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International Humanitarian Law: Protecting Civilians in Conflict — [Mr Peter Bone in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:09 am on 18th June 2019.

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Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Conservative, Sutton Coldfield 10:09 am, 18th June 2019

I absolutely agree with the right hon. Gentleman; he is quite right, and the Minister will have noticed what he said.

Of today’s major and emerging crises, the vast majority—Syria, Yemen, Libya, Myanmar, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Venezuela and Xinjiang—are driven, at least in part, by the deliberate violent targeting of civilian groups by political elites. Just as the decision was taken 70 years ago, in recognition that modern war was changing, to create a convention that aimed to protect civilians during the time of war, so we must admit today that more is needed.

Mr Bone, you will have heard the Queen’s wonderful words in her toast at the banquet for President Trump. She said this:

“After the shared sacrifices of the Second World War, Britain and the United States worked with other allies to build an assembly of international institutions, to ensure that the horrors of conflict would never be repeated. While the world has changed, we are forever mindful of the original purpose of these structures: nations working together to safeguard a hard won peace.”

It is incredibly important to support international structures, particularly the UN—I draw the Minister’s attention to the comments in the House yesterday on the urgent question on Iran—and to use international bodies that were built up in the aftermath of the second world war.

The Government’s ongoing review of the UK’s protection of civilians strategy provides a welcome opportunity to ensure that British policy is fit for the challenges of modern conflict. It is, as the Minister will appreciate, an opportunity to ensure that any new strategy is in line with the substantial progress made in related areas since the previous strategy was published by the coalition Government in 2010 and last reviewed in 2012—namely, the UK’s growing commitment to the prevention of mass atrocities.