Tariq Aziz

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 15th June 2004.

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Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell Labour, Linlithgow 11:30 am, 15th June 2004

What arrangements have been made for a trial for Tariq Aziz.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Foreign Secretary

Mr. Tariq Aziz is being held by the United States. It is the policy of multinational force partners not to disclose the precise location of detainees for security reasons. It is for the US and Iraqi authorities to determine when Mr. Aziz should be handed over to the Iraqi authorities and for the Iraqi authorities to determine the legal procedures that should apply. In December 2003, the then Iraqi governing council established a special tribunal to try senior members of the former regime.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell Labour, Linlithgow

We are part of the coalition, are we not? Will the response to the International Red Cross be the proverbial "Get lost", when it says that, under international law, those people, included Tariq Aziz, should be charged before 30 June or freed? After Elizabeth Wilmshurst, should not the Foreign Office and the United States be a little less cavalier with international law?

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Foreign Secretary

We in the British Government subscribe fully to and follow fully our obligations under international law. That has been the case throughout the Iraqi conflict as well as in the past.

As for the position of Mr. Aziz and other detainees, I should say to my hon. Friend that just before I left the Foreign Office to come here, I saw an item on the BBC website. Although I have had no separate confirmation of this, it says:

"Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi says the US-led coalition will soon hand over high-profile detainees—including Saddam Hussein—to Iraqi custody."

If that is to happen, it will be widely welcomed in the House. It is a matter on which I know the Iraqis and the United States are working.

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson Shadow Minister (Arts), Home, Constitutional & Legal Affairs, Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills), Vice-Chair, Conservative Party

Given that the right hon. Gentleman and the Government have a principled opposition to the death penalty and given that Britain, as part of the coalition provisional authority, will shortly hand over Saddam Hussein for trial, can the right hon. Gentleman say what representations, if any, he has made to ensure that the future Iraqi authorities do not put Saddam Hussein to death? Or does he wash his hands of the matter?

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Foreign Secretary

We have made strong representations to the Iraqis about our position in respect of the death penalty. We were successful during the period of the Iraq governing council in persuading it to suspend the death penalty. It is known that Iraqi Ministers have said that they will support the re-establishment of the death penalty from 30 June, and it is also a fact that a number of countries around the world, including China and the United States, are retentionist and operate the death penalty. However, in respect of all those countries, not least and including Iraq, we shall make very strong representations about the need not to use the death penalty. Those representations will be made on both moral grounds, which are well supported in the House, and on very practical grounds. As we in this country found with the death penalty 50 years ago, one can end up not only convicting the wrong person, but executing the wrong person.

Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd Special Envoy to PM on Human Rights in Iraq

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that sufficient funding is in place to assist the work of the Iraq special tribunal?

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Foreign Secretary

I cannot say from the Dispatch Box that I am satisfied about that, and I am very happy to investigate the matter further, to write to my hon. Friend and to place the record in the Library of the House.