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25 Nov 2002 : Column 111—continued

Mr. Straw: I never said that we would not necessarily seek a further United Nations resolution. Indeed, I said that we would much prefer to seek such a resolution. Aside from self-defence and other issues, the problem within this framework arises only if there is a clear prospect that the right thing to do is likely to be vetoed by other members of the Security Council, as happened over Kosovo in 1998.

Jeremy Corbyn: I am puzzled by that intervention. It seems to be okay for us to go to the United Nations as long as there is no danger of someone disagreeing with us. We have to do better than that.

On 11 September last year, 3,000 people died in New York. That was appalling, awful and wrong, but since then 8,000 people have died in Afghanistan. None of those deaths could bring back those who died in New York. We are now hell-bent on a new war, yet a new generation has grown up in western Europe, north America and throughout the world that is in favour of peace. Those people realise that peace comes not from military might but from addressing the fundamental causes of war—the thirst for natural resources and the injustices throughout the world.

The people who are meeting, marching and demonstrating for peace represent the fundamental mood of many people throughout the world. They do not support the bombardment of Iraq and they want a peaceful resolution of the conflicts in that region.

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8.56 pm

Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire): I welcome both this opportunity to debate resolution 1441 and the fact that the Foreign Secretary said that the House will be able to debate, on a substantive motion, any future commitment of British forces to possible action in Iraq.

Unlike the hon. Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn), I believe that the debate is really about the present role and function of the UN and what they could be in the future. We have an exciting opportunity to fashion a genuinely new world order in which the rule of international law, as exemplified by the UN, will be enforced throughout the world to a greater degree than occurred in the second half of the 20th century.

We do not want the United Nations to go the way of the League of Nations in 1924 during the Abyssinian campaign. Nor do we want a repeat of the situation between 1933 and 1936 when Germany was rearming. If the international community had taken those events more seriously and backed the actions proposed by the League of Nations in respect of Abyssinia, international law could have been enforced.

We have an opportunity to ensure that the writ of the UN really runs throughout the world. That is an exciting prospect and the House should welcome it.

The question of double standards has rightly been raised by many Members; for example, as regards UN Security Council resolution 242 in respect of Israel. The issue of double standards is important. If we insist on the enforcement of one Security Council resolution, it is right to state that it is wrong to prioritise some resolutions over others. I look forward to the time when the UN takes seriously all the resolutions of its Security Council.

We need to understand the importance of that, especially in the Arab world, when UN resolutions on Israel are not enforced. The UN should pay particular attention to that. However, it is not valid to argue that because some Security Council resolutions have not been honoured, we should not enforce resolution 1441. That is like the arguments that I heard when we were making a humanitarian intervention during the crisis in Rwanda. People asked why we were doing that and said that because it was not possible to intervene everywhere, we should not intervene at all. I do not agree. If we can do some good in some part of the world, we should certainly do so.

I look forward to the day when the UN will have more military forces at its disposal, so that its resolutions can be enforced. It should not have to go cap in hand to the United States, the United Kingdom or any other country to ensure that its resolutions are enforced.

We need to encourage countries to give troops to the UN voluntarily. It needs to have troops at its disposal so that it has the muscle to enforce its resolutions in times of conflict and uncertainty. If we are to have a new world order in which international law is upheld, we need seriously to consider the UN's resources.

Our constituents deserve a clearer explanation of why Britain may be involved in supporting resolution 1441. Is it because of the genocide that has occurred within Iraq's borders for a very long time? There would be a respectable moral case if that were the reason. We all know that hundreds of thousands of people have lost

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their lives. Is it because of the need to ensure the safety and security of Iraq's neighbours? We know that a million people were killed in the Iran-Iraq war and that Kuwait was invaded. My brother was taken hostage during that period. Is it because of a direct threat to the United Kingdom? Will missiles be able to reach these shores from Iraq? Will they be fired from a third-party country so that they can reach this country? Or is it because Iraq is backing al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations that could unleash poison gas in the London underground or commit other atrocities in the United Kingdom?

Any or all of those could be perfectly valid reasons for us to commit British troops in support of UN resolution 1441, but our constituents need to know more clearly. The Government are not afraid and are capable of making a case when they want to, but the British people have not heard the explanation to which they are entitled at a serious time such as this.

We have heard about the military planning. It is absolutely essential that proper humanitarian planning starts now for the civilian casualties that will be involved if a conflict takes place in Iraq. We are right to prepare militarily, as we hope that the threat of force will avoid war, but it is absolutely right and imperative—there is a strong moral case for this—to ensure that the humanitarian plans are put in place now. That is not war mongering; it is just acting responsibility, and we need to ensure that that happens. Contingency planning in the United Kingdom is also not in the state that it should be, and the Government need seriously to consider that as well.

9.2 pm

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley): I am sorry that the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) is not in his place, as I should like to answer a point that he made. I did not think that I would have to correct a solicitor, but he said that there is no way to achieve regime change using international law without a war. That is simply not true. I note the point made by the hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous), who talked about his brother being taken hostage in Kuwait.

International law must be a weapon used against the Iraqi regime. Individual countries, or preferably an international criminal court under the auspices of the UN Security Council, should hold Saddam and members of his regime to account for their many crimes by bringing indictments against them. There is a way to achieve regime change—I want to force it into people's minds tonight—by using international law and bringing those people before a tribunal or a court in a country where universal jurisdiction applies. That is not a fanciful notion, because bringing indictments against Milosevic and his associates in the former Yugoslavia was a vital means to de-legitimise that regime inside and outside its borders.

Let me remind the House that Milosevic was indicted while he was still Head of State, and no one thought that he would appear before the court in The Hague a year later. The setting up of a tribunal by the United Nations in that case also created an impetus to break with the past and allowed a new generation of leaders to come to the fore in that country.

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Evidence against Saddam and his officials is certainly not lacking. I chair an organisation called Indict, which I have spoken about in the House many times. It is funded by the US Congress and has been for the past five years. Ironically, some members of Congress and of the Clinton Administration wanted indictments against members of the Iraqi regime, but there was a policy of containment and they never went after those indictments. However, it was possible, and it is possible now. Organisations such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have damning and disturbing testimony detailing extra-judicial killing, torture, rape, genocide and widespread corruption. It does not prejudice the case against them to say that more than enough evidence exists to charge Saddam, Tariq Aziz, Ali Hassan Al-Majid, the sons of Saddam, and other senior officials for war crimes and crimes against humanity immediately.

Even now, however, many of Saddam's officials travel to many parts of the world, apparently without hindrance, on official business and for personal reasons. Isolating them within their own country would surely undermine their standing and limit their ability to conduct dealings, including the conclusion of commercial agreements with certain countries and attempts to secure additional weaponry, which help to sustain them in power. As David Scheffer, the former US ambassador on war crimes, has said:

That brings me to the point made by the hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire. It is often forgotten that many of Saddam's many victims were British nationals. At the start of the Gulf war, more than 1,000 British citizens were taken hostage. Some died, some were raped, others were tortured, and all suffered fear and humiliation. By taking concrete action to ensure that British victims obtain justice, the UK Government could show that they will do everything to promote the rule of law and fight impunity for the most serious crimes, and that the UK's support for the International Criminal Court is more than just lip service.

More generally, deterrence—especially as regards the conduct of any future Iraqi Government who might follow the current regime—demands justice. It has been said that international law cannot be enforced in Iraq without the use of force—that indictments as well as resolutions are not worth much unless they are underwritten by the world's most powerful armies. Conversely, however, whatever action the international community eventually decides is necessary, the law, and ultimately justice, must underpin such action. The moral case for dealing with the threat posed by Saddam that engages both hearts and minds demands that justice be done for the victims and that the standard by which any future Administration are judged be clearly laid down.

It would seem that indictments, like military intervention, are a matter of political will. I ask my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, whose motion I will support tonight, why, if Governments are willing to commit the lives of members of their armed forces, they cannot also commit themselves to law and legal procedure through recourse to the courts.

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