International Criminal Court — Question

– in the House of Lords at 11:10 am on 22nd July 2010.

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Photo of Baroness Stern Baroness Stern Crossbench 11:10 am, 22nd July 2010

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their response to the outcome of the Review Conference on the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court held in Kampala, Uganda, from 31 May to 11 June.

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (International Energy Policy)

My Lords, our response is positive. The ICC review conference in Kampala was a major milestone in the international community's fight to combat impunity for the most serious crimes of international concern. The stocktaking of international criminal justice will help shape the future development of the court. The UK will now consider whether to ratify the amendment on the use of certain weaponry in a non-international armed conflict. The conference agreed a package, including the definition of the crime of aggression and the conditions for exercise of jurisdiction, to be put forward for discussion and possible adoption in 2017.

Photo of Baroness Stern Baroness Stern Crossbench

I thank the Minister for that reply. Is he aware-I am sure he is-of the considerable gratitude from across the world to the United Kingdom for the support which successive Governments have given to the ICC, as I learnt when I represented your Lordships' House at an international meeting of parliamentarians for the ICC? Perhaps I may ask him a specific question about sexual violence, which is such a major and horrible aspect of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Government pledged to the review conference to do more for victims, particularly victims of sexual violence. Can he tell us what the Government plan to do specifically to help victims of this deeply appalling crime?

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (International Energy Policy)

I thank the noble Baroness for her comments, which of course apply equally to the previous and the present Government of the United Kingdom. The conference at Kampala adopted a resolution on the victims issue which recognised the rights of victims to have access to justice and to participate in judicial proceedings. That applied to victims generally. For our part, the United Kingdom is committed to tackling the problem of violence against women. We will continue to promote programmes in support of this agenda, including measures that will address the special needs of women and children in areas of conflict.

Photo of Lord Chidgey Lord Chidgey Liberal Democrat

Will the Minister confirm the importance of the step taken in amending the Coroners and Justice Act, particularly in regard to enabling prosecutions of suspects for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes from 1 January 1991? However, can he also tell us how that will be implemented to enable, for example, the prosecution of suspects such as the four Rwandans who have been accused of war crimes but whose extradition failed last year, which has left us in a quandary?

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (International Energy Policy)

In answer to my noble friend I can only express the hope that this will be resolved. The Kampala conference addressed these issues but did not reach any final conclusions. A great deal of the conference was simply carrying forward and firming up the work of the ICC in the light of its experience, of which my noble friend has just mentioned one example. I cannot give a more specific answer at this moment.

Photo of Lord Archer of Sandwell Lord Archer of Sandwell Labour

I congratulate the Government on the amendment to define aggression. However, does the noble Lord agree that the decision to defer its implementation until 2017 demonstrates that those who oppose international answerability are at least as determined as those who support it? Can he assure the House that the Government will oppose any further attempts to undermine what has been achieved?

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (International Energy Policy)

I do not quite agree with the implication of the noble and learned Lord's question although obviously I agree with him about the importance of the issue; it is a very complex question which was discussed in considerable detail at Kampala. The UK has a principled position: that the UN Security Council has primary responsibility for dealing with aggression. We maintain that that is right. If in the discussion the complexities of developing a further definition can be overcome, then the general purpose-all are agreed -is the right one. However, there are some obvious complexities here that need resolving. They are not in any way against carrying forward the concern with crimes of aggression; the only question is the technique and method by which that should be done.

Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

My Lords, can the Minister confirm that an International Criminal Court arrest warrant still is outstanding against Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army? The LRA has been responsible for some of the worst violations against women, such as those described by my noble friend Lady Stern a few moments ago, especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Uganda, where it is estimated that the LRA has killed over 1 million people. Will he confirm that a letter was received by the Prime Minister only a week ago from a young woman called Juliet, who is here in London and who was herself raped by the LRA when she was just 12 years old?

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (International Energy Policy)

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, always speaks with authority and knowledge on these issues. It is significant that this meeting was held in Kampala, and of course it is in Uganda that these arrest warrants are currently out for a number of people. It is also where some particularly horrific crimes appear to have occurred, including crimes against women, about which we were talking a moment ago. That is the position and I can only reaffirm what the noble Lord has said: this is a good example of where the ICC really can carry forward the causes of peace and justice together in what we hope is an effective way.

Photo of Lord Goldsmith Lord Goldsmith Labour

Does the noble Lord agree that it is very important that our allies operate under the same conditions as we do? Would he therefore tell us whether the Kampala conference has advanced at all the prospect of the United States committing to the International Criminal Court, and will the Government-both parts of the Government-encourage the United States to join?

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (International Energy Policy)

I think that the answer is maybe. The United States sent 23 delegates to the Kampala conference; they all turned up and discussed these issues in detail. I asked those at the conference whether that will lead to a better prospect of the United States signing up to this but they were not sure of an answer. They say that the United States is involved in the discussions and interested in carrying matters forward, but the signs that it will actually put its signature to it are, I am afraid, still a bit fuzzy and remote.