International Criminal Court Bill [Lords]

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Mrs. Gillan: I am grateful to the Minister. I hope that our dialogue on the amendment will set other people's minds at rest. It may be a minor correction to the Minister, but someone who is sitting in the dock in The Hague facing substantial penalties for serious crimes may not appreciate the niceties of punctuation, omitting words and paragraphs and differences in translations across several languages. The Minister, in his characteristically generous spirit, has put some useful points on the record, which may help us with the interpretation of the legislation, as it will undoubtedly come into statute law in the United Kingdom.

I should be grateful if the Minister would consider ensuring that corrections to the Rome statute suggested by the UK Government to the UN are always placed on the record in the Library and notified to the House of Commons, so that we know when the Government suggest corrections and what they are. As this is a transparent process and a matter of great international import, I hope that the Minister will also ensure that full details of all the corrections that have been made so far and the record of any discussions and negotiations that have taken place between officials are made available in the Library and the House of Commons notified. He acknowledged that such discussions are undertaken not by Ministers but by officials, who do a first-class job, as we all know.

We are talking about an international treaty of a substantial nature, which has given birth to a Bill and a statute that will change the face of UK law. It is, therefore, extremely important that changes made to the fundamental document should be part of a transparent process and placed on the record in the House of Commons.

Mr. Garnier: Like me, my hon. Friend has been dealing with the Rome statute as published in December 1999 by the Stationery Office. Only minor changes may have been made since that date, but it would be extremely helpful to all hon. Members if an updated print of the statute were placed in the Vote Office. I am sure that that would not be very difficult.

Mrs. Gillan: I am grateful for that intervention, because I was about to ask the Minister to consider what process is undertaken in the House of Commons to ensure that all the documents that we have are up to date. There is many a slip 'twixt cup and lip, and there may be a publication in addition to the one that the Vote Office gave me.

Mr. Battle: As far as I am aware, the series of corrections to which the hon. Lady referred were made up to the point at which the Rome statute was agreed. As I understand it, there have been no corrections to the ICC statute as published in the Command Paper in December 1999, to which the hon. and learned Member for Harborough referred. There have been no corrections to the English text of the statute since July 1999. We are not aware of any corrections that remain to be made, but we could without any difficulty make available in the Library as transparent and helpful a summary as possible of what corrections were made initially and point that the process has reached.

I do not want to leave the impression that there is an on-going correction process, because that is not the case. Corrections have been made, the translations have settled down and the problems with commas, wording and titles have been ironed out. We can now move forward in the confidence that we have substantial material to discuss and on which we can agree.

Mrs. Gillan: I am grateful for that intervention. I hope that what the Minister says is absolutely accurate, but I will take his word for it. [Interruption] He hopes that it is absolutely accurate too. I will not be so curmudgeonly as to try to prove him wrong, because it is the spirit of the amendment that is important, and it was tabled to enable us to seek clarification and obtain guidelines. We have had a satisfactory debate, and I am grateful for the Minister's full reply. He may think of something else that might aid hon. Members to understand the continuous process of change that is taking place. I am sure that he will now have noted that the House of Commons and its Members require that process to be transparent. As I said that this was a probing amendment, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Blunt: I beg to move amendment No. 36, in page 1, line 9, leave out—

    `(other than the crime of aggression)'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take amendment No. 37, in page 1, line 10, at end insert—

    `other than crimes arising out of amendments to Articles 5, 6, 7 and 8 of the ICC Statute'.

Mr. Blunt: The amendments are extremely important and relate to the substance of our discussion, not only in terms of the application of the key articles of the Rome statute to the British population, but to the relationship between the Executive and Parliament. I hope that Government Members who are not part of the Executive will try to pay attention to my arguments, which deal with that relationship.

I am intrigued by the exception that was made for the crime of aggression in the definition of ICC crime. If we are content to allow ourselves to be subject to the provisions of the Rome statute, I do not understand why we would make an exception in the Bill for the crime of aggression. The explanatory notes purport to give an explanation.

My initial thought in tabling amendment No. 36 was to test the internationalist views and temper of the Government by removing the exception

    ``other than the crime of aggression''

to make the United Kingdom subject to the rulings of the ICC on aggression, as it is on war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The Government's explanation for the exception in clause 1 is that

    ``Agreement has yet to be reached''

—on the crime of aggression—

    ``and would in any case require an amendment of the ICC Statute. The earliest such an amendment could be adopted is seven years after the entry into force of the Statute (see Articles 121 and 123). Any amendment to the crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC, if accepted by the UK, would need to be given effect by amendment to this legislation.''

If amendments Nos. 36 and 37 are taken together, they would put in the Bill the Government's reservations about the case of aggression in exactly the same terms as any change to the key articles of the statute, which are 5, 6, 7 and 8. My amendments mirror the reservations—or, in effect, the protection—in the position that the United Kingdom as a state party negotiated in article 121 of the treaty. Article 121.5, states:

    ``Any amendment to articles 5, 6, 7 and 8 of this Statute shall enter into force for those States Parties which have accepted the amendment one year after the deposit of their instruments of ratification or acceptance. In respect of a State Party which has not accepted the amendment, the Court shall not exercise its jurisdiction regarding a crime covered by the amendment when committed by that State Party's nationals or on its territory.''

That purports to give the protection to the United Kingdom that the Government desire if an amendment were negotiated.

The key element is that we do not have control over which amendments can be negotiated, because they do not have to be negotiated by unanimity. The assembly of states parties will decide whether a proposal that it receives for an amendment to the key sections of the statute should be discussed by a majority, and the adoption of such an amendment will require a two thirds majority of the states parties. The treaty goes on to state:

    ``Except as provided in paragraph 5, an amendment shall enter into force for all States Parties one year after instruments of ratification or acceptance have been deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations by seven-eighths of them.''

That takes us to why the United Kingdom needs protection. It appears to be protected under the statute, but that makes reference only to the Government, not to Parliament. Parliament should be given the same protection in the clause that the Government have seen fit to give in the case of aggression. The meaning of ``aggression'' will have to be negotiated because it was not decided in time to be included in the Rome statute. Reaching international agreement on that is an immensely difficult task, but Parliament should have the same protection in negotiating the statute as the Executive have given themselves in article 121.5.

11.15 am

That is important because the Government will find themselves under many pressures when negotiating amendments. They will not want to be seen to be outwith the general mood in the international community. That is why we are facing having the statute negotiated the way that it is. It can properly be argued that the Government are excessively sensitive to public opinion not only in the United Kingdom but in the global village, and that is why we are the only permanent member of the Security Council of the United Nations likely to ratify the treaty without a reservation. The French will enter a reservation but of the three largest members of the Security Council, China has not even signed the statute and the United States has made it clear that it will not ratify it; I do not know the attitude of the Russians, and I would be grateful if the Minister could clarify that. The United Kingdom, as a permanent member of the Security Council, has an exposed position.

Mr. Gapes: Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the policy of our Government and Parliament should be determined by a lowest common denominator approach and that we should not care about international obligations or improving situations? Perhaps he thinks that we should have the same human rights policy as the Chinese Government?

Mr. Blunt: I am not suggesting anything of the kind. I am saying that I expect the Government to come to a balance of judgment on the issues. The United Kingdom, with a population of 60 million and with a long record of interventions round the world, has to use a quite different set of judgments from those of the Governments of San Marino, Dominica, the Marshall Islands, Belize, Luxembourg or Fiji in deciding whether to be bound by the details of the Rome statute. All those countries have populations of fewer than 1 million people—the Marshall Islands has 51,000, Dominica has 71,000, and San Marino 27,000—and they have all ratified the statute. They will have the same influence in electing judges, by secret ballot, who will interpret the statute—which we will discuss later—and will be part of the seven-eighths of countries that are in a position to ensure that amendments to the statute end up in the statute. At that point the UK Government will have to decide whether, under article 121.5, they will accept such amendments.

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