HC Deb 15 January 1997 vol 288 cc312-3
9. Mr. Simon Hughes

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government are taking to ensure maximum compliance with human rights in other Commonwealth countries. [9241]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Sir Nicholas Bonsor)

We support fully the Harare declaration and the Millbrook action plan.

Mr. Hughes

Will the Government be resolute and strong at the forthcoming 52nd United Nations Commission on Human Rights meeting in Geneva in a few weeks to secure a clear resolution about reinstating human rights in Nigeria, and do they consider the Amnesty 10-point programme an acceptable basis for bringing Nigeria back into line in the family of civilised nations in the Commonwealth?

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

The Government are doing everything they can to bring Nigeria back into line. The conduct of the Nigerian Government is currently wholly unacceptable. The United Nations forum, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, is one of the ways in which we shall seek to bring them back into line.

We also fully support the Commonwealth ministerial action group, which recently visited Nigeria and which has made four specific proposals. It recommended the prompt restoration of accountable civilian government, the immediate release of all political prisoners, including Chief Abiola, the rapid resolution of the case of the 19 Ogonis, who face the same charges as Ken Saro-Wiwa and his associates faced, and a review of prison conditions. Her Majesty's Government will do everything they can to ensure that those conditions are fulfilled.

Mr. Butterfill

Does my hon. Friend agree that human rights are best guaranteed by the election of democratic Governments, not only in the Commonwealth but elsewhere in the world, particularly in the middle east? Does he agree that, if there were democratic Governments in the middle east—

Madam Speaker

Order. The question refers to Commonwealth countries.

Mr. Kaufman

Will the Minister make it clear to the Government of Jamaica that there is widespread revulsion in the House—as shown by large numbers of signatures on early-day motions—at the continual suppression of human rights in Jamaica by the violation of the rulings of the judicial committee of the Privy Council that prisoners should not be held on death row for more than five years? That is evidenced by the harsh and brutal treatment of prisoners, the inhuman conditions in which they are kept and the denial to them of access to medical attention. Is it not hypocritical of the Jamaican Government to sign British Commonwealth declarations about human rights everywhere else, but to suppress human rights in Jamaica?

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that conditions in Jamaican prisons are unacceptable. No prisoner, either in Jamaica or elsewhere, should be kept on death row any longer than is absolutely necessary. All judicial processes to review a sentence of death should happen speedily. We shall continue to press the Jamaican Government on those matters.