HL Deb 14 March 2000 vol 610 cc197-8WA
Lord Ahmed

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their legal definition of a war crime. [HL1397]

Lord Bassam of Brighton

There is no single legal definition of a war crime.

In the domestic law of England and Wales, the Regulations for the Trial of War Criminals attached to the still extant Royal Warrant of 14 June 1945 define a war crime as "a violation of the laws and usages of war committed during any war in which His Majesty has been or may be engaged at any time since the 2nd September 1939". War crimes include grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and their First Additional Protocol, which are punishable as criminal offences in the United Kingdom under the Geneva Conventions Act 1957. The War Crimes Act 1991 provides for the prosecution of offences of murder, manslaughter or culpable homicide in Germany or under German occupation during the Second World War, where the offences "constituted a violation of the laws and customs of war" (Section 1).

The position under international law is complex, but the International Criminal Court, the statute for which was agreed at a United Nations conference in July 1998, will have jurisdiction to try war crimes. Such crimes are now defined for the purposes of the Court's jurisdiction in article 8 of the statute. The Government will during the current session of Parliament publish for public consultation a draft Bill implementing the United Kingdom's obligations under the statute.