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(Oct 2000) Letter to Foreign Secretary encouraging him to amend the draft International Criminal Court Bill
The Rt. Hon. Robin Cook MPLondon SW1A 2AH

Dear Robin Cook,

Re: the draft International Criminal Court Bill

PHR-UK is the UK's leading health and human rights organisation, representing hundreds of British doctors, and working closely with a number of kindred organisations. As you know, we have taken a close interest in the International Criminal Court since 1997. From 1998 until this year, we were in contact with the Home Office regarding Senator Pinochet and the appropriate response to any suggestion that the Senator should not be extradited on health grounds.

Our present concern with the draft bill is that it fails to provide universal jurisdiction for those gross violations of human rights that have come to be called the ICC crimes. They are genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. As one of only two human rights organisations in Rwanda at the time of the genocide, we know only too well the suffering such violations bring about and how important it is that there should be no impunity for those who commit such crimes. I do not need to describe such sufferings here, nor the impact the exercise of universal jurisdiction can have on victims by bringing about a sense of justice that can lead to healing and even reconciliation as well as the awareness that it will deter others.

As you are aware, during the negotiations at the United Nations, it was agreed that the ICC's role would be to complement that of states. The Rome Statute's Preamble sets out the duty states have to "exercise criminal jurisdiction over those responsible for international crimes". The ICC's jurisdiction is limited to crimes committed by the nationals of a State Party or within the territory of a State Party, unless a state agrees otherwise or the Security Council refers a situation to the Court. This has the effect that, should a genocidaire or someone who has committed other ICC crimes, except those covered by the Geneva Conventions, the Convention against Torture or the War Crimes Act, and who is a non-national or committed those crimes overseas, come to the attention of Britain's authorities, under the draft bill, no action could be taken.

The implications of this are considerable. As other states ratify the ICC Statute and ensure that universal jurisdiction is within their domestic legislation, the number of states that might be viewed as a safe haven for criminals will diminish. From our involvement with victims, we are all to aware of the attraction the United Kingdom has had for such persons in the past. We believe that the only place that victims taking refuge in Britain should have to see such persons is in the dock.

Secretary of State, PHR-UK is proud of Britain's leadership where international justice is concerned. We recall its position in the 1890s over acts which offend against the dictates of humanity. We recall its role in the Charter, indictments and prosecutions of Nuremberg. We recall the Pinochet judgment of Britain's highest court. We know that you have taken a lead over the creation of the International Criminal Court. Britain was the first permanent member of the Security Council to join the like-minded group. Britain took a lead in Rome over such issues as reparations. We are confidant that you will want the ICC Bill to take account of the world that will exist once the Court comes into being. We trust that you will wish to avoid the lacuna of impunity by adding universal jurisdiction to the bill.

Yours sincerely

Peter Hall
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