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Volume 264: debated on Thursday 19 October 1995

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent actions have been taken by British representatives at the UN concerning the abuse of human rights in Guatemala. [37974]

The UK, together with our EU partners, co-sponsored a resolution at the UN General Assembly on 14 September to extend the UN human rights verification mission, MINUGUA, for a further six months. The vital role being played by MINUGUA was underlined by the mission's swift production of a preliminary report into the disturbing incident on 5 October in which an army patrol opened fire on a group of returned refugees. The independent expert of the UN Commission on Human Rights was also present in the country at the time; the UK has consistently supported extension of Ms Pinto's mandate at successive sessions of the commission.The UK has consistently urged both the Guatemalan Government and the URNG guerrillas to reach a peaceful settlement to the dispute between them, which would help to bring an end to human rights abuses.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations have been made to the Government of Guatemala concerning human rights abuses, the operation of the Truth commission and legal processes against alleged perpetrators of human rights abuses. [37982]

The EU issued a statement deploring the massacre by Guatemalan troops of returned refugees in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala on 5 October. We have demanded an immediate investigation into the massacre and the punishment of those guilty of it.The British ambassador in Guatemala takes every appropriate opportunity, individually or through the EU, to express to the authorities the concern felt by the British Government and people about abuses of human rights.At a British suggestion, the EU raised with the Guatemalan Foreign Minister our unhappiness at the circumstances surrounding the death of Reverend Saquic Vasquez. We shall press for a satisfactory outcome to the work of the Truth commission when it is set up on the signing of a final peace agreement.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what meetings have been held with human rights groups in Guatemala by the British embassy in each of the past five years; and which groups were involved. [37973]

So far this year, the embassy has held meetings with eight groups concerned with human rights. In several cases, more than one meeting has taken place. The groups include UNHCR—United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees—MINUGUA—United Nations observer force—Ninos Refugiados—refugee children—Christian Aid, Peace Brigades International, Casa Alianza and the Toybox charity—street children—Centre for Human Rights Legal Action and the Central American Human Rights Committee.In addition, the embassy has taken part in EU discussions with a number of other human rights groups. The embassy maintains regular contact with the Guatemalan procurator for human rights as a matter of course. Meetings with these human rights groups and others have taken place at various times over the last five years.