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Lord Blaker: My Lords, I want to mention two items listed as war crimes in Article 8 which have not yet been mentioned in this debate. They seem to me among the most important. Item 2(a)(i) refers to "wilful killing" and (iii)refers to,
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, I want to make only three very brief comments in support of this group of amendments. The first is that, like it or not, civilians are part of a total war. In the last war, we had to bomb Berlin; they bombed us. People were proud to be part of the war, part of the front line. If we had not bombed--I am sorry to say--the Ruhr, I doubt whether we should have been able to invade the Continent and liberate it. We needed to destroy the arms which were being built there. That is the first point.
The second matter is that the word "intentionally" is very subjective. It seems to me that many people, like members of the IRA, would come back and create any number of "Bloody Sundays" without anyone being able very easily to prove whether something done had been intentionally or not.
If one looks at the UN and its record of activity, in general, the UN troops are quite hopeless at policing any sort of active conflict because they are inhibited in how they respond to attack. We would be doing that to our troops. What on earth would be the rules of engagement if the MoD had to flog through this and wonder whether or not the rules of engagement would be protecting them and protecting the people?
It seems to me that we would completely inhibit the ability of our troops not only in a serious fighting war but even in the matter of the so-called Petersberg tasks and humanitarian events. One has only to look at what is now happening on the border of Macedonia to see that troops need to have absolutely clear rights to defend themselves. If we come back to the word "intentionally", it all hangs on whether the other side says that you intentionally shot them before they shot you.
The Attorney-General (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, I am grateful for the contributions which have been made. I deal first with the remarks of the noble Baroness. She asked, rhetorically, what would be the rules of engagement. One of the difficulties about rhetorical questions is that sometimes, they call for an answer.
I go back to the question which was put specifically by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, who asked whether there would be significant further delay. There would inevitably be such delay deriving from the structure of the first amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, because a good deal of parliamentary activity has to be gone through, not least in a report to be set out and approved by each House of Parliament. Of course, for a significant period of the year, neither House is sitting and there would be very substantial delay. The noble Lord was good enough to indicate to me that he might raise this question. Our policy purpose--I hope that it has been abundantly approved as a policy purpose by both Houses--is to be among the forefront of those who ratify.
As my noble friend Lady Scotland and I have said on previous occasions, we were in the vanguard of this particular international activity. We want to be among the first 60, and until 60 ratify, the treaty cannot come into effect.
I mentioned the noble Lord, Lord Lester. He raised what he indicated was a wider question and one not limited to this Bill. I am happy to revert to what my noble friend and I have said on earlier occasions. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lester, that there is a genuine issue that should be addressed on another occasion as to whether we should have a treaty scrutiny committee. Perhaps he will forgive me if I simply, without presumption, endorse that that is a valid matter and move on from that wider point.
First, I turn to Amendments Nos. 1 and 3, which deal with matters of reservations and declarations and, secondly, without trespassing on your Lordships' patience, I shall deal in some detail with what the noble Lord, Lord Shore, said. The first two amendments relate to reservations and declarations. Having self-instructed ourselves during previous debates, we all now know that no reservations are capable of being made to this statute and, accordingly, Her Majesty's Government will not make any. As noble Lords have pointed out, that is Article 120 of the Rome Statute:
Statements upon ratification are matters that we have discussed previously. Two states have made statements that included comments on interpretation of the statute. As far as I am aware, the second comment on interpretation was a response to the first. It is likely that we shall make a statement on ratification. The statement will cover issues such as the
We do not intend to make the opt-out declaration under Article 124. No final decisions have been made on other statements that the United Kingdom may make. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Howell, has received a full letter from my noble friend Lady Scotland and we are happy to keep in close contact with the noble Lord or with any other noble Lords who are interested in this matter. At the risk of tedium, I have to say that reservations are not allowed. We shall not be allowed to make any effective declaration that purports to modify the legal effect of the statute.
I repeat that we signed, to a general welcome in both Houses. There is already parliamentary provision--I use that as an umbrella description--in the Bill at Clause 50 for any statements made to be laid before Parliament by Order in Council. Clause 50 sets out that Articles 6, 7 and 8.2 of the statute shall be construed subject to and in accordance with any relevant declaration made by the United Kingdom when ratifying any treaty or agreement relevant to the interpretation of those articles. We intend to lay before the House, in that form, any relevant declarations, including any made on ratification of this statute.
This is not new. The noble Lord, Lord Lester, is quite right. In the Geneva Conventions (Amendment) Act 1995, for example, it was thought appropriate under our predecessor regime that the statements made on ratification should be set out by Order in Council after they had been made. We believed that that was the correct approach then and we believe it is the correct approach now.
The noble Lord, Lord Blaker, introduced certain short questions, to which he is entitled to an answer. The answer and the matters that engaged his mind are to be found in the work of the preparatory commission for the ICC. Article 8, as the overarch to the introduction to war crimes, makes it quite plain. I shall read it out as it focuses precisely on the question put to me by the noble Lord.
Having set out my objections and explanations on Amendments Nos. 1 and 3 on behalf of the Government, I turn to do honour to the argument deployed by the noble Lord, Lord Shore of Stepney, in a little detail. He raised questions about a number of distinct articles. I shall introduce the matter in this way: Article 8.2(b)(i) is taken from Article 51 of the Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions. It
British courts have universal jurisdiction over that and all other grave breaches of the convention. In parenthesis--this is an important parenthesis--I should say that both the noble Baroness and I have tried to underline on every appropriate occasion the principle of complementarity, which is not a dry piece of jargon loved only by lawyers. It is important that I repeat, for the reassurance of the House, that that means that domestic jurisdiction has the first opportunity of trying those charges. If charges are to be brought, they can be brought in the United Kingdom courts. Only if the domestic jurisdiction, namely our own, is unable or unwilling to take jurisdiction will the international criminal court feature at all.
Article 8.2(b)(ii) comes from Article 52 of the protocol. Article 8.2(b)(iv) is a weaker version of Article 51.5(b) of Additional Protocol I, which is already a grave breach under Article 85.3. Therefore, I repeat that it is already a criminal offence under UK law. It is true that, in the past, prosecutions have been rare if not unknown, but that does not mean that the law does not exist with its power and weight available to be deployed on any suitable and relevant occasion.
Article 8.2(b)(xvii), to which the noble Lord particularly referred, comes from Article 23(a) of the Hague Convention IV of 1907. Forgive this historical recitative, but we ratified that in 1909. Article 8.2(b)(xviii) comes from the Geneva Gas Protocol of 1925, to which, rightly in my opinion, we have been a party since 1930. At the time of signature, we entered reservations but those were superseded when we adhered to the later Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993.
All those crimes that I have mentioned in what I recognise to be tedious detail, but necessary for the record as well as for reassurance, are already crimes under international law and many of them are crimes under domestic law. We have lived by them for many years and have no difficulty in accepting them now. I repeat that I have confidence in the ability of Her Majesty's Armed Forces to discharge their duties honourably and lawfully.
We come to a fundamental question which lies behind the Bill and our action, which, I repeat, was endorsed by both Houses. Do we wish the law to have the strength and power to which we pay lip service? Lip service is easy, cheap, costs nothing and offers no remedy.
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