HL Deb 19 April 1991 vol 527 cc1659-61

11.20 a.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to secure the trial under international law of Saddam Hussein on charges of war crimes.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (The Earl of Caithness)

My Lords, the Answer is virtually the same as that which I gave on 16th April to a similar Question from the noble Lord, Lord Molloy. It stated that, following the EC Foreign Ministers' agreement on 15th April, the Twelve should work for Saddam Hussein to be held to account and that the EC Presidency is pursuing with the UN Secretary-General ways to follow that up.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. However, are the Government considering whether this country and members of the coalition should indicate to Iraq that sanctions will not be withdrawn until that man has been removed from power and surrendered to international justice?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, it has been agreed between the coalition forces and in the UN that sanctions will not be lifted, certainly for the time being.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, does the noble Earl agree that, as was pointed out by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Shawcross, in The Times yesterday, criminal proceedings could be initiated against Saddam Hussein for his aggressive invasion of Kuwait under the Pact of Paris of 1928, but that if action on genocide under the convention of 1948 was to be taken, that would involve the setting up of an international tribunal of distinguished lawyers? Does the noble Earl think that if proceedings along those lines were taken Saddam Hussein would have to be present? Is it not possible to hold the trial in his absence? Furthermore, to go a little wide of the Question, will the noble Earl tell the House what advances are being made in the setting up of encampments in north and west Iraq?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, while neither the Geneva Convention of 1949 nor the Genocide Convention of 1948 precludes setting up an international tribunal, they specifically provide for suspected war criminals to be tried before national courts. The noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition raises an important point because it is difficult to see an international tribunal having the power to bring Saddam Hussein to trial against his will. That is one of the many difficulties.

With the leave of the House, perhaps on this occasion I may answer the noble Lord's second question, which is wide of that on the Order Paper, because an interesting development occurred yesterday about which your Lordships would like to hear. A memorandum was signed by the United Nations and the Iraqis. I shall arrange for a copy to be put in the Library of the House, but perhaps I may read one part of it which states: The Government of the Republic of Iraq welcomes the United Nations efforts to promote the voluntary return home of Iraqi displaced persons and to take humanitarian measures to avert new flows of refugees and displaced persons from Iraq. It pledges its full support to, and co-operation with, the United Nations and its specialised agencies and programmes in this regard".

I think that we can all welcome that news.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, does my noble friend the Minister agree that to set up an international tribunal to try Saddam Hussein would require action by the United Nations and that that action is unlikely to be forthcoming and at any rate would be the subject of interminable delay? Is it not a fact that the clearest case which could be made against him is on the basis of aggression against Kuwait and the subsequent genocide, or attempted genocide, of the Kuwaiti people? Would not the proper course be to encourage the Government of Kuwait to seek his extradition for trial before a Kuwaiti court?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, my noble friend raises some of the points of difficulty regarding an international tribunal. The definition of genocide requires proof of intention to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group by carrying out certain acts. I must leave further definitions to the legal profession.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, does the noble Earl agree that famous Kurdish leaders from all parts of the Middle East who have suffered as a result of the genocide activities of Saddam Hussein before the Gulf war will be quite prepared to give evidence that their peoples have been destroyed and that Saddam Hussein was guilty of genocide even before he invaded Kuwait?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the seeking of evidence on that matter is something that the UN Secretary-General's special representative, Mr. Suy, will probably include in his report. That will be an important contribution.

With regard to a further point raised by my noble friend Lord Beloff, we agree that it would be much better if the Iraqi people got rid of Saddam Hussein.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, does the Minister agree that, although a memorandum signed by the Government of Iraq may quite rightly be welcomed in this House, it is unlikely to inspire much confidence in the Kurdish or Shi'ite refugees?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, we are doing a great deal to help the Kurdish and Shi'ite refugees. I believe that it is a welcome step forward from 24 hours ago.