Human Rights

Foreign and Commonwealth Office written question – answered on 2nd October 2019.

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Photo of Chris Law Chris Law Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what steps his Department is taking to strengthen support for mechanisms to hold perpetrators accountable for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

Photo of Heather Wheeler Heather Wheeler The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Support for international criminal justice and international humanitarian law is a fundamental element of the UK's foreign policy. The UK believes that justice and accountability for the most serious international crimes are crucial to building lasting peace and security. In line with these principles, the British Government has supported the strengthening of a number of mechanisms to enable justice and accountability for the most serious international crimes.

The UK, as a State Party to the Rome Statute, provides financial, political and practical support to the International Criminal Court. We are one of the largest contributors to the Court, contributing £9.7m in 2018. The UK, together with a number of other States Parties, is proposing a number of actions to strengthen the Court to help it to fulfil its mandate under the Rome Statute. These will be discussed at the Assembly of States Parties in December. Our goal is to improve the Court's ability to deliver justice for victims of atrocity crimes that fall under its jurisdiction.

Since 2016, we have committed almost £1 million to the UN International Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) to support the preparation of legal cases for serious crimes under international law committed in the Syrian conflict. Following UK-led lobbying, on 1 August the UN Secretary General announced a new Board of Inquiry to investigate attacks on civilian infrastructure during the recent violence in Northwest Syria. We are also committed to supporting the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM). The UK played a leading role in the joint EU-OIC resolution that set up the IIMM, which will collect and preserve evidence of human rights violations for future prosecutions.

Furthermore, we intend to establish a UK human rights sanctions regime under the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 after we leave the EU. The regime designed to target individuals who have committed serious human rights violations, but who would otherwise not be addressed by the current geographical and thematic sanctions regimes.

The UK is also committed to strengthening justice for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence and holding perpetrators to account at the national and international levels through its Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI). This is the main focus of the UK-hosted PSVI international conference in London, 18-20 November, and a key outcome will be to agree concrete actions with the international community to ensure accountability for these horrific crimes.

We work through the multilateral system not only to support the implementation of agreed standards on human rights, democracy and the rule of law; but also to hold countries to account when they violate those standards. For example, in the OSCE the UK was instrumental in invoking the Moscow Mechanism in response to the serious human rights violations in Chechnya. The UK has been vocal in both the Permanent Council and the Human Dimension Committee in its criticism of those participating states that fail to uphold universally agreed principles. Similarly, in the Council of Europe the UK has been consistent in challenging those member states that fail to meet their obligations under the European Convention of Human Rights, including the execution of judgements by the Court.

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