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House of Commons
Session 2000-01
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Standing Committee Debates
International Criminal Court Bill

International Criminal Court Bill [Lords]

Standing Committee D

Thursday 3 May 2001


[Mr. Frank Cook in the Chair]

International Criminal Court Bill [Lords]

Clause 49

Power to make provisons for enforcement of other orders

Amendment proposed [this day]: No. 59, in page 25, line 14, at end insert

    ', and

    (c) orders relating to the payment of reparations to victims of crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court from the Trust Fund established under Article 79'.—[Mrs. Gillan.]

2.30 pm

Question again proposed.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough): Before we adjourned, I had invited the Minister to examine the relevant article of the statute of Rome, which touches on the trust and the trust fund, and asked several questions about it. I do not need to say any more as the Minister knows the general thrust of my questions. He will also have listened to the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan).

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. John Battle): I refer first to the role of non-governmental organisations, which have made representations about the theme of the trust. On 22 March 2001, in a speech before the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, I said:

    ``I cannot over emphasise the importance of the positive contribution of NGOs to human rights...I believe they are our eyes and ears on the ground and the voice of our conscience. It is vital that we all give a hearing to and listen to that voice.''

Amnesty International, the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, Save the Children and other bodies have been involved in the background work to the clause. They are the eyes and ears on the ground and often draw the attention of the world to those victims who suffer as a result of gross war crimes and genocide. I pay tribute to those organisations. Throughout the negotiations on the Rome statute and during the preparation of the Bill, the Government have listened to the voice of NGOs.

Last year, the Minister then responsible for such matters, my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Hain), held three separate meetings with NGOs, specifically on the ICC. I made a point of meeting a wide range of NGOs, including Amnesty International and the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, as soon as I took over the responsibility for human rights issues. I discussed the ICC with them. I emphasise that point: they have had—and rightly so—regular contact with the Bill team and the organisations that are grouped in the coalition for an ICC. We welcome that and encourage them to remain engaged throughout the process.

We have considered carefully all suggestions made by NGOs before, during and since the consultation process began and have taken on board many of their helpful and constructive propositions. Amendments were made in the other place that related specifically to their concerns. Such matters were taken on board and built into the Bill. However, I know as one who was involved for many years in NGOs that we shall not be able to go as far and as fast as they would want. Their role is to lead us into new areas and ours is to consider such issues and reach decisions within our parameters.

We have been aware of the views of NGOs for some time and I am glad that, at last, we are discussing the concerns, interests and needs of the victims. Obviously, it is the victims of war crimes in places such as Rwanda and East Timor that have made the case for the ICC so compelling, but it cannot be only about punishment and deterrents. We have spent much time discussing arrests and warrants, but he ICC is about giving justice to victims and building the basis of future reconciliation.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary mentioned on Second Reading that the matter of reparations for victims of ICC crimes is one on which our negotiators in Rome worked particularly hard. We are pleased that article 75 of the statute secures the right of victims to reparations and that article 79 provides for a trust fund to be established for the benefit of victims. It is enshrined in article 79 that the trust fund will exist.

I entirely understand the motivation of the NGOs and the Opposition and the tabling of the amendment. We, too, care passionately about such matters, but the Bill enables us fully to implement our obligation with regard to articles 75 and 79, and the amendment is not needed to put that in the Bill.

Clause 49(1)(b) specifies that the Secretary of State will make provision by regulations for the enforcement of

    ``orders by the ICC against convicted persons specifying reparations to, or in respect of, victims.''

As the ICC can issue orders only for reparations against convicted persons, that covers all possible situations in which the ICC may ask us to enforce such an order. Similarly, as a result of regulations, we shall be able to enforce any fines or forfeitures ordered by the ICC against a convicted person. The Secretary of State will automatically transfer the proceeds obtained to the ICC or, if requested by the ICC, to the ICC trust fund.

I confirm to the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham that we would be happy to share the draft regulations, once they are prepared, with the Medical Foundation and to other interested parties, and receive their comments and consultation.

The hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) asked detailed questions about how the trust fund would function, such as how it would be set up, whether it would have a bank account, and where the investments would be. Those details have not been decided, but will be determined by the assembly of states parties when the criteria for the trust fund are determined. Another reason to ratify early is so that the hon. and learned Gentleman's questions—which are fair—may be put in that context when the body is properly up and running.

Provided that those criteria permit voluntary contributions, as we expect, the Government and any individual, company or institution will be open to contribute voluntarily to the ICC trust fund for victims. There will be no obstacle to our contribution to that fund in the same manner in which, over the past three years, we have already contributed £200,000 to the UN trust fund to help least developed countries to participate in negotiations about the ICC.

Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside): Will my hon. Friend explain what could be lost by not accepting the proposal on the trust fund, and what difficulties might be encountered if we attempted to amend the Bill?

Mr. Battle: The amendment is unnecessary, because the measure is implicitly built into the Bill. Discussing the matter makes it explicit. There will be no misunderstanding of intentions—a trust fund will be set up. The hon. and learned Member for Harborough is correct that the fund should have a bank account with proper signatories, and there should be a clear, transparent knowledge of how access to the money is achieved.

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs. Ellman) invited me to examine the wording of the amendment. It is incorrect to mention orders relating to payments from the trust fund. There is a technical matter that accepting the amendment would denature the Bill, because payments from the trust fund to victims will be a matter for the ICC, rather than state parties. I do not wish to get legalistic and technical and say that I reject the amendment because it does not fit in the Bill perfectly legally. I am simply trying to take the spirit of the amendment; we share that spirit and we believe that the Bill fulfils it.

I was asked questions relating to Canada, which has progressed further than us. Canada, which has progressed further than us. If I recall correctly, it has already signed up, and it has passed into an Act of Parliament its assent and support. It is further down the line; we are not there yet. We are asked whether we can get up to speed with Canada; the very purpose of the Bill is to ratify and be among the first 60, as Canada already is, in order to get there. I do not want to be held back.

We do not believe that creating a domestic trust fund would result in practical additional benefits for victims. First, as I said, all the money collected in Britain through the enforcement of ICC orders will automatically be transferred to the ICC. Secondly, our domestic courts that hear cases under the Bill will already have powers to order compensation and restitution to victims under our laws. It is therefore unnecessary for this country to create a separate domestic trust.

Thirdly, we believe that voluntary contributions will best be made to the trust fund established by the ICC, which will obviously hear more cases internationally and involve a far greater number of victims, and will be for countries that are ``unwilling and unable''. As a country, we should be a generous contributor to that fund, rather than setting up our own fund.

I hope that the Committee will accept that we go a long way with the spirit of and intention behind the amendment. On technical grounds, it would not stand up in law, although that is not my rebuttal of the case.

The amendment is unnecessary. We accept its spirit, but we believe that that spirit is built in. I hope that the proposal will fulfil the intentions of not only the Opposition but the NGOs that have campaigned for it. The key proposal is for a trust fund set up by the ICC and supported by the British Government as a party to and signed-up and ratifying member of the Rome statute. That is our intention with the Bill, and I hope that we can proceed and fulfil it.

Mr. Garnier: I listened with great care to the Minister's comments and will report back to my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham. I am procedurally barred from withdrawing an amendment moved by my hon. Friend, but I am sure that the Committee will not want me to press the matter to a Division.


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