HC Deb 12 February 1997 vol 290 cc322-3
3. Dr. Wright

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress to date in establishing an international criminal court. [13956]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Sir Nicholas Bonsor)

We are actively contributing to the preparatory work for a diplomatic conference to finalise and adopt a convention for the establishment of an international criminal court.

Dr. Wright

Could anyone who saw this Monday's harrowing "Panorama" programme on Rwanda doubt that the need for an international criminal court is extremely urgent? Could it be true that, for reasons of cost, the United States is seeking to delay if not block next year's conference, which may launch such a court? Could it even be true, as the human rights report suggests, that the British Government are using blocking tactics on the proposal? Is not the most appropriate manner for the international community to open a new millennium to set up such an international criminal court? With our history and our traditions, should not we be giving a lead?

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

I certainly do agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is time we had an international criminal court, and the Government have been playing a very active role in both the ad hoc and the preparatory committee work. There is a great deal to be done before we reach the stage of being able to propose a detailed treaty that will establish such a court, but it is absolutely untrue that our Government are trying to block that move. We are encouraging it and working towards it. I cannot speak for the United States Government, but I know of no such action on their part, either.

Sir Patrick Cormack

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. However, does he agree that there would be much more credibility if only action were taken to bring Mr. Karadzic and Mr. Mladic before some type of international tribunal? Does he also agree that Mr. Milosevic should also be investigated when such a court is established?

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

I do not think that we should muddle an international criminal court, which is the subject of this question, and the ad hoc tribunal for war crimes, which has been set up with regard to Bosnia. Certainly I agree with my hon. Friend that those who are responsible for war crimes must be brought to that tribunal and tried for the crimes that they are alleged to have committed.

Mr. Macdonald

Does the Minister agree that it is important to prevent war crimes as well as to prosecute war criminals? What are the Government therefore doing about the situation in west Mostar, where ethnic cleansing has been resumed against Muslim civilians by the local Croat mafia? Is that not in complete defiance of the Dayton agreement?

Madam Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is referring to a specific area. The question is on establishing an international criminal court. It is totally unfair that he should attempt to raise a specific issue when we are dealing with a general one.

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