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Lord Avebury: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the LTTE has an office in London? It collects money via that office, contributions being solicited from Tamil businessmen. The Sri Lankan authorities allege that those moneys are used to finance the military activities of the LTTE in Sri Lanka. Will the Government consider doing more to combat those activities? Will they discuss the issue with the Canadian authorities who have a similar problem in their country?
In relation to the negotiations and the facilitation by Norway, does the noble Baroness agree that Mr Prabhakaran recently showed himself to be completely intransigent and unwilling to negotiate because he believes he is winning the military struggle? Will not the Government, as the noble Lord, Lord Eden, suggested, consult other Commonwealth countries to see what further measures can be taken to bring this tragic conflict to an end?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, perhaps I can first deal with the noble Lord's last point. We have consulted our partners. There is unanimity in relation to how this matter should be dealt with. It is important to establish who will be the most effective interlocutor.
In relation to the activities of the LTTE in the UK, we are aware of the assertions that money is being collected. We remain determined that the UK should not be used as a base for supporting terrorism overseas in any way. The Government do not accept that terrorists feel welcome in the UK or that we will not take appropriate action. Where police investigations yield credible evidence that terrorist crimes have been committed, action is taken either under the criminal law, supported as necessary by the existing prevention of terrorism legislation or Immigration Act powers.
Viscount Waverley: My Lords, can the Minister tell the House how many asylum seekers there are in the UK from this conflict area? I am given to understand that the Sri Lankan authorities are concerned that it is via the asylum seekers' road that much of these funds actually goes back into Sri Lanka.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I cannot give your Lordships specific figures in relation to the number of asylum seekers. However, I can say that each asylum application will continue to be dealt with on its individual merits, in line with our obligations under the 1951 convention and its 1967 protocol. We shall look at these applications most carefully. Noble Lords can be assured that it is only in those cases where we feel that asylum is merited that such granting will take place.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, further to the comments of my noble friend Lord Eden and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, is the Minister aware--I am sure she is--that there is very great concern about the Tamil network operations in this country, as in Canada? Does she accept that we really must press for action to be taken to overcome the very strong feeling in Sri Lanka that, inadvertently--but, nevertheless, actually--we are aiding and abetting these organised groups which are planning violent atrocities on a very undesirable scale?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, if that were to be happening, it would, of course, be a disgraceful state of affairs. However, I can assure noble Lords that we do adhere to the rule of law in this country. We must have evidence before individuals can be arrested and dealt with. Moreover, where there is such evidence, the police authorities here will prosecute. I am sure that no one in this House would seek to suggest that this country should behave illegally or improperly in arresting those on either suspicion or assertion, and against whom there is no cogent evidence.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the legislation to enable ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court will be published as soon as practicable in this parliamentary Session, and introduced as soon as the parliamentary timetable allows.
Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I am grateful for the fact that the legislation will be published. However, given that the treaty requires 30 ratifications, can the Minister say how many countries have already ratified the treaty? Is it not essential that this country, especially in view of the fact that we are one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, should set an example to other countries by ratifying the treaty as soon as possible? Is it reasonable, therefore, to expect that the Bill will be brought forward early in the next Session? Further, would it perhaps be suitable for this legislation to be dealt with in the Moses Room, as that would enable it to become law sooner?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I can tell the noble Lord that 12 countries have ratified the treaty to date. Of course, it would be wholly inappropriate for me to say anything as to when the legislation will be introduced. However, I can certainly commend to the House some of the comments made by the noble Lord. If, as I believe, there is unanimity in this House on the matter, I am sure that we would all wish this particular Bill Godspeed.
Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, can my noble friend the Minister confirm that it continues to be the policy of the Government to maintain inviolate the existing text of the treaty and to persuade the American Government--if we can--that, if they have nothing to regret, they have nothing to fear?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I can certainly confirm that Her Majesty's Government are robust in their support of the International Criminal Court and that we shall continue to do all that we can to persuade our American colleagues that the text is an appropriate one with which they can concur. We shall continue to talk with them because it is of great importance that they should feel able to support the ICC in due course.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the proposals put forward by the Americans are unacceptable? Therefore, will the Government take the lead not only in persuading our other allies to reject
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, it is right to tell your Lordships' House that Her Majesty's Government have some concerns about the way in which the USA is approaching this proposal; and, indeed, we are discussing the matter with those concerned in some detail. The preparatory conference is taking place at present and, obviously, such matters are still under consideration. I can reassure the House that the Government's commitment to this Bill and to the ICC remains firm.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I do not know whether the court could have been up and running so quickly, but these are issues that we hope will be amenable to being dealt with by the ICC in the future. Indeed, there would be great benefit in that development.
Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, before we establish a new criminal court, would it not be advisable to be absolutely satisfied with the existing ad hoc tribunals, especially those in relation to Rwanda and Yugoslavia? Can the Minister tell the House whether the Government regard it as satisfactory that part of the financing for these bodies should come from the private sector? Is that really acceptable for a court? Further, do not the Government have to be clear about their own attitude to international law? For example, how will establishment of this court be compatible with a speech made by the Minister of State at the Foreign Office, Mr Peter Hain, in which he called for immunity from prosecution for war crimes for Jonas Savimbi?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, as regards financing, the ICC and how it will be financed will be a matter for discussion and consultation with all the parties. I am not able to give the noble Lord a definitive answer as to how that will be done. Indeed, it would not be appropriate for me to do so at this stage. I should point out that the other tribunals have had to engage in some very difficult issues and, so far, they have produced credible results.
We are moving to a different stage with the ICC. We hope that it will provide a certain cogency and coherence that has not been present before. We are hopeful that such matters will become a little easier to resolve once the ICC is up and running. I can tell the noble Lord that our own attitude towards international law is absolutely clear. Mr Muvunyi has been arrested and is awaiting trial. He will be transferred, as is appropriate, in due course.
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