International Criminal Court Bill [Lords]

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Mr. Blunt: While the hon. Gentleman addresses his remarks to Yugoslavia, he might like to examine the consequences of the incorporation of this statute for a process such as that which resulted in the Dayton agreement. President Milosevic had to travel to the United States to endorse the Dayton agreement. He should consider whether that would be possible under the new system.

Mr. Gapes: I accept that there will be difficult situations in future, but the statute does not apply to the Dayton agreement. Dayton is in the past and the proceedings taking place in The Hague are subsequent to it. I will come to the hon. Gentleman's point, but I want to do so in my own way. The reality of the transition in former Yugoslavia is that in Croatia, Tudjman escaped justice by dying. War crimes were committed by the Croatian and Bosnian Croat forces under the control of Tudjman and his regime, but Tudjman was never indicted—although I believe that he should have been.

There is some justice in the criticism that the Hague process did not involve an even-handed approach to all those involved in war crimes. There is always a danger of establishing victors' justice in such conflicts, and that is often discussed. The world sees people as wearing either black or white hats, whereas unfortunately they are all really wearing murky grey hats. On all sides crimes have been carried out at the instigation of participants in bitter civil wars and conflicts.

11.15 am

What I have said is not to argue against truth and reconciliation processes or against peace processes such as the one in Northern Ireland. However, it is necessary to recognise that those processes take time. A transition has to be undergone. A society may be ready internally for a truth and reconciliation commission, or for a flawed transition process, as in Chile. However, it may not, at that time, be ready to come completely to terms with its past and to engage in internal healing and reconciliation that will take decades.

In Northern Ireland we talked about an agreement, but there was no trust. As the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) has often said, the main point is that trust was beginning to creep in. That is what we had to work for. As I do not want victors' justice, I want the ICC to set a framework in which we can, universally, deal with the relevant questions. We should not need to set up ad hoc tribunals like The Hague or Rwanda tribunals. At the same time, we should be sensitive to internal circumstances. I do not think that it is wise to put great pressure now on Djindjic and Kostunica, perhaps leading to an internal political reaction and creating difficulty for them, when they want Milosevic to be brought to account for the murder of journalists in Serbia, for taking state money, for asset stripping and for other things that he and his acolytes have done over the past decade and more.

Mrs. Gillan: The hon. Gentleman is making some interesting points. Perhaps I have read things wrongly, but I hope not. I was particularly disappointed when I felt that the international world, including our Government, was making haste to the leader of the country to tell him to hand Milosevic over to The Hague. I felt that the very spirit of setting up the ICC was to make it possible for trials of the relevant people to be conducted in the country concerned, and not to tell those countries to hand criminals over for a show trial in The Hague. I thought that the thrust of our foreign policy at the time in question was against the spirit of the Bill.

I am trying not to make a political point, but I must inevitably do so, because there was a tremendous tension and conflict between what the Government were saying and what they were doing.

Mr. Gapes: Ministers can answer with respect to the Government's position, but there was clearly a difference of emphasis in some statements from the United States and others by Europeans. Clearly, the internal crimes with which the Serbian authorities are charging Milosevic do not relate to those on which he has been indicted to appear at The Hague. The question is which should come first. Serbia has him locked away for one set of crimes, but the international charges are still extant. We should be sensitive to the need not to make it possible for people to argue that they have been locked up domestically simply to satisfy another country's demands. Therefore, I want all those crimes to be dealt with as soon as possible, but as an international community we must be sensitive. The accusations and charges against Milosevic are being dealt with under The Hague process, not by the ICC. There are differences in the provisions for The Hague, Rwanda and the ICC, which I do not want to go into now because it would take too long.

Mr. Gerald Howarth: I strongly support the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham about the implications of the Bill for processes of reconciliation in countries where conflict—sometimes, serious conflict—has taken place. My hon. Friend referred in particular to the process of truth and reconciliation, as it was called, in South Africa, and she also mentioned Northern Ireland. The important point for us to understand—perhaps the Minister will deal with this when he replies—is that it will be difficult for the court to take into account in its deliberations such processes of reconciliation, which take place in countries where crimes have been committed that are generally recognised to fall within the categories set out in the statute of Rome. The difficulty is that we are not dealing with conventions; we will be dealing with United Kingdom statute law because the Bill's purpose is to incorporate huge chunks of conventions into our law.

I am not a lawyer, let alone an international lawyer, so I do not know the extent to which international conventions are binding on, and capable of interpretation by, our courts, but I know that once this legislation is enacted in UK law—and I recognise that there is also both English law and Scottish law—it will be subject to the strict interpretation of our courts. However, because the Bill makes no reference to a process of reconciliation, I put it to the Minister that no court will be able to take that process into account—not even the ICC. Although the ICC has some latitude to decide how to proceed in a particular case, and thereby to require us to arrest and surrender someone who has been convicted or charged by the ICC, we should be clear that its latitude will have no reference to the question of reconciliation. The Minister might be able to tell us that the ICC will be able to decide not to proceed in certain circumstances because, however horrific the crime, a process of reconciliation is taking place, which requires the ICC not to take any action.

I shall now refer to Chile. I hope that I will not be accused of being insensitive and of trying to wind up the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Gapes), whom, I know, is sensitive on the subject. However, I, too, feel sensitive about Chile because I visited the country in 1977. I saw the poverty in that country, and have seen it develop since then into a hugely prosperous and democratic country.

I do not want to revisit all the hon. Gentleman's arguments, except to say that I disagree fundamentally. I wish that people on the political left would understand that Salvador Allende, whom they regard as their patron saint, was no saint whatsoever. Had it not been for the intervention of the armed forces under General Pinochet in 1975, having failed to persuade the courts to do what he wanted, Allende would have overridden them and used his Cuban mercenaries to seize control.

        It being twenty-five minutes past Eleven o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

        Adjourned till this day at half-past Two o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Cook, Mr. Frank (Chairman)
Battle, Mr.
Blunt, Mr.
Browne, Mr.
Cranston, Mr.
Day, Mr.
Gapes, Mr.
Garnier, Mr.
Gillan, Mrs.
Hendrick, Mr.
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
King, Ms Oona
Lammy, Mr.
Maclennan, Mr.
McNulty, Mr.
Naysmith, Dr.
Worthington, Mr

 
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