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Standing Committee Debates
International Criminal Court [Lords]

International Criminal Court [Lords]

Standing Committee D

Tuesday 24 April 2001

(Afternoon)

[Mr. Frank Cook in the Chair]

International Criminal Court [Lords]

Clause 2

request for arrest and surrender

Amendment proposed [this day]: 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.'.—[Mr. Blunt.]

4.30 pm

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

The Chairman: I remind the Committee that with this we are taking 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 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.''.'.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate): The Government will be relieved to know that the wider debate on the statute has had a good airing. However, I should like to pick up some points that the Minister made in his reply to the debate. First, I stand corrected. I have wronged San Marino, Mr. Cook. San Marino is not the smallest country that has signed the treaty. That is Nauru, which has a population of 12,000. I hope that the Pacific is not part of the Minister's responsibilities, as he should know that.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough): It is even smaller than Market Harborough.

Mr. Blunt: Indeed it is, as my hon. and learned Friend points out, and smaller than Reigate and Redhill combined. That demonstrates the wider argument that we had this morning. If the United Kingdom wants to exercise as much influence in this institution to represent our citizens, we should break ourselves up into fully independent county-sized areas, each with a population of about 1 million. We would then all accede to the court and the United Kingdom would manage to collect together 60 votes.

Mr. Stephen Day (Cheadle): That is what the Government are trying to do.

Mr. Blunt: That is what the Government are trying to do, as my hon. Friend says, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. If, by some unhappy chance, they are returned at the next election, we then face the wretched business of regional assemblies and the regionalisation of England. We could be in that position. However, if we are going to do that for these purposes, we should get on with it, on the basis of county size. About 1 million people live in the county of Surrey, and, if we had 60 units of that size, we would dominate the International Criminal Court in a most satisfactory manner. We would also be able to have all British jurists as judges in the chamber within the formal rules of the court.

However, I digress. I should like to take the Minister back to the point he made that the amendment would amount to a massive let-out clause and to an accusation that we do not have faith in the institution before we set it up. I fundamentally disagree with the Minister. This is not a massive let-out clause. The amendment, in the end, does nothing more than Parliament in binding the Executive to take certain actions if we find ourselves in dispute with the International Criminal Court.

I am concerned by the Minister's remark that the United Kingdom must trust the institution. That is not a tenable position to take if the Government are to discharge their obligations unto citizens. He may want to trust the institution, but in the end he cannot blindly put his faith in how the institution will work. We do not know how the institution will develop. What we do know is that there are elements of doubt within the rules. We cannot control how other countries will vote, how they will select the prosecutor, how the judges will be selected and who they will be, or what jurisprudence will accrete to the institution in the years to come. Therefore, I do not intend to press the amendments to a Division.

However, I look to the Government for an acceptance, at least at some point during the proceedings, that we cannot control the future development of the institution. We know what we want it to do. We know how we think it should behave—in a reasonable and responsible manner—with regard to important crimes, over which it will have judicial authority. A form of statement must ultimately be made on behalf of the United Kingdom and France—the only two members of the United Nations Security Council likely to sign up to the ICC—to the effect that, once the negotiations on the statute have been conducted, any resulting institution might not work in the way intended. Under article 127, if that occurs we have the right to withdraw, with a year's notice, as does any other state. It is important that Britain has that right, as part of the ratification process—which could be drawn up in our proceedings, on Report or Third Reading.

The Government should flag up, as my amendment seeks, the fact that the institution cannot have a completely blank cheque to behave in any way that it sees fit. The interests of the states who are party to it, and the particular interests of the United Kingdom, require recognition. It must be recognised that the United Kingdom has a set of interests that it wishes to protect. We want the institution to work in a way that, in the language used in the statute, any reasonable person would accept is how it is intended to work. We must register concern if the jurisprudence goes beyond that, in terms of the laws made by judges on the development of the institution, and if the institution is influenced or used by the personalities who are elected by the group of 77 countries—or any other collection of countries—who will make the court work. In summary, concern should be registered if the institution is made to work in a way that is effectively inimical to the interests of the United Kingdom and the other members of the Security Council.

I hope that I have established that the amendments are not fundamental to the statute and do not undermine them; I take issue with members of the Committee who claimed earlier that they did. I am therefore prepared to withdraw the amendment; others in a similar vein, in terms of their declaratory tone, will be tabled later.

Mr. Mark Hendrick (Preston): If the right to withdraw is already available under article 127, is not the amendment superfluous? To draw an analogy, is not the amendment like going into a marriage knowing full well that the legal instrument of divorce is available and asking the priest if he could include in the service the fact that if either side does not like what is going on, a divorce can be arranged?

The Chairman: Order. We should confine ourselves to the specifics of the amendment.

Mr. Blunt: I am grateful, Mr. Cook.

The proper point that the hon. Gentleman makes, that the amendment is superfluous, is incorrect. He makes the mistake—which, if I may say, is too frequently made by Government Back Benchers—of failing to distinguish between the Executive and Parliament. My amendments seek to bind the Executive to taking certain actions and to enable Parliament then to set up a Committee of inquiry of both Houses of Parliament to satisfy itself as to the reasonableness of the actions of the ICC or of the prosecuting authorities of the United Kingdom, in a situation where a British citizen is the subject of a warrant for arrest issued by the ICC.

My amendments express a concern about the future conduct of the institution. I hope that the Government can flag up the necessity for some form of test of reasonableness as to how the institution works in practice. We cannot just have blind faith that it will work in the way that we hope and then accept whatever emerges. We must bear the burden of responsibility to the citizens of the United Kingdom if the institution goes wrong. It is important for the future of global governance that that does not happen. I am the first to accept that. We must hope that it does not, although without the major players in it, it is more likely that it might. If it does, I hope that the Government will find a way at least to acknowledge that there is a ground for concern.

 
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Prepared 24 April 2001