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International Criminal Justice: UK Support

Volume 613: debated on Thursday 21 July 2016

Sunday 17 July marked the Day of International Criminal Justice, a perfect opportunity to look at the UK’s support of the principles of international justice and its various institutions.

International criminal justice and accountability is a fundamental element of our foreign policy. We continue to voice our support for this principle, and are committed to working with the International Criminal Court (ICC) and international tribunals. This work helps to strengthen the rules-based international system, reduce conflict and promote stability. We firmly believe that there must be no impunity for the most serious international crimes.

In 2015 we showed our commitment to international justice by contributing £7.6 million to the ICC, £3 million to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), £1.4 million to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), and £1.8 million to the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals which has taken on the residual functions of the former Rwanda tribunal and will do the same for the former Yugoslavia tribunal when it closes. Furthermore, in financial year 2015-16 we made voluntary contributions of £1 million to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and contributed £225,000 to the international component of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). The UK also provides practical support for the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone (RSCSL) as former Liberian president Charles Taylor is serving his sentence for war crimes in a British prison. In 2015, the UK worked with partners to secure United Nations authority to commit $12.1 million and $2.44 million to supplement voluntary contributions to the ECCC and RSCSL respectively in 2016. This work helps place the voluntary funded tribunals on a more secure financial footing.

The support we have offered the ICC and the other tribunals has contributed towards their valuable work in entrenching the rule of law, fighting impunity for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, including the use of rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence as weapons of war and the recruitment and use of child soldiers. Their work acts as a deterrent to atrocities, placing a spotlight on individual responsibility, supporting victims and helping to establish an historical narrative of accountability.

The ICC opened their new premises in The Hague in April this year—giving this permanent institution a permanent home. In these new premises, the ICC sentenced Jean-Pierre Bemba (Democratic Republic of the Congo) to 18 years in prison, following its first conviction of rape as a crime against humanity and war crime, on the basis of command responsibility; this also marked the first time in the history of international criminal law that sexual violence against men was charged as the crime of rape.

The ICTY delivered its verdict this year on Radovan Karadžic who was found guilty on one count of genocide, five counts of crimes against humanity and four counts of violations of the laws or customs of war; and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Karadžic was one of the highest ranking officials to be tried by the tribunal and his trial marked the biggest war crimes trial in Europe since Nuremberg. The judgment was long-awaited following a trial that lasted over four years.

The ICTR finished its judicial work at the end of 2015. The ICTR’s work over the last twenty years has been instrumental in developing international law and making sure that those most responsible for the genocide in Rwanda are held accountable. Its remaining functions were transferred to the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals.

The FCO’s support for international criminal justice requires close co-operation with a wide range of stakeholders including partners across Government, law enforcement bodies, international organisations and non-government organisations. Over the next 12 months we will continue to work closely with these partners to ensure that our assessed and voluntary contributions to the ICC and other tribunals are used for maximum effect in the fight against impunity.

This is the fourth annual update to Parliament on the FCO’s work to support international justice.