International Criminal Court Bill [Lords]

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Mr. Battle: I am happy to discuss Northern Ireland with the hon. Gentleman. I know it well and would be able to debate with him over days and weeks, never mind hours. However, I simply want to ask him how on earth the statute and the Bill relate to Northern Ireland if they are not retrospective, and how his remarks relate to clause 2?

Mr. Howarth: On the latter point, I am surprised that the Minister thinks that my remarks about Northern Ireland do not relate to the clause, nor I do not understand why he did not intervene on my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham who was the first to raise the issue. The Minister did not intervene on her to suggest that it was not appropriate.

The point that Conservative Members are making is that there is no reference in the statute to reconciliation and the difficulty that the court might present—[Interruption.] I do not know what the Minister is saying, but if he wants to intervene, I will happily give way.

Mr. Desmond Browne (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) rose—

Mr. Howarth: I give way to the hon. and expensive Gentleman.

Mr. Browne: I am not practising at the moment—I do only one job at a time, so this is all free.

With respect, the hon. Gentleman draws a false analogy. To understand the statute and the structure of the Bill, one must always have in mind the principle of complementarity. Everyone who has benefited from the early release processes in Northern Ireland under the Conservative Government and under the provisions of the Belfast—or Good Friday—agreement introduced in legislation under the current Government went through the UK system of justice in the Northern Ireland courts and was convicted. None of those cases would have had any relevance to an ICC, even if an ingenious and expensive lawyer had been able to put together a complicated argument claiming that what those involved were alleged to have done or what they did in the future could fall under the jurisdiction of the court. That is not a true analogy, although it is an interesting point.

Mr. Howarth rose—

The Chairman: Order. I repeat once again my appeal for shorter interventions. I must also caution the Committee that we are in danger of doing on the issue of Northern Ireland what I deprecated on the issue of Chile. Let us concentrate our minds on the requirements of a line-by-line scrutiny of the Bill.

Mr. Howarth: I am glad that the hon. Gentleman feels that I made an interesting point. I was not suggesting that the ICC could be responsible for removing authority for Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom, because we have tried such things ourselves. I was saying that I fear that there are circumstances in which that could happen and that we would resent it.

The ICC might require us under clause 2 to hand over nationals of countries that had gone through a process of reconciliation even if, in the view of the United Kingdom Government, a trial could prejudice that process. That, essentially, was my point, and I hope that the Committee understands it.

Mr. Blunt: I shall be as brief as I can, but the consequences of the Bill for truth and reconciliation is an extremely important issue. The circumstances in which a truth and reconciliation commission will be set up in any country in future are necessarily hypothetical, but we can look for example to the conflict in Armenia and Azerbaijan, which will, we hope, reach settlement at some stage—very likely after the statute of Rome takes effect. Given that many of the signatories to the statute already have universal jurisdiction, any crimes committed if that conflict continues will be subject to the jurisdiction of those countries.

I expect that the Minister will refer to article 16, which provides that the United Nations Security Council may request a deferral of investigations. However, that depends on none of the permanent members of the Security Council exercising a veto, or on the request for a deferral being made by a majority on the Security Council to allow the national process to take place. All the examples that we have discussed—Northern Ireland, Chile and South Africa—are relevant examples of countries in which the process of truth and reconciliation has taken place. The national process gives the United Nations Security Council an opportunity to make such a requests, but the Government will not be able to rely on the United Nations Security Council to make that request, which means that there is a risk to truth and reconciliation commissions.

The argument can be made—I understand the purpose of the statute to be thus—that our message to dictators around the world is that there will be no way out for leaders who engage in the very serious crimes specified in the statute. There will be no hiding place for such people. We are, in a sense, saying goodbye to truth and reconciliation commissions. We are putting future dictators and people who are guilty of certain crimes in the same position as the Allied powers deliberately put the leaders of Germany in 1943 by demanding unconditional surrender. The leaders of Germany and Japan knew that there would be no negotiated settlement. One can draw that analogy.

If I were a victim of a crime under the statute and my country decided to establish a truth and reconciliation commission, I could decide not to accept that and take my complaint to the ICC. If a crime had been committed against me, I would expect the ICC to investigate it. If my country would not bring the perpetrators of that crime to justice, I, the victim, would expect the ICC to do that for me.

Every country—including, most importantly, the United Kingdom and France, who are likely to be first to sign and ratify the statute, and who have taken a leading role in policing global security since 1945—will have to face up to the great difficulty of reconciling the practical advantages of being able to engage in truth and reconciliation processes, as has been done in numerous cases, with the principled and proper position that, from now on, there will be no hiding places for people who are guilty of the crimes specified in the first part of the statute.

A case can be made for either position: for pragmatism and the way in which we have conducted the world order since 1945, and for the permanent members of the Security Council having a veto; or for the direction in which the statute will take us. I look forward to the Minister's reply because the Government's position is riddled with uneasy and unsustainable compromise. The inconsistency is present even in the statute: articles 27 and 98 are in direct contradiction of each other. One allows immunity, which we shall discuss later, and the other says that there shall be irrelevance of official capacity in bringing people to book for the crimes. In this debate on truth and reconciliation, I am hoping to hear from the Minister whether we are to take a pragmatic approach to diplomacy and the ability of Ministers to make decisions or whether we shall have, as the statute of Rome intends, a more idealistic approach to facing up to the serious crimes that are listed in this statute.

Mrs. Gillan: Earlier, Mr. Cook, when I was unable to get my papers in order, you promised that you would allow me to return to my second point. I thank you for that courtesy, and I shall try to detain the Committee only briefly. It is a technical point that stems from our first day of consideration in Committee. I asked the Minister about the declarations and the phrase ``none in mind''. He said in his response:

    ``We cannot go back to rake over and unilaterally rewrite the Rome statute, which has been agreed internationally. That is not the purpose of the Bill; the purpose is to sign up to it.''—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 10 April 2001; c. 64.]

I do not disagree with that. That was not the point I was making, and that is the premise on which I start now.

Clause 2 deals with arrest and surrender. Article 91.1 of the treaty states:

    ``A request for arrest and surrender shall be made in writing. In urgent cases, a request may be made by any medium capable of delivering a written record, provided that the request shall be confirmed through the channel provided for it in article 87, paragraph 1 (a).''

Article 87.1(a) states:

    ``The Court shall have the authority to make requests to State Parties for cooperation. The requests shall be transmitted through the diplomatic channel or any other appropriate channel as may be designated by each State Party upon ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.

    Subsequent changes to the designation shall be made by each State Party in accordance with the Rules of Procedure and Evidence.''

That goes to the heart of my point. The statute says that each state party, upon ratification, will designate appropriate channels. On ratification, what will the Minister designate as an ``appropriate channel''? As the statute says, the request may be

    ``made by any medium capable of delivering a written record''.

Does the Minister intend to use e-mail as a vehicle for the transmission of such a warrant or of papers pertaining to it? If not e-mail, what will he designate on ratification? What will he lay out before us for approval and how will we get that approval? If e-mail is going to be used, what are the security implications—for example, what about tampering? The White House has said that it will no longer take e-mails. It is a simple question but a technical one: what appropriate channels will be designated by the Government under article 87.1(a), and will all that apply to Scotland, or will Scotland have powers to designate its own medium?

I hope that I have been brief in making my genuine request for information, which relates to my original point that we need some form of clarification following ratification, which the Minister did not fully understand when he replied to me on the first day of Committee. I look forward to hearing what he has to say now.

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