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Volume 128: debated on Wednesday 2 March 1988

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the United Kingdom votes at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights with respect to Chile.

Human rights in Chile were first considered by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1975. We have consistently spoken out about human rights abuses. This has been reflected fully in our votes on resolutions or in our explanations of vote.

I thank the Minister for that answer. He will be aware that last year the United States attempted to withdraw the mandate of the special rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Given that such a withdrawal would almost certainly lead to an intensification of the breaches of human rights, detentions and tortures by the army in Chile, will he give an assurance that the Government's policy will continue and that any future attempt to end the mandate of the special rapporteur will be opposed? Will he say what the result of the withdrawal of the special rapporteur would be on exiles from Chile who are now in Britain? Does he think that such a withdrawal would lead to an increase, or decrease, in the instances of detention and torture?

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is entirely right in his assessment of the position. We support the work of the special rapporteur in Chile, and we are in favour of a renewal of his mandate. We do, however, have some reservations about consideration of Chile in the UNCHR under the separate agenda item, but that is another and rather technical issue.

Will my hon. Friend mark the 40th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Charter on Human Rights by writing to all the countries, such as Chile and E1 Salvador, who are offending against that charter? Will he bring to their attention the undertakings that they gave when they signed it 40 years ago?

Chile and other countries are well aware of our views. During the speech that I made in Geneva to the commission — that was during my second visit to the Human Rights Commission—I made our views on these matters very clear.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I urgently seek your advice, on a matter affecting the honour and integrity of the House?

Order. It may not be for the convenience of the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) to return—

—but for the convenience of the whole House, I shall take it immediately after the statement.

Order. I must tell the hon. Gentleman that I am not prepared to take it now. I ask him to sit down, please.