HC Deb 01 February 1995 vol 253 cc1072-3
6. Mr. Mullin

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what issues the United Kingdom has raised at this week's United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

The UN Commission on Human Rights runs from 30 January to 10 March. The commission will pass over 100 resolutions on a wide range of human rights themes and the human rights situation in various countries. The United Kingdom will participate in the drafting of some and in the negotiating of all of them. I will deliver the United Kingdom national statement on 8 February.

Mr. Mullin

What position will we take over the illegal occupation of East Timor by Indonesia? Does the Minister think that our desire to sell Indonesia large quantities of weapons will in any way confuse the Indonesians about the seriousness with which we take the issue?

Mr. Hogg

I do not think that the Indonesians are the least bit confused. We have made it very plain that we do not recognise Indonesian annexation of East Timor. Furthermore, we strongly support the intervention of the United Nations Secretary-General to resolve that point. We urge the parties to play an active and positive role in coming to terms under his auspices.

Mr. Anthony Coombs

While recognising local customs, traditions and values, may ask my right hon. and learned Friend to agree that the cause of universal human rights is set back by the selective attitude of certain countries to them? In particular, I mention the attitude of Muslim countries to those who proselytise or evangelicise for Christianity in their countries, especially in Iran, Egypt recently, and Pakistan. Will my right hon. and learned Friend make that an issue for discussions at the talks?

Mr. Hogg

My hon. Friend is entirely right to focus on the universality of human rights. There is a worrying disposition on the part of some countries to argue that the achievement of human rights can be postponed in relation to the achievement of other objectives, for example, economic progress. I believe that that is wrong. We are right to emphasise on every possible occasion that all countries have, as a paramount duty, the obligation to ensure a proper respect for human rights within their frontiers.

Mrs. Clwyd

On the question of torture, will the Minister defend the export of electronic shock batons from the United Kingdom to overseas countries where torture is widespread? Why, when I asked the Government to list the companies to which export licences were granted for that purpose, was I told that the question could be answered only at disproportionate cost? Is not that just dodging the question once again? Does not it give the game away? Does not the Minister understand that nothing destroys the Government's credibility more than turning a blind eye to such a disgusting trade?

Mr. Hogg

We do not turn a blind eye to those issues. Our position on those matters is crystal clear. During the speech that I will give, I will draw attention to the importance that we attach to combating torture wherever it is found. For that reason, we will also be supporting the re-adoption of the mandate for the rapporteur on that subject.