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Haine on the International Criminal Court



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 iccbill.und.fco@gtnet.gov.uk
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