COOK SPEECH: Government must press ahead with commitment to human rights

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

'The pre-election period is absolutely the right time to demonstrate that the government is serious in its commitment to a human rights-centred foreign policy.

'Mr Cook's speech should announce that the government will push ahead with the long-delayed bill on tough arms export controls and legislation for the UK to ratify the International Criminal Court treaty.

'The British public wishes to see a government that is genuinely prepared to end a culture of arms 'scandals' and weak international justice for war criminals.'

Amnesty International welcomed the government's commitment in 1997 to a foreign policy with human rights at its centre, yet the organisation has been disappointed by the failure to move ahead with vital legislation. Amnesty International believes that new legislation to regulate UK arms exports and brokerage – if it is to be effective in stopping UK arms transfers contributing to human rights violations – must include measures to:

· extend the reach of the restrictions proposed for arms brokering to cover British passport holders operating outside the UK;

· bring overseas licensed production deals within the export control system;

· introduce a system of prior parliamentary scrutiny for export licence applications;

· stipulate effective end-use monitoring mechanisms for UK arms exports.

With the bill to enable ICC ratification about to enter the House of Commons, Amnesty International reminded the government that parliamentary time is of the essence and that the act should contain:

· provision for UK jurisdiction over ICC crimes regardless of where or by whom they were committed;

· no immunity based on official capacity;

· a clear need for the government and UK authorities to extend the fullest possible co-operation to the ICC.

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