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El Salvador

Volume 79: debated on Wednesday 22 May 1985

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12.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the current human rights situation in El Salvador and the implications for relations with the United Kingdom.

We support the Salvadorean Government's efforts to improve the human rights situation in El Salvador. On 13 March the United Nations Human Rights Commission passed. with our support, a resolution which took account of the improvements in this field.

Are resolutions sufficient? Since January, 501 civilians have met their death at the hands of the death squads. Bombings in the north of El Salvador are increasing apace and bombing by helicopter in the west has been introduced. Is the Foreign Office doing all that it can to exert British influence in this sensitive area?

I have listened with care to the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question. He should take cognisance of the fact that the United Nations resolution on human rights, to which I have referred, shows an awareness of the need for further improvement in human rights in El Salvador. It takes account of the dramatic fall in the number of murders by death squads in recent months. It is clear that further improvements are necessary, but, as the resolution has recognised, there have been substantial improvements.

The Government have offered to train officers from El Salvador. As it is highly likely that any such officers will have been involved in the death squads, will the Government reconsider their unfortunate decision?

No, Sir. We have offered the Government of El Salvador the provision of one or two places for suitably qualified El Salvadorean officers to attend staff college courses in the United Kingdom. The offer is compatible with similar offers that we have made to a wide range of developing countries. The hon. Gentleman likes to see the issue in a black light, but when the officers return to El Salvador they will have the opportunity to consolidate democratic rule in El Salvador in the face of, should it occur, a destructive insurgent war.