INTERNATIONAL COURT: HISTORIC STEP FORWARDS

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

'Today's draft bill represents a major step forwards in the search for global justice. The UK Government should be congratulated on its commitment to such a Court.

'The need for the Court is clear. It will provide victims with the chance to obtain truth and justice. It will help act as a deterrent to people planning to commit the worst crimes imaginable.'

The draft bill provides for the surrender of suspects to the Court, on receipt of a request. However, Amnesty International UK is disappointed with shortcomings in the bill. It is hoped these shortcomings will be addressed following the consultation process which ends on 12 October.

The draft legislation gives domestic courts jurisdiction over specified offences only if they are committed in the UK or by UK nationals abroad. But the gravity of the offences calls for universal jurisdiction, which would enable these crimes to be prosecuted in the UK, no matter where they were committed or by whom.

This is essential because, under the Court's statute, states continue to have primary responsibility for prosecuting genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes - the International Criminal Court is to act only when states are unable or unwilling to fulfil their obligations under international law.

Other issues, such as whether the legislation incorporates principles of criminal responsibility in the Court's statute, such as its application to all persons without any distinction based on official capacity, including heads of state, will require clarification.

Amnesty International is pleased to note early indications of cross-party support for the bill. Enough parliamentary time must now be made for ratification in the next parliamentary session.

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