Conference policy motion: “Extention of the remit of the International Criminal Court”

This motion is being moved at conference by North Somerset, North Wiltshire and Westminster Liberal Democrats. The mover, Brian Mathew, explains.

Our policy motion, entitled “The Extension of the Remit of the International Criminal Court”, was conceived a year ago, following a long consideration of the plight of populations persecuted by their own governments. We want to celebrate the role the International Criminal Court has had in bringing some rogue ex-heads of state to justice, while bemoaning the fact that not all nations (including the US) are signatories, and until the recent attempt at bringing Sudan’s President Omar al Bashir to Court, serving heads of state seemed to be completely immune.

The motion calls for the UK Government to make a chief tenet of its foreign policy the extension of the remit of the International Criminal Court, in which the ICC acts on behalf of the UN Security Council to help protect the human rights of all people, by holding currently serving heads of government and their associates to account for their actions should they persecute their own populations and infringe their human rights, as laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The background to this policy motion for me is that I have spent the past 20 years working with various Aid programmes in the developing world. I have made many good friends of my local colleagues over the years, in places as far afield as Darfur, Zimbabwe and Honduras – people who care deeply about human rights and some of whom have suffered persecution and even death at the hands of their own governments for their humanitarian work. So for me this is personal, but it is also much more than that: it is about building a better world, a world where leaders and politicians think twice or even three times before they persecute to seize or hold on to the reins of power, because they know they will themselves face justice for what they do or, as in Burma, fail to do.

When the United Nations was founded at the end of the Second World War, the people of the world sought justice for the crimes of the Nazis, and in Nuremburg to a large extent they found it. The cold war that followed allowed horrors to return and go un-punished because of the divisions between East and West. Now with increased global economic and environmental dependency and the spectre of international division threatening to reappear, it is vital to international peace and justice, and to sustainable development for all the World’s people, that the United Nations go further in cementing the sterling work of the ICC as part of its global constitution.

International justice, like national justice needs to be separated from the legislative and executive branches of government, and not held hostage to the whims of international politics. Where international crimes are being committed they need to be seen as such and have robust UN mechanisms in place to confront them, mechanisms that will allow for the arrest, detention and trial of leaders who flout human rights, instead of necessitating massive destruction and invasion. Many will say this is not realistic, but those of us who want to see problems solved in a civilised way – and if anyone does surely we in the Lib Dems do – are determined to go on trying to do what is possible to make the UN system really work.

We think Britain should help lead the way.

Brian Mathew is the PPC for North Somerset. The Extension of the remit of the International Criminal Court  (F23) is being debated at 10.45 on Monday the 15th of September

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