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Members of the group may like to consider studying this legislation and responding (the relevant website and Email address are at the end) P. Brooke * CALLING ALL TYRANTS: THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT SPELLS THE BEGINNING OF THE END FOR OPPRESSORS, WE MUST GIVE IT OUR SUPPORT by Peter Hain (Guardian, Tuesday August 29, 2000) Dictators and torturers across the world may be sleeping a little less soundly these days. Not because of a sudden attack of conscience, but because Labour - through its recently published draft legislation - is helping to tip the international balance away from impunity and toward justice. Our draft bill will put Britain's full weight behind the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) which will be a giant step forward for human rights and the rule of international law. For the first time there will be an international body to try individuals responsible for the worst crimes known to humankind. Future Pol Pots and Pinochets should be warned: merchants of oppression, atrocity and genocide, however powerful or feared in their own country, can be brought to justice. And through scrupulously fair trials which can place the blame on individuals rather than communities, the ICC will promote peace and reconciliation. Based in The Hague, the ICC will build on the model and jurisprudence established to try Nazis in Nuremberg and the current war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. But uniquely, the ICC will have a forward-looking and potentially global mandate. The ICC will deal with three clearly defined offences: genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. It will have jurisdiction over crimes committed after its establishment - not over past atrocities. The main responsibility for punishing crimes will remain that of nation states. The ICC will only intervene if the countries concerned have proved unable or unwilling genuinely to investigate the crimes themselves. This might happen where conflict has led to the collapse of the local judicial system or where a dictatorial government refuses to punish its own abusers. Except when the UN Security Council refers situations to the court, the ICC will only have jurisdiction over crimes committed in countries which have ratified the court's statute, or by their nationals. It will look to states to provide evidence, arrest suspects and enforce the sentences it passes down. Like any body which emerges from many years of extensive negotiation involving the international community, the ICC will be neither a magic wand nor an all-powerful Big Brother. But because it is the product of international agreement, rather than unilateral initiative, the ICC's decisions will represent the will, and demand the respect, of the whole world. Under Labour, Britain has already proved itself one of the court's strongest supporters. We proved it by our pivotal role at the successful Rome conference that adopted the ICC Treaty. We proved it by helping to give the court the power to punish not only those who massacre civilians but also those who commit sexual violence or use child soldiers. And we continue to prove it by doing our best to mobilise international support for the court, including by lobbying reluctant countries such as the US. The legislation will enable Britain to provide maximum assistance to the ICC. For example, it will allow the law-enforcement authorities to identify, arrest and, through a streamlined process, surrender war crimes suspects to The Hague. It will allow us to gather evidence, freeze assets and enforce court sentences. And it will empower our courts to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed here or by UK nationals overseas. This means that we will always be able to fulfil our responsibility to prosecute such crimes. Our ambition is to be one of the court's founding members. The bill will enable Britain to ratify the Rome statute of the ICC and so push up the number of ratifications towards the 60 countries needed for the statute to come into force and for the ICC to begin its work. We are publishing the bill in draft for comments by October 12 because we want to maximise agreement before its parliamentary introduction, especially among those with particular interests or expertise. There is widespread, cross-party support for the ICC. The more civil society and government can cooperate over the details in the bill implementing the treaty, the greater the chance of making quick parliamentary progress. That will also depend upon cooperation between government and opposition parties. I have written to them and to a wide range of parliamentarians asking for their comments on the draft. We are genuinely open to suggested changes which improve the bill without destroying it. My objective is to have a bill which is in the best possible shape and enjoys maximum cross-party consensus ready for introduction as soon as parliamentary time allows. But it is important that the bill does not get caught in the middle of the kind of parliamentary filibustering or obstruction of other contentious legislation in which opposition parties have always indulged. A commitment by all the parties to the smooth passage of this bill would be a clear message to the world's tyrants that the British people are united in wanting international justice. Peter Hain is minister of state at the Foreign Office. The bill can be read on www.fco.gov.uk and comments emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email email@example.com Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website: http://welcome.to/casi