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Thursday, 1 December 1983
Page: 3211

Ms McHUGH(8.21) —My grievance tonight is the tremendous suffering and horrifying violations of human rights which are a daily reality in El Salvador. In 1982 Amnesty International reported that it continued to receive reports of arbitrary arrests, abductions and subsequent disappearances, torture and illegal executions. After sending a fact finding mission to Central America it found that in El Salvador, in a context of widespread civil conflict, the rural population in areas contested by military forces suffered indiscriminate violence in reported attempts to clear such zones of all potential support for the opposition. People trying to flee from such military operations were also killed. Reports in Time magazine of as late as October this year give similar reports of civilians killed in such fighting. Amnesty concluded:

Throughout the year the grave human rights situation in El Salvador led Amnesty International to continue to submit information to relevant regional and international bodies. In October and interim report to the United Nations General Assembly on the situation of human rights in El Salvador, prepared by the Special Rapporteur appointed by the UN Commission on Human Rights, concluded that there had been a consistent pattern of gross violations of human rights in El Salvador since the ruling junta took power in 1979, and that the executive and judicial branches of El Salvador's Government had adopted an attitude of passivity and inactivity toward the violations.

According to an Amnesty report of February 1981, teachers and professors are singled out for special treatment by the military regime. This same Amnesty report goes on to say that many educators are gaoled and 85 per cent of the schools are closed. Education is regarded with suspicion and fear by the ruling oligarchy. Teachers are seen by the rulers as encouraging 'subversion' and their punishment is harassment, torture and death, not only for themselves but for their families as well. Thinking and questioning, which are fundamental components of any free and democratic society, are stifled as thoroughly as possible.

Since 1932 El Salvador has had consistent military rule. As this Parliament well knows, in 1979 a group of army officers, with the approval of the United States of America, successfully launched a coup against the internationally discredited regime of General Romero. During this time Christian Democrats, Social Democrats and Communists participated in a junta which they hoped would lead to the country's first elected civilian government in 50 years. But within that time it was apparent that the land-owning oligarchy and hard line military retained effective control. The coalition ultimately collapsed, leaving the right wing group of the Christian Democrats supporting the military and the Democratic Revolutionary Forces having the support of the majority of the population in an alliance of Social Democrats and Christian Democrats, Communists, left wing parties, mass organisations, trade unions and guerilla organisations.

El Salvador is the most densely populated country in Latin America, its economy entirely based on agriculture, yet only 2 per cent of the population own 60 per cent of the cultivated land and 60 per cent of the rural population have incomes which fail to reach subsistance level. A report by the Food First Action Alert organisation entitled 'El Salvadore. The hungriest people in Latin America' states:

Salvadorians have the lowest average caloric intake in Latin America.

Seven out of ten Salvadorian children go hungry.

The report continues:

El Salvadore has the worst income inequality in Latin America. The wealthiest two percent, known as the Fourteen Families-

that is what they are-

has long controlled over half the farmland, where they produce coffee, cotton, sugar cane, and beef-all exports, not crops to feed the hungry in El Salvadore.

Logically, land reform is the key to social stability but it is a price which the ruling elite of El Salvador has been unwilling to pay for 50 years. Back in 1932 demands for land reform were savagely crushed when 30,000 peasants were massacred, destroying the labour movement for 40 years. The San Salvador military junta and the United States Government still claim that the regime is caught in the crossfire of a vicious war between supporters of the extreme right and the extreme left. The Western media almost invariably has reflected this claim. However, all independent evidence-for example, from the international aid agencies and from Amnesty itself-points to a very different interpretation.

The United Nations General Assembly, since its 35th session in 1980, has reiterated each year its appeal to all states to abstain from intervening in the internal situation in El Salvador and to suspend all supplies of arms and any type of military assistance to El Salvador that will serve to aggravate the situation in that country. In fact, the United Nations General Assembly decided to appoint a special representative on the situation of human rights in El Salvador and for him to report to the 37th session of the United Nations General Assembly which he did. I shall read from that very report, which is dated 18 December 1982, to the thirty-seventh session of the United Nations General Assembly, the report of the Economic and Social Council on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in El Salvador. That report states that the General Assembly:

Taking note . . . of the interim report by the Special Representative, which confirms the unabated continuation of a climate of violence and insecurity in El Salvador with armed clashes, acts of terrorism and unbridled, large scale and grave violations of human rights, as well as the failure of the judiciary to fulfil its duties to uphold the rule of law . . .

The United Nations report states then that the General Assembly:

Expressed its deepest concern at the continued and unbridled violations of human rights and at the resulting suffering of the Salvadorian people, and regrets that the appeals for the cessation of violence made by the General Assembly, the Human Rights Commission and the international community in general , have not been heeded . . .

The report then states that the General Assembly:

Reaffirms the right of the El Salvadorian people to freely determine their political, economic and social future without interference from outside and in an atmosphere free from intimidation and terror from all parties. . .

Finally, the report indicates that the General Assembly:

Decides to maintain under consideration, during its thirty-eighth session, the situation, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in El Salvador, in order to examine anew this situation in the light of additional elements provided by the Commission on Human Rights and the Economic and Social Council.

Australians can be ashamed that we could not support that resolution in the United Nations. It should shock every one of us that out country could not support that resolution. We are justified in feeling shame. A similar resolution will come before the thirty-eighth session of the United Nations General Assembly in the next couple of days. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden ) referred in his recent United Nations speech to the fact that tensions in Central America had increased and that Australia believes that the solutions to the problems of this region lie in the maintenance of the principle of non- intervention in the internal affairs of other states and in the efforts directed towards domestic reforms and reconciliations. Now that a resolution similar to the one not supported by Australia is about to come before the United Nations again, I appeal to the Australian Government to give that resolution its support .

This month the European Parliament saw fit to support unanimously a resolution forcefully demanding the release of Mr Amilcar Martinez Argueta, a prominent Christian Democrat and a high ranking official in the Department of Foreign Affairs of the El Salvadoran Government, and all of those kidnapped or disappeared by the death squads in El Salvador. Mr Argueta has been kidnapped; he disappeared recently. The European Parliament could support a unanimous resolution authorising the President of that Parliament to transmit the present resolution to the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations, to the Ministers for Foreign Affairs, to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and to the Government of El Salvador. I sincerely hope that Australia will support a resolution coming in the United Nations shortly.