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Dr. Julian Lewis: The hon. Gentleman probably knows that I have always been sympathetic to the principle behind the Bill. However, one matter puzzles me. What happens if a British service man is prosecuted and acquitted in this country, but the ICC prosecutor is

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not satisfied with that result? Will he be able to draw the service man into the process, or is he safe from such prosecution?

Mr. Worthington: That is an important question, which the hon. Gentleman asks with respect. He wants to know that people will not be subject to vexatious inquiry. I am satisfied from what I have read that if we go about an investigation in good faith, no individual has the power to take further action. Any additional inquiry--never mind a prosecution--would be subject to a court of judges. Those safeguards were negotiated in Rome.

We must make progress and it is only by establishing the ICC that we will get the procedures right. We will not do that if we stand outside the process. I had no great hopes of satisfactory prosecutions in the two tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. However, they are an inspiration to us, as was the Scottish prosecution of the Lockerbie incident. People who would not otherwise have been prosecuted for a mass murder have, because of international co-operation, been convicted. I recently returned from a visit to Cambodia with the International Development Committee, and I am pleased to hear that steps are being taken to establish an international court to prosecute those who committed the atrocities under Pol Pot. That is also an inspiration. Such actions mark the way forward.

The way to make progress and to get the answers that we want is by making an enthusiastic commitment to the cause rather than by doing what the Conservatives suggest. The major value of the ICC is its preventive or deterrent effect. We hope that people will be deterred by the knowledge that their crimes will be punished. Indeed, the Conservatives have always argued about the power of deterrence for domestic crime. If it works in a national context, it should work in an international setting.

I am enthusiastic about the Bill, and my comments must be taken in that light. I should like retrospection explained in more detail. Why will the ICC consider only offences that occur once it has been established? Idi Amin was mentioned; I am puzzled as to why his crimes will not be subject to the ICC. I accept the principle of retrospection if an act was not a crime when it was committed and the person involved did not know that he was breaking the law. However, I find it difficult to accept that principle if people are mass murderers and criminals in many other ways. Why is the ICC not a legitimate technique to bring them to justice? Why will they not be subject to it?

The hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) recently visited Sierra Leone, where he will have seen the consequences of heinous crimes against humanity. It is unacceptable that it is not possible to bring Foday Sankoh's followers to justice for their crimes against the children of Sierra Leone. Those were crimes any time, any place. I am puzzled that people cannot be prosecuted because the law cannot be applied retrospectively. Perhaps I have not read enough about it, but I think that others will wonder why the criminality of Idi Amin and Foday Sankoh are not subject to the ICC.

The Act and the court will be imperfect. However, we must press on. One major imperfection is that different states will not be equal before the law. The countries that are currently subject to international action are Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. They are not big, powerful

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countries. The people who will be prosecuted are not likely to be on the winning side in a dispute. It will not enhance the court's legitimacy if the only people prosecuted are small fry and losers. Some actions, such as those by Russia in Chechnya, have been criticised. The actions of the Chinese in Tiananmen square have been criticised, and in some countries, the scale of the bombing of civilians would constitute a war crime. However, powerful countries such as America would not be prosecuted for them.

The court's partiality is therefore a huge imperfection, but we gain more by establishing an International Criminal Court than by delaying. Its existence would have helped us with the problems that President Pinochet posed. Fifty or 60 years ago, establishing the Nuremberg trials was right; so is setting up the International Criminal Court.

We must begin by reducing the problems. The court is a weapon against wickedness, not the solution. We must build up a culture of justice with which to replace the current culture of immunity. The establishment of the Yugoslav tribunal must give Milosevic some palpitations. Now that the rotten core has fallen, it will not be long before Mladic and Karadzic are taken, too.

The imperfections are substantial, and one of the major problems is the attitude of the United States. The only good action that Clinton took in his last days in office was signing the relevant statute. However, there is no optimism that the new presidency will do anything other than run away from the International Criminal Court. American attitudes to international activity are a genuine problem. I hope that the Americans have been taken aback by the universal expressions of disgust about their attitude to Kyoto, but I doubt it. Their attitude to the International Criminal Court is also disturbing. Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary said:

What does that mean? Does he mean that leadership stems from activities of which the court would disapprove? Does he believe that the United States would be subject to vexatious complaints? The statute's framework provides protection against that. Rumsfeld's comments are so antagonistic that it is difficult to ascertain the progress that can be made. That seriously weakens the court.

Ann Clwyd: On this occasion, I want to defend the United States, which had an ambassador for war crimes; other countries should follow suit. One of his roles was negotiating an agreement with Cambodia, which my hon. Friend mentioned, and persuading that country to set up a war crimes tribunal there.

Secondly, the United States funds Indict, an organisation that I chair and that exists to bring Iraqi war criminals to justice. We have collected evidence--and continue to do so--that we have submitted to the Attorney-General for prosecutions that can take place in this country. The United States should be complimented on that.

Mr. Worthington: I compliment the United States on that, and I stress that there are many Americans whose internationalism hon. Members want to encourage. However, it would be wrong to deny that we were depressed by recent comments from the United States.

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We must press ahead with the International Criminal Court. Who remembers who was President of the United States at the time of the Nuremberg trials? [Hon. Members: "Truman."] I know that it was Truman, but his words at the time do not matter; the establishment of the Nuremberg trials matters. We must set up the International Criminal Court and thus establish a framework for the compliance of countries such as America and China, which are not currently involved in it.

I was pleased that the right hon. Member for Horsham said that he would approach the Committee stage constructively. I hope that that will happen. I recently endured the Committee stage of the International Development Bill. All hon. Members supported it and our Committee stage should therefore have been useful--but it was not.

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham): It is interesting to know that the hon. Gentleman does not believe that the Committee proceedings on the International Development Bill were useful. For hon. Members' information, five new clauses were not even debated because we ran out of time. I was not aware of any truly constructive contributions from Labour Members; Conservative Members made them all.

Mr. Worthington: If hon. Members examine the record of proceedings, they will realise that it is difficult to interrupt a monologue. We had to endure a monologue from the hon. Lady. Her approach was not constructive, and she gave us no opportunity to make suggestions.

I concede that there should be many opportunities to consider the details of the Bill and for Members of all parties to make constructive suggestions. If the hon. Lady leads for the Opposition in Committee, I hope that she will approach the Bill in that spirit. She will then realise that Labour Members can contribute constructively if they are allowed to do so.

We should greet this important measure enthusiastically. It is being introduced at the end of the Parliament, and I am proud of our achievement. Let us get the proceedings under way and then make the necessary improvements.

7.6 pm

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross): My party supports the Bill warmly and unequivocally. I have long taken a great interest in the extension of the effectiveness of jurisdiction over crimes that are committed internationally. Within 12 months of becoming a Member of Parliament, I introduced a little-remembered measure, the Tokyo Convention Bill, to enable the then Labour Government to ratify that convention and thus deal with crimes, including hijacking committed on board aircraft. It is therefore satisfying not only that such a major and historic step forward in extending international criminal jurisdiction over war crimes was agreed in the 1998 statute of Rome, but that we are among the first to try to implement it.

I want briefly to mention the position of the United States, in which I have a peculiar personal interest. The United States has not always been reluctant to get involved in establishing an international criminal jurisdiction to deal with war crimes and crimes against

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humanity. In the last years of the second world war, the American Administration took on Churchill as Prime Minister and Viscount Simon as Lord Chancellor, who sought to deal with the top Nazis by simply lining them up and shooting them as a political act. Led by John J. McLoy, who was assistant Secretary for War, and Judge Sam Rosenman, the American Government took the view that it was important to bring those criminals to justice. They argued intensively with the British Government for two years. It was not until the San Francisco conference that Anthony Eden was finally forced to agree. I have a particular interest in that, because my late American father-in-law, who was later the president of the American Law Institute, was the counsel to Jack McLoy, who came to this country and drew up the documents that were ultimately ratified in San Francisco.

I therefore ask the Americans to look to their history and see what an important role they played in establishing this approach to dealing with the scourge of the 20th century--the horrors of crimes committed in war, which have violated the Geneva conventions and whose perpetrators have not always been effectively brought to justice.

The American Administration--both the present Administration and that of President Clinton before it--have felt some inhibitions about the process--perhaps for political reasons, but also because Americans have been brought up in a climate of constitutionalism, which makes them keen to ensure that any steps they take do not result in a denial of due process to their own citizens. However, it has to be said that by taking their present stance on this matter, they have done little to protect American citizens--a point that has been well made by at least as many authoritative lawyers in the United States as have been cited on the other side of the argument by the official Opposition.

States that adhere to the statute of Rome will be at liberty to prosecute American citizens under their own domestic arrangements, whether or not the United States decides to adhere to the system. Indeed, if the United States does not adhere, under the terms of the statute it will be open to the International Criminal Court to prosecute American citizens who have committed international criminal offences. It is therefore hard to see the argument that lies behind the current American position.

I much prefer the argument deployed by the Foreign Secretary when he opened the debate: that by adhering to the system, ratifying the statute and enacting the provisions that incorporate into our domestic law crimes under the statute, we enable ourselves to deal with such matters within our own jurisdiction. That is the same broad principle that was cited in support of the incorporation of the European convention on human rights into our law. It is better to have rights secured by our domestic law, so that such crimes can be handled by our domestic courts--and it seems to me that that argument applies as much in the United States as it does in our own different constitutional situation. Moreover, there is no reason to believe that the countries that have come together to draft the statute, with such regard to process, will create a system that offers less protection than the due process of law enjoyed by citizens of the United States within that country.

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Surely this country is right to be among those that seek to bring the provisions into early effect. We must recognise that the great doubt that people in this country have had about the efficacy of international law has stemmed largely from an awareness of the impotence of international law in the face of the most monstrous crimes in history committed in the last century--its impotence to do more than denounce the offences, and its failure to bring to justice the Pol Pots, the Idi Amins, the Saddam Husseins and the others whose names will reverberate throughout history for the monstrosities that they have been guilty of perpetrating.

This development must be welcomed in broad terms, and it is right that the British Government should seek to lose no time in bringing it into operative effect. In passing, however, I would like to say a little about the process domestically. A number of people in both Houses of Parliament, including myself, have taken the view that Westminster's procedures for the scrutiny of treaties have been deficient. The speech by the right hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude) to some extent demonstrated the need for different procedures, because by using this adversarial forum he was able to make a number of assertions that would not stand up to the kind of scrutiny to which they ought to have been subjected before the Bill was brought before us.

If we had automatic pre-legislative scrutiny of treaties, I believe that the right hon. Gentleman would not have been able to cite The Daily Telegraph's unnamed authorities as evidence in support of his views. If Admiral Boyce, to whom he alluded, had raised a serious objection, it could have been scrutinised and argued about specifically in Committee.

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