§ 27. Mr. A. Henderson
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the dispute as to the meaning of Article 118 of the Geneva Convention of 1949, which provides that prisoners of war shall be released and repatriated without delay, he will recommend to the United Nations Security Council that the matter be referred to the International Court of Justice, as provided by Resolution 1 of the Final Act of the Conference, for a decision as to whether the refusal of the United Nations authorities in Korea to accept the forcible repatriation of prisoners of war is contrary to the letter and spirit of Article 118.
§ Mr. Eden
No, Sir. The legal justification for the refusal of the United Nations to agree to forcible repatriation of prisoners of war is beyond reasonable dispute. There is nothing in the wording 869 of the 1949 Geneva Convention which can possibly be interpreted as calling for forcible repatiation. On the contrary, the relevant Article provides that all prisoners of war should be "released and repatriated." The use of force would be quite incompatible with the meaning of the word "released."
§ Mr. Henderson
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman realises that I am not raising this question because I necessarily dissent from his point of view, but is it not a fact that there were serious differences of opinion as to the interpretation to be placed on Article 118 amongst members of the Security Council? Is it not also a fact that the Geneva Convention itself provides for reference to the International Court where there is a difference as to interpretation? Is it not important to promote the acceptance of international law by referring this matter to the international Court, as provided in the Convention?
§ Mr. Eden
As the right hon. and learned Member is aware, the views of the United Nations were made abundantly clear on this after full discussion. By a vote of 54 to five they endorsed the Indian proposals which deny the imposition of forcible repatriation. The Soviet Government would not accept that and I cannot think that they are more likely to accept the finding of The Hague Court than they were to accept the one arrived at by the United Nations.