HL Deb 23 November 1967 vol 286 cc1139-40

3.15 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what action has been taken, in view of the illegal status of the administration in Southern Rhodesia, to prevent the execution of 88 Africans who have been sentenced to death for forcibly challenging the administration.]


My Lords, the British Government have noted with great concern the reports of the illegal régime's intention to carry out unlawful executions and have made it clear that no death sentence can lawfully be carried out in Rhodesia until confirmed by the Governor. As the noble Lord will know, an action to prevent the carrying out of the executions has been started in the Rhodesian High Court by three of the persons concerned, and this action is still to be completed.


My Lords, in thanking my noble friend and appreciating that Answer, may I ask him whether he would ask the Government seriously to consider the proposal which I made in connection with a similar Question about South African executions? Would it not be good if this legality could be challenged in the International Court at The Hague, which would not only raise the immediate question but on an international scale raise the whole question of the legality of the Rhodesian Administration?


My Lords, I should not wish to be drawn on that matter in view of the fact that it is at the present moment before the High Court in Rhodesia. To a certain extent I would hope that the House would regard this as, I think the phrase is, sub judice.


My Lords, would not the Minister agree that a great many of these Africans are Russian-armed and probably Russian-trained terrorists, and that they are taught, like the Mau Mau, to mutilate livestock and murder African women and children? And would not the noble Lord further agree that a study of Russian broadcasts over the last three months would tend to confirm this view and lend support to this view?


My Lords, in the present circumstances I think the noble Viscount's remarks are quite out of place. I would only suggest to the noble Viscount, in view of his remarks, to look at the evidence. In fact, of the number that have been sentenced to death, only seven arise from, I think the word is, infiltration.


My Lords, if I heard the noble Lord aright, I think he asked that we should await the hearing before the High Court in Rhodesia. I take it from that that he still regards the High Court in Rhodesia as legal?


My Lords, the High Court of Rhodesia is a court of law.


My Lords, is it not clear that if, unfortunately, these executions were to take place, the people responsible would be guilty of murder?


My Lords, certainly if action were taken without the proper process of law then those involved would be in a very difficult and impossible position.