HC Deb 30 May 1946 vol 423 cc228-9W
Mr. Gordon-Walker

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has made any fresh representations to the Spanish Government regarding the position of political prisoners in Spain: and what has been the result.

Mr. McNeil

This is an aspect of the present regime in Spain which I have very much in mind and which His Majesty's Ambassador is constantly watching. He recently discussed the detention and treatment of prisoners fully with the responsible Spanish Ministers. They provided the following information Since 1940 some 200,000 prisoners have been released conditionally, including 14,251 who were serving sentences for offences committed during the Civil War and who have been released since 1st August, 1945. The total number of persons imprisoned in Spain today is slightly over 40,000. Of this total, 70,811 are still imprisoned for offences committed during the Civil War, but 7,200 of them have been convicted of common crimes and will therefore not benefit from the political amnesty of last October. 9,000 persons remain imprisoned for offences committed since the close of the Civil War and 3,206 of them are still awaiting trial: no amnesty has yet been decreed for such persons.

His Majesty's Ambassador again emphasised to the Spanish officials the strong feelings aroused abroad by the fact that civilians were still being tried by courts martial, by the unjustifiable severity of the sentences for offences substantially political and conscientious, and by reports of the harsh treatment meted out to prisoners on their arrest: He observed that, while it seemed that persons were not generally ill-treated in the actual prison, Spanish police officials too often brutally maltreated prisoners at the time of arrest. The Ambassador was informed that instructions had repeatedly been issued to subordinate police officials for the purpose of safeguarding persons under arrest from maltreatment. He was invited to bring to the notice of the Minister concerned any report of ill-treatment which he received, and was offered facilities to send a representative to interview any prisoners.

The Ambassador will continue to watch this problem closely. It is to be noted that representatives of the British Embassy have, after representations, been permitted to attend some of the recent trials of persons charged with political offences.