HC Deb 18 March 1991 vol 188 cc14-5
28. Mr. Dalyell

To ask the Attorney-General, pursuant to his oral answer of 25 February, Official Report, column 640, if he will give further consideration to the degree to which the use of napalm on civilian targets conforms to the principle of proportionality outlined in his oral answer of 4 February, Official Report, columns 14–15.

The Attorney-General

My answer of 4 February related to operations in the Gulf. There is no question of napalm having been used against civilians. Napalm was not available to British forces at all. The Americans have stated that napalm was used by their forces only against Iraqi trenches that had been filled with oil.

Mr. Dalyell

In view of the horrendous events that have been unleashed in Kerbala, Basra and other cities, and as someone must have sold those most sophisticated weapons knowing exactly what they were up to, should not more attention be given to the ratification of the relevant protocol?

The Attorney-General

I well understand the hon. Gentleman's anxiety on that score. He will have seen the reply that was given on 14 March by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in which he said that the Government are considering whether to ratify the convention that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. We have signed it, but it has not yet been ratified. That is as far as the matter can be taken, at any rate by me today.

Mr. Fraser

When the Attorney-General advises on compliance with international obligations in the Gulf, will he have regard to some disturbing reports on BBC Radio 4 this morning and ensure that the Kuwaiti Government and other Governments are reminded of their obligations under the international conventions on refugees and the treatment of prisoners and civilians under the Geneva conventions, and the duty of common humanity which must be owed to people who have been resident peacefully in those countries for many years?

The Attorney-General

I shall certainly ensure that the hon. Gentleman's question is drawn to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. It is of the highest importance—the Government insisted on this throughout the events that have taken place since August—that international law should be upheld. Kuwait, along with ourselves, Iraq, the United States and many other countries are signatories to the Geneva convention. I understand what is behind the hon. Gentleman's question and I agree that it is very important.

Mr. Ian Bruce

If any individuals, particularly in Iraq, who may be guilty of what appears to be a war crime in using napalm against their own civilian population come within the jurisdiction of British courts, could we take action against them? If the Government cannot take action, have they any plans to bring those people within our jurisdiction?

The Attorney-General

It is a criminal offence, under our legislation, to commit such a "grave breach" of the Geneva convention. As for liability for war crimes, the Security Council has reminded Iraq of its liability. Whether arrangements are made for the prosecution of war crimes does not rest with this country alone but must be decided in consultation with our allies.