Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Third Report

3  International Criminal Tribunals

The International Criminal Court

43. The United Kingdom has maintained its strong support of the International Criminal Court (ICC), both in terms of funding and non-financial assistance. In 2006, of the total ICC budget of £59.6 million, the UK contributed 11.2%.[54] During its EU Presidency in 2005, the Government carried out 36 different lobbying exercises with the aim of convincing more states to sign up to the Rome Statute. The FCO Report confirms: "With our partners we will continue to lobby for ratification of the ICC statute, while working in cooperation with all states to pursue the common goal of an end to impunity for the perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes."[55] Further UK contributions have included sponsorship of regional seminars in Surinam and Amman, the co-funding of a course for legal professionals from the Asia-Pacific region and the co-sponsorship of training for counsel at the ICC.

44. The FCO Report discusses the major developments at the ICC:

  • The delivery of the prosecutor's third report of the investigation into Darfur in June 2006;
  • The arrest and transfer to The Hague in March 2006 of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, who will be the first person to face trial before the court when it begins later this year;
  • The consideration by the prosecutor of the third referral from the Central African Republic and the decision not to investigate the situations in Iraq and Venezuela;
  • An increase to 104 States Parties but with the recognition that there is a need to increase the ICC's geographical presence. With only one Arab signatory (Jordan) its presence is notably weak amongst Arab states.

45. As we noted in our Report on the 2005 human rights report, the USA continues to oppose the ICC.[56] The FCO states that this is because of US concerns over what it calls "politically motivated 'nuisance' cases".[57] However, progress has been made on its role in the broader international justice architecture. Commenting on the referral of the Darfur conflict to the ICC, Amnesty International told us it was a "major achievement" that the USA's veto in the UN Security Council was not used.[58] Human Rights Watch, in the same session, supported this optimism, saying "the US has come on board with respect to the ICC's work in Sudan, now that it has seen that it can be useful in addressing this crucial issue of impunity."[59]

46. The ICC has made important strides over the past year towards becoming fully operational. In addition to the points outlined above it has also adopted regulations for the Victims' Trust Fund and has held elections to replace six of its 18 judges who were nearing the end of their teams. Despite such progress however, a critical challenge faces the ICC, one which has been neatly summarised by the situation in Uganda. Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has approached the Ugandan government with an offer of a peace settlement which is conditional on the ICC dropping its charges against him and other LRA rebels, despite their involvement in a litany of crimes against humanity. On this subject, the Committee was encouraged to hear from Ian McCartney the strong statement that, "you cannot offer impunity to a group of individuals who have carried out mass murder, rape, violence of all sorts." He went on to back this up with a broader point that "if there was impunity in those cases it would simply send the signal that you can disengage from conflict for a short period, have the cases dropped and return to conflict if you do not get what you want."[60]

47. We conclude that the International Criminal Court is making good progress and we welcome the Government's support for it. We agree with the Minister that there can be no amnesty for those indicted by the Court and we recommend that the Government maintain this policy.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

48. The FCO Report outlines the United Kingdom's contribution to the ICTY, which includes the provision of documentary and eye-witness material in addition to financial support. Furthermore, the United Kingdom is one of the main sources of funding for initiatives which complement the work of the tribunal and has a sentence enforcement agreement with the ICTY.[61] The ICTY has made steady progress this year having by June 2006 completed proceedings against 94 individuals, 47 of whom have been found guilty and sentenced. In April 2006, it began the first of three multi-accused trials which it is confident will lead to major efficiency gains.

49. In March 2006, former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic died of natural causes while still in custody, an event which has led some to doubt the effectiveness of the ICTY with accusations that it offered too many opportunities for the former leader to use his trial to grandstand. Although no sentence was passed, Human Rights Watch do not doubt that the ICTY is bringing justice for victims in the ravaged Balkans: "Nevertheless, he died in prison."[62]

50. The death of Slobodan Milosevic makes the capture and trial of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and of Serb General Ratko Mladic even more urgent. The former is believed to be in hiding in Republica Srpska and the latter in Serbia. However, the timetable that has been laid down by the ICTY suggests that the tribunal will 'wind down' in 2010, raising fears that the fugitives merely need to remain in hiding before walking free. Amnesty International were direct on this point and said "the tribunal needs to remain effective in some form until Karadzic and Mladic are brought to account."[63] Ian McCartney added "there can be no timelines for crimes against humanity."[64]

51. Indeed, Amnesty International went on to point out that capturing these two high profile figures would have wider implications for the region, especially in light of the Ahtisaari proposals for Kosovo: "In establishing effective approaches to justice in the countries of the former Yugoslavia, it has to be seen that such people are brought to account and that good and effective justice systems can be set up in the aftermath."[65] In addition, Amnesty was not persuaded by the case for passing lower profile cases to domestic courts in the states of the former Yugoslavia, citing a lack of political will and legal capacity as barriers to an effective judicial process.

52. Concerns that the UN Security Council is keen to stick to the 2010 deadline have led to growing frustration that Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina are not doing all they can to find Karadzic and Mladic and release them to the ICTY. Amnesty International explained that when the EU put pressure on Croatia, linking the release of wanted persons hiding on Croatian soil to any future EU accession, it "improved the way that it was handling them." Amnesty continued, "pressure must be exerted on Serbia."[66] We were therefore encouraged to hear from Ian McCartney that both Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina have been put in a similar position:

    They want to have a normalised relationship with Europe, and when NATO made the decision to agree with them a Partnership for Peace, that came with the strong obligation for them to co-operate to put those two people in front of the Tribunal.[67]

53. We recommend that, in its response to this Report, the Government make clear what requirements have been made of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia under the NATO Partnership for Peace agreements and that it provide its assessment of whether these are being fulfilled.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone

54. The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) has made good progress this year, most notably with the transfer of Charles Taylor from Nigeria to The Hague to face trial. The former Liberian president is accused of funding and arming Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels who were infamous for recruiting, drugging and arming child soldiers during the Sierra Leonean conflict. The FCO Report explains that the United Kingdom played a critical role in this operation, most notably by putting pressure on President Obasanjo of Nigeria, who had been harbouring Charles Taylor. In offering to try the former Liberian president, the Netherlands requested that any consequent sentence be served elsewhere and the United Kingdom has offered to fulfil this demand. The trial is expected to commence in June.[68] A sense of genuine optimism surrounds this capture, as Ian McCartney outlined: "the international community delivered a major advance in combating impunity against those accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide."[69]

55. The SCSL goes further than bringing justice to the perpetrators of horrendous crimes during the 1990s conflict, as Amnesty International explained: "you see the tremendous impact that it has had and the great legacy that it will leave in the Sierra Leone justice system."[70] However, due to major security concerns it has proved impossible to house the trial of Charles Taylor in Freetown, therefore disconnecting the Sierra Leonean population from the process and its developments. Despite expressing understanding of the security concerns, Human Rights Watch did make it clear that they "have concerns about the fact that the trial of Charles Taylor is now going to take place so far from the region…it is very important that these cases should actually have relevance to the communities where the abuses were committed."[71]

56. We welcome the Government's constructive role in helping to bring Charles Taylor to justice. We recommend that the Government work with its international partners to ensure that Charles Taylor's trial in The Hague remains accessible to the population in Sierra Leone.

54   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2006, Cm 6916, October 2006, p 220 Back

55   Ibid, p 221 Back

56   Foreign Affairs Committee, First Report of Session 2005-06, Human Rights Annual Report 2005, HC 574, paras 23-28 Back

57   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2006, Cm 6916, October 2006, p 221 Back

58   Q 4 Back

59   Q 4 Back

60   Q 62 Back

61   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2006, Cm 6916, October 2006, p 222 Back

62   Q 8 Back

63   Q 7 Back

64   Q 63 Back

65   Q 10 Back

66   Q 15 Back

67   Q 64 Back

68   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2006, Cm 6916, October 2006, p 223 Back

69   Ev 51 Back

70   Q 11 Back

71   Q 13 Back

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Prepared 29 April 2007