referendum and we respect that judgment of the Peruvian people.

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