HC Deb 25 October 1989 vol 158 cc840-1
11. Mr. Sillars

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether there are any proposals aimed at extending the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.

Mr. Sainsbury

The non-aligned movement and the Soviet Union have both recently come forward with formal proposals in the United Nations General Assembly for fuller use of the International Court of Justice. The United Kingdom which is one of the minority of United Nations members that accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the court, is carefully considering those ideas.

Mr. Sillars

Would the British Government support a proposition to extend the jurisdiction of the court so that Fourth world nations such as the Kurds, who have been subject to the most appalling tragedies, could take their state to that court?

Mr. Sainsbury

The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting idea, but one which appears clearly to be outside the terms of reference of the International Court of Justice, which is concerned with disputes between member states. I suspect that there would be no little difficulty in defining which or what organisations or bodies should come under the hon. Gentleman's "Fourth world" definition, and who would be responsible for deciding which should qualify.

Sir John Stokes

Is my hon. Friend aware that the International Court of Justice is entirely unlike the English courts of justice, which have given this country justice for many centuries? Is he further aware that judges at the International Court of Justice are political appointees, who are not always especially distinguished? Would we not do far better to stay with the English courts?

Mr. Sainsbury

I am sure that there is no stronger defender of our courts than my hon. Friend. However, the point and purpose of the International Court of Justice is to resolve disputes between states. I suspect that even those who are the greatest admirers of the British system of justice would be reluctant to refer such disputes to our domestic courts.

Mrs. Clwyd

Do the ideas put forward by the United Kingdom include the bringing to justice of war criminals such as Pol Pot, who is responsible for the genocide of up to 1 million people?

Mr. Sainsbury

I must repeat that the International Court of Justice is concerned with disputes between states, not matters involving individuals.

Mr. Kilfedder

Will the Government favourably consider an extension of the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice as part of, perhaps, a constitutional settlement in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Sainsbury

As I said earlier, as the court is responsible for considering disputes between states, I cannot perceive an immediate application of its power or role in the position suggested by the hon. Gentleman.