HL Deb 26 January 1987 vol 483 cc1118-9

2.53 p.m.

Viscount Buckmaster

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 they will define their attitude towards any violation of human rights in Iran.

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

My Lords, we remain deeply concerned about allegations of human rights abuses in Iran, and will continue to do all we can bilaterally, in concert with our European partners, and within the United Nations machinery to ensure that the Iranian Government live up to their international obligations and respect the international covenants to which they are party.

Viscount Buckmaster

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that constructive Answer. Nevertheless, does she agree that human rights violations in Iran are on a larger and more terrible scale than anywhere else in the world, including even Latin America? Is she aware that according to well documented evidence some 52 different types of torture are carried out in Iran in 500 prisons, quite apart from the slaughter of thousands of boy soldiers in the war against Iraq, some of them as young as 12 years?

Baroness Young

My Lords, as my original Answer indicated, we have taken all the steps that we can bilaterally, in concert with our European partners, and at the United Nations to make our position clear. In 1982 we co-sponsored the relevant resolutions on human rights in Iran adopted by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, including that of appointing a special representative for Iran. We shall continue to take all suitable opportunities to press for improvements in human rights on the issues raised by the noble Viscount as well as on others.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, following a resolution of the United Nations in March 1984, a rapporteur was appointed by the United Nations and I understand that he has now published an interim report. Will the noble Baroness say what the response of the Iranian Government has been to that report? Will she further say whether the rapporteur was given access to Iran and within Iran, and if not, why not? Will the noble Baroness say briefly what is the present position as regards the Bahá'is in Iran?

Baroness Young

My Lords, of course we shall continue to take all the opportunities we can to press the Iranians to co-operate fully with the special representative appointed by the United Nations. As regards the Bahá'is, we took the lead in a Community démarche in Teheran on 25th August in our capacity of the Community presidency to press the Iranian Government on this matter. The Bahá'i community has expressed its thanks for the active British role and believes that such action has resulted in some amelioration of the situation of the Bahá'is.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, does not the Government agree that it would, to say the least, be counterproductive to sell arms, or anything which could materially increase its striking power in war, to this wholly deplorable and profoundly anti-Western government?

Baroness Young

My Lords, the noble Lord has raised an important point. However, I think that it is outside the terms of the original Question. If he cares to put down a Question on that subject I shall be happy to answer it.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that the Foreign Secretary and the Government have a particularly good record on this issue? However, one of the big failures which we have to face is the appalling attitude of the United States of America, our primary ally. Cannot the Europeans try to get the Americans to understand that they are absolutely on the wrong tack and should take a lesson from the British Government?

Baroness Young

My Lords, it is not for me to speak on behalf of the United States Government. However, I believe that if the noble Lord looks at their record he will find that they too have condemned violations of human rights wherever they occur.

Lord Paget of Northampton

My Lords, is there any recorded instance of a nation paying the slightest attention to protests from external areas as to the way in which they treat their own citizens?

Baroness Young

My Lords, when an improvement takes place it is always difficult to show whether it has happened because of representations made from outside. However, I make it clear that we have condemned violations of human rights wherever they have occurred.

Lord McNair

My Lords, will the noble Baroness give the House some information about prisoners of war in the following respects? Have Iran and/or Iraq signed the Geneva Convention about prisoners of war? Whether or not they have done so, are they treating their prisoners of war decently? In the case of the boy soldiers, to whom reference has already been made, is there any possibility that those who are lucky enough to be captured could be handed over to UNICEF, the Red Crescent or some other organisation better suited to children than a prisoner of war camp?

Baroness Young

My Lords, I think that the latter point is an interesting one, and perhaps I may write to the noble Lord on the subject. I have no detailed information as regards the other matter.