HL Deb 12 November 1992 vol 540 cc326-8

3.34 p.m.

Lord Rea asked Her Majesty's Government:

On the first anniversary of the Santa Cruz cemetery massacre in Dili, East Timor, whether they have made representations to the Indonesian Government about continuing human rights abuses in East Timor and Aceh, Sumatra; and if so, what form the representations have taken.

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

No, my Lords. the Indonesian Government are fully aware of our concerns about human rights. These concerns were most recently expressed to Foreign Minister Alatas during the visits of my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary to Manila and of my right honourable friend the Minister of State to Jakarta last month.

Lord Rea

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that Answer, but I must admit it was a little disappointing. Is she not aware of the reports from Amnesty International and Tapol, the Indonesian opposition group, that there are widespread deten-tions without trial in East Timor and disappearances and extra-judicial killings in Aceh? In view of that is it right that we should continue to sell weapons—as far as I am aware that is done openly in this case—to Indonesia, when the only enemy of the military government in Indonesia is their own people?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, we are aware indeed of reports that Indonesians continue to detain Acehnese without trial. However, it is difficult to substantiate the reports of ill-treatment, let alone of condemning people to death, as the noble Lord indicated. The International Committee of the Red Cross has been able to visit Aceh. I gather the committee intends to continue doing so. We have made representations to the Indonesians on human rights related not only to Aceh but to the whole of Indonesia. We believe that that must continue to be done. However, as regards the other question of the noble Lord, the problem that exists in Aceh and the problems generally that exist with regard to human rights in Indonesia are not in any way related to Indonesia's determination to buy arms—not neces-sarily from this country—in order to have its own defence force.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, remembering what my noble friend Lady Chalker said last night on the subject of aid and the fact that it was to be linked to human rights performance, and given the fact that Indonesia receives in excess of £10 million a year from our own aid budget, will my noble friend withdraw that aid as the Indonesians are renowned for not having great respect for human rights?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, we have considered this matter carefully. Indonesia is a developing country with a well-deserved reputation for good economic management and for making effective use of aid. If I thought that cutting aid would improve the human rights situation in Indonesia I would take that step. However, it is far more likely that cutting aid to Indonesia would harm the very island communities that it is intended to help. Many of our Community partners, as well as other aid donors, share that view. We have to continue to persuade the Indonesian government to improve their record on human rights, but I do not believe that that would be achieved by cutting off necessary aid.

The Earl of Selkirk

My Lords, is it not the case that the Indonesians are extremely sensitive about this matter? Would it not be practical to persuade them, as a mark of regret for the events that have occurred, to place a memorial to show that they regret those events?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, we certainly know that they very much regret the incident. The incident in Dili occurred 12 months ago today. I cannot say whether the Indonesians will erect a memorial to those who died in that incident. However, I would say to my noble friend that the Indonesian response was unprecedented. The con-cerns which we share with other donors are put to the Indonesians on a regular basis and we are seeking to improve the situation and prevent anything even minutely like the terrible incident of last year from ever happening again.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, is it not the case that the Government have said they will not only be discriminating as regards aid but they will be equally, if not more, discriminating about the arms trade? In the latter case does it not appear that the practice does not follow the principle? The Government may in principle be against aiding repressive regimes but in practice they do not appear to follow the principles they express.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, the noble Lord, to whom I should apologise for not seeing earlier, will know that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister advocated at the United Nations more than a year ago now the register of arms sales. This was done in an attempt to reduce all arms sales. However, all sovereign states enjoy the right under Article 51 of the UN Charter to defend themselves. That is why applications to export any British defence equipment are carefully scrutinised. We will not allow the export of arms and equipment that are likely to be used primarily for repressive purposes against civil populations. In the case of Indonesia this also extends to the possible use of such equipment against the civilian population in East Timor. However, I do not believe that an embargo on defence sales to Indonesia would be appropriate or effective in influencing the Indonesians.

Lord Monson

My Lords, can the noble Baroness confirm estimates, which have come from normally responsible sources, that since the Indonesians invaded East Timor its armed forces have killed approximately one third of the population, that is to say, 200,000 people?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, we do not believe that Indonesia has practised genocide, but we are profoundly concerned about the reports of large numbers of deaths over the years. Some of the quoted figures are definitely exaggerated, but it is a matter which we are still following up. We are also asking the Indonesian Government to investigate every such report, to take appropriate action against offenders and, indeed, to ensure that the world knows what is happening and that extra-judicial killing, if it is continuing, stops. It is totally unacceptable wherever it occurs.

Lord Judd

My Lords, will the noble Baroness accept that there is now genuine confusion? She has stated that the aid programme will be linked to human rights. This is one of the most brutal regimes in the third world. Will the noble Baroness now explain to the House what she means by saying that the aid programme will be linked to human rights? Are we using the threat of withdrawing aid as a means of leverage or are we just making polite diplomatic representations to the Indonesian Government?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, indeed we are.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, can the noble Baroness say what types of armament we are sending to Indonesia and whether the Government consider that Indonesia's expenditure on military affairs is justifiable?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, we wish that all defence spending which is not truly defence spending—I believe that that is what the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, is getting at—would cease. That is one of the reasons why my right honourable friend the Prime Minister made it clear that there should be a register of arms sales: so that the whole matter could be monitored. However, one cannot interfere with the sovereign right of a government. I explained that in answer to an earlier question. What one can do is to ensure that that government knows what the donor world, in terms of the earlier question of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, expects. We shall do all we can to decrease arms sales. That is why my right honourable friend the Prime Minister made his proposal to the United Nations.

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