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Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East): Would my right hon. Friend like to consider not only what a blow it would be to our national interest, but what view the other countries would take if, having played such a leading part in the formulation of the statute, we were to resile as a result of party games in this place?
Mr. Cook: My right hon. Friend helpfully brings me to a point that I wish to stress. The Bill reflects the statute negotiated at Rome. In the negotiation of that statute, the British delegation played an important role in securing the changes that we wished to see. I pay special tribute to Sir Franklin Berman, the legal adviser at the Foreign Office, who led the British delegation and who deployed his great expertise as an authority in international law to secure a number of improvements that strengthen the Rome statute.
Those included steps that widen the remit of the court. First, the definition of war crimes now applies to internal conflicts, not only to wars between states. That was a highly significant amendment to secure as there have been few wars between states in the past generation, but all too many conflicts within states. Often, such ethnic civil wars produce the most savage crimes against humanity.
Secondly, the offences before the court now include crimes of sexual violence, such as the use of mass rape as an instrument of ethnic cleansing. The British delegation was also instrumental in supporting the power of the court to try those responsible for forcing children into combat.
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North): Apart from all the mass murderers since 1945, is it not a fact that, if such a court had been in existence straight after the war, many Nazi war criminals and mass murderers who carried out the most horrifying crimes on behalf of the Third Reich would have been caught and tried? Instead, many of them got to the west or to Latin America and escaped scot free.
Mr. Cook: My hon. Friend makes a valuable and important point. At that time, we did not have a standing mechanism for implementing international justice. Moreover, the time that is lost as the Security Council resolves to establish such a mechanism is valuable time in which evidence can be destroyed and those who are accused can disappear.
Mr. Cook: I am not sure that I would accept the hon. Gentleman's characterisation of stonewalling. The issue of Mr. Brunner's existence has been raised on many occasions with the Syrian Government, most notably by France, which is the jurisdiction within which he has been convicted. On all occasions, the Syrian Government deny all knowledge of him or suggest that, in so far as they have knowledge, he is dead. If the hon. Gentleman can furnish me with fresh evidence with which I can challenge that assertion by the Syrian Government, I would be very happy to do so.
Ann Clwyd: My right hon. Friend is making a very important point. Although I very much welcome the establishment of the International Criminal Court, its powers will of course not be retrospective, and my right hon. Friend is making the point that very valuable time will be lost. However, United Kingdom courts already have jurisdiction over crimes--including the crimes of torture and of hijacking--that are committed outside the United Kingdom by non-nationals. Earlier, my right hon. Friend said that Saddam Hussein could not be tried by a future international criminal court for past crimes. He could, however, be tried under the other system. Why have the British courts not taken action against leading members of the Iraqi regime who are responsible for hijacking and kidnapping British citizens in Kuwait?
Mr. Cook: Of course we will pursue any practical or reasonable way of bringing Saddam Hussein to justice. Currently--perhaps regrettably--the prospect of Saddam Hussein being held to account within British jurisdiction is highly theoretical and I do not anticipate circumstances in which he would enter our jurisdiction. However, although my hon. Friend is correct that the effect of the International Criminal Court Bill is not retrospective, it will catch every crime from the moment that it comes into effect. For me, that is one of the reasons why we should make all possible speed in bringing the treaty into effect, which requires those 60 countries to ratify it. I hope that Britain will be one of them.
I was describing the gains secured by the British delegation at the Rome conference. There were other gains to be secured in the sanctions available to the court. On those, the British delegation secured two important points of principle. First, the court will have the power to order those found guilty to pay reparation to their victims. That reflects the reality that those who abuse their power to torture and murder also abuse their power to make themselves rich.
Secondly, the court will not have the option of ordering the death penalty. The Government have consistently lobbied against the death penalty in all circumstances. We therefore successfully resisted attempts by other countries to include the death penalty in the sanctions available to the court. We took the view that it would be inconsistent to lobby internationally against the death penalty while extending such a power to an international court.
Perhaps the greatest achievement of the British delegation was to secure overwhelming support for an international criminal court. At the end of several weeks of negotiations, 120 countries voted for the statute, and only seven voted against.
The Bill makes provision for the UK to meet its obligations to the International Criminal Court and therefore enables us to ratify the Rome statute. It may be for the convenience of the House if I briefly set out the principal purpose of each part of the Bill.
Part II provides for the arrest of suspects indicted by the International Criminal Court and puts in place an expedited procedure for their transfer to The Hague. In practice, these circumstances are likely to arise only when a national of another state who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court visits the UK.
Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): The Secretary of State has referred to the extradition procedure under part II. Will he confirm that the Bill contains no provision for the competent court considering an extradition application to review the merits of the arrest warrant, or the application to deliver?
Mr. Cook: The right hon. and learned Gentleman is correct. As I said, the Bill proposes an expedited system of transfer that follows very closely the system adopted by the previous Government for transfer in relation to the war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. It has been standing procedure to expedite transfers required by an international court. We are not dealing here with normal extradition between two countries.
Part III of the Bill enables us to give full assistance to International Criminal Court investigations--for example, by the seizure of evidence and by interviewing suspects and witnesses. There is also provision for freezing property and assets at the request of the court.
Part IV of the Bill provides for prisoners convicted by the International Criminal Court to serve their sentences in British jails. It sets out how we shall put into effect other orders of the court, such as those involving forfeiture of assets, restitution and compensation.