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Debate on ICC in House of Commons

Hello everyone

Below are some Hansard extracts from Ann Clwyd's contribution to Monday's
debate on the Foreign Policy aspects of the Queen's speech in which she
discusses the possibility of an ad hoc tribunal for Iraq.  May be
interesting to those of you interested by the debate over war crimes
since, whether or not you believe that our government has committed any,
Iraq's most certainly have.


Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley): 22 Nov 1999 : Column 397
I shall talk about one more country--Iraq--in the short time that I have
available. However, I would have liked to have mentioned many countries and
conflicts and to have asked our Government what role we are playing in
trying to bring conflicts all over the world to an end. In particular, I
wanted to refer to countries, such as Sudan, where the conflict has gone on
for many years. 
Nearly 10 years ago, before the international tribunals for the former
Yugoslavia and Rwanda were set up, it was clear that Saddam Hussein and his
close associates should be indicted as international war criminals. When Pol
Pot and his associates in Cambodia were indicted as war criminals, when
Milosevic and the people responsible for the events in the former Yugoslavia
and Kosovo have now been indicted as war criminals and when we are talking
about indicting some of those responsible for the terrible events in East
Timor, we must ask ourselves why Saddam Hussein has not been indicted by the
United Nations as a war criminal. 
22 Nov 1999 : Column 398
Unfortunately, Saddam and his cronies are still viewed by a few Governments
as leaders with whom they may want to do business one day. Some may even be
doing that business right now. Saddam and his associates are looked on as
leaders of a country under siege by the powerful, struggling to survive
against the odds. In reality, as the American ambassador for war crimes,
Ambassador Scheffer, said in New York a few weeks ago 
                "these are thugs who terrorize what was once, and could
again become, a great nation." 
I chair an organisation, Indict, which is focused on bringing Saddam Hussein
and some of his close associates before an international tribunal. The
latest report from the United Nations rapporteur on human rights in Iraq was
published a few weeks ago and it shows that atrocities are being carried out
by Saddam's army against the Arabs of the southern marshes with a ferocity
that is as widespread--and over a longer period--as that waged by Milosevic
against the Kosovo Albanians. 
We have identified nine major criminal episodes under Saddam Hussein's rule
in Iraq. Three of them continue to this day and, indeed, one of them is
accelerating at an alarming pace. In the 1980s, crimes against humanity and
possible genocide were committed in the Anfal campaign against the Iraqi
Kurds, including the notorious use of poison gas in Halabja in 1988. In the
1980s, crimes against humanity and war crimes, including the use of poison
gas, took place in the war against Iran. In the 1990-91, there were crimes
of humanity and war crimes against Kuwait. In 1991, war crimes took place
against coalition forces during the Gulf war. 
There is not time to list all the crimes, but, of course, Saddam Hussein did
not commit them on his own. We know that he has built up one of the most
ruthless police states, using a small number of associates who share with
him the responsibility for those criminal actions. Ali Hassan Al-Majid
became known as "Chemical Ali" for his leadership and enthusiasm in using
poison gas against Iraqi Kurds in the Iran-Iraq war. He also turned up in
Kuwait during the occupation and, more recently, as governor in the south of
Iraq and acted against the Shi'ite people. Saddam Hussein's sons, Qusay and
Uday, are both involved in all the crimes. 
My organisation has come up with a list of 12 people who we believe should
be indicted by an international war crimes tribunal. There must not be a
memory lapse when it comes to the war crimes of Saddam Hussein and his inner
circle. This is a man and a regime who have brutally and systematically
committed war crimes and crimes against humanity for years, are committing
them now and will continue committing them until the international community
finally says, "Enough". 
A few weeks ago I asked my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary what we
were doing in the Security Council of the United Nations to establish an
international tribunal to try Saddam Hussein. He said: 
                "we do not at present detect a consensus in the Security
Council for a war crimes tribunal on Iraq."--[Official Report, 2 November
1999; Vol. 337, c. 95.] 
Recently, the United States has said strongly that the Security Council
would be fully justified in establishing an ad hoc international criminal
tribunal without--this normally happens in such cases--having a commission
of experts to consider the matter beforehand. The evidence is there, and I
have seen much of it--5.5 million pages of 
22 Nov 1999 : Column 399
captured Iraqi documents that were taken out of northern Iraq by Human
Rights Watch. They detail in the minutest fashion the day-to-day nature of
the crimes committed by Saddam Hussein against the peoples of northern Iraq.
An archive of Iraqi documents contains more than 4 million pages and there
are video tapes shot by cameramen and an archive of classified documents is,
at present, being declassified. There is plenty of evidence, so I ask my
right hon. Friend to do his utmost to bring about an international tribunal
to try Saddam Hussein and his associates as soon as is humanely possible.
Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie): Everybody agrees with the
tribute paid to the defence forces by the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr.
Soames). I should however like to correct something that he said--he
probably missed this point during one of his lunch hours: the Treasury no
longer works for the Russians and it has changed since his day. 
I particularly want to commend the Government for the proposal to take steps
to ratify the establishment of an International Criminal Court, which is an
important move forward. It will fill a yawning gap in international
provision that has been present since the setting up of the United Nations
itself. We have to bring law, order and justice to the regulation of such
important international affairs as genocide. The perceived need for an
international court grows and grows. Not only trade, but knowledge of the
atrocities committed in places such as Rwanda, East Timor and Kosovo has
been globalised. The demand for action from an International Criminal Court
is present because we know what is going on, wherever in the world it is
taking place, and we learn about such crimes through means that were not
available in the past. We can no longer rely on ad hoc provisions such as
those for Rwanda or the former Yugoslavia. We need to 
22 Nov 1999 : Column 415
establish an International Criminal Court with respected powers and
procedures, and it needs to demonstrate quickly that it is a big hitter so
that people such as Karadzic, Mladic and Milosevic know that they are not
safe. We need such a court not only to deal with present atrocities, but to
send a clear message for the future that we have to move on this issue. 
I particularly welcome the fact that the election of the new British
Government gave a strong boost to those who have worked so long for the
establishment of an International Criminal Court, but there are flaws in the
proposal and I hope that the Minister--either today or in writing--can give
us the assurance that it will be improved. First, and most importantly, it
is crucial that the prosecutor be genuinely independent. Unless he can act
on his own initiative and not be subject to the control of the Security
Council or anyone else, we will not be able to have full faith in the court.
No one must be above the law. 
I shall give a current example. All legislation passed by the House has to
be tested against the European convention on human rights. We in Scotland
have been bitten by the ECHR because a judgment has been made that the
practice of appointing a large number of temporary sheriffs, which grew up
under the previous Administration and continued under this one, infringes
the ECHR. It was not possible to show that the judges were separate, or
distant, from the Government. That judgment has to be taken seriously, but
we are considering the establishment of an International Criminal Court, and
the decision whether or not to take an initiative may be subject to global
politics and the make-up of the Security Council. We must consider that
We must also consider the provision, which was inserted by a group of
nations at a late stage during the proceedings on the ICC, that a nation
could be immune from action by the ICC for seven years. That just gives the
go-ahead to those who commit genocide. Justice has to be rapid and it has to
be done when memories are fresh. If there is a seven-year immunity, it will
be a wrecking clause in respect of the carrying out of such justice. 
I would like an assurance from the Government that they are working hard on
the proposals for the ICC with those important nations that have not yet
signed and ratified the treaty. We must have China, India and Israel on
board, but above all we must have the United States. 

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