Report looks at UK law relating to war criminals

11 August 2009

In a report released today the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on Human Rights says inconsistencies in the way the UK applies international law have created an "impunity gap" for international war criminals, allowing them to visit the UK without fear of prosecution.

The Committee says the Government has not fully implemented international conventions to give UK courts the fullest possible jurisdiction over crimes such as genocide, torture, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and hostage-taking. This has left gaps in the law which grant impunity to international criminals.

The Committee says the Government should ensure our law supports the victims of these crimes. Suspects should be liable to arrest whenever they are in the UK.

Under international law, victims of torture can seek reparation but the UK courts do not have jurisdiction to allow torture victims to sue the foreign states who tortured them. The Committee says states and those acting on their behalf must not have immunity for torture.

Andrew Dismore MP, Chair of the Committee said:

"The UK must not be a safe haven for evil. The message to those who have perpetrated the most heinous crimes imaginable must be clear: they are not welcome here – not to visit, not to live, not to holiday, shop, or get medical treatment.

"The UK should close these loopholes in the law. We also need to re-establish the specialist war crimes unit. Victims of torture must be able to pursue compensation, no matter who committed the crime against them. We should lead the world in bringing international criminals to justice."

Image: PA

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