International Criminal Court: Progress

– in the House of Lords at 3:04 pm on 24th May 2000.

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Photo of Lord Archer of Sandwell Lord Archer of Sandwell Labour 3:04 pm, 24th May 2000

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the recent United States proposal to draft a supplemental document and to amend Article 98 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court is likely to delay the process of ratification by the United Kingdom.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

My Lords, the United Kingdom will ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as soon as the necessary legislation is in place. The recent United States proposal has no impact on this process.

Photo of Lord Archer of Sandwell Lord Archer of Sandwell Labour

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that unambiguous Answer. The American paper proposes to make the power of the court to try an offender conditional upon the consent of his state, and to make state authority a complete defence. Does my noble friend agree that that is a blatant attempt to undermine the jurisdiction of a court established under a treaty which now has 96 signatories by a country which has made clear that it has no intention of signing? Can my noble friend assure the House that even if Washington is set fair to lose all its friends, this country has no intention of being dragged by its coat-tails into an isolationist wilderness?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

My Lords, I can reassure my noble and learned friend that Her Majesty's Government's position will not change. I am not as downcast by the American position as my noble and learned friend appears to be. We are still hopeful that we shall be able to do sufficient to encourage our American colleagues to reconsider their position and to sign along with us. Indeed, conversations in relation to their proposals are ongoing.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Liberal Democrat

My Lords, does the Minister agree that, as with domestic legislation, it is good to allow several years of operation before one considers amendment? Does she also agree that if one state attempts to amend the statute of the International Criminal Court it will open up an enormous can of worms because many other states, which were not fully satisfied, have accepted the final draft in a spirit of compromise?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

My Lords, we agree with the proposals agreed at Rome. It does not appear that the amendment suggested currently by the United States will garner much favour. We hope to persuade it that the conditions which are inherent now are sufficient to meet its needs. We are not unhopeful of persuading the United States of that in the long term; but, of course, we accept that it is a challenge.