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Mr. Straw: My hon. and learned Friend must face a fact that the House has faced and accepted: the choice is not that easy. I am afraid he must just get used to that brutal truth. There is to be an international criminal court; it is being established; we are in the vanguard of ratifying
As my hon. and learned Friend knows, international criminal courts are not a substitute for national jurisdictions, and never have been. They are there to take action against individuals who have committed crimes for which a relevant national jurisdiction will not take action itself. That simply does not apply in this case, or in hundreds of others that we could think of.
When we were faced with terrorist outrages, deaths and conspiracies at the hands of the Provisional IRA, we in the House did not say that we should hand these people over to an international criminal court; we said that we should deal with them here, because their crimes were being committed here. These murdersthese acts of mass murderwere committed in the United States, on the terrain of the United States, against the law of the United States. Were bin Laden to offer himself up, it is there, according to the law of the United States, that he should meet his trial.
David Winnick (Walsall, North): In view of the charge made against the international communityparticularly the United States and Britainthat we are engaged in an anti-Islamic conspiracy and aggression, what justification was there for taking military action in Kosovo? Is it not the case that many, though not all, of those who oppose what is being done now were vehemently opposed to military action in Kosovo? Had that action not been taken, Milosevic would still be in power.
Mr. Straw: My hon. Friend has a good and a long memory, and he is entirely correct. I, too, remember sitting here when that military action was taken. I also remember not just that people said we should not take military action in Kosovo to protect the Muslim community there, but that when the action was taking place, my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary and my noble Friend Lord Robertsonthen Secretary of State for Defencewere told repeatedly, day after day, that it would not work to dislodge Milosevic or to ensure the establishment of a different regime. That was what was said, and those who said it were wrong.
Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East): The high-level talks that took place yesterday between my right hon. Friend, our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and Chairman Arafat were welcome and significant. On a slightly different subject, however, will my right hon. Friend tell us whether the role played by Afghanistan in the supply and distribution of heroin throughout the world in the recent past is covered in the documents that he intends to publish today, and whether it will figureas I hope it willin any long-term solution? Will it be recognised that we need to tackle this evil trade?
Yes, one of the many evils perpetrated by the Taliban regime is its sponsorship of the heroin trade, which accounts for 70 per cent. of all heroin produced in the world and for 90 per cent. of heroin on the streets here. It is a state-sponsored trade: the Taliban tax those who produce the heroin to make money for themselves.
Mr. Campbell: When considering the question of jurisdiction, will the Foreign Secretary bear it in mind that after a terrorist atrocity had been committed over Lockerbie we insisted that, although the procedures and form of the court might have been changed, the case should be tried under Scottish jurisdiction?
Mr. Straw: The right hon. and learned Gentleman makes an acute point, reinforcing the point that I was making, that democratic states have not only a right but a duty to try people for crimes committed on their territory against either their citizens or those who happen to be there, as with the victims from 60 or so other nations who just happened to be present in the World Trade Centre on the day of the atrocities on 11 September.
I know of no other set of choices lying between appeasement and military action. I have listened carefully to those who have suggested that there is some other way, and I understand why people are uncomfortable about military actionwe all arebut I do not understand why, faced with the stark reality of either appeasing the Taliban and allowing them to continue to harbour terrorism, thus wholly thwarting our purpose, or taking military action, they keep dodging those choices.
The international community has not dodged the choices, any more than, happily, have the vast majority of people in this country. Canada, New Zealand, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal have all offered direct military support to the United States, in addition of course to that being provided by the United Kingdom.
The 15 countries of the European Union and the 19 members of NATO have all endorsed military action. As the House knows, historically, for the first time, NATO invoked article 5 of its charter. The United Nations Security Council, in an unanimous resolution on 12 September, expressed its readiness to take "all necessary steps" to defeat this terrorism. The action that is being taken is fully consistent with article 51 of the UN charter.
We are making every effort to avoid civilian casualties in the present conflict by rigorously targeting military and terrorist assets only. We cannot always avoid them, but we are making every effort to do so. There is no moral equivalence between us and our enemy: the terrorists seek to maximise civilian casualties; we seek to minimise them. They want to destroy society in Afghanistan; we want to rebuild it.
Mr. Straw: I tried to deal with that point a moment ago. There is only one proposal for an international criminal court, and it is currently awaiting ratification. We cannot magic an international criminal court out of nothing. It will be established in due course. We are among the first to ratify it, but it will not have retrospective jurisdiction, so it could not cover the atrocities of 11 September.
I repeat that it is not only the right but the duty of democratic states to try people for crimes committed in their territory. Had the atrocities occurred in London, Edinburgh, Belfast or Cardiff, rather than the United States, the situation would be exactly the same. Some of those involved in the atrocities are now dead, but many of those who were more widely involved in conspiring and directing the operations are not. Had the crime occurred in this country, the fact that those people are currently in other territories would not in the least have prevented any United Kingdom jurisdiction from seeking their transfer to meet justice here.
Bin Laden and his associates have had every opportunity to give themselves up. They are not going to do so. This is a side issue, a red herring, a way of avoiding a stark political and moral choice that we have to take.
Mr. Hilton Dawson (Lancaster and Wyre): In accepting the utter necessity of targeted military intervention at this time, may I ask my right hon. Friend to assure me that all partners in the coalition are giving every possible assistance to humanitarian agencies and efforts to assist the people of Afghanistan?
Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove): The Foreign Secretary pointed out, rightly, that a broad range of countries in the coalition are in favour of the action and have offered support. However, there has been some sniping in the media that, so far, this has seemed like a largely American-based operation, with relatively minimal support from other countries; support has come from the UK only. Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that at some time in the future, troops or military aid will be given by other countries so that the coalition looks like a coalition and not like a covert American action under the guise of an international coalition?