All 1 Debates between Baroness D'Souza and Baroness Primarolo

Mon 7th Dec 2020
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage & Report stage:Report: 1st sitting & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report: 1st sitting & Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords

Trade Bill

Debate between Baroness D'Souza and Baroness Primarolo
Report stage & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report: 1st sitting & Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords
Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Trade Bill 2019-21 View all Trade Bill 2019-21 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 128-R-I Marshalled list for Report - (2 Dec 2020)
Baroness D'Souza Portrait Baroness D'Souza (CB) [V]
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My Lords, in this long dialogue with the Government, notably led in this House by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, the facts have been reiterated time and again. There is an international agreement on the definition as set out in the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and this carries in bold the duty to prevent such genocide

“at the instant the State learns of, or should normally have learned of, the existence of a serious risk that genocide will be committed.”

We need only need look at the clear early warning signs of impending murderous attacks on the Rohingya Muslims—which await final legal determination of genocide by an independent tribunal—to acknowledge that prevention of genocide is still a distant goal, fraught as it is with legal and political obstacles. Meanwhile, whole ethnic groups are being slaughtered, and we turn away for want of a mechanism that would go some way to both recognise the crime of genocide and demonstrate with actions our duty to prevent and punish such crimes.

As we have heard time and again, this amendment provides a mechanism, namely to acknowledge the genocidal intent of a state together with a prevention measure, by limiting trade with that state. This is a big ask. After all, trade is also a lifesaver for nations and for millions of people. However, in the absence of a mechanism, it is difficult to see how a state signatory to the Geneva conventions can fulfil its obligations. The record of UK action in fulfilling this obligation is by no means exemplary. The early warning signs in the case of the Rohingyas—which were pretty unmistakeable in that they included mass murder, torture, abuse, rape, violence, sexual violence and more, perpetrated by the military against a defined ethnic group—were first brought to the International Court of Justice not by the UK but by the Gambia.

Her Majesty’s Government place immense confidence in the international judicial bodies to respond to genocide, despite being given all the reasons not to. We would all like these bodies to pass muster, and one day, perhaps, they will. However, hope should not blind us to reality. Totalitarian states that hold the keys to the gates of the international judicial system will not deliver justice—certainly not when they themselves are the offenders. That is why this amendment is so important. It enables actions to be taken immediately to establish whether there is a case to answer, while the Government wait for the international bodies to make the determination.

Understandably, Amendment 9 cannot resolve all these issues, but it can address one. It can ensure that Her Majesty’s Government do not trade with states judged by our own High Court to be probable perpetrators of genocide and do not, therefore, become complicit in these acts. The amendment introduces a domestic mechanism for genocide determination in a very limited number of cases. The UK at least will be able to say that it did not wait to see any unspeakable horrors occur while doing nothing: it saw, and it acted.

Baroness Primarolo Portrait Baroness Primarolo (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, at this very late hour I will be as brief as I can, so that other Members waiting to speak can contribute as well and the House can perhaps get to vote on this crucial amendment at not too unreasonable an hour. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and my noble friend Lady Kennedy on their excellent introductions to Amendment 9. Much has already been said on this vital amendment. I will, therefore, make just a couple of very brief points.

First, as has been said, the amendment provides a means for the UK to live up to its commitments to protect against, prevent and punish the crime of genocide, as declared in our signing of the genocide convention. Unless this mechanism is established, we are in real danger of defaulting on these commitments by relying on means which, as noble Lords have eloquently illustrated this evening, can be unreliable in holding alleged perpetrators of genocide to account. Moreover, the amendment has the potential to have wide impact. It will ensure that victims of suspected genocide globally have a viable means to pursue a legal judgment on their case when all other avenues are blocked. As the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, said, if we are to be—in the words of the Prime Minister—global Britain, we need a moral compass that guides us.

By passing this amendment, the UK would send a clear signal to other states that it places its values at the centre of any trade deals, and that the international community must stand by its commitments to do all within its power to ensure that the evils of genocide are consigned to the history books. This amendment offers a route to achieving that. Today, we have a very rare opportunity to act on a matter of global and historic significance. I sincerely hope that noble Lords will support this amendment and start us on the long and difficult journey, identified by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, of putting meaning into its intentions. I will certainly be supporting it.