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International Criminal Court

Volume 737: debated on Thursday 24 May 2012


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress has been made in securing the arrest of Joseph Kony, Omar al-Bashir and others indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

My Lords, the International Criminal Court relies entirely on state co-operation to ensure enforcement of its arrest warrants. The British Government, together with our EU partners, frequently raise the importance of states fulfilling their international obligations and taking the necessary steps to bring to justice individuals indicted by the court. Those currently fugitive from ICC warrants should be reminded that they, like Radovan Karadzic and General Mladic, cannot evade the international justice system indefinitely.

My Lords, given that Kony was indicted in 2005, and that Omar al-Bashir, who was indicted in 2009 for crimes against humanity in Darfur, is now waging a new war against his own people in Southern Kordofan, does not a failure to bring those indicted to account risk compromising the ICC and bringing it into disrepute? What resources are we committing to the work of the ICC? When a head of state is indicted by it, how is that reflected in the conduct of our economic and diplomatic policies? Either this is genocide or it is not. Either it is crimes against humanity or it is not. Either they are indicted or they are not. Either it is business as usual or it is not.

It certainly is not business as usual. The noble Lord, who follows these things very closely, is perhaps not taking into account the fact that this system has taken some years to get going. The indictments are out but there are real problems in pinning these people down. He mentioned two cases. We know that Mr Joseph Kony is highly elusive and can slip across borders. At least the Government of Uganda were very successful the other day in capturing his deputy, Caesar Acellam. Uganda is a signatory to the ICC and I am sure that it will fulfil its obligations in accordance with international justice.

As for the leader of Sudan, we know exactly what the position is. We and our EU colleagues seek to keep contact with Khartoum because all the parties—South Sudan, Sudan itself, the opposition parties and, indeed, the Opposition—believe that we should do so. However, the problem of fulfilling an ICC charge against Mr Omar al-Bashir is obviously a practical, physical one in that he is not in reach unless he were to leave the country.

My noble friend will be aware that since April, when Bosco Ntaganda’s rebel troops defected, they have managed forcibly to recruit more than 150 child soldiers and caused 40,000 villagers to flee, thereby causing more chaos in that region. The United Nations Security Council is absolutely clear about MONUSCO’s mandate for its mission in the Congo: it has the authority to assist the Government to arrest indicted war criminals. MONUSCO officials on the ground say that they have not been asked to do anything and are not involved, yet ICC officials have asked the Government to pursue the matter. However, nothing has happened. Overall, this is a case of prevarication.

It is very difficult to ascertain exactly what is happening on the ground. No one could expect there to be full information, full access or full details. However, we fully support the work of the ICC in bringing Bosco Ntaganda to justice and bringing additional charges against him. I think the implication of my noble friend’s question and the preceding one is that somehow the ICC should have further powers over and above the existing situation in which national Governments have to seek to co-operate and take the initial action. That, of course, would raise fundamental questions about the workings of the ICC and whether we should go back to square one and revise the legislation. I do not believe that we should; I think that we should give the present process more scope and more encouragement. However, I understand what is behind my noble friend’s question.

My Lords, given that crimes against humanity are defined by the United Nations as,

“a widespread attack on a civilian population”,

does the Minister not agree that Robert Mugabe should be investigated by the prosecutor and subsequently indicted by the ICC? Is it not tragically clear that there is evidence of his responsibility for the Matabeleland massacres in the 1980s that were committed by his army brigade, continued state-sponsored violence against political opponents, and ongoing atrocities in the diamond fields in Zimbabwe? What pressure is Her Majesty’s Government using to ensure that this wicked man faces international criminal justice?

I do not dispute anything that the noble Baroness has said, with her acute understanding of the situation there. However, the realities are these: Zimbabwe is not a party to the Rome statute and to get an ICC charge against Mr Mugabe would require a UN Security Council resolution. That means getting past all five of the permanent members. We know what the view of some of the permanent members is: they should not take such action. Until we can get past this problem of the permanent five, and particularly the reluctance of China and Russia, to name two, to see these matters taken up by the UN and remitted to the ICC for charges, these people who have committed most unsavoury acts—the noble Baroness mentioned Mr Mugabe as one—are outside the reach of the ICC.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that not only is President al-Bashir indicted by the ICC but he actually deposed the elected governor of Southern Kordofan, replacing him with Ahmad Harun, who is also indicted by the ICC and has since been carrying out systematic slaughter and aerial bombardment of his people, leading to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people? What reassurance can Her Majesty’s Government give to the victims of those policies? I have spoken to people in the refugee camps and—I am afraid this sounds harsh—many have said to me, “Why does Britain not intervene? Our suffering is far worse than that of Libya. Does Britain really only do business with Khartoum and those indicted by the ICC?”. That is the feeling among many people in Sudan.

With respect to the noble Baroness, that is unfair because she knows better than most of us that the real problem is access. We cannot get access to these very ugly and difficult areas to establish what is happening. She quite rightly mentions that the governor of Southern Kordofan and one other are already indicted by the ICC and need to face justice. The UN has ruled through the Security Council that they should be referred to the ICC, which has issued warrants against them. The question is: how can they be secured and brought to justice in The Hague? That remains a continuous battle. As for the general proposition that we speak only to Khartoum or Djuba, that is not to understand the enormous amount of work we are doing at every level with the international agencies to bring some hope to this very unpleasant and ugly situation.