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Column 12725.34 am
Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South): First, I present my deep apologies to the hon. Member for Basildon (Mr. Amess) for my bad timekeeping and to my hon. Friends because I did not hear all that they had to say. The Minister, in his general tone and in his summing up, has typified what is undoubtedly an all-party or non-party occasion. Most people in east London will say, "A curse on both your heads."
I have a chance to introduce a topic that has not yet been fully aired and to bring to the attention of the Government and the public some additional potential of Stratford which might appeal even to Her Majesty's Government.
The Minister has rightly emphasised that the options are still open, but he has narrowed them down to the option of one of the four consortiums that are now bidding for the operation. In effect, therefore, the builders of the railway have the choice.
The railway is there. The box is there; it may need enlarging slightly if platforms are established, but the Government have made it clear that the additional cost of building some terminals, over and above the platforms or perhaps including them, would have to be for the consortiums. That would be justified if they thought that the traffic and the benefits to them in terms of commercial advantage would be worth while.
I want to put the case to the Government, on the basis of strategic planning, and to the consortiums indirectly--representatives of which my hon. Friends the Members for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) and for Newham, North-East (Mr. Timms) have been meeting--that almost everybody will gain from the Stratford location through strategic planning and public transport, particularly the rail network, not just in Greater London but throughout south-east England and beyond. The Government and the public are now saying that we must get to grips with balancing the railways--whether publicly or privately owned, that is not the issue today--road transport and our planning objectives. The Government have made known their views about out-of-town shopping centres, motorways, and so on. We welcome that because we in London may not be on all fours about the solution or its funding, but we are, probably for the first time in many years, on all fours about the objectives.
There is no doubt that the route of the channel tunnel rail link could play, and perhaps will play in any case, as the Minister has outlined, a part in the balance of the Thames corridor, whatever is ultimately decided about Stratford.
The matter hinges on the commercial viability of whatever minimum extra capital is involved for a through station at Stratford, and any effect that it might have on the viability, speed or efficiency of the railway would be a minus. It is true that a two-line railway may need an acceleration zone at either end for any trains that are stopping, whether they be south-east England commuter traffic or international trains. Given that one can start immediately after a through train, any delay as a result of stopping would have minimal effect on the flow and capacity of fast trains on the line. That is a railway operational fact, especially when it concerns the signal sections for stopping trains that are accelerating away from the station.
Column 1273I want to talk about the existing connections from Stratford by fast rail link, even without crossrail. I must be slightly careful because the Minister represents Slough--although I know that he would be objective--and one of the great potentials of crossrail is the advantages that that controversial route will confer on London. Even without crossrail, more than a dozen routes from Stratford currently exist or are likely to built--for example, the Woolwich tunnel which, by next May, will extend one of the routes that already exists to north Woolwich. Those 12 routes run from the focus of Stratford. I am counting the Central line in both directions, taking account of the fact that it divides into two in north-east London. That is a remarkable fact.
In a memorandum that I sent to the former Minister I analysed the lines-- more than 180 stations in Greater London connect directly to Stratford, and would be connected if it were an international station. It would not be difficult to have a travelator between the domestic station--with its connections to the docklands light railway--and an international station. That would open up a tremendous and complementary catchment area to the King's Cross location. If we add the two together, it is a considerable catchment area. King's Cross-St. Pancras, the accepted station, is also well connected, but to a rather different range of stations. Of course, being in the centre of London its auxiliary capacity for handling excess traffic, especially for road connection, is very limited. Therefore, a station at Stratford could be an important complementary location. It is not unknown for trains to Paddington, because of some fault, to have to terminate at Reading or Slough, or at Clapham junction for those going to Waterloo. That happens even on the best-run railway. An alternative station might be useful as a safety factor.
I want to describe the extraordinary spider's web reaching out from Stratford. There is the line to Cambridge and the airport at Stansted. A short spur,
Column 1274which already exists, could take a line to Chingford. I have already referred to the Woodford and Epping branch of the Central line. There is the Wanstead and Hainault branch. There are suburban trains to Chelmsford and Colchester. There is the Ipswich, Harwich and Norwich line and the London-Tilbury-Southend line through Forest Gate. The reinstatement of the junction is a controversial matter, but at least it is already there. There is the line to the royal docks, the DLR to Canary Wharf and on to Lewisham, and the Mile End-City-west end branch of the Central line. Last, but not least, there is the important north London link line around north London via Highbury and all the way to Richmond. I am sure that the Minister will not mind me mentioning one of my 20-year-old hobby horses. With a Greenwich tunnel, or even without it, there would be a circle of electrified railway for a possible London ringway. All those would be accessible from Stratford.
Bearing in mind everybody's wish to maintain a balanced transport system-- not least my hon. Friends who represent Hackney--there could be nominated stations on any of those lines for extra car parking, some sort of ticket or handling facility or perhaps even through-luggage trolleys. There is scope for enormous ingenuity, which I suggest would add to the commercial attraction of whoever won the competition. It would be to their advantage to have the additional capacity.
I have not mentioned trains from outside the Greater London and immediate south-east area. Stratford is well connected with the Great Western. There is the London North-Western line--I am using the old nomenclature--the Euston line, the Midland line from St. Pancras and the Great Northern line. Those are existing links. It would be possible for trains from other parts of Britain heading for different destinations on the continent, particularly at night, to call at Stratford for auxiliary purposes. There could be flexibility of traffic, and so on.
On strategic planning grounds, the benefits for the railways, the operators, the people of London, and in particular the London borough of Newham, of the Stratford site for an international station are much greater than some have perhaps realised. I commend them to the Minister and to the four consortiums.
Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley): On 10 December, we marked international human rights day. That annual event is an opportunity to remind ourselves of the ways in which countless people all over the world continue to be denied their basic rights and freedoms. It is also an opportunity to take stock of our foreign policy and the record of the international community in alleviating the suffering of thousands of people. The series of programmes that have appeared on the BBC this week, which have marked international human rights day, and the 10,000 calls that the BBC has received so far, are a sign of the seriousness with which many people in the United Kingdom view human rights.
The long and well-documented record of human rights violations in Indonesia and East Timor remains one of the greatest challenges to the international community in fulfilling its obligation to promote and protect human rights. In many ways, the record of the international community in meeting the challenge illustrates its failure to give human rights the priority that they deserve. Human rights, security, trade and the environment are issues which, in an increasingly interdependent world, must be addressed collectively. However, the international community can be effective only with the political will and the support of individual Governments. In Indonesia, the United Kingdom's response to human rights violations has been sadly inadequate.
With a group of other parliamentarians, I was one of the people who visited Indonesia and East Timor in March 1989. As a result of what I saw and heard at that time, in August that year I addressed the decolonisation committee of the United Nations in New York on the subject of East Timor. I urged the rights of the East Timorese under the decolonisation procedures to a referendum on the way in which they wished to be governed.
Human rights violations have persisted on an alarming scale in Indonesia since the military coup of 1965, which brought the present Government to power. The slaughter of between 500,000 and 1 million people following the 1965 coup established a dangerous precedent for dealing with political opponents. In East Timor, 200,000 people--one third of the population--were killed or died of starvation or disease after Indonesia invaded in 1975. Between 1989 and 1993, at least 2, 000 civilians were killed in Aceh during counter-insurgency operations. Hundreds of people have been killed in Irian Jaya over the past 15 years--many as a result of their peaceful opposition to integration with Indonesia.
Political killings are not the only example of fundamental human rights violations in Indonesia and blatant flouting of the international human rights declaration. Criminal and political prisoners have been routinely tortured and ill-treated--some so severely that they died or suffered permanent injury. That is regardless of the fact that torture is prohibited under the Indonesian criminal code as well as in international law. National laws and regulations have not prevented torture and ill treatment. Neither have they been effective in bringing those responsible to justice. As a result, torture and ill treatment have become institutionalised in the security forces. The substantial Amnesty report "Power
Column 1276and Impunity", published a few weeks ago, provides the most recent documentation of violations of human rights in Indonesia and East Timor.
Thousands of people have been imprisoned following show trials, solely for their peaceful political or religious views. An estimated 3,000 prisoners have been held on political charges since 1966. Most were convicted after unfair trials. Many others were detained without charge or trial for as long as 14 years. Some disappeared in custody.
The price paid by the advocates of independence in Aceh and Irian Jaya-- Islamic activists, former PKI members, university students, farmers, workers and human rights activists--for exercising their right to freedom of expression is imprisonment and sometimes death. When trials are held, they routinely fail to meet international standards of fairness. Once charges are filed, guilt is assumed and conviction is a foregone conclusion. Defendants are often refused access to lawyers, and lawyers are often denied access to vital documents. Defendants are frequently convicted on uncorroborated evidence and confessions extracted under duress. Evidence of ill treatment, torture and other irregularities are routinely ignored by the courts.
Such practices would cause public outrage in this country, yet we are in danger of appearing to condone them by our failure, and that of the international community, to respond in a manner commensurate with practices in Indonesia.
There has been much public disquiet at the extent and persistence of human rights violations in East Timor following its illegal occupation by Indonesia in 1975. Although Indonesia declared East Timor its 27th province in July 1976, its sovereignty has never been recognised by the UN or the United Kingdom.
Evidence from many quarters is regularly brought to the attention of the UN, proving the responsibility of the Indonesian Government for systematic human rights violations in East Timor, yet the international community has all but turned its back on the struggle by the people of East Timor for independence and justice. Because it has done that, the international community must share responsibility for the long-standing human rights problem in East Timor. Human rights violations in East Timor are not a thing of the past. In 1991, as many as 270 civilians were killed when Government troops opened fire on a peaceful procession in the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili. Most were shot while attempting to flee and others were beaten and stabbed. There were reports that dozens of people, including witnesses, were killed in the following weeks. Some were recovering from their wounds in a military hospital.
Following the Santa Cruz massacre, the UN and many Governments expressed outrage at the action taken by Indonesian security forces. In March 1993, the UN Commission on Human Rights expressed deep concern about continuing human rights violations in East Timor and offered several concrete recommendations for improvements. Yet with minor exceptions, the Indonesian Government have failed to comply with the spirit or the substance of the recommendations.
The catalogue of present atrocities in East Timor is worth placing on the record. In mid-November, during a series of pro-independence rallies in Dili, 124 people were
Column 1277arrested by the security forces using batons, riot shields and tear gas. Most of the detainees were held for several days and were beaten and in other ways intimidated. About 30 people are still under arrest and likely to be charged.
The BBC's correspondent Catherine Napier reported on 8 December: "reports of beatings and electric shock treatment against the detainees are some of the worst to have emerged for many months." She said that in the district south-west of Dili,
"several youths regarded as potential trouble-makers were reported to have been stripped naked, beaten and tortured with electric shocks by the military."
As foreign journalists were present, the troops were under orders not to use fire power, but during the protest, there was great brutality.
One incident was reported by the BBC's correspondent Philip Short, who was present in Dili on 19 November when a protest took place outside the cathedral. On this occasion, the protest was peaceful until, as Short reported, police agents outside the cathedral started to throw rocks at the protesters. All hell broke loose as protesters were rounded up and chased, and foreign journalists present were also chased. A bystander who had offered to show a German television crew the way to their hotel was later severely beaten up by the security forces. The crew extricated him from the police and brought him to their hotel. He had blood streaming down his back and one side of his face was so swollen as to be unrecognisable. Philip Short added: "They thrashed the living daylights out of him . . . Now if the Indonesians mete out that kind of violence to people who were not involved in the demonstration, one can only too readily imagine what they do to people who were."
Asked by the New York Times on 22 November about suggestions that the security forces were more restrained, Bishop Belo, who is the Roman Catholic representative in East Timor, said:
"They are the same, the same attitude."
Soon after the above incident, the military started ordering foreign journalists to leave. We know of at least seven journalists who were ordered to leave. The military clearly felt restrained by the journalists' presence and even blamed the journalists for inciting the protests. While the army has, apparently, refrained from slapping a blanket ban on foreign journalists, no permits are at present being issued. The absence of journalists is, of course, extremely serious as it gives the military a free hand.
At the end of November, the military commander of East Timor made it clear that no peaceful protests of any kind would be permitted in East Timor. He said:
"If any more demonstrations occur, I will not hesitate to cut them to pieces"--
he used the Indonesian word "sikat", which means precisely that-- "because . . . there is a limit to our patience."
The mid-November incidents brought into focus growing discontent in East Timor about the huge influx of Indonesians into the territory. No hard figures are available, but there could be well over 100,000 Indonesian settlers in the towns and countryside by now. They control
Column 1278commerce and the administration, marginalising the East Timorese, who are being impoverished and left without jobs.
On 12 November a Timorese trader was stabbed to death by an Indonesian trader in a dispute at Becora market. That led to waves of violence against Indonesian shops and stores and the burning of vehicles. Such attacks are not part of the strategy of the resistance movement, but the outburst reflects a grave social problem that is certain to become worse as more and more ships arrive regularly in Dili with hundreds of settler families on board.
Bishop Belo recently announced that he was extremely concerned about the sterilisation of East Timorese women against their will, and was collecting data on the issue. He told John Pilger on the telephone that in a village that he visited recently nurses at the clinic told him that nine women were being readied for sterilisation without their consent. The Indonesians are clearly moving to alter the demographic composition of the population of East Timor. On 7 December, the office of the Dili-based daily Suara Timor Timur was vandalised by youths from a pro-Government organisation renowned in many places for its thuggish practices. They chased and beat up the journalists. Their basic complaint related to the newspaper's reporting of the November incidents and atrocities. According to the Alliance of Independent Journalists, the security forces failed to give the newspaper any protection against the attack, or later when the thugs continued to threaten the office. A theology graduate, Jose Antonio Neves, who was arrested by the police when he was just faxing a document abroad, is now on trial in Malang, East Java, on charges of rebellion which carry a maximum penalty of 20 years' imprisonment, or life. The charges mean that the most basic, legitimate act of keeping in touch with the outside world and sending out information about the situation inside East Timor is treated as a serious criminal offence carrying heavy penalties. The November atrocities show that the situation in East Timor is extremely volatile, the army's grip on the territory very tight and the level of repression very high. The momentary opportunity to gain a glimpse of the level of protest-- foreign journalists were allowed in on the occasion of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit--reveals that East Timor is like a power keg that may explode at any time.
As Bishop Belo said in his interview with the New York Times on 22 November, the basic issue is not whether the army has been a bit more restrained recently, but the political issue of
What is going on in East Timor is replicated in other parts of Indonesia. Exactly two months ago, four men were detained by military intelligence officers in Jakarta itself. Over two days and nights, they were grilled about their political beliefs and activities; they were beaten, kicked and given electric shocks by their interrogators. Holding a pistol to the head of one of the men, a military officer said, "This gun is loaded; I have the right to kill you." What provoked the assault was the fact that the four men had released balloons with pro-democracy slogans such as "Uphold the rights of workers" and "The constitution guarantees freedom of assembly". Those four
Column 1279men are not alone. Arbitrary arrest and torture of suspected Government critics has been routine in Indonesia and East Timor for years. In recent months, there has been a dramatic escalation in that kind of official harassment and intimidation. In August and September alone, the authorities broke up or prevented seminars, cultural events and professional meetings across the country by invoking an obscure law requiring police permission for meetings of more than five people. The banning of Indonesia's three leading news magazines in June has deepened the climate of fear among journalists. In the run-up to November's APEC meeting--these incidents were well documented in the British press-- the Government flooded Jakarta with 15,000 military and police officers to clear the streets of political and criminal undesirables in what they called "operation cleansing". Some Indonesia watchers consider recent developments to be a temporary setback in a general trend towards increased political openness but claims of greater political openness and a new-found commitment to human rights have never amounted to much for those outside Indonesia's small political elite.
For most ordinary Indonesians and East Timorese, the repressive powers of Indonesia's military and Executive have remained intact throughout. What has changed in recent months is that the small middle class has found its own freedom under threat.
The major campaign launched by Amnesty International only a few weeks ago focuses on the past five years and shows how hollow the Government's human rights pledges have been. In that time, human rights violations have continued unabated, even in parts of the country portrayed as stable and harmonious. The political and military torturers have continued to get away with their crimes. At this point, I must pay tribute to Amnesty International for its work. In 1989 I went to East Timor with a list of people who had been imprisoned and then documented by Amnesty International in its annual report. After making a request to the military governor, I was able to go to one of the prisons to interview some of the prisoners named in that report. I was able to verify everything in the report down to the last detail. I was grateful to the Indonesian authorities for allowing me access because it enabled me to confirm that some prisoners had been tortured when they were first captured but that, once in prison, the torture had ceased. Anyone who says that Amnesty International makes wild allegations is wrong because the organisation takes great care when it documents such cases. The Indonesian Government's human rights activities seem designed mainly to improve their image in international circles. Of course, this is not the first time that the Government's actions have not lived up to their words. In March 1966, only months after the military coup which brought the current Government to power, President Suharto, then General Suharto, promised that his new order would restore the rule of law and would be free from any form of oppression and exploitation. But, even as he spoke, Indonesian military forces were taking part in a grim campaign against the Communist party, leaving more than 500,000 people dead and a similar number imprisoned without charge or trial. Now they target those who organise trade unions--I know that the British Government have recently taken up the case of the last remaining leader of the independent regime in
Column 1280Indonesia--and those who oppose land developments or test the limits of political freedom by criticising the Government or their policies. The tensions and the political targets may have changed but the premium placed on maintaining national security at all costs has not.
The Indonesian Government try to brush off those violations as isolated incidents, or the work of a few poorly disciplined soldiers, when in fact they are the by-product of a network of institutions, procedures and policies that the Government themselves use to crush perceived threats to stability and order.
What is scandalous is the fact that foreign Governments, including ours, have let the Indonesian authorities get away with it for so long, apparently seeing that country only as an economic prize and a strategic linchpin. In the aftermath of the Santa Cruz massacre in 1991, a handful of Governments suspended certain kinds of aid and military transfers, but their efforts were short- lived and most have since returned to their previous habit of paying lip service to human rights while adopting few concrete measures to back up their words. That is what the United Kingdom does.
Some Governments, including ours, have continued to supply military equipment that could be used to commit human rights violations. Indeed it is so used, as I shall illustrate. Other Governments have turned away Indonesian and East Timorese asylum seekers, and may do so again. Foreign Governments will have to stop putting economics ahead of human rights if we are to see the fundamental policy changes necessary to restore human rights to the people of Indonesia and East Timor.
As the Minister will know, there has been much public disquiet in the United Kingdom over the continued and increased sales of arms to Indonesia. Many people have questioned the Government's decision. The contract for 24 Hawk jets, with a further 16 under negotiation, is just one example of the increase in arms sales from this country. We challenge that decision, first because of the well-documented involvement of Indonesian military and security personnel in human rights violations. The publicly stated primary aim of the Indonesian military is internal security rather than dealing with external threats. The United Kingdom relies on assurances given by the Indonesian Government that the equipment will not be used for internal repression, but past promises have not been upheld. Clearly the onus should be on the exporter--the United Kingdom--to ensure that the equipment is not likely to be used for that purpose. In Indonesia there are many well- documented cases in which it has been so used. Another reason to challenge the decision is the Indonesian Government's obstruction of independent international monitoring of human rights in the country. Some opening up has been seen over the past few years but visitors, including United Nations personnel, journalists, human rights groups and so on, are restricted in the freedom with which they can exercise their independent monitoring function.
Indonesians who speak to visitors usually fear reprisals. That was clear when we were there in 1989. The people whom we met in East Timor, who were brought to us as people who were free to speak their minds, were clearly terrified. They spoke in very soft voices, and even when a member of the Church came to speak to us he could not
Column 1281say what he felt, because the door was open when we met him and somebody from the security forces was obviously listening to our conversation.
The meeting that we were supposed to have with Bishop Belo never took place, although it was part of our programme. Afterwards we were told that the bishop had not even known that we were there. The so-called freedom to speak is a myth.
There is a lack of regular monitoring by the United Kingdom Government of the end use of arms exports. The Government claim that it is impractical to monitor end use, and in a letter to me Baroness Chalker made it clear that she believed that it was not possible to do so. She wrote:
"It is not practical to monitor their use once they have reached their destination."
Any pretence that that is going on must be dispelled.
However, other Governments do monitor end use. The United States general accounting office reported earlier this year that US military assistance to Colombia had gone to units responsible for human rights violations. That part of the assistance was then cut by the US Administration.
Other Governments have suspended or cut trade and aid to Indonesia on human rights grounds. The US Congress has suspended or cut funds for military education and training subject to improvement in human rights and it refused the sale of fighter jets on the same grounds. The Netherlands, Canada and Denmark have suspended development aid and Italy has ended all military transfers to Indonesia citing human rights concerns.
It is publicly stated by our Government that human rights are one of the factors that are considered in the procedure at official level to decide whether to issue an export licence. Other factors include the design and capability of the equipment, its past use and whether assurances are available from the receiving Government that the equipment will not be used for internal repression.
However, the problem is that the decision is not open to public or parliamentary scrutiny. There is no means of knowing the information and analysis on which the decision to issue a licence is taken. It is therefore very difficult for the Opposition to challenge the basis on which the decision was made.
Of course, our Government have frequently been criticised for their policy towards Indonesia. In 1992-93, we supplied more than £33 million in aid to Indonesia. In 1993-94, we supplied £35 million and in 1994-95 we supplied £40 million. So far as I am aware, none of that money was used in East Timor.
The argument about the use of Hawk aircraft has continued for some time. We receive a variety of responses from the Foreign Office whenever that matter is raised. According to the Foreign Office: "We are encouraging Indonesia to live up to its human rights obligations . . . There is no evidence to support allegations that Hawk aircraft are being used for repressive purposes against the people of East Timor . . . The Hawks that Indonesia has are two-seater trainers . . . Her Majesty's Government has an assurance from the Indonesian Government that the Hawks will not be used against civilians. We have no reason to doubt this. The Government would not license for export any defence equipment likely to be used for internal repression . . . The Hawks were delivered in the early to mid 1980s, too late to have been used in the bombing raids
Column 1282that followed the 1975 invasion . . . Under the UN charter, all sovereign states have the right to their own self- defence so there is nothing wrong with selling arms to friendly countries to allow them to defend themselves. Indonesia is no exception."
The most recent exchange with Ministers occurred on 14 December in oral questions when the Foreign Secretary said, in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn),
"The hon. Gentleman cannot, and has not, produced evidence to support allegations that Hawks, already supplied to Indonesia . . . have been used for oppressive purposes in East Timor. We think not." Again, other exchanges in letters and written questions make more or less the same assertions.
I shall quote the evidence of Jose Ramos-Horta, who is the special representative of the National Council of Naubere Resistance, which, since 1975, has been the umbrella organisation for the East Timorese at the United Nations. In his evidence, he said:
"I want to make it clear that Hawk ground attack/`trainer' aircraft fitted with missiles have been used in East Timor regularly since 1983. Hawk aircraft were first used in East Timor in the Summer of 1983, more precisely in August 1983, when the then Indonesian armed forces chief, Gen. Benny Murdani, announced a new military offensive after a three-month cease -fire negotiated by Xanana Gusmao, Leader of the East Timorese Resistance, and the East Timor Indonesian army commander, Col. Purwanto. The cease-fire was unilaterally broken by the Indonesians who thought that they could wipe out the resistance with the new aircraft they acquired.
The 1983 offensive involved 20,000 Indonesian troops according to AFP, quoted in the New York Times. Two Hawk aircraft were used daily for almost six months. Hundreds of civilians and guerrilla fighters were killed during that period. The Hawks, armed with missiles, were used in three main areas of East Timor: in the Same-Ainaro-Maubisse mountainous triangle in the centre of the country, in the Lauten-Lospalos-Tutuala corridor in the far east and in the Matebian mountain range between these two.
In 1983 the resistance forces operated in company sized units numbering 100 each or more. The Hawk aircraft were decisive in forcing their dispersal into much smaller units between 1983 and 1986. Together with the Bronco aircraft and the French-supplied Allouette and Puma helicopters, Hawk aircraft were responsible for the death of hundreds of civilians between 1983 and 1986.
During the months of August and September 1994, two Hawk aircraft carried out at least six bombing raids in the Eastern region of East Timor. Hawks and American supplied Broncos are stationed at the Baucau airport, built by the Portuguese in the 60's and capable of receiving commercial aircraft up to Boeing 707s. Since the invasion of East Timor in 1975, the civilian airport has been converted to a military base.
In the last three months, Hawk aircraft have again been used extensively, mostly in the eastern region, with an average of six sorties a day, each bombing raid lasting 10 minutes with the launching of two missiles each.
Some of these raids seemed to be almost random without the pilot aiming specifically at guerilla targets but at any remote hamlet. On September 23 1994, at precisely 11H15, in the area between Kelikai and Baguia, a missile hit a thatched roof house setting it on fire and destroying the whole group of six impoverished houses. There were no survivors observed amongst some 30 inhabitants, mainly women and children in this typical East Timorese hamlet.
Because there are no large concentrations of Resistance forces (the resistance forces operate in very small groups of half a dozen or less and only really converge for a major attack which may involve formations of up to 50), the Hawks are used to intimidate villagers with low flying and targeting practice on poor villages."
That is what a representative of East Timor at the United Nations says is happening in that country. I believe that our Government have a responsibility to carry out a full investigation into Mr. Horta's allegations. It is no longer good enough to claim that there is no evidence, as the
Column 1283Government have argued consistently, and that Hawks are used only for training purposes. On 14 December the Secretary of State reasserted:
"The Hawks in Indonesia are two-seater trainers and we have no evidence that they have been reconfigured to carry live bombs since they were supplied".--[ Official Report , 14 December 1994; Vol. 251, c. 910 11.]
It is not possible to argue that any more in light of Mr. Horta's evidence. I believe that the Government should agree this morning to carry out an investigation into the matter.
Some people argue that there are grounds to bring the United Kingdom before the International Court of Justice. Portugal will bring Australia before the International Court at the Hague in January 1995. There are those who argue that the UK Government are in violation of the UN charter and the relevant Security Council resolutions on East Timor by providing economic, financial and military assistance to Indonesia which enables it to pursue aggression in East Timor.
It is argued that British support of Indonesia hinders the exercise of the right of the people of East Timor to self-determination, which is explicitly recognised in Security Council resolutions 384 of 1975 and 389 of 1986. It will be interesting to see what happens in the case that Portugal is bringing against Australia.
We have witnessed fierce arguments in the Chamber between those hon. Members who have been on all-party parliamentary visits to Indonesia. The hon. Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls) has constantly argued that the human rights situation in Indonesia is improving. He said recently that the Indonesian Government, from the President down, have fully taken on board international concerns about their human rights record and have done their best to address them.
That claim simply does not bear scrutiny. When the United Nations special rapporteur on torture visited Indonesia in 1992, he found that torture was commonplace. As a consequence, he made 11 recommendations, 10 of which still have not been addressed. We get very angry when we hear the apologists for the Indonesian regime constantly making unsustainable assertions that its human rights record is improving.
I think that more and more people from the international community will ask why the Indonesian Government, who can achieve such impressive economic gains, are apparently unable or unwilling to stop the widespread use of torture against their own citizens. More and more people will look at the pictures of the palm-lined beaches on holiday brochures and think of peaceful critics of the Government who are in prison. They will look between the columns of figures showing returns on investments and remember that a young woman who went on strike in an attempt to secure a pay rise of 25c per day was kidnapped, raped and killed when she went to the local military barracks to ask after her friends. More and more people will wonder why those who raise questions about corruption or ask why soldiers fired on peaceful demonstrators may find themselves locked in prison cells. There will be more questions and concerns about a Government and a legal system that can sentence someone to 10 years in gaol for collecting information about human rights and trying to send it out of the country.
Column 1284The Government of Indonesia may not like questions on human rights being asked and they may continue to try to stop them being discussed in this House and elsewhere, but human rights violations will blight Indonesia's international reputation until its Government have demonstrated a commitment to ending them.
There are several ways in which the Indonesian Government can improve the human rights situation. A few of the key ones are: to permit independent human rights monitors to conduct thorough investigations into all violations and ensure that the suspected perpetrators are brought to justice quickly in a civilian court; to prevent torture and ill treatment by giving detainees regular access to lawyers and ensuring that statements extracted under torture are not allowed in court; to release all prisoners of conscience; to repeal the notorious anti-subversion laws and all other legislation which can be used to gaol people for their peaceful activities and beliefs; and to permit regular and unhindered human rights monitoring by domestic and international non-governmental organisations, including Amnesty International.
Systematic human rights abuses have continued in Indonesia for nearly 30 years and in East Timor for almost 20 years. We owe it to the people of Indonesia and East Timor to make our voices heard and to insist that our Government listen and act on the evidence that I have presented tonight. They must put their commitment to human rights into action, so that the Government of Indonesia realise that we are serious when we say that the people of East Timor must be allowed to determine whom they wish to be governed by under the UN's decolonisation rules. We must show that we are serious about our commitment to those rules by looking again at the amount of aid that we give and military equipment that we export to Indonesia. We will be taken seriously only if our deeds match the words which we too frequently hear from Ministers.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Alastair Goodlad): I salute the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) for her long-standing interest in this very important subject and congratulate her on raising the matter at this late hour--or early hour, depending on one's point of view--during what may be the last ever Consolidated Fund Bill debate in the House. I believe that ours is the last debate before the Adjournment.
It is interesting that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as the right hon. Member for Northampton, South, are presiding over our proceedings, along with the hon. Lady, my hon. Friends the Members for Havant (Mr. Willetts) and for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman)--he was formerly in his place--and my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir J. Stanley).
Proceedings on Consolidated Fund Bills have been used as opportunities for extended debates by Back Benchers since 1907. The modern practice became a regular feature of the House's proceedings in 1966, and the debate continued to be held on the Second Reading of the Bill until 1982. Following a recommendation by the Select Committee on Procedure, debates since have been on a motion for the Adjournment.
Column 1285If the House agrees to the motions on the sittings of the House next Monday, today's sitting will mark the end of 30 years of Consolidated Fund debates as they now are. It is fitting that we end up on a serious and important subject.
I understand and share the concern felt by hon. Members and others outside the House about the human rights record in East Timor. It is the subject of regular debate and one on which I receive many representations from human rights groups and others.
We do not, of course, condone human rights violations in East Timor or anywhere else. Set against agreed international standards, the record on human rights in East Timor remains far from perfect. We continue to follow events there closely and to make our specific concerns clear to the Indonesian Government where appropriate. The Indonesian Government are well aware of the importance that we attach to them living up to their human rights obligations. With our European partners, we have most recently expressed concern, as has the hon. Member for Cynon Valley, about the trial and sentencing of the Labour leader, Mr. Pakpahan, the ban imposed in June on three weekly magazines and the heightened tension in East Timor after clashes between the security forces and demonstrators in Dili in July.
We believe that the best way to persuade the Indonesians to make further improvements in their human rights record is through constructive dialogue within wider, co-operative relationships. We share many of the specific concerns set out in the recent report of Amnesty International. We have discussed them with the Indonesians as part of our regular dialogue on human rights. We recognise that a lot more needs to be done. Torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, and other forms of human rights abuses are unacceptable wherever, and on whatever scale, they occur. As the hon. Lady said, and as Amnesty International has acknowledged, such practices are already banned by law in Indonesia.
We continue to encourage the Indonesian authorities to ensure that their laws are respected in practice. We have encouraged the Indonesian Government to invite an Amnesty International delegation to see the situation on the ground. We understand that there have been exchanges, but without, so far, an agreement on dates. It is equally important to recognise that the situation in East Timor has evolved considerably in recent years. It is natural that the media and critics of Indonesia's record in the territory focus exclusively on what more needs to be done, without acknowledging that progress has been made. I am not sure that one- sided criticism contributes to international efforts to find a long-term solution to the problem.
The House will be aware that this year's session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights commented favourably on the greater access granted by the Indonesian authorities to human rights and humanitarian organisations, as well as the international media. The Secretary-General has also welcomed the increase in visits to East Timor by East Timorese living abroad. Non-governmental organisations, too, have acknowledged that progress. In its September report, Amnesty International noted that East Timor was now more open to outsiders than at any time since 1975. In