With Rehman Chistsi MP, the Prim Minister’s Special envoy on freedom of Religion or Belief, discussing the new Genocide Determination Bill.
Today – Monday, October 21st – my Genocide Determination (Private Member’s) Bill will receive its First Reading.
This Bill will provide for the High Court of England and Wales to make a preliminary finding on cases of alleged genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes; and for the subsequent referral of such findings to the International Criminal Court or a special tribunal.
The Bill will be launched at an event in Parliament on Monday November 4th organised by the Coalition for Genocide Response.
It will be published by Her Majesty’s Stationery Office on Tuesday. Its text is as follows:
Genocide etc. Determination Bill
Provide for the High Court of England and Wales to make a preliminary finding on cases of alleged genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes; and for the subsequent referral of such findings to the International Criminal Court or a special tribunal.
BE IT ENACTED by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—
1. Determination of cases of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes
(1) A person or group of persons belonging to a national, ethnic, racial or religious
group, or an organisation representing such a group, may bring a case to the
High Court of England and Wales for it to make a preliminary finding on the available evidence as to whether genocide has been committed against that person or group.
(2) Where a finding of genocide under subsection (1) cannot be made, the court shall consider whether the acts complained of fall within the definition of crimes against humanity or war crimes as set out in section 3.
(3) Where the Court considers that evidence is not sufficient to allow it to make a determination under section 1(1) or 1(2), the Court may request the Secretary of State to fulfil the conditions take any of the actions identified in subsection (4).
(4) The Secretary of State may, in accordance with a request from the Court under subsection (3), seek to establish an investigative or other appropriate measure to collect relevant evidence with —
(a) the United Nations General Assembly or Security Council;
(b) relevant intergovernmental organisations;
(c) relevant national Governments; and
(d) any other persons the Secretary of State considers appropriate.
(5) Rules may be made in accordance with section 1 of the Civil Procedure Act
1997 (civil procedure rules) governing the practice and procedure to be followed by the High Court of England and Wales in considering cases under this Act.
2. Referrals to the International Criminal Court or a special tribunal
(1) Where the High Court of England and Wales has made a preliminary finding that genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes have been committed against a group of persons, the Secretary of State must refer the finding—
(a) to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, pursuant to Article 14 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, or
(b) to the United Nations Security Council, with a view to tabling a resolution for the Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court pursuant to Article 13(b) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, or
(c) to the United Nations Security Council, with a view to the Security Council establishing a special tribunal pursuant to Chapter V, Article 29 of the United Nations Charter, or
(d) to any other United Nations mechanism with a mandate to investigate the situation.
(2) The Secretary of State shall make whichever of the referrals in subsection (1) the Secretary of State deems most expedient.
In this Act—
(a) “genocide” has the meaning given in Article II of the Convention
on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and Article 6 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court;
(b) “crimes against humanity” has the meaning given in Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court;
(c) “war crimes” has the meaning given in Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
4. Extent, commencement and short title
(1) This Act extends to England and Wales only.
(2) Sections 1 to 3 come into force at the end of the period of six months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.
(3) This section comes into force on the day on which this Act is passed.
(4) This Act may be cited as the Genocide Determination Act 2019.
On 23 July 2014, I warned in an opinion piece in the Times that religious minorities in Iraq were facing annihilation. Since then I have criticised the failure of the UK Government to declare that a genocide was underway. “The last Christian has been expelled from Mosul … The light of religious freedom, along with the entire Christian presence, has been extinguished in the Bible’s ‘great city of Nineveh’ … This follows the uncompromising ultimatum by the jihadists of Isis to convert or die”. I wrote that, “the world must wake up urgently to the plight of the ancient churches throughout the region who are faced with the threat of mass murder and mass displacement”.
By 2016 a full scale genocide was underway – recognised as such by the House of Commons and the US Congress. But the UK Government failed to act and in 2019, as the same minorities face a similar fate in north east Syria, we still will not name this crime for what it is.
The 1948 Convention on Genocide lays duties on signatories such as the UK, to prevent, protect, and punish. Governments don’t declare genocides so that they can avoid doing any of these things. That is why the decision must be taken out of their hands and placed in the hands of judges, who will be able to make a preliminary declaration on the basis of available evidence. That is what my Bill seeks to do.