Iraqi Refugees

Part of Constitutional Reform – in the House of Commons at 5:54 pm on 3rd July 1991.

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Photo of Mr Ivan Lawrence Mr Ivan Lawrence , Burton 5:54 pm, 3rd July 1991

The right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel) has made some exceedingly good points on which we can all agree across party lines, particularly his last point about the need for arms control in the region, which the Foreign Affairs Select Committee will address in its forthcoming report which should be before the House in the next two or three weeks before it rises. When we took evidence we were appalled by the speed with which countries in the region are building up their arms. In particular, a number of the countries seem to have Scud C missiles, against which the Patriot missile provides no defence. That is an extraordinary worrying aspect of the problem to which we shall come in due course.

In the interests of comparative brevity and so as not to be too repetitive of remarks which have already been so excellently made by my colleagues whom I was privileged to be with when we visited the camps in Iran, let me select two points. First, the appalling problem of the Iraqi refugees is the result of the international community's failure to respond adequately to the evil of Saddam Hussein. Yes, of course there was the magnificent response of the United States forces with the British and other members of the coalition to the invasion of Kuwait and the remarkable success of the war aim, and yes, the United Nations—I believe for the first time—provided the cover of lawful authority for the coalition to use force to drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait but no further.

There could hardly have been greater international justification for going to war with Saddam Hussein, and there could hardly have been less sense in starting a war which did not finish him off along with his aggressive capability. Therefore, is there not something wrong with a United Nations process which could authorise a war so limited that the evil aggressor survives, mostly intact, to continue his aggression, to threaten the other nations in the region and to cause fear and terror to the refugees within his own country whom we are now considering?

If there is one major lesson that must be learnt from the whole tragic episode, it is surely that, if the power to deal with the breakdown of international law and order by the enforcement of its resolutions, particularly when occasioned by the invasion of one country by another in breach of those resolutions, is to remain vested in the United Nations itself, that power must be greatly strengthened. If the United Nations imposes sanctions upon any country for the breach of international laws, it must have at its command the effective power to enforce those laws.

It is said that the reason why the United Nations resolutions went no further than to authorise the driving of Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait is that, under chapter 1, article 2·7 of the UN charter, that august body is prevented from interfering in the domestic jurisdiction of any state, and that China was too concerned about a precedent for United Nations interference in Tibet and the Soviet Union was too concerned about the precedent for United Nations interference in its problems with the states within the union to allow more to be done.

In that case, if the United Nations is not to be a paper tiger or a toothless guard dog and thereby encourage aggression, either the UN must give up enforcement authority to NATO or some similar grouping or to action by the United States in a peacekeeping capacity, or it must change its rules to prevent China and the Soviet Union or any other permanent member of the Security Council in the future putting its concerns before the world order or the humanitarian needs of the moment.

In my view, the United Nations should draw some encouragement from its first hesitant military action in Kuwait, and should go on boldly to develop internal rules to allow intervention to end aggression—both the kind of action that was taken by Saddam Hussein when he invaded a neighbouring country, and the kind represented by his turning on ethnic groupings of his own people. In particular, such intervention should be permitted if genocide would otherwise be likely to occur.