A letter in The Times newspaper by Gavin Strang
Sir, On October 4 Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the British Ambassador to the UN, formally deposited the instrument of ratification for the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the United Nations. The United Kingdom has become the 42nd nation to ratify the statute. Once 60 ratifications have been achieved, the ICC will be the first permanent world court to allow the prosecution of individuals for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The ICC will act as a court of last resort if nations are unwilling or unable to prosecute those accused of the grossest crimes known to humanity.
As it moves into action against accused individuals, it will begin to act as a deterrent to those future leaders planning massacre, as in Srebrenica, or genocide, as in Rwanda. By reducing the potential for future hatred the ICC will help to reduce the potential for future conflict.
The ICC is not retrospective and cannot prosecute crimes occurring before it is formally established; it will be unable to act against those accused of the terrible crimes in New York and Washington. But precedents exist for dealing with this situation legally as the trial in The Hague over the Lockerbie bombing shows. Proportionate and targeted military action may be necessary, but in the end a court could bring justice and improve the chances for lasting peace.
The British Government should work to persuade all nations to ratify the ICC statute and leave no hiding place for future war criminals.
(Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group for World Government), House of Commons.