HL Deb 23 February 1984 vol 448 cc847-8

3.11 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in view of their intervention on behalf of peace activists in Moscow, they will re-consider their refusal (31st January, col. 647) to act similarly on behalf of Mahmut Dikerdem, former Ambassador and President of the Turkish Peace Association, especially having regard to the sentence of 8 years' hard labour passed on a 68-year-old man suffering from cancer, and to the action of the Military Court in delaying the appeals procedure.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Young)

My Lords, it is not our normal practice to intervene in individual cases where citizens of another country have been tried under their own legal system. Exceptions are sometimes made but we do not believe that it would be appropriate to intervene in this case. We have, however, made clear to the Turkish Government our concerns about human rights in Turkey; and this was done by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in his discussions with the Turkish Foreign Minister in Stockholm last month.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble. Baroness for that more extensive answer on this occasion which is indeed helpful. I wonder whether the Government might feel disposed to go a little further and make this case one of those exceptions. There have been times when the Government have felt able to intervene in an individual case. I believe that if the noble Baroness was to examine the details of this case with great care—or with her normal care—she would find that Her Majesty's Government's special intervention was well justified in a situation where people imprisoned for long periods have committed no offence that would be found to he an offence in this country. It might be one of those cases, since Turkey is a NATO ally, when it would seem appropriate for one member of the free world to interfere when another member of the free world appears not to be acting in accordance with those principles.

Baroness Young

My Lords, as I indicated in my original Answer, Her Majesty's Government are always concerned whenever there are violations of human rights, and we have made that quite plain when the opportunity has presented itself. In fact, we have to consider each case. In certain cases where our diplomatic relations are close, we may judge that direct public criticism is best; but in other cases we may judge that confidential pressure is best. In all cases we need to examine very closely whether an approach might be counter-productive for those we are seeking to help.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, while deploring the action of the Soviet Union towards the independent peace activists—and the World Disarmament Campaign, of which I was co-chairman, were the first to protest—may I ask this question. Is not the cause of human rights indivisible, and ought not our Government to be protesting in the case of governments which are allied to the West as well as to the Soviet Union?

Baroness Young

My Lords, I hope that I have made it absolutely plain that the Government deplore the violation of human rights wherever it may occur, whether in the East or whether in any other country in the world. We have made our views on this matter quite plain. In the particular case in point, as I indicated in my original Answer, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State raised the matter of human rights with the Turkish Foreign Minister when he saw him in Stockholm, and both I and my right honourable friend raised the matter with the former Turkish Foreign Minister. But in each particular case we have to determine which is the most appropriate way in which to try to help the individual concerned.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, is it possible that the publicity that will be given to this Question and Answer may be of assistance to the person concerned in the Question?

Baroness Young

My Lords. I am quite sure that the Question today will be noted by the Turkish authorities, and we shall have to hope that the answer will be in the affirmative.