|International Criminal Court Bill [Lords]
Mr. David Lammy (Tottenham): In the context of the TRC in South Africa, would the hon. Lady would comment on something that is the exception rather than the rule internationally? Various factors at work in South Africa made it exceptional, including the fact that the vast majority of mainstream political parties wanted to progress quickly and agreed that reconciliation was the best way forward in the context of the ethnic conflict that had divided the country for some time. Also, there was an economic imperative. A large black population was anxious to proceed to greater prosperity and reluctant to engage in a lengthy legal process that would have opened many wounds and could have destabilised the incoming African National Congress Government. Finally, despite the vast evils of apartheid, atrocities had occurred on both sides, as evidenced by events involving Winnie Mandela. Will the hon. Lady explore those issues?
Mrs. Gillan: The hon. Gentleman speaks with experience and as another distinguished lawyer. I have tried to choose my words carefully so as not to be too judgmental. I appreciate the issues that arose on both sides of the argument. As I recall, there was great debate about whether passages critical of ANC members should be included by Desmond Tutu in the final report, with objections being raised even by President Mbeki at one stage. Great attention was needed to enable South Africa to continue in relative stability, rather than to precipitate more violence or dramatic events.
However, that way of proceeding is not unusual. I understand that since the 1980s truth commissions have gained prominence and currency by virtue of the way in which they have dealt with violations and then moved on. About 15 truth commissions have been held since 1971, although I cannot list them all. My reading on this subject suggests to me that in the main they have been successful and that they worked on important processes. Each had distinguishing features, but there should always be a presumption that the best way forward is in conditions of stability, rather than by any means that would precipitate violence or destabilise the economy, which could only cause greater grief.
I hope that the Minister will tell us about what happened in Northern Ireland. I understand that 434 individuals were released under the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998. We have seenand been made subject tothe release of people convicted of atrocious offences, including terrorist offences.
Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South): I spent two years as a Parliamentary Private Secretary in the Northern Ireland Office. I was there during the negotiation of the Belfast agreement, and no one ever suggested that the horrendous actions of terrorist organisations on the loyalist and republican sides were war crimes. They were criminal activities. They were often horrendous, violent and murderous, but the term ``war crime'' was never used.
Mrs. Gillan: I did not use the term ``war crime''. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman can wait until my argument is deployed. At issue is not so much the individual circumstances as the principle of the amnesty given to individuals as part of a process of eliminating the conflict in a country. Even in this country, we have released convicted criminals as part of a peace process. What happens if a country wants to come to terms with its past and, in arriving at that happy conclusion to events, wants to grant an amnesty to people who have been convicted of activities that would be regarded as war crimes under the international criminal court statute?
Mr. Blunt: The hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Gapes) referred to war crimes. I would argue that article 7 of the statute of Rome applies to terrorist organisations on both sides in Northern Ireland. They are certainly guilty of
Mrs. Gillan: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He speaks with great experience. I did not pursue the issue in deploying my argument, but my hon. Friend's remarks go a long way towards contributing to it.
It is for the Minister to tell us how the processes we are discussing will be affected and whether they will be removed from the bag of tools that is available to a democratically elected Government when facing the past and the crimes of their citizens.
Many conflicts are going on and many views are taken of them. We need only consider the conflict between Russia and Chechnya. There seems to be a broad acceptance of the objectives of the Russian operation: when we talk about Russia and its territorial integrity, we seem to accept what the Russians are doing in Chechnya and that they are fighting terrorism. Severe reservations have, however, been expressed about the actions of President Putin and the Russian army in Chechnya. We constantly see the Chechens' reactionsmost recently in the hostage situation that was, thankfully, resolved without the loss of life. It is therefore important to consider what our reaction will be in the future to solutions to such conflicts.
We should also consider the European Union, given that we are members of it. On 17 December 1999, the EU and the United States made a summit statement. Page 21 of the Library brief on the Chechnya conflict takes an extract from that statement. It stated:
If there is no room for that process, is that not a disincentive to those countries to sign up to the statute? I would abhor that, because I should like everybody to sign up to the statute. We should think about how those that are not signatories and will not ratify can be encouraged to come on board. However, if we tell those countries that they cannot find their own solution, surely we will drive them from, rather than pull them towards, the very institution that we hope will be there for the next 100 or 200 years to deter the disgusting, revolting, inhumane acts that we have to consider in the context of the ICC. I hope that the Minister will be able to let the Committee into his thinking on this serious matter, because it is of great importance and goes to the heart of the operation of the court.
My second point is more technical. It concerns article 91. I refer to the proceedings in the House of Lords on 8 February 2001, reported in column 1272 of Hansard. Sadly, I cannot find my marked copy. It will take a while to find it.
The Chairman: While the hon. Lady is preparing to make her second point, would she care to have the Minister respond to her first?
Mrs. Gillan: Yes. Thank you, Mr. Cook.
Mr. Gerald Howarth: On a point of order, Mr. Cook. For the assistance of the Committee, I should like to take up my hon. Friend's arguments. However, I shall be happy to listen to the Minister first.
The Chairman: Very well.
Mr. Gapes: I, too, wish to make a contribution, Mr. Cook. Will that be possible?
The Chairman: Do you need more time, Mrs. Gillan?
Mrs. Gillan: Yes, Mr. Cook.
The Chairman: I shall come back to you. I call Mr. Gapes.
Mr. Gapes: I wish to take up some of the points raised by the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham, and to refer to two other examples. The first is the former Yugoslavia and the second is Chile.
Although there was an internal process of transition in Chile, that process, whereby the democratic forces came to an agreement with the military junta that allowed Pinochet immunity, made him senator for life and stacked the senate so that it had an undemocratic majority, was only a partial transition to a democratic society. It took the entirely correct actions of a Spanish judge and a British Home Secretary, and the extradition process involving the Law Lords, to open up an internal debate in Chile.
Action taken by Spain and the United Kingdom concerning the mistreatment, torture and murder of their nationals by the Chilean authorities under Pinochet enabled a political process to be accelerated. The democratic forcesthe Christian democrats, the socialists, the radicals and others in Chilewhich had not initially been able to get all that they wanted from the transition, were able to use that acceleration. Now the Chilean courts and Chilean society are dealing with the crimes committed by Pinochet, in a further attempt to expunge those crimes and deal with their internal healing process. This is not an either-or situation.
I always respected my socialist comrades in Chile, for whom I worked and with whom I acted in solidarity against the vile crimes of Pinochet. Lady Thatcher and others in the Conservative party supported those crimes. In addition, the United States Administration and British Conservatives supported the Pinochet coup over many years. Those of us who cared about human rights and democracy in Chile in all partiesthere were some Conservatives who cared, but not enoughknew that the internal transition would be difficult. That transition will take years and the healing process took years, and was assisted by work done by the Spanish and British authorities to bring about change within Chile. We do not have an either-or choice.
My second point is more difficult. It concerns Yugoslavia. I understand very well why the international community wishes to get Milosevic into the tribunal in The Hague as soon as possible. However, I must say that we need to be sensitive to the transition that the Serbs are going through, whereby Mr. Djindjic, who had to flee to Montenegro, is now the Prime Minister, and whereby there is a long-term opponent of Milosevic as presidentMr. Kostunica.
|©Parliamentary copyright 2001||Prepared 26 April 2001|