HL Deb 11 March 1968 vol 290 cc8-9

4.20 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 whether they have any information as to the present whereabouts and state of health of Mr. Tshombe, a former Prime Minister of the Congo.]


My Lords, I have no precise information about Mr. Tshombe's present whereabouts nor about the present state of his health.


My Lords, arising out of that reply, may I ask the noble Lord two supplementary questions? First of all, does he know whether the present Congolese Government are still pressing for the return of Mr. Tshombe to the Congo, where I believe he has been sentenced to death? Secondly, I believe that the pilots of the plane that was kidnapped have been returned to this country, but can the noble Lord say whether the aircraft has yet been returned?


My Lords, so far as the first of the noble Lord's supplementaries is concerned, I have no information as to whether the Government of the Congo are still pressing for the return of Mr. Tshombe. We know that they were, and it was feared that he would be executed if he did return. I have no later information on this subject. So far as the second question is concerned, the noble Lord is right. The aircraft is still detained. We are in close touch with the Algerian authorities on this matter and do not expect that its release will be much longer delayed.


My Lords, in view of the fact that the United Nations has decided that 1968 should be the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Year, does it not make a mockery of this Declaration for the Government of Algeria, which is a member of the United Nations, to retain this man incommunicado, without even giving him a trial?


My Lords, I have sympathy, and I know that the Government have sympathy, with my noble friend's point of view on this, but this is not simply a matter for Her Majesty's Government but also for the United Nations and the Government of Algeria.


My Lords, did not the captors of Mr. Tshombe, both in his capture and in his retention, show a complete disregard of the rule of law?


My Lords, I think that the noble Lord's question goes a little beyond the framework of the original Question, which was about Mr. Tshombe's health. I cannot answer it off-hand, but if the noble Lord would like to put the Question down, I will get an answer to it.


My Lords, when the noble Lord says that he does not know where Mr. Tshombe is now, does he mean to say that he does not know whether he is in Algeria or not?


Yes, my Lords, it means exactly that. We have no precise information about the whereabouts of Mr. Tshombe. We suspect and believe that he is in detention. There have been a number of reports about his whereabouts: some have said that he is in Paris; some have said that he is to be released; some have said that he is dead, and some have even said that he is in London. In regard to the reports that are going about we can have a positive view, but we cannot have a precise view about where Mr. Tshombe is at the moment.