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(" . The Secretary of State shall not ratify the ICC Statute before it has been ratified by the United States of America.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall be extremely brief. The purpose of the amendment is merely to back up the admirable sentiments expressed so vigorously by the noble Lord, Lord Shore, and my noble friend Lord Howell on the Front Bench, particularly what they have said about the reservations of the United States towards the proposed legislation and the establishment of the court.

The Government say that they are determined that Britain should be in the vanguard; they say that they are determined that Britain should be among the few; they say that Britain should be up there with those human rights-respecting countries, Zimbabwe and Iran, but take a different approach from the United States. It is not that we lack confidence in our Armed Forces, as was suggested, but we fear that there will be frivolous prosecutions and that unjustified accusations will be made. Before Ministers dismiss those fears, they should acknowledge more than they have done that they are strongly and widely held in the United States. As I said earlier, when I intervened in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Shore, even President Clinton, who chose to ratify the statute at the very end of his presidency, said that it required amendment before there could be legislation in the United States Congress. There is strong opposition in the United States to what is proposed. John Bolton has been one of the fiercest and most outspoken opponents, but Mr Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State Powell and Mr Wolfawitz have all expressed their fears. Senator Helms said that the measure will be dead on arrival if it arrives in the United States Senate.

I put it to the House that the United States and Britain are at the forefront of peacekeeping. When I said that in one of our earlier debates, I was rebuked and reminded of the efforts of Luxembourg and Israel in international peacekeeping. It seems to me that the difference between Luxembourg and Britain is as great as the difference between Britain and the United States. But we are the countries that are very much at risk. We cannot just dismiss the fears that have been expressed so widely in the United States. It is not just

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a question of a so-called "conservative" Congress, as has previously been alleged. There is very little democratic support for the measure.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Is he suggesting that there is virtually universal anxiety in the United States about ratification? Has he by any chance seen the letter recently written by 10 presidents and past presidents of the American International Law Association declaring that the anxieties are simply based on misconceptions?

Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, I am sure that plenty of American lawyers are in favour of this; the same could be said of lawyers in this country. However, what we are worried about is the opinion of certain non-lawyers. I suggest to the noble and learned Lord that political opinion in the United States, including that expressed by the Democratic Party, is against this measure. It has received little support in Congress.

I know that I shall be told that not only are lawyers to some extent in favour--although I suspect that they are in a minority--but that, in the past, the United States has on occasion been conservative about ratifying international agreements. That seems rather irrelevant. What matters is that we consider the case on its merits; namely, whether American opinion on this is right or wrong today, not whether American opinion has been right or wrong in the past.

I believe that the arguments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Shore, and by my noble friend on the Front Bench deserve serious consideration. I wish that the Government would acknowledge that widespread fears have been expressed in the United States, both in the administration and in political circles generally. For that reason, I think that it would be most unwise for the two leading countries in peacekeeping to go along with this proposal until either the United States has--as has been suggested by President Clinton--secured certain changes, or something is produced along the lines suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Shore. I beg to move.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I am bound to say that the doctrine which has been enunciated by the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, is a doctrine of despair. He is saying that the United States, whether it is right or wrong, should be followed. That is not a doctrine that I am prepared to accept. I am surprised that such a suggestion should have come from his lips. The noble Lord has not always supported the United States. To argue, as he does, that the United States should be followed regardless of the argument is not appreciated by this House and is, as I have said, a doctrine of despair.

I hope that the noble Lord will not pursue his logic and seek to divide the House. We have heard the argument put forward by my noble friend Lord Shore. As always, he has been engagingly articulate on a subject about which he is deeply concerned. However, having followed its logic, we have now passed that

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argument. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, will not pursue his suggestion and seek to divide the House.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, one of the great charms of this House is that one can hear opinions expressed from all sides of the debate, including those which are eccentric. I am very much in favour of the expression of eccentric opinion. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, will allow me to say that I regard the amendment before us as eccentric.

Above all, the noble Lord is someone who has stood for the political and legal sovereignty of this country. Above all, he is someone who has pointed to the danger of intrusions upon sovereignty from the European Union. One cannot imagine ever seeing an amendment tabled in his name indicating that we should not ratify this or any other treaty until Germany or France had done so. Indeed, on a previous occasion I think that the noble Lord referred to France in slightly pejorative terms. However, we have before us an amendment which indicates that, as an independent sovereign state engaged in deciding on the best interests of this country in the world community, we should not ratify this treaty unless and until the United States of America has done so.

I owe an enormous amount to the political and legal traditions of the United States. I studied at Harvard Law School for two years, learning at the feet of Henry Kissinger, among others. But I cannot imagine that the values of Senator Jesse Helms should influence us when deciding what is best for this country within the world community. Furthermore, the United States has a proud and honourable record of compliance with international treaty obligations, of upholding the rule of law, and of upholding due process.

There are many in the American legal community who would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, but there are also many in that community who would disagree with him. The same applies politically. Small "c" conservatives are not to be found only in the Republican Party; that position is not confined to either side of politics in the United States.

It is my respectful view that it makes no sense whatever for us to reach a decision on the ratification of an international treaty on the basis of what some other state decides it should or should not do. I agree that it is essential to the future of the ICC Statute that the United States should adhere to it as soon as that is possible. Furthermore, I agree that we should take every step we can to encourage our American friends and close allies to do so. Indeed, I am sufficiently optimistic about human nature to believe that, just as the United States eventually ratified the genocide convention, despite opposition from the likes of Senator Helms and his predecessor, Senator Bricker, the United States will, in due course, be reassured.

I have looked at the American objections one by one. They have been set out clearly in a helpful paper from the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture. With great respect, I do not believe those objections to be well founded.

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4.45 p.m.

The Earl of Erroll: My Lords, perhaps I may put a brief question to the Minister. If the Americans require amendments to be made before they will ratify the treaty, the treaty will then operate under a joint command. At that point, they will operate under an amended treaty while we will operate under this one. Will the fact that, in effect, two different treaties have been signed, produce a conflict of interest?

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, I believe that the noble Earl may have addressed his question to me. I do not think that the United States would be allowed to pick and choose. Like every other state in the world, it would have to accept without reservation the international obligations set out in the treaty. The same would apply to the Republic of India, which is another great democracy, and to the state of Israel. There are also many states that are not democracies at all and which have refused to sign and will not ratify the treaty. All nations will have to reach their own judgments. I understand that in the cases of India and Israel, both have problems to be faced. The same may be true of the United States. However, one hopes that, in the end, they will be able to follow suit.

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