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Although I welcome the principle of the International Criminal Court, as I welcome many other conventions and processes that were introduced in the past century, we must be objective about the practical effect. For example, the League of Nations was promoted by a courageous American President, Woodrow Wilson, and eventually rejected by the United States Congress and Senate. It collapsed partly through non-adherence and partly because of non-US participation.
In giving the Bill a Second Reading, we should convey the strong message that we support the principle of the International Criminal Court absolutely, and that we ask for no exemptions or opt-outs. The US position appears to be a willingness to sign the basic protocol in order to participate in the negotiations, and a determination to ensure that it has no jurisdiction over any US citizen. That is unacceptable.
Conservative Members have gone on at length about the potential for a case against members of the British armed forces. Obviously, we hope that circumstances would not arise whereby such a case could be made. However, signing up to an international court process means acceptance of its jurisdiction over oneself as well as everybody else. Embarrassing and difficult though that might be, it is what international treaties are all about.
My hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) asked why the process could not be applied retrospectively. That is a serious gap in the measure. The only international legal processes that have had any effect in recent years are the Nuremberg tribunals after the second world war, the tribunals on Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, and the more limited tribunal on genocide in Cambodia. Many other cases deserve such international tribunals. I do not understand why at least selective retrospection cannot be applied to specific areas of conflict. For example, someone has to be responsible for the horrors in Afghanistan, where hundreds of thousands of people have died in the past 25 years. The methods that are used to deal with the conflict in Chechnya should also be the subject of a tribunal. Other examples include the conflicts in Congo and in Latin American countries.
The process has been hastened by the actions of Spanish Judge Garzon in his successful attempt to have Pinochet arrested in London. It is unfortunate that Pinochet was not extradited to Spain, but returned to Chile on the Home Secretary's decision, which was based on medical advice. That advice was curiously overturned by a military hospital in Chile, which decided that he was fit to face trial.
I visited Chile in December; my visit is recorded in the Register of Members' Interests. I witnessed the hope and the fear of Pinochet's victims, and their concern that he should face some kind of process. People told me then that they wished that there had been an international process not only against the military dictatorship in Chile between 1973 and 1990, but against all the dictators in the southern cone--Argentina, Uruguay and Chile--for their persecution of so many people in that part of Latin America.
If ever there was a case for a special process, it has to be the investigation of Operation Condor, and all the horrors that went with it. However, I suspect that there will be no such international process, because it would be too embarrassing to too many people. The causes of injustice, as well as the symptoms--such as the military power that leads to the injustice later--have to be addressed. Those causes have to be the imbalance between rich and poor, the unaccountable power of the military, the interference of multinational companies in other countries, and the corruption of the political process. Any process relating to the examination of Operation Condor, for example, would obviously seek to indict generals in all those countries of Latin America, but it would also seek to examine the role of multinational corporations, of the Central Intelligence Agency, and of Henry Kissinger, whom I saw wandering around the House only two weeks ago. He would be in a good position to tell us about the covert operations of the United States at that time.
Much has been said about state parties, and the need for a prosecution system against them. When the Minister replies, will he tell us whether he has any expectation that the ICC process will give any hope to the people of Colombia, for example? The number who have already died in the various conflicts there far exceeds the death toll of any other conflict in Central or South America in recent times. The death rate in Colombia is still accelerating, as a combination of militias, armed forces, drugs barons and unauthorised gangs engage in civil war. The losers, as ever, are the poorest people in the poorest part of that country. We should look more carefully at the reasons for conflict in the first place: the grab for land, minerals or power, which so often leads to injustice and the reigns of terror that result in the death of so many people.
I cannot understand why subsection (4) is in the Bill, and I hope that it can be removed in Committee or on Report. It seems suspiciously like an attempt to limit the jurisdiction of the ICC over this country. If we deplore other countries seeking opt-outs from particular parts of the provisions, we should not be seeking opt-outs
The second area of concern, which my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Ms King) mentioned, is the definition of ordinary residence in the United Kingdom. I intervened on the Foreign Secretary earlier to ask about this, and he thought that there was not a problem. I invite him to look again at that part of the Bill. I have read some legal opinions on the matter, and it seems to me that there is the most enormous problem with that issue, which really should be addressed. Instead of applying the difficult criterion of residence or non-residence--anyone who has dealt with immigration law will be aware of the niceties of the terms "residence" and "non-residence"--we should apply the criterion that anyone present in this country at any one time who is indicted by the ICC should be subject to its jurisdiction within this country.
The process that brought about the development of the International Criminal Court is based on the horror at the genocide that has taken place in so many parts of the world and at the millions of people who have died in conflicts. Although we obviously want an International Criminal Court process that can bring to justice the perpetrators of such crimes, we also want to ensure that it is not a political victors' court. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Bell) for making that point. It must be a court that will genuinely try people without being subject to huge campaigns of outside pressure to gain convictions at all costs. It must be seen to be an objective and trustworthy place in which decisions can be made. I hope that we shall agree to that tonight.
I return to the point with which I started. I urge the House to consider the causes of human rights abuses round the world and the need for sufficient expenditure by member states of the United Nations and its agencies to ensure that the processes of the International Criminal Court are carried out. Last week I attended the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva on behalf of Liberation, a non-governmental organisation in this country. We heard an excellent speech by Mary Robinson, followed by one by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Tragically, Mary Robinson is not seeking reappointment as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights--[Hon. Members: "She is."] She has changed her mind. Excellent! I was not aware of that.
However, Mary Robinson made the point very effectively in her speech that if the UN is serious about human rights, it must give her and her office the resources, the staff and the finances to do the job. It is no good going round the world hand-wringing about human rights abuses if we do not give the international agencies the necessary support and authority to deal with them. I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading tonight, but I believe that there are at least two serious flaws in it that I hope will be corrected in Committee or on Report. I also hope that we do not go down the road followed by US Presidents such as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and by the Conservative party, who say, "This should apply to everybody but me." That will be impossible if we are to go forward with any kind of process of international justice and international law.