HL Deb 29 June 1993 vol 547 cc715-6

3.2 p.m.

Lord Archer of Sandwell asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to encourage compliance by the Government of Indonesia with Resolution No. 97 of 1993 on the situation in East Timor adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Commission on 4th March 1993.

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

My Lords, we take every opportunity, including during the visit of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to Jakarta in April, to urge the Indonesians to co-operate with the United Nations in implementing the resolution.

Lord Archer of Sandwell

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that helpful Answer. But does she appreciate that the last two visits by British Ministers to Indonesia were perceived as being more concerned with selling war planes and maximising investment opportunity than adding Britain's voice to the virtually unanimous international condemnation of the killings and torture in East Timor? Will she assure the House that we shall do everything possible at least to persuade the Indonesian Government to be more co-operative towards the United Nations rapporteur and the International Red Cross if indeed they now have nothing to hide?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I understand why the noble and learned Lord poses the Question in those terms. However, as a co-sponsor with our European partners of that resolution, we have been to the forefront in seeking to make sure that the issue is high on the agenda, and is kept there.

Perhaps I may remind your Lordships that the resolution urges Indonesia to invite to East Timor the special rapporteurs on torture and on extra-judicial summary or arbitrary executions; and the working groups on arbitrary detention or enforced or involuntary disappearances. Not only did we co-sponsor it; we have followed it up at every opportunity that we have had. We shall continue to do so.

In answer to the noble and learned Lord's question about Red Cross visits, we were very disturbed that its first attempt to resume visits on 25th May was interrupted by restrictions placed on visiting procedure. There was a further attempt on the 17th of this month but that was cut short. Along with the International Committee of the Red Cross, we deplore these continuing difficulties. We appeal to the Indonesian authorities to take all necessary steps to resolve them and to enable the visits to be carried out smoothly.

Lord Gridley

My Lords, is it not a fact that Indonesia is a member of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation? I assume that the point of the Question is to achieve stability in the area so that there will be a peaceful situation. If that is so, should the Minister not exercise some control in that area in league with other nations to ensure that stability is established?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords. as with other areas of the world, stability in the ASEAN area is very high on the agenda. It is an issue which we shall keep high on the agenda.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, will the noble Baroness give us an assurance that Britain no longer sells arms to Indonesia?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, as I told the noble Lord at a previous Question Time, if a country seeks to purchase arms for her own self-defence and for the defence of the region, it is perfectly permissible. Were she to be buying arms for internal repression, of course we would be against it.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, following the question of my noble friend Lord Cledwyn, and given that Britain is one of the biggest arms suppliers to Indonesia, will the Minister assure the House that steps are being taken by the Government to ensure that those supplies of arms and equipment are not being used against the people of East Timor?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, there is no evidence that aircraft sold in the past to Indonesia have been used for internal security purposes; nor have I any reason to believe that those in the contract which was concluded in May—I know that that is on the noble Baroness's mind—will be used in that way. We have made it absolutely clear to the Indonesians, as my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence did last week, that they should not be used for internal repression anywhere in Indonesia.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, while welcoming the assurances given by the Minister that the Government will continue to press the issue, is it not clear that the human rights record has not improved since March? Has the Minister made representation about the inability of the International Committee of the Red Cross to gain access, to which she made reference, and the obstacles placed in the way of Amnesty International to gain information? Has she made particular references on those matters?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, we are endeavouring to do so.

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