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Volume 226: debated on Wednesday 16 June 1993

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the implementation of Security Council resolution 808 on a war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

United Nations Security Council resolution 827, which was adopted unanimously on 25 May, gave effect to the earlier decision in the resolution referred to in the question—808—to establish an international tribunal for former Yugoslavia. The latest resolution asks the Secretary-General to make practical arrangements for the effective functioning of the tribunal as soon as possible. We support that.

What further practical measures will the Government take to support the work of the war crimes tribunal? In particular, might any person convicted of war crimes by the tribunal eventually be detained in British gaols? Will the right hon Gentleman also confirm that the jurisdiction of the war crimes tribunal will apply to everyone within the territories of the former Yugoslavia, including the military and civilian leaders of all the warring groups in that country?

The answer to the last question is yes, and the answer to the second question about British prisons is that I do not believe that we are likely to make such an offer. However, we shall support the Secretary-General in establishing the three chambers of the tribunal and working out where they should sit, which I hope and think will be in The Hague. We shall also give him general support.

I thank my right hon. Friend for the support that the British Government have given to resolution 827 and to the measures that preceded it, which have led to the establishment of the tribunal. Is he aware that the nature of the evidence that could be presented against any potential defendant is likely to be driven by witnesses rather than by a paper chase through the archives and that it is therefore essential for a special prosecutor to be established as quickly as possible, so that the evidence that could be presented to a court is not lost through further delay? Will my right hon. Friend support the Secretary-General if he chooses to accept the advice given to him by nearly every member of the United Nations and recommends Professor Cherif Bassiouni as the special prosecutor? My right hon. Friend will recall that I took Professor Bassiouni to see my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State at the Foreign Office a fortnight ago.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his expert interest in the matter. I will pursue his point about the individual, and I agree that it is necessary to establish a special prosecutor as soon as possible. Meanwhile, as my hon. Friend certainly knows, there is already a commission of experts siting evidence, and that will continue at least until a special prosecutor is established.

Does the Foreign Secretary accept that if, despite what he has told the House, those who have been responsible for the terrible crimes against humanity in former Yugoslavia are not brought to justice, that will encourage the continuation of such crimes and atrocities time and again? Does he also accept that the framework established at Nuremburg after the second world war is a good framework within which to try people held responsible for such crimes against humanity?

We now have a new framework, and it is for the Secretary-General to fill in the details. That will not be easy for him, and the House should not underestimate the difficulties, but the reason for the exercise is that which the hon. Gentleman stated in the first part of his question.