Moved by Lord Alton of Liverpool
9: After Clause 2, insert the following new Clause—“Agreements with states accused of committing genocide (1) International bilateral trade agreements are revoked if the High Court of England and Wales makes a preliminary determination that they should be revoked on the ground that another signatory to the relevant agreement represents a state which has committed genocide under Article II of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, following an application to revoke an international bilateral trade agreement on this ground from a person or group of persons belonging to a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, or an organisation representing such a group, which has been the subject of that genocide. (2) This section applies to genocides which occur after this section comes into force, and to those considered by the High Court to have been ongoing at the time of its coming into force.”
My Lords, the House has already heard some of the arguments explored in the preceding group of amendments. The House will be relieved to know that I will not rehearse them all again.
Amendment 9 straightforwardly asks the House to give the High Court of England and Wales the opportunity to make a predetermination of genocide if it believes that the evidence substantiates the high threshold set out in the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, to which the United Kingdom is a signatory. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, my noble friend Lady Falkner of Margravine and the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth—the other sponsors of this all-party amendment—to Peers from all parts of the House and to the Coalition for Genocide Response, notably its co-founders, Luke de Pulford and Ewelina Ochab.
During the preceding debate we heard three things about Amendment 9 which I would like to deal with immediately. The first was from the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone. He has now retreated to the Back Benches after the exhaustion of the last few hours and we welcome the noble Viscount to his place to answer this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, talked about the separation of powers. I remind the House that in the case of genocide, whenever the Government speak on this issue in this House, we always say that it is a matter for the courts. This is the same Government. They say that there is a separation of power and indeed, recently said that the recognition of genocide
“is a matter for judicial decision, rather than for Governments or non-judicial bodies.”—[
I gently say to the Minister, and the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, that the Government’s position is that the courts make the determination about genocide. That is not to say that Parliament should not have a view about these things—I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Collins, said earlier about the role of the courts. I would also say to the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, who has left the Back Benches but may be viewing from elsewhere, that this is not about virtue signalling. This is about virtuous behaviour. If we cannot stand up on the crime of genocide and say that once evidence has been placed before the courts, it is shown to be credible and they make a predetermination, we will not then, in those circumstances, stop trading with that country, in what circumstances would we do so? There is a clear issue here on this narrow point of genocide. That is why this amendment is different from those that have preceded it. It is about one question: the crime above all crimes. I realise that some noble Lords who would not have been able to vote on the earlier amendment support this amendment because it is so carefully constructed and defined.
Three speeches were made in Committee that explain the thinking behind this amendment very well. The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, rightly said that enabling the UK High Court to make legal determinations on genocide is preferable to other legal avenues. Pursuing such claims through international courts has proven ineffective. The amendment provides a respected means to assessing genocide, allowing the UK to live up to its legal commitments on genocide. He is right. The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, added that future trade deals may not be subject to parliamentary scrutiny, so it is imperative that the Government decide now to rule out deals with perpetrators of genocide. Not for the first time, the noble Baroness is right.
My noble and learned friend Lord Hope of Craighead, who has a lifetime of experience in the highest reaches of the law, said in a hugely important speech in Committee that there is inadequacy in the judicial architecture currently in place. In comparing the genocide convention with the convention on torture, he said:
“The UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide now seems, with hindsight, to be a deplorably weak instrument for dealing with the challenges we face today … we can now see, in today’s world, how ineffective and perhaps naive this relatively simple convention is.”
The noble and learned Lord said that the amendment would
“allow for due process in a hearing in full accordance with the rule of law.”
It would “achieve its object” and result
“in a fully reasoned judgment by one of our judges. That is its strength, as a finding by a judge in proceedings of this kind in the applicant’s favour will carry real weight, quite apart from the effect it will have on the relevant agreement.”—[
He said that the route we have chosen in this amendment has his “full support” and would be “a big step forward”.
Just three weeks ago, we marked 75 years since the Nuremberg trials. Sir Hartley Shawcross, later a Member of your Lordships’ House, was the Labour Member of Parliament for St Helens and the lead British prosecutor at the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal. In his closing speech at Nuremburg, Shawcross remarked that when
“some individual is killed, the murder becomes a sensation, our compassion is aroused, nor do we rest until the criminal is punished and the rule of law is vindicated. Shall we do less when not one but … 12 million men, women, and children, are done to death? Not in battle, not in passion, but in the cold, calculated, deliberate attempt to destroy nations and races”.
Shawcross reminded his generation that such tyranny and brutality, such genocides, could only be resisted in the future not by
“military alliances, but … firmly … in the rule of law.”
Yet we all know how regularly such horrors have recurred while the law we put in place in 1948 has been honoured only in its breach.
I will unpack the vicious circle that the amendment seeks to break. Over the past 20 years, I have raised the issue of genocide on 300 occasions in speeches or Parliamentary Questions in your Lordships’ House. As recently as
In reply, I was given the usual circular argument that the Government’s policy is not to make such determinations themselves but—and I say this gently to the noble Lord, Lord Lansley—to leave it to the courts, knowing that the International Criminal Court would require a referral from the Security Council and that, in this case, China would veto any attempt to hold it to account by the International Criminal Court.
I say gently to my good and noble friend Lord Sandwich, responding to his remarks in the earlier group of amendments, that this amendment does not seek to carry out criminal prosecutions in the High Court of England and Wales. If it did, it would have to overcome all sorts of obstacles to bring about a prosecution. This amendment seeks to establish whether there is sufficient evidence available. We heard some of it from the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, in her intervention on the last group. Is there sufficient evidence for a predetermination to be made? That is the point: this is not about a criminal prosecution; it is about whether there is evidence that can be established in the High Court of England and Wales.
Before lockdown, I went to northern Iraq. I met Yazidi and Christian leaders who told me, “What happened to us was way beyond imagination”. It is not beyond our imagination—quite the reverse. In March 2016, my noble friend Lady Cox, the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, and I specifically moved an amendment calling for the evidence we presented during that debate—of horrific genocidal acts being carried out against Yazidis, Christians and other minorities—to be laid before the High Court and for a judge to determine whether those atrocities were part of a genocide, which would, of course, have required an appropriate response from the Government. The Government opposed the amendment and I hardly need remind the House of what occurred.
During my visit to northern Iraq, I met some of the families whose girls had been abducted, raped and enslaved. Some of them are still refugees, having seen neighbours slaughtered and homes confiscated. In every case that I have ever raised, going right back for 20 years—20 years ago, I raised what was happening at the hands of the Burmese military in the Karen State, which I had gone into illegally, and was told that it was not a matter we could deal with here—I have always received the same reply. I remind the House of what the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, said: that the recognition of genocide
“is a matter for judicial decision … rather than for governments or non-judicial bodies.”
Yet, as my noble and learned friend told us in Committee, the international judicial system is not functioning as intended.
This is not about ceding power from Parliament to the courts, as the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, was right to remind us. This is not about the widespread ceding of powers; this is about a very narrow area. This is about genocide and a policy that is already the position of the Government. It is depoliticising a decision that Governments of all persuasions have hesitated to make. Limiting the clause to genocide is also proportionate. There can be no clearer statement that the United Kingdom places its values above trade than making it clear that we are not content to strike deals with genocidal states.
Let me finish my remarks by recalling again the challenge laid down 75 years ago at Nuremberg by Sir Hartley Shawcross. For 70 years, we have failed to recognise our wholly inadequate response to those challenges. Tonight, we have a chance to put that right. I intend to ask the House to vote on this amendment, unless the Government are prepared to say that they will come forward with an amendment at Third Reading to deal specifically with the issue of genocide or will do so in another place.
No doubt we will be told, as we so often are, that this is the wrong amendment, that it is technically defective, that it is the wrong Bill, or that it is the wrong time. We are always told those things. It is always the wrong time; it is always the wrong Bill. The amendments are never perfect, but the whole point is that, week in, week out, I have been urging the Government to sit down with us and with some of the most celebrated lawyers in this country, who are esteemed in their knowledge of human rights law and who, through the Coalition for Genocide Response, circulated as recently as this morning a long brief setting out why this is a viable amendment and why any refinements that are needed can easily be rectified if there is good will on the part of the Government.
By sending this amendment to the House of Commons, where I know that it has support on both sides of the Chamber—notably from the former leader of the Conservative Party, Sir Iain Duncan Smith—I know that we will ensure that something good will come out of our debate tonight and out of the effort that so many noble Lords have put into this issue. It will give the other House a chance to engage and remedy any deficiencies in drafting. Tonight, we should not hesitate in affirming the principle that we will not trade with countries judged by our High Court to be mired in genocide. I beg to move.
My Lords, it is with great pride that I support this amendment. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, has just said, he and I have been involved in discussions around this crime for some time, and we have engaged with some of our most senior lawyers and judges on how it can be addressed.
Genocide is the most serious crime in global law; for that reason, it stands apart and is distinct and singular. The term was first coined by Raphael Lemkin in 1944; he was a Polish Jewish lawyer who was undoubtedly absolutely bereft as he watched the horrors of the Holocaust and its atrocities unfold. He also drew on the history of previous instances in which entire nations or ethnic or religious peoples had been destroyed. His urgency was a new legal suggestion, and, although it was mentioned at the Nuremberg trials, it was mentioned in descriptive terms rather than as a legal term. It was immediately after the Second World War that genocide was coded as an independent crime under international law, in the 1948 Genocide Convention. That came into force on
The legal definition of genocide is precise and includes an element that is very hard to prove: intent to commit genocide. This is a very high bar and an evidential hurdle that is great; this is something of which those of us who practice law in this field are all too conscious. It involves efforts to exterminate and dehumanise a people—a whole set of people. You have already heard the horrors experienced by the Uighurs described in this House. I declare immediately that I co-chair the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China—IPAC—and, like the noble Lord, Lord Alton, I have travelled to the refugee camps where the Yazidis give accounts of the most horrifying events that have taken place to that people. Witnessing and knowing about the detail of genocide can only convince decent, good people that we have to try to find ways of making this a crime that has no place in this world.
The noble Lord, Lord Alton, explained the purposes of this amendment: the genocide amendment. Its purpose is to ensure that there is a preliminary determination by the High Court, not any lower court, as to whether there is genocide. It is pre-emptive: the whole purpose of the Genocide Convention was to prevent genocide by placing a duty on nations to act to prevent it. I will say immediately what this genocide amendment is not: it is not, to use the language of the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, an effort to swamp the courts. The bar is so high that such a case could not possibly be brought before the High Court of this country and have any serious reception if it were not presented with a whole body of evidence that was highly persuasive and involved eminent lawyers who could testify to the bar having been passed on the definition of genocide.
What else is it not? It is certainly not a breach of the separation of powers—a constitutional issue—because, of course, no court will be determining that a trade agreement has to be revoked. It would be for the court to determine whether the bar had been met—that is, whether events documented a genocide that needed to be prevented. That preliminary determination of the courts would then, of course, have great import for any Government committed to human rights and their treaty obligations on genocide. One would expect any such Government then to revoke a trade agreement. All our trade agreements going forward would contain a clause indicating that, if there were a determination by the High Court, this would be the basis on which an agreement could be revoked.
The final thing that this is not is that it is not about determining the liability of individuals for criminal offences. That is not what the High Court would be doing in this case at all. Individual determinations of criminality would not be before the court and would not be determined by the court.
What does this amendment do? It creates new law; we are not pretending that this is not novel. It is, clearly and distinctly, something new. We have no doubt, given the interest shown in it by international lawyers from other nations, that it would be a great moment in the development of law—a role that Britain has often played. If passed into law, in time many other nations would follow suit. It is a way of giving teeth to international law. One of the questions we have always asked has been, how do you make international law have an impact? How do you get things before a court when we have a Security Council bound up with nations that will never agree to matters getting before certain courts? What we are seeking to do here is really to make a new development in law, which will undoubtedly be copied by other nations and signals the importance we attach to this crime above all crimes. We are going to see it on our statute books as a way of giving it pre-eminence in the world. I have no doubt that other states will replicate it.
I cannot bear the expression, “virtue signalling”. Yes, we will be signalling something about our values. We will be signalling that we will not stand by and do business and trade with countries that are destroying whole peoples. That is something we should be proud to be taking a stance on. Let us please extinguish that ghastly expression “virtue signalling” from the language, because we should be taking stances that show we can express our values and our virtues, without any snide grandstanding by onlookers who are not prepared to act.
I urge this House to vote for this amendment if the Government do not agree to it. I really want them to agree to it, because, as I say, genocide is a crime above all others and we should not demur in our commitment to seeing it end.
My Lords, it is a very great pleasure to support this amendment, following the excellent speech of the noble Lord, Lord Alton. He reminded us that this is not the first time we have discussed this matter. I took part in a debate with him on such an amendment back in March 2016, almost five years ago. The noble Lord has raised this issue on more than 300 occasions, ably supported, as he was back in March, by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, for whom I have the most enormous admiration. At a time last week when, thanks to the First Minister, it was difficult for me to get beyond my garden gate, the noble Baroness was visiting yet another war zone. The whole House should be extremely proud of both the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, who is speaking later in this debate, and the indefatigable energy which they have shown in pursuing this cause. I therefore join with the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of the Shaws, and other noble Lords from across the House in supporting this amendment, in order to send a clear message once and for all that we as a nation will not be complicit in genocide.
This amendment introduces a mechanism to equip a competent court to make an interim determination of genocide. It provides for what is a novel, I accept, but crucial approach in effectively responding to genocide, especially as Governments of all shades have lamentably failed in their duty to respond as horrific genocides have unfolded. When we had the debate in March 2016, I spoke about the horrors facing Yazidis and Christian minorities—people who use the language of our saviour, of Christ himself—and we were unable to reach out and help them. I asked how much longer we were prepared to stand by and not acknowledge what was going on, which was a systematic attempt to destroy Christianity throughout the Middle East.
More recently, I have spoken, along with many other Members of this House, about the atrocities faced by the Uighurs in China. In neither case have the Government used the word “genocide” because of their long-standing position that such a determination should be made by a competent court and not politicians. While, as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, has pointed out, that proposition is debatable and poses questions, the amendment we are discussing today responds to the Government’s position by mandating a competent court—the High Court of England and Wales—to make such an interim determination.
I usually agree very much with my noble friend Lady Noakes, but to accuse me and others of virtue signalling borders on offensive. I hope that, on reflection, she will recognise that this is not virtue signalling but trying to do something about the extermination of people across the globe because of their beliefs.
I want briefly to comment on the Government’s position of leaving the question of genocide determination to international judicial bodies—an argument which I have no doubt will be deployed yet again. When we talk about genocide determination, we do not mean a final determination in a criminal trial against an individual, whether by domestic or international criminal courts, as this does indeed have to be done by competent courts, following procedure with the relevant criminal thresholds. When referring to genocide determination, as the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, who has far more expertise on these matters than I have, has made clear, we mean an interim determination made by relevant bodies that would inform the Government’s response to such atrocities, including whether to trigger any of the duties under the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
As the International Court of Justice, in its judgment in Bosnia and Herzegovina v Serbia and Montenegro clarifies, the “obligation to prevent” arises
“at the instant that the State learns of, or should normally have learned of, the existence of a serious risk that genocide will be committed. From that moment onwards, if the State has available to it means likely to have a deterrent effect on those suspected of preparing genocide, or reasonably suspected of harbouring specific intent (dolus specialis), it is under a duty to make such use of these means as the circumstances permit.”
I understand the Government believe they already have all the relevant mechanisms in place, but that is not the case. Indeed, in failing to assess the risk of genocide in situations of concern, the United Kingdom could itself be accused of being in breach of its obligations under the genocide convention.
The amendment responds to the finding of the ICJ judgment, in that the interim genocide determination will enable the Government to learn of the serious risk of genocide being committed and respond by revoking the trade agreement with the state. This might, at the very minimum, have some deterrent effect on perpetrators, who will start to understand that genocide cannot mean business as usual. Business matters when it comes to addressing mass atrocities.
I draw the attention of the House to the work being done in the United States concerning the linkage of business and mass atrocities. In September this year, US Customs and Border Protection issued several withhold release orders for goods produced in China, including products produced in Xinjiang. These orders prevent goods being imported into the United States when made with forced labour. In mid-October 2020, the US Government announced that they were launching a co-ordinated response, including the closing off of opportunities to do business in the United States for companies that do not respect human rights.
All those measures and the ones we are proposing today send a much stronger message to the CCP’s officials than any diplomatic engagements, which do not even begin to scratch the surface. The amendment before us today would put in place a mechanism that made it clear that we are no longer content to mouth superficial platitudes and repeat tired old slogans such as “Never again”. As the noble and learned Lord and former Supreme Court judge, Lord Hope of Craighead, has told us, from a legal and practical point of view the amendment will work. Reviews and committees may also have their place but are weak tea by comparison.
As a nation, we cannot do business with states engaged in genocide. Waiting for determination by international judicial bodies—ships that never come in—and in the meantime doing business as usual simply cannot be accepted any more, not in the 21st century. I support the amendment, for it will give the House of Commons—the elected House—an opportunity to decide on this matter, and I invite others to do the same.
My Lords, it is a real pleasure, as the fourth person to have put my name to the amendment, to speak after the wonderful speeches that we have just heard—most notably, that of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, who has been steadfast on this issue for many years.
Every now and then, two or three times a century, nations are measured in international affairs for what they did or did not do. In the writing of the history of the United Kingdom in our era, Brexit is expected to take centre stage, but we do not know at this stage whether in the long run it will prove to have been a canny move, giving us flexibility to adapt to a new world, or an ill-thought-through wail of frustration at globalisation. Some of the tally of the UK’s actions at this time will stand out; others, mercifully, will be forgotten.
In this amendment, if passed by this place and agreed to by the other place, we can see a stand-out moment—standing out and standing by a relatively small religious group that is subject to a crime against humanity: genocide. At a time when we know that it is happening—when we have the technology, the resources and the testimony of survivors that tell us of such egregious practices—for us to profess ignorance would be nothing less than condoning China’s behaviour against its Uighurs Muslims in Xinjiang.
I and the noble Lord, Lord Alton, have spoken over several years in this Chamber about the atrocities committed against the Uighurs. I almost feel that I am repeating myself every time I stand up to make this kind of speech, but I am not, as every time I look at the subject and the detail of what we know today, as opposed to what we knew last month or last year, I can see that things are getting worse.
China is running a gulag worthy of the description of the Soviet gulags by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, except that from what we now know in real time, not in retrospect, it is much worse. From 2015, we learned of detention camps from seeing satellite images. There were Chinese denials. Then, in 2018, the Chinese Government stopped denying their existence when the evidence was irrefutable and declared that they were “vocational education and training camps”. In these camps in Xinjiang, inmates are asked to renounce the Koran and their belief in God and to profess belief in—you could not make this up—"Xi Jinping thought”.
According to the Economist, guards ask prisoners if there is a God and beat those who say that there is. I think that I am the only Muslim speaking in this debate. I can tell noble Lords that it is impossible for a Muslim to renounce God, since the acknowledgment of God’s existence is the foundational principle of being a Muslim. While getting a daily beating may not sound egregious, Muslims will not go there—they will not sign up to “Xi Jinping” thought if it involves giving up God. It is something for which they will be prepared to die—and they are dying.
Then there is the sterilisation of Uighur women. In parts of Xinjiang, the Uighur birth rate fell by 60% between 2015 and 2018. There is, furthermore, the forced transfer of people to undertake forced labour—in detention, with watchtowers to prevent them escaping their factory dormitories. This persecution of the Uighurs is a crime against humanity systematically imposed by a state—a Government—that brooks no internal opposition. It is the most extensive violation in the world today of the principle that individuals have a right to liberty and dignity simply because of their humanity—because they are people.
This amendment abrogates trade deals—revokes them, as it says—if the other signatory, according to a High Court ruling, is a state that has committed genocide. It is needed in this Bill because no party to the genocide convention should be doing business with China while it continues to perpetrate this crime. If we pass this, we in the United Kingdom will be refusing to stand idly by and to elevate commerce above conscience. Not to pass it would be a shame. If we decide to pass it, it will represent us as a beacon of liberty in one of our first acts as a sovereign nation.
The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, spoke of the 70th anniversary of the genocide convention. Other noble Lords have referred to international institutions, as, no doubt, will the Minister, in his closing speech. I remind the House that we cannot leave this to other bodies when there is the disgrace—I go so far as to say the obscenity—of China being elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council. The time has come: we have to act.
I thank the noble Lords who have brought forward this amendment. The House has heard the passion, as ever, of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on this terrible issue, and they have heard the arguments of the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, who has made the legal case with great authority.
I feel that the noble Viscount has drawn the short straw in being expected to respond. Having been a Member of this House for a number of years and a Minister for most of the last decade, he will surely know to cross out of his speech all those statements that are put in as standard: that it is not necessary to have this on the face of the Bill, and that there are problems with the drafting of the amendment. He will know that what is critical is the essence of an amendment, and there cannot be anything more important than this. As the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, has said, it is not enough to say “Never again”, as was said after the Nazi genocide: the 20th century saw other genocides and we still do, as the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, has said. I am sure that none of us would ever wish to have a trade agreement with a country that is practising genocide, but can we be sure?
Moreover, as others have pointed out, declaring something a genocide requires the agreement of those who may well have an interest in not agreeing that it is the case. For decades, as has been said, the policy of the United Kingdom Government has been that only international judicial bodies should determine whether genocide has occurred. Currently, the United Kingdom does not have any formal mechanism for genocide determination, yet it has proactive responsibilities under the genocide convention.
I will not go into the challenges of ensuring that, when genocide is occurring, it is identified as such without delay, given the lateness of the hour and the fact that people are familiar with the problems. This amendment could help the United Kingdom fulfil its duties under the genocide convention. I am sure the Minister will reject it, but I hope to see, when and if this amendment is passed, the Government engage on how the essence of this is finally to be taken forward.
My Lords, I echo the final words of the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and implore my noble friend on the Front Bench to heed what she said.
I will begin on a personal note: 75 years ago, at the time of the VE celebrations, my parents took me, a six year-old boy, to see newsreels. Among them was Belsen. My mother’s instinctive reaction was to put her arm in front of my eyes; my father’s reaction was to sit me on his knee and say, “The boy must see what evil people can do.” It is one of my earliest and most vivid memories.
As a newly elected Member of the other place, 25 years later, at the invitation of the late Greville Janner, whose memory I honour, I became the first chairman of the all-party group—there were very few in those days—for the release of Soviet Jewry. I spoke on the telephone to those who had been to the gulags. I was refused a visa to Soviet Russia, but we smuggled out a volume of the Jewish scriptures for a young boy’s bar mitzvah gift. His father had been in the gulag. About 25 years after that, as chairman of the All-Party Group for Bosnia, I saw what happened in Srebrenica, which was almost the same time as those ghastly massacres in Rwanda.
Those who have brought this amendment before your Lordships’ House tonight have done us all a great service. The precision of the amendment is its most commending feature, because it concentrates on what the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, rightly referred to as the ultimate and most heinous of crimes: genocide.
A week ago, we debated that peculiarly named Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill. We had an amendment, on which a number of us spoke, which would forbid the authorising of young people under the age of 18 from committing crimes. I will certainly continue to support my amendment or others on that subject.
Why, my Lords? Because it is wrong. If anything is wrong on a gargantuan scale, it is of course genocide. We cannot and must not be fobbed off with an answer from the Front Bench that says that it is too difficult, that the wording of the amendment is wrong or that it does not fit in. Some of those excuses have already been rehearsed by those such as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, who has been pressing for the amendment, which I am also doing.
The Prime Minister talks very proudly of “global Britain”. Global Britain must have a moral compass. Global Britain must not sacrifice its national integrity. The country that was responsible for the abolition of the slave trade and the abolition of slavery throughout the British dominions, in 1807 and 1833 respectively, must draw upon that proud heritage. What is happening in China to the Uighurs, as we have just been reminded in a very moving speech, is despicable and appalling. I believe that we should ensure that those who can pronounce on these things are able to pronounce on this. Is it genocide? I do not believe that there is any doubt that it is right that it should be a legal judgment and pronouncement; if such a pronouncement is made, it is absolutely right that we should not seek to trade on preferential terms with the People’s Republic of China—a great country with a great and civilised people who are having things perpetrated in their name that are the very negation of civilisation.
I say to my noble friend Lady Noakes and others that business does matter, but lives matter more: black lives, white lives, Chinese lives, Muslim lives and Christian lives—all lives matter. We should not in any way be complicit, even tangentially, in turning a blind eye to some of the most evil deeds that have been perpetrated in the past 50 years. I support this amendment.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, and his very moving speech. I wish to support this amendment. It presents your Lordships with an alternative way of dealing with the international crime of genocide from that which was considered under Amendment 8. I have noted the concerns expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, about handing the matter over to the courts. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, has just pointed out, there is a legal issue here that needs to be determined. There are complicated issues of fact as well that need to be carefully assessed, so any idea that this is not a matter for the courts really is misplaced. We need to consider this alternative.
As I said when noble Lords considered this amendment in Committee, the campaign to root out genocide and bring its perpetrators to justice is a hard struggle. The problem is that the weakness of the enforcement mechanisms in the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide means that the convention is simply not up to the job. Of course, we must be grateful for the declaration in Article 1 that genocide is a crime under international law and for the width of the definition of this crime in Article 2. We can also be sure that the United Kingdom, as one of the contracting parties, will play its full part in bringing to justice any individual who can be brought within the jurisdiction of our courts so that they can be punished for their part in this crime. But there are gaps which the UN convention leaves open. Its object remains largely unfulfilled and we have to face the fact that the international institutions are falling short too.
Of course, the vast majority of countries around the world do not practise genocide. They needed no persuasion when the convention was open for signature that they must refrain from it. The problem is with the minority, those states which have no conscience in this matter and which still engage in this horrific crime with impunity. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, who is such a steadfast advocate in this field, has reminded us once again that the struggle to fill those gaps cannot be allowed to fail.
The procedure that the noble Lord has chosen had my full support in Committee and it has my full support here, too. I remind your Lordships that it seems to have two very important advantages, which deserve to be emphasised once again. The first is that it meets the requirement that there must be a person, or a group of persons, with a relevant interest to bring the matter before the court. The persons described in the amendment will almost certainly satisfy that requirement. The second is that the procedure it seeks to introduce must allow for due process, with a hearing in open court, in full accordance with the rule of law.
I believe that this object will be achieved. It means that notice of the proceedings will be served on the Secretary of State and on a representative of the other signatory of the bilateral agreement, both of whom must have the right of reply. That will ensure that they can present their cases to the court, thus enabling the court to scrutinise and test all the competing arguments. If the argument of the interested persons is upheld, the “preliminary determination” that the amendment refers to will amount to a direction to the Secretary of State that the United Kingdom must withdraw from the agreement; in the case of a bilateral agreement that will mean, in effect, that the agreement will be revoked.
Withdrawing from an international agreement in circumstances which the agreement itself does not provide for is a sensitive and difficult matter. That is especially so where it is not being suggested that any provisions of the agreement itself have been breached, but I believe that the noble Lord and his cosignatories are right not to have been deflected by these and other similar problems from persevering with this amendment. The strength of their position lies in the—if your Lordships will forgive me for using Latin—jus cogens erga omnes nature of the obligation under international law to prevent and punish acts of genocide.
That expression was used by Lord Bingham of Cornhill in the Appellate Committee of this House in A v Secretary of State (No 2) in 2005, when he was examining the obligation relating to torture under international law. What this means in our context is that the obligation to prevent and punish genocide is a peremptory obligation under international law. Not only that—as Lord Bingham said, it requires us to do more. It requires states to do all they can within lawful means to bring genocide to an end. As it binds all states, it is an obligation which lies at the heart of the relationships that states undertake with each other. It is the kind of obligation that goes without saying. The fact that an agreement does not refer to it does not mean that it does not exist or that it can be forgotten about.
The conclusion that has been drawn from the propositions that I have just summarised involves difficult and overlapping areas of law. The question of whether they provide an answer to an objection that the course which the amendment seeks to follow has no place in a trade agreement is an open question and it needs to be addressed. I believe that it is not capable of sound resolution simply by a debate in this House. It is best resolved by a court after hearing full and carefully reasoned argument from all sides. If that happens, the judgment—the determination—that is issued will carry with it great authority which will resonate throughout the world in a way that we need to be sure is done in order to further the cause of eliminating genocide. That is what this amendment provides for and it is why it has my full support.
My Lords, I am very pleased to endorse this amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool. I congratulate him on his impassioned and persuasive introduction, as has been mentioned by other noble Lords. I fully support the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, in his recognition of the determination of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, to uncover atrocities around the world and be fearless in their attempts to unravel them and draw them to our attention.
The number of Members of your Lordships’ House who are listed to speak on this amendment is an indication of the seriousness of the issue that it seeks to address. I shall be brief, but I emphasise that I fully support the view that in this new era of our history it is an opportunity to reset the dial and have the courage of our convictions by taking the global lead. We absolutely cannot condone genocide and must, through the channels available to us, uncover and condemn it. To condemn genocide on one hand as a nation state, then be willing to negotiate trade deals and perpetuate trading arrangements is inconsistent in the extreme. It would be hypocritical, and the Government would be guilty of turning a blind eye to atrocities that have been proven to be taking place. Walking past on the other side, to use a biblical phrase, is not a stance that a responsible global state should adopt, and it would undermine our moral influence.
I quote Robbie Burns, the famous Scottish poet, and complete the phrase “Man’s inhumanity to man”:
“Man’s inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn!”
I hope that the Minister takes the matter very seriously and accepts the amendment.
My Lords, I am sorry that I was not able to vote for the previous amendment, although I am very much in support of this one, because I felt that there were ambiguities—not least because there are offenders against human rights very close to us, such as in Poland, Hungary and Greece.
This amendment is quite different. It is one of the most profound and important amendments to be discussed in your Lordships’ House for a long time. We have an obligation under the genocide convention to prevent and punish genocide and its perpetrators, but if we rely on the Security Council or the International Criminal Court, we are dodging our obligations. We know full well that China’s seat on the Security Council means that it would veto any such move against itself. What a terrible indictment of the international order today, especially the UN and its constituent bodies. Instead of living up to their original ideals of maintaining international peace and security, better living standards, friendly relations and social progress, action—or, more likely, inaction—by the UN has come to represent quite often the very opposite of those ideals: self-seeking and looking for a scapegoat, a cover for some of the most reprehensible Governments in the world.
This amendment possesses the advantage of bringing the UK into compliance with its obligations under the genocide convention. Several states have argued, like the UK, that it is for the international and judicial systems to make the determination of genocide. This argument is profoundly flawed, as it neglects the basic fact that it is the state that is the duty bearer under the genocide convention—hence the states that are parties to the genocide convention must act to ensure that the determination is made by a competent body and that decisive steps follow to fulfil the states’ obligations under the convention to prevent and punish. Moreover, to have the issue of genocide, or not, examined in our courts would be a good thing.
It will likely be argued that the amendment may jeopardise relationships with states accused of genocide in the UK. It should be emphasised that positive genocide judgments are exceptionally rare, owing to the extremely high evidentiary standard. A formal legal examination and determination of genocide in court, to which the trade signatories might make representations, should not be any more diplomatically upsetting than, for example, the UK making complaints at the United Nations against nations such as China for their alleged human rights abuses. The amendment—if passed, as I hope it will be—will in time become a matter of diplomatic pride, sending a strong signal about the values of the UK as a leader in global human rights.
Owing to the rarity of genocide judgments, very few countries would fall within the purview of these provisions. It is difficult to envisage, therefore, that the Government’s ability to trade will be significantly affected. Generally speaking, Governments tend to seek to strike trade deals with nations with which they share common values. The UK does not currently have a trade deal with a country credibly accused of genocide, I believe, and one is not in prospect.
As it happens, we are unlikely to achieve or even want a trade agreement with China. The experience of Canada shows why. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had been expected to come away with an agreement to formally start trade talks, but he insisted that any talks include gender and labour rights and environmental standards. He also raised human rights and China’s use of the death penalty. Basically, he was shown the door and was told no—that there would be no negotiation of a free trade agreement.
Likewise Australia, which, along with many other countries, has been a vocal critic of China’s treatment of the Uighurs in Xinjiang, its suppression of democracy in Hong Kong, and its military activities in the South China Sea. The anti-climax came in April when the Australian Prime Minister took the lead in calling for a thorough investigation into the source of the coronavirus. That incensed China. Since then, the deterioration of the China/Australia relationship has been swift. China is barring Australian goods and putting punitive tariffs on them.
As for the attempted EU-China comprehensive agreement on investment, it is only to be expected that the EU will put finance ahead of human rights, and even the mildest rebuke from the EU about human rights in China elicits a response from China that it should not be meddling in China’s internal affairs—that the Chinese people will not accept an instructor on human rights and oppose double standards. It will all likely end in tears.
This amendment embodies the only thing that we can do. International courts are ineffective; international arrest depends on the perpetrator coming here. It is insulting to the victims of genocide to imagine that putting up monuments, especially after the catastrophe, will make any difference. Nor will lighting candles or pulling down statues—all empty gestures.
If captains of industry and politicians had adopted the practice outlined in this amendment in the 1930s, history might have been very different. For example, IBM had immoral commerce with the Third Reich, supplying it with tabulating machines and punch cards, so useful in rounding up victims.
Can there be any doubt now about the genocidal moves of China? Modern communications ensure that no one can hide from their senses the genocidal policies that it is pursuing against the Uighurs. Foreign companies have wittingly or unwittingly helped China with facial recognition technology and artificial intelligence to enable social control. Trade with any part of China should be under the microscope, and let us not forget Tibet and the danger that now faces Hong Kong. Governments have the power to influence this. If China’s trade and investment are cut down, it may not be able to finance its barbaric projects. Not only should this amendment be passed with acclaim, but other Governments should follow suit.
We must remember the genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda. The world failed to react to the events while they were unfolding. What did the Security Council do? It removed its peacekeeping mission and allowed bureaucratic foot-dragging to obfuscate the need for prompt—indeed, advance—action. That has weighed heavily on the international community, which now realises that it must do more. Advance action is needed to prevent genocide. Once it is happening it is too late. That is why this amendment is so well crafted and so deserving of support from your Lordships.
My Lords, I would like to congratulate the noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Forsyth, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Falkner and Lady Kennedy, on this important amendment. I would also like to congratulate them and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, on their work on the issue of genocide more broadly.
I need to declare an interest: I have been appointed as a member of the panel for the independent review of the Human Rights Act, which was announced today. The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was unanimously adopted by the UN in 1948. It is important, perhaps, to remind ourselves of the definition of genocide, because it is not just killing or causing serious bodily harm or mental harm to members of a group because of their national, ethnic, racial or religious affiliations. It is also deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. These are all things we are currently seeing in Xinjiang.
Amendment 9 provides a mechanism for limited prevention and sanction of genocide, and it hence recognises the ongoing obligation of all states with which we trade not to engage in genocide.
There has been reference already to Xinjiang, and the noble Lord, Lord Alton, spoke eloquently of the extent of trading contracts in China which involve operations in Xinjiang. Your Lordships will recall that the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination described the region as
“a massive internment camp shrouded in secrecy, a … no-rights zone.”
The China Tribunal, chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice, says that the “organised butchery” of living people to sell body parts of those from religious minorities and ethnic groups could be compared
“to the worst atrocities committed in conflicts of the 20th Century”,
such as the Nazi gassing of Jews and the Khmer Rouge massacres in Cambodia. The tribunal went on to say,
“But nothing, or nothing much, will be done by the Government because the damage caused by even trying to extinguish such abuses comes at what seems to be perceived as an unacceptable cost to trade, and ultimately to our other legitimate interests.”
Through Amendment 9 we can show that something will be done, that genocide is unacceptable, that we will not engage with trade deals where genocide occurs, and that such deals will be revoked where the High Court makes a preliminary determination that they should be revoked on the grounds of genocide, should that be the final decision.
Genocide may not be a popular topic, and it happens far from home, but genocide affects us all in various ways and to a varying extent. One of the most direct ways in which genocide affects us is that by trading with genocidaires we become complicit in the genocide itself because we are not taking action to sanction or prevent it. It is not enough to respond by saying that if we do not enter into such a trade agreement, others will. We have moral and legal obligations on the international stage, and our standing will be diminished if we do not recognise the need to protect the peoples of the world against genocide by refusing to contract with those who use people in their jurisdiction as slave labourers, or so regulate their lives that they can be forced to act as slave labourers.
During the struggle against the slave trade, which engaged Parliament for 40 years, ordinary people in their millions boycotted sugar from slave-owning plantations and refused to add to the bottom-line profits of that sordid trade. Recent activity on the public stage tells us that the British people today would not wish to be complicit in slave labour and genocide, even if there is a price to pay.
Amendment 9 is tightly drawn; it will not prevent trade, except in these very exceptional circumstances. It puts down a marker that UK trade is based on an adherence to our obligations in international law to prevent the crime of genocide.
One Minister recently suggested that possible trading partners might be put off by the possibility that the trade arrangements would be ended if they were found to be in breach of this amendment. We should not be entering into trading agreements with any country that is engaged in or planning genocide in its various forms. If countries subsequently move towards genocidal actions we should provide this remedy through our courts, for we are committed to our obligations under the convention against genocide. The Minister said that to withdraw from a trade agreement because of human rights abuses would be extraordinary. Genocide is extraordinary and the measures required to combat it may well be extraordinary, but we need to do this.
This provision would also complement the powerful new Magnitsky-style sanctions regime established by the Government in July this year, which targets individuals and organisations that have been involved in some of the gravest human rights violations and abuses around the world. Currently, individuals and organisations in Russia, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar and North Korea are subject to sanctions.
Amendment 9 simply provides a mechanism for judicial determination, which would enable the UK to decide whether such a revocation clause in a trade agreement should be triggered. Amendment 9 would enable us to be in a stronger trading position, so that we are not forced to continue trading unethically with those involved in genocide, and so to be complicit in their genocide.
Amendment 9 also adds content to our commitment under the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. It is a small but significant step in the right direction. As my noble friend Lord Alton often says, genocide response and genocide prevention are not matters of chance. They require a judicial mechanism that works to put structure into the way we deal with this crime. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, has told us that this mechanism will do just that. I hope noble Lords will support Amendment 9, as I shall.
My Lords, in this long dialogue with the Government, notably led in this House by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, the facts have been reiterated time and again. There is an international agreement on the definition as set out in the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and this carries in bold the duty to prevent such genocide
“at the instant the State learns of, or should normally have learned of, the existence of a serious risk that genocide will be committed.”
We need only need look at the clear early warning signs of impending murderous attacks on the Rohingya Muslims—which await final legal determination of genocide by an independent tribunal—to acknowledge that prevention of genocide is still a distant goal, fraught as it is with legal and political obstacles. Meanwhile, whole ethnic groups are being slaughtered, and we turn away for want of a mechanism that would go some way to both recognise the crime of genocide and demonstrate with actions our duty to prevent and punish such crimes.
As we have heard time and again, this amendment provides a mechanism, namely to acknowledge the genocidal intent of a state together with a prevention measure, by limiting trade with that state. This is a big ask. After all, trade is also a lifesaver for nations and for millions of people. However, in the absence of a mechanism, it is difficult to see how a state signatory to the Geneva conventions can fulfil its obligations. The record of UK action in fulfilling this obligation is by no means exemplary. The early warning signs in the case of the Rohingyas—which were pretty unmistakeable in that they included mass murder, torture, abuse, rape, violence, sexual violence and more, perpetrated by the military against a defined ethnic group—were first brought to the International Court of Justice not by the UK but by the Gambia.
Her Majesty’s Government place immense confidence in the international judicial bodies to respond to genocide, despite being given all the reasons not to. We would all like these bodies to pass muster, and one day, perhaps, they will. However, hope should not blind us to reality. Totalitarian states that hold the keys to the gates of the international judicial system will not deliver justice—certainly not when they themselves are the offenders. That is why this amendment is so important. It enables actions to be taken immediately to establish whether there is a case to answer, while the Government wait for the international bodies to make the determination.
Understandably, Amendment 9 cannot resolve all these issues, but it can address one. It can ensure that Her Majesty’s Government do not trade with states judged by our own High Court to be probable perpetrators of genocide and do not, therefore, become complicit in these acts. The amendment introduces a domestic mechanism for genocide determination in a very limited number of cases. The UK at least will be able to say that it did not wait to see any unspeakable horrors occur while doing nothing: it saw, and it acted.
My Lords, at this very late hour I will be as brief as I can, so that other Members waiting to speak can contribute as well and the House can perhaps get to vote on this crucial amendment at not too unreasonable an hour. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and my noble friend Lady Kennedy on their excellent introductions to Amendment 9. Much has already been said on this vital amendment. I will, therefore, make just a couple of very brief points.
First, as has been said, the amendment provides a means for the UK to live up to its commitments to protect against, prevent and punish the crime of genocide, as declared in our signing of the genocide convention. Unless this mechanism is established, we are in real danger of defaulting on these commitments by relying on means which, as noble Lords have eloquently illustrated this evening, can be unreliable in holding alleged perpetrators of genocide to account. Moreover, the amendment has the potential to have wide impact. It will ensure that victims of suspected genocide globally have a viable means to pursue a legal judgment on their case when all other avenues are blocked. As the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, said, if we are to be—in the words of the Prime Minister—global Britain, we need a moral compass that guides us.
By passing this amendment, the UK would send a clear signal to other states that it places its values at the centre of any trade deals, and that the international community must stand by its commitments to do all within its power to ensure that the evils of genocide are consigned to the history books. This amendment offers a route to achieving that. Today, we have a very rare opportunity to act on a matter of global and historic significance. I sincerely hope that noble Lords will support this amendment and start us on the long and difficult journey, identified by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, of putting meaning into its intentions. I will certainly be supporting it.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, referred to the genocide in Rwanda. When that happened, I was a graduate student writing on the European Parliament. I happened to be visiting a friend in Italy, and she had a visiting Catholic priest from Rwanda who said to me, “Please help”. I was in my 20s and I was involved in a political party, but I was not able to speak in a Parliament. I certainly could not go and stand in the European Parliament and try to effect change. But I always felt that there was something wrong and that there ought to be a way to deal with something that is called genocide without waiting for the UN Security Council to come to a decision, where it is always possible for one state alone to veto the idea of genocide.
Since arriving in your Lordships’ House, I, like other noble Lords, have heard the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, again and again raise the issue of genocide. From the Government Front Bench we always hear the same refrain: “We cannot do anything unless there is a legal ruling. There needs to be a judgment. Unless something is called genocide by a court, we cannot act.” As the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, pointed out, this amendment will begin to effect that change. It is not court interference or damaging the separation of powers; it is enabling this House and the other place to remind the Government that there are times when it is vital to act.
Her Majesty’s Government, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, repeatedly tell us that there needs to be a legal case for us to talk about genocide. This amendment would allow that to happen. Surely it is time for the amendment to be passed, for the other place to be able to think about this and to take a lead. As the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, pointed out, this might be a novel act, but that is no reason not to make that act. Surely, if we want to play a role in the world, sometimes it is necessary to act first.
It is not about virtue signalling; as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, pointed out, it is about virtuous behaviour. Unlike the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, I think there are times when one has to say that, however important trade is, some issues are more important. You cannot simply equate trade and the value of human life. This is about human life, and we must stand to be counted. I urge noble Lords to support this amendment.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the powerful speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham. I join many other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lords who tabled this amendment. I will be brief, because I want to ensure that as many Members of your Lordships’ House as possible have the chance to vote tonight. I must humbly associate myself with the highly powerful speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, who made the crucial point about the international importance of our deliberations here tonight on this novel and innovative legal move.
This brings me to the first of the three points I would like to make. In discussing a previous group of amendments, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, said that the UK has been a leader for many decades in human rights developments. UK civil society, lawyers and campaign groups certainly have been, and Governments of various stripes have often been dragged along by those campaigners. That is what we are seeing here tonight: individuals in your Lordships’ House and campaign groups saying that we cannot tolerate the current situation and we have to act.
The noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, referred to the Magnitsky sanctions—another new and powerful weapon in the human rights armoury, which has developed from the actions of US civil society and campaigners. I always like to highlight good news, and I think we can see in that pairing a real sign of good news. Although, as many noble Lords have commented, the international community and the United Nations have been inactive or unable to act in hideous case after hideous case of genocide, we are seeing new attempts, new approaches and new ways of ensuring action. That is why this is so important.
Secondly, I would like to respond to something that the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, said when discussing an earlier group of amendments. He questioned the role of the courts. The noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, has already delivered an effective rebuttal to that, but I want to make a further point. Human rights, as most people would probably agree, are universal, but that is often not the way that Governments, or even Parliaments, have acted. We have tended to use human rights as a stick to beat the people with whom we have other disputes and conflicts. For various reasons, we have quietly turned the other way when it is people who are our friends, or perhaps even people whom we saw as the enemy of our enemies and, therefore, as our friends. The nature of the courts is that they do not have that kind of bias; they have a universalist approach to judgment, which is exactly what we need with human rights.
Thirdly, we have heard many very strong arguments tonight about the moral case for this amendment and the previous group of amendments. That is enough on its own; it really should not need any more. However, there is a crucial point to be made: defending, speaking up for and creating a world in which there is more respect for human rights—as this amendment, which simply attempts to stop genocide, would do—makes the world safer and more stable and secure for everybody. Making this amendment is not just morally the right thing to do; it is also in our self-interest.
Contrary to my intention, I must intervene to correct what I regard as a mischaracterisation of my views. It was not my view, and not the view I expressed, that courts have no role: I entirely accept the proposition at the heart of this that courts will make a determination relating to whether a state has committed genocide. My point was that that being the case does not lead to the executive action that follows from it.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, said that the authority of the court would lead to the revocation of an international trade agreement. That is not what the amendment says. I am constantly being told in this debate that the amendment is precise—it is not precise. It does not say that; it says:
“International bilateral trade agreements are revoked” by the action of the High Court. I object to the fact that a High Court determination leads directly to the revocation of the agreement entered into by the Government and endorsed by Parliament. If that determination takes place and we want to pass legislation, it should say that Ministers should act to revoke that international trade agreement in these circumstances, not that it is revoked automatically by the determination of the High Court itself.
My Lords, I applaud my noble friend Lord Alton for tabling Amendment 9 and for all the work he does to promote justice on this most important of issues. I believe that everything that needs to be said has already been said very powerfully; the case is overwhelming. Personally, I hope that we can get on with the vote as soon as possible, and, therefore, I am abandoning my speech.
My Lords, I rise to speak in favour of Amendment 9. In doing so, I return to an issue that I have raised in your Lordships’ House on numerous occasions. Recently, in the context of the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill, I spoke about the use of Uighur slave labour and the dangers of working with companies like Huawei, which are complicit in using slave labour and producing the Orwellian surveillance technology that locks up 1 million people, attempting to destroy their religious beliefs and culture. This point has been highlighted powerfully by many noble Lords.
In their policies, we can see many of the indicators that constitute genocide in the strict legal definition of that word. We can also see it in the treatment of Rohingya, Shan and Kachin people in Burma and the murder of thousands of Christians and many Muslims in Nigeria by Islamist militants. Last year, Her Majesty’s Government accepted recommendation 7 of the Bishop of Truro’s report, confirming that genocide determination is a matter for courts. Over the last year, Her Majesty’s Government have had opportunities to put this into practice and support the Gambia proceedings against Myanmar before the ICJ, but they chose to remain silent, monitoring. They cannot have it both ways, saying they are for courts but not doing anything to ensure that they are considering such issues.
My noble friend Lord Alton and I recently had a meeting with the International Criminal Court, trying to get international judicial action against those responsible for or complicit in the massacres in Nigeria. However, sadly, that system now lacks effectiveness, which is why we need a judicial route that can examine evidence and, if the evidence substantiates it, make a predetermination of genocide, which is precisely what Amendment 9 will enable us to do.
Just three weeks ago, I went on a harrowing visit to Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh with HART, my small humanitarian charity. I saw videos of the beheading and torture of Armenians captured by Azerbaijan; some were filmed by the perpetrators on the Armenians’ own phones and sent back to their families to see the horrible things that had been perpetrated towards their loved ones. I also recorded many anguished eye-witness statements. I sent our report to the Foreign Secretary and will make a copy available in the Library of your Lordships’ House.
Last week, Human Rights Watch published a report that provided evidence of the torture and humiliation inflicted by Azerbaijan on Armenian prisoners of war. Genocide Watch has designated Azerbaijan as fulfilling all 10 criteria of genocide. In the genocide unleased against the Armenians more than a 100 years ago by the Ottoman Empire, an estimated 1.5 million Middle Eastern Christians—including Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Arameans and Maronites —perished between 1915 and 1923. This genocide has received recognition by many countries, including Wales—all credit to Wales—but not the United Kingdom. At the time, the world was indifferent, which led Hitler, on
“Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
Hitler considered the Armenian “solution” a precedent for his atrocities against the Jews. We know all too well what that meant.
The Genocide Convention was the response to the horrific atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis against the Jews and was meant to signify the international commitment to “never again” by introducing duties to prevent, supress and punish the crime of genocide—duties that successive Governments have neglected for far too long. It is my passionate hope that the Armenians, who are, as we speak, suffering again from a genocide inflicted by Azerbaijan and Turkey, will receive the genocide recognition that is due, and that the violations of international law perpetrated by Azerbaijan and Turkey will not be allowed to pass with impunity.
In recent months, we have heard a lot about “taking back control”. As we already have control of our own courts, we should give them the first say in recognising this most serious of all crimes: genocide. Amendment 9 would provide such a mechanism to deal with the question of genocide determination. Having just returned from the harrowing experience of witnessing people suffer a genocide while we talk here this evening, I feel passionately that it is high time that we broke the gridlock of genocide determination. Amendment 9 would enable us to do that and I wholeheartedly support it.
My Lords, it is an honour to follow so many powerful speeches supporting this ground-breaking amendment, particularly that of my noble friend Lady Cox just now. We are 72 years on from the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, yet we still fail to prevent, suppress and punish this horrific crime. By ignoring it, we are complicit. Of the 17 genocide alerts around the globe, 14 have reached mass extermination. I want briefly to focus chillingly on an area that affects my own profession, with some forced to participate under extreme threats.
In China, surgeons are accused of forced sterilisations and, most horrifically, forced organ-harvesting on a mass scale. It was Nazi doctors like Mengele who perpetrated atrocities, experimenting on innocent people; the list of their actions is sickening. They hid their horrors behind the excuse of medical and scientific advancement. Now, we see the same things happening.
What can be done? Considering China and many other countries’ powerful positions, as has been said in this debate, engaging the UN will fail. We therefore must strengthen our domestic mechanisms to fill the void left by international bodies. We cannot say that now is not the time: now is never a comfortable time and we must have the courage to do what is right. Amendment 9 is a step toward strengthening our domestic response to genocide. As the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, hopes, it could start a global movement towards zero tolerance of these depravities. It is the time for action. This amendment must be supported.
I pay tribute to the movers of this amendment, in particular my noble friend Lord Alton—for he is my friend—for his tenacity and passion. On
“Have we learned nothing from history?”
I went on to say that
“it is nice to stand shoulder to shoulder and offer sympathy, but it is action that is now required.”—[
Amendment 9 gives us a chance to take action. Wringing our hands and mouthing nice words will deter no one.
Just three weeks ago, I paid tribute to Lord Sacks in this Chamber and was struck by how many noble Lords, from all parties and none and from all traditions and none, spoke of him with such affection and admiration. In rereading some of his writings, I came across a lecture from
“an almost unimaginable orgy of violence” with people
“hacked to death by machetes … in a country where perpetrators and victims had previously lived together as neighbours”.
Rabbi Sacks continued by explaining that, the next day,
“Apart from attempted genocide, the Holocaust and Rwanda had two things in common. First, they were preceded by deliberate dehumanisation: the Jews were deemed ‘vermin’ or ‘lice’; the Tutsis were Inyenzi, ‘cockroaches’.”
As he put it:
“In this way mass murder could be justified as a kind of sterilisation, a necessary, if painful, operation to restore a nation to its health.”
The second similarity, he argued, was that
“both tragedies were known in advance. The international representatives who gathered at Evian … in 1938 knew that a terrible fate was about to overtake the Jews of Europe.”
Yet they each
“declared that they had no room for refugees… in Rwanda, in 1990 the main Hutu newspaper had issued its own equivalent” of what he described as “the Nuremberg laws”. By 1992, over half a million machetes had been distributed. He went on:
“In 1993, an international commission gave warning” that a potential genocide was imminent and the head of the UN peacekeeping force, in 1994,
“passed on a warning … that a mass extermination was being planned.”
As Rabbi Sacks sombrely acknowledged:
“Both times humanity hid its face.”
Amendment 9 is a straightforward, proportionate call to action. As my noble friend Lord Cormack said in his moving speech, it says that we simply cannot turn a blind eye, even in the interest of trade deals, when a state is guilty of genocide.
I know that it is late, but permit me to state very clearly my support for the campaign led by Andrew Mitchell MP. On
“No fewer than five alleged Rwandan genocide perpetrators live in the UK”,
four of whom receive benefits. While the US, Canada, France, Belgium and Sweden, among others, have extradited those accused to face the Rwandan justice system, which abolished the death penalty more than 10 years ago, shockingly, we have not. Andrew Mitchell ended his words with the following:
“The souls of the slaughtered Tutsis cry out for justice but Britain has turned a deaf ear. We should all be ashamed.”
I call on the Government to deal swiftly with this matter, certainly before the next CHOGM, to be held in Kigali—the Rwandan capital—next summer.
Towards the end of his presentation, Rabbi Sacks said that people often asked: where was God in the Holocaust? He maintained that that was the wrong question; the real question was: where was man? He suggested that it sometimes appears that we have learned nothing, which is why memorials are necessary. Tonight, in this House we are confronted once again with the same question: where were we when we had the chance to act against those who are responsible for today’s most grievous crimes against humanity? For those who have said and will say that the Trade Bill is not the place for such an amendment, I say that I will not join with the hand-wringing and the mouthing of nice words brigade. I will join with those who vote for action by supporting this amendment and I urge all noble Lords to do likewise.
My Lords, this has been a powerful debate and rightly so, given the seriousness of the issue. This Wednesday,
My noble friends Lady Northover and Lady Smith have indicated our support from these Benches and I need not repeat any of their arguments. We will work with the noble Lord and others, as indicated by the noble Lord, Lord Collins, in the previous group, to address some of the areas that have been referred to in the debate. For example, if it is a matter of the courts, which courts, and how do they interact with our treaties and agreements, both domestic and international? Would there have to be clauses and agreements, as the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, said, or is the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, correct in saying that mechanisms are already in place? This can be discussed and identified.
Also, is this to be linked purely with preferential terms, which the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, indicated, or is it for all trade, as has also been indicated? There are consequences for both of those issues, and yes, they have to be agreed—as well as the interaction between our domestic courts and the mechanisms, which has not been raised so much. Genocide is of course one of the crimes under the International Criminal Court, which is different from those which can be triggered by the genocide convention. How do they interact with each other? These are all issues that I agree can and should be resolved through discussions.
Finally, I want to repeat to the Government from these Benches a clear call for a trade and human rights policy statement where a UK framework of atrocity analysis which can be integrated into our trade policy is agreed. It should be something where officials in the DIT, the Foreign and Commonwealth and Development Office and BEIS should be able to see proper links between judicial measures, human rights measures, trade agreements and our trading relationships. In the absence of a proper framework with atrocity analysis, we will not be doing what I believe that all in this House want the UK to be, which is a leader in the world, not for deciding on the hierarchy of suffering but on preventing the worst excesses of human rights abuses. We need the structures and the frameworks in our legal and trading methods to allow us to do that and I hope that the Government will finally respond positively to this debate.
My Lords, I will not detain the House for too long because I made my comments in the previous debate about my support and that of the Opposition for this amendment. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and particularly my noble friend Lady Kennedy of The Shaws for their interventions.
I will single out two contributions. One is that of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, who has presented us with very clear arguments about why this argument should go to the Commons and why the Commons should consider it. The other is that of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, because he is right: we have to respond to the government mantra that we have heard so many times: “It has to go to a competent court”. If that is the response, then, as the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, said, let the Commons decide. That is what this House can do tonight.
My Lords, we have had a very long debate, and it is now my job to address the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Alton.
I have listened very carefully to the speech of the noble Lord, and noted that he has raised the subject of genocide—a heinous crime—more than 300 times, which is remarkable. I applaud his persistence and I wish that I could be the Minister to provide an answer—perhaps the 301st—that gives the necessary satisfaction to him, and to other distinguished noble Lords who have taken part in this very interesting debate. There have been some very moving and passionate speeches and we have had quotes from around the houses, ranging from Robbie Burns to—I should mention this—the very great, late Lord Sacks.
I do not advocate repeating the points made so eloquently by my noble friend Lord Grimstone in a previous group, so my remarks—I hope that the House will forgive me—are necessarily short. I will, however, quickly re-emphasise that the Government share wholeheartedly the concerns underpinning this amendment. My noble friend Lord Cormack referred to global Britain, as did a number of other Peers. The UK has also long supported the promotion of our values globally, and remains committed to its international obligations. We are clear that more trade does not have to come at the expense of human rights. This includes clauses in our trade agreements with many developing and emerging markets: suspensive powers in our trade preferences regime and recourse to trade levers through our sanctions policy.
The UK has played a leading international role in holding China to account for abuses, in particular those reported as taking place against the Uighur Muslims—which, again, was a theme during the debate this evening. We have led joint statements at the UN’s human rights bodies and underlined our concern directly to the Chinese authorities at senior levels. We have also repeatedly urged businesses that are involved in investing in Xinjiang or which have parts of their supply chain in the region, to conduct appropriate due diligence to satisfy themselves that their activities do not support any human rights violations or abuses. We have reinforced this message through engagement with businesses, industry groups and other stakeholders. Under the Modern Slavery Act the UK became the first country in the world to require businesses to report on how they are tackling modern slavery in their operations and supply chains.
This amendment seeks to give the High Court of England and Wales powers to revoke trade agreements where the court holds that another signatory to the relevant agreement has committed genocide. I was grateful to my noble friend Lord Lansley, who not only alluded to this in the last group but—as I know, though I came in slightly late—in this group too. He made some very helpful and interesting points. I listened carefully to all the speeches but, despite the very strong arguments that were presented by the noble Baronesses, Lady Kennedy and Lady Smith, and a few other noble Lords, the Government have serious concerns about this approach, some of which were touched on in the previous groups, as my noble friend Lord Grimstone iterated most strongly in his remarks.
The key point is that this would strike at the heart of the separation of powers in Britain’s constitutional system, allowing the High Court to frustrate trade agreements entered into by the Government and ratified after parliamentary scrutiny. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, raised a point about the separation of powers and the role of the courts. The Government’s position has consistently been that only a competent court should make determinations of genocide, and this does not entail the courts having the power to revoke trade agreements. State genocide is very difficult to prove in the judicial context—the evidential threshold is very high, and proceedings tend to be long and costly but the amendment would make it simple to bring vexatious allegations of genocide to the court as a means of putting political and international pressure on the Government.
Perhaps I may take up a point raised, in part, by my noble friend Lord Cormack. I remind the House, a bit like a long-playing record, that the Bill focuses on continuity agreements, but I would like to say a word about our approach to free trade agreements. We do not see a choice between securing growth and investment for the UK and supporting human rights. Our experience is that political freedom and the rule of law are vital underpinnings for both prosperity and stability, and that by having a strong economic relationship with partners, we are able to have open discussions on a range of very difficult issues, including human rights. Despite our varying approach to agreements with partners, we will always have open discussions on a range of issues, including human rights.
As my noble friend Lord Grimstone said earlier, we have provided extensive information to Parliament on our negotiations, including publishing our objectives and economic scoping assessments prior to negotiations beginning. We continue to engage closely with the relevant scrutiny committees—namely, the International Trade Committee in the House of Commons and the International Agreements Sub-Committee in the House of Lords.
Just before I conclude, I want to say something about China, because many references were made to that country. I say at the outset—as noble Lords would expect me to say—that China is an important economic partner for the UK. UK/China trade is currently worth approximately £76 billion. China is our fourth-largest trading partner, the sixth-largest export market and the third-largest import market. Currently, we have no plans to commence free trade agreement negotiations with China. Having recently concluded an agreement with Japan, our current priorities, as my noble friend Lord Grimstone has said on many occasions, are the US, Australia and New Zealand, as economies more similar to our own. Looking ahead—again, as my noble friend has said—we are committed to seeking accession to the CPTPP.
I do not want to delay the House any longer and the hour is late. In the light of the legal difficulties and unintended consequences, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount for his response to the debate. He would not expect me, though, to accept the tenor of his arguments, nor would the House expect me to speak at any length at the conclusion of this debate, because I know, as the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, was right to remind us, that we would like to move to a vote.
Let me make just two points. Anyone who doubts the point of the House of Lords should read the speeches tomorrow in Hansard, because it has been a remarkable debate on all sides. Good, constructive points have been made, and people have quite rightly said no amendment is going to be perfect and any amendment can be refined and improved. That is the purpose of this place—it is the point of our existence. If we send this amendment to the House of Commons, it can continue to be worked on and those issues can easily be addressed.
During the debate, a number of noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, and the noble Lord, Lord Polak, mentioned Rwanda. I visited the genocide sites in Rwanda; I went to a place called Murambi, where 56,000 people had been killed. I saw the skeletons of pregnant women with their children in what had been a college but had been turned into a memorial for victims of that violence. The noble Lord, Lord Hague of Richmond, as William Hague, our Foreign Secretary, spoke at the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, and he said:
“It is not enough to remember; we have a responsibility to act.”
It is not enough to remember. We have a responsibility to act.
During the Second World War, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a renowned theologian, defied Hitler and the Reich. He was sentenced to death and executed. He famously said:
“Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
Now is the time to act. I would like to test the opinion of the House.
Ayes 287, Noes 161.
My Lords, we now come to the group beginning with Amendment 11. I remind noble Lords that Members other than the mover and the Minister may speak only once and that short questions of elucidation are discouraged. Anyone wishing to press this or anything else in this group to a Division should make that clear during the course of the debate.