House of Commons portcullis
House of Commons
Session 2000-01
Publications on the internet
Standing Committee Debates
International Criminal Court Bill [Lords]

International Criminal Court Bill [Lords]

Standing Committee D

Tuesday 24 April 2001

(Morning)

[Mr. Frank Cook in the Chair]

International Criminal Court Bill [Lords]

10.30 am

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. John Battle): I beg to move,

    That the remaining proceedings on the International Criminal Court Bill [Lords] shall be taken in the following order, namely, Clauses 2 to 24, Schedule 2, Clauses 25 and 26, new Clauses Nos. 1 to 8 (if selected by the Chairman), Clauses 27 and 28, Schedule 3, Clauses 29 to 34, Schedule 4, Clauses 35 to 37, Schedule 5, Clause 38, Schedule 6, Clauses 39 to 42, Schedule 7, Clauses 43 to 50, Schedule 8, Clauses 51 to 54, Schedule 9, Clauses 55 to 83, Schedule 10, Clause 84, Schedule 1, remaining new Clauses, new Schedules.

We think that that would be a more sensible way in which to consider the Bill.

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham): I thank the Minister for moving the motion. We have no problem with it and are happy to accept it as drafted.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 2

Request for arrest and surrender

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate): I beg to move amendment No. 38, in page 2, line 8, at end insert—

    `unless he is satisfied that the person referred to is a citizen of the United Kingdom or the crime alleged was carried out on the territory of the United Kingdom.

    (1A) If he is satisfied that the person referred to is a citizen of the United Kingdom or the crime alleged was carried out on the territory of the United Kingdom the Secretary of State will commence proceedings under Article 19 of the ICC Statute to challenge the jurisdiction of the ICC.

    (1B) If the challenge to the ICC under subsection (1A) is unsuccessful—

    (a) an enquiry shall be held by a joint committee of both Houses of Parliament as to why the ICC had satisfied itself that the United Kingdom had not properly discharged its obligations under Article 17, and if the Committee finds that the judgement of the ICC was in the judgement of the Committee unreasonable it shall request Her Majesty's Government to give notification of withdrawal under Article 127;

    (b) he shall transmit the request and documents accompanying it to an appropriate judicial officer.'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 39, in clause 5, page 4, line 10, at end insert—

    `and

    (c) that the person brought before the court is not a citizen of the United Kingdom'.

No. 40, in clause 5, page 4, line 42, at end insert—

    `(10) If the competent court is satisfied that the person brought before the court is a citizen of the United Kingdom it shall adjourn the proceedings and notify the Secretary of State.

    (11) On receipt of notification from the competent court that the warrant of the ICC refers to a citizen of the United Kingdom the Secretary of State will commence proceedings under Article 19 of ICC Statute to challenge the jurisdiction of the ICC.

    (12) If the challenge to the ICC under subsection (11) is unsuccessful—

    (a) an enquiry shall be held by a joint committee of both Houses of Parliament as to why the ICC had satisfied itself that the United Kingdom had not properly discharged its obligations under Article 17, and if the Committee finds that the judgement of the ICC was in the judgement of the Committee unreasonable it shall request Her Majesty's Government to give notification of withdrawal under Article 127;

    (b) the competent court shall resume its proceedings and make a delivery order.''.'.

The purpose of the amendments is to to flag up potential problems with the practical operation of the statute and the International Criminal Court. I shall discuss in detail how they relate to those problems. I do not want to repeat my remarks later in our deliberations, but I think that it is appropriate to examine the statute and its potential consequences now.

The amendments are intended to emphasise a Government's duty towards the security of their country's citizens. They would apply if the ICC were to issue a warrant for the arrest of a British subject, or in connection with an offence that had taken place on British territory, where normal jurisdiction would properly belong to the United Kingdom. The amendments are designed to address situations where something has gone wrong with the system of complementarity as established under the statute.

In the normal course of events, a British citizen who commits such an offence is brought to justice by British courts. We are looking at a case in which the established system has failed and the ICC has issued a warrant for the arrest of a person in the United Kingdom. The amendments would make it the first duty of the Home Secretary to check whether that person was a British subject. If

    ``the person referred to is a citizen of the United Kingdom or the crime alleged was carried out on the territory of the United Kingdom'',

additional duties are imposed on the Home Secretary. He would have to appeal for jurisdiction under the statute and find out why the ICC had issued a warrant for a British subject's arrest in the UK, where we would normally have brought that person to trial ourselves. It would appear that, in such a case, the whole ICC system had gone wrong. The Home Secretary would have a duty under article 19 of the ICC statute to say that the person should properly be tried in the United Kingdom and to appeal for jurisdiction.

Mr. Desmond Browne (Kilmarnock and Loudoun): I am trying to follow the hon. Gentleman's argument. I have to inform him that we will have jurisdiction in such a case. There will be no necessity for a member of the Executive to appeal for jurisdiction because it will exist and persist in the United Kingdom, whether or not a person is prosecuted here. Jurisdiction is not dependent on whether there is a prosecution; it persists outwith that.

Mr. Blunt: The hon. Gentleman's intervention goes right to the heart of the issues addressed in the amendment. It is quite right that we should have jurisdiction. However, the only instances under which the ICC would issue a warrant for the arrest of a British subject in such circumstances, would be if the court felt that the case was admissible, under article 17 of the Rome statute. Article 17.1(a) states that the ICC can take jurisdiction when

    ``The case is being investigated or prosecuted by a State which has jurisdiction over it, unless the State is unwilling or unable genuinely to carry out the investigation or prosecution;''

There could be circumstances in which the ICC concludes that the British justice system is not willing to put a person on trial.

Mr. Browne: I agree with the hon. Gentleman in general terms, but the important point is that it is the failure to exercise jurisdiction, not the existence or otherwise of it, that causes the complementary jurisdiction of the ICC to kick in. What I sought to draw out from him was the reason why he was arguing that a member of our Executive would have to examine whether we had jurisdiction. The fact is that jurisdiction will exist; it is the exercising of it that is important. The one person who will know why jurisdiction has not been exercised in this country is the Home Secretary—he will not need to investigate to find that out.

Mr. Blunt: This is an important discussion. Let us imagine a case in which the ICC has issued a warrant for the arrest of a British subject. We may be put in the position where our country's judicial system is in dispute with the ICC because the ICC has come to a conclusion under article 17.1(a) and (b). The latter sub-paragraph refers to a case that:

    ``has been investigated by a State''—

the prosecuting authorities in Britain have investigated it—and

    ``the State has decided not to prosecute the person concerned, unless the decision resulted from the unwillingness or inability of the State genuinely to prosecute;''

I will illustrate that situation with a case study. I have seen in print a prima facie case from a lawyer that shows that the bombing of a television station in Belgrade in the war over Kosovo amounted to a war crime because it was known that civilians—non-combatants—were inside and they died as a consequence of the deliberate action of the allied air force—I believe that it was the action of the American air force in that instance. Hon. Members will remember the debate at that time about whether it was appropriate to attack television stations. The line taken by the Government and NATO was that such a target was an organ of the Serbian state that was producing propaganda, and that was why it was attacked. However, it is arguable that it was an inappropriate target, and many people in this country and elsewhere in the world took that position. If the aircraft involved had been British, a case might have been brought against the British Prime Minister and the Executive. A complaint to the ICC could have been made by Serbia that the Prime Minister was guilty of a war crime and that the case should be investigated.

The expression on the face of the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Gapes) suggests that he finds risible the idea that the Prime Minister could go on trial. It might be risible in the United Kingdom, but if something were to go wrong in the relationship between the UK and the ICC and a warrant were to be issued, it might not be so risible.

Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South): The hon. Gentleman talks about something going wrong in the relationship between the UK and the ICC. Is he saying that there is a certainty or a great likelihood of this country being so out of line with the higher tenets of international behaviour that the rest of the world would gang up against us to put our Prime Minister on trial for an alleged war crime? Other members of the international coalition were involved in the example he cites—the American pilots who flew the aircraft under the United States presidency and so on. What he says is simply absurd.

 
Continue

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index


©Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 24 April 2001