International Criminal Court Bill 2003: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Fine Gael has been an enthusiastic supporter of the establishment of the International Criminal Court since the issue was agreed in Rome six years ago. The establishment of the International Criminal Court is the most important development in international law since the foundation of the United Nations. For that reason we fully support the Bill before the House. It is a Bill that, after ratification, ensures that our domestic law is in compliance with the obligations we undertook when we signed the Rome statute six years ago and ratified it in the meantime.

The International Criminal Court is a tribunal that will try individuals responsible for the most serious international crimes — war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture, enforced disappearances and genocide. There is no doubt that such a forum is needed after a century of strife and trouble and crimes against humanity, not just in Europe but across the globe. The court has been in gestation for upwards of a century. The Treaty of Versailles, after the First World War, provided for the establishment of an international tribunal to try the German emperor. As it happens Kaiser Wilhelm ll never stood trial, but efforts after the Second World War were more successful in that temporary tribunals were set up in Nuremberg and Tokyo to try the major war criminals. In addition the Nuremberg charter specified areas that are still considered to be key crimes under international law — crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity. In many ways these initiatives were the forerunners of the International Criminal Court. In particular they shattered the notion forever that state sovereignty could be used as a defence for acts that were considered outrages on the consciences of mankind.

Thereafter, there were the genocide and Geneva conventions. The General Assembly of the United Nations then asked the International Law Commission to examine the possibility of an international criminal court. To show how slowly such matters move, that is over 50 years ago. Then we had the Cold War and no possibility of getting agreement among nations. Nothing much happened after that until the 1980s.

It was a small country which proposed that efforts to establish an international criminal court should be resumed. When people argue that a small country such as Ireland has no role on the international stage, I point to the example set by Trinidad and Tobago in the 1980s, a little country that most people here have probably never heard of. It got discussions going again. In the meantime there have been temporary tribunals dealing with the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The establishment of those temporary tribunals gave a further impetus to the need for an international criminal court. Given revelations in recent times around the world, one sees the justification even more for such a court. In Iraq a good deal of attention is currently focusing on the recent incidences in Abu Ghraib, but let us not forget that over the previous 20 years a dreadful regime of torture was in place there under Saddam Hussein and his lackeys. This was not just in Abu Ghraib, but throughout the whole of Iraq.

In recent times also we had the killing fields in Cambodia, Rwanda and even now the way in which the Palestinians are being treated in the Middle East is contrary to international law. That brings me on to the question of how effective this court will be. Ireland is, and should be, an enthusiastic supporter of the International Criminal Court. To some degree it is relevant that the entire global village accepts its jurisdiction. It is probably significant that at this stage well over 100 countries have ratified the treaty. It is timely to recall those countries which voted against the Rome statute six years ago and investigate their reasons for doing so. Seven countries voted against the statute in July 1988, one of which was the United States, which we will come back to. China was another, not exactly a bastion of freedom and human rights. Iraq, which is still not off the wrack, voted against it.

Israel voted against it for its own reasons, which one can see when one examines the state terrorism in which it is indulging at the expense of the Palestinian people. Libya, under the leadership of Mr. Gadaffi, is not a prime example of democracy and human rights, although it is fair to say that Mr. Gadaffi seems to have had some change of heart in recent times, which is to be encouraged. The other two countries which voted against it at the time were Qatar and Yemen.

The countries that do not want international inspection of their actions do not support the proceedings of the International Criminal Court. The United States, which is prime among such countries, signed the Rome statute in the final days of President Clinton's time in office, but it has not yet ratified it. The authorities in that country feel that the American Senate would not ratify it. I have never been considered anti-American, but I question the approach of the American authorities in this regard. Every possible pressure should be brought to bear on the US, as the only global superpower, to encourage it to support the International Criminal Court.

I have discussed the official US position with the US authorities. They said they are not against the idea of international accountability for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, but they do not agree with the form the International Criminal Court takes. That is probably an easy way out for them. The US is happy for other people to be bound by the court but it does not want to be bound by the court itself, which is an indefensible position. As a friend of the US, Ireland should continue to impose on it in a constructive fashion any pressure it can, bilaterally and through international institutions, to encourage the US to support the court. The support of the US is vital if we want the court to be widely accepted in the short term. I do not doubt that it will be successful in the long term and that in years to come it will suit the US to support the efforts of the court. We have a duty to continue to press the issue with the US authorities.

One should not forget that the court's operations are under way. It is investigating a case in northern Uganda and it has received a second referral from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is important not only that the court should be fully established, but that it should be fully accepted and recognised as a body that can bring good to the world. The tribunals at Nuremberg and Tokyo were established by the victors at the time. They were established post facto, after nazism and fascism had been defeated. The advantage of the International Criminal Court is that it is in place now. Those who are tempted to indulge in horrific practices are aware of its existence. They know they may be answerable to the body. It is not a question of getting the international will to support the establishment of such a body subsequently.

The other country that should be encouraged to take cognisance of the International Criminal Court is Israel, which seems to be prepared to plumb the depths of inhumanity at a state level. Anybody who raises such issues with Israel is deemed, as a standard defence, to be anti-Semitic. Such an argument is rubbish and baloney, to use a phrase used by the Taoiseach yesterday. Jews suffered dreadfully as a consequence of the inhumanity of man when the state of Israel was established and immediately thereafter. We should recall that 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust, but that does not give those who are running the state of Israel a licence to subject others to the same treatment. While there is no direct parallel, some of the inhumanity in which Israel is involved against the Palestinians has certain resonances. It is from the same stable, in many ways. I hope those who are friends of Israel and want Israel to live in peace and harmony with its neighbours on a fair and just basis will bring that message home to Israel. More importantly, I hope the message will be heard.

The International Criminal Court, which we have supported from the beginning, has started its work. I have a mild criticism in that it is a little late in the day to put in place measures that should have been put in place some years ago. I accept that there was a need for a referendum, which took place about three years ago, to the best of my recollection. I accept too that the Bill, which is quite complex, contains a series of sections aimed at ensuring that our domestic law complies fully with our international obligations. I wish the Bill had been in place when we were ratifying the relevant treaty, which would have been the correct procedure. It is good that the Bill is now before the House, however, and that we are in a position to support it, thereby ensuring that we will comply fully with the court in every respect, including in our domestic law.

I ask the Minister to consider certain aspects of the Bill. Amnesty International produced a comprehensive document on the Bill, including many comments and recommendations. I hope the Minister will assure me in his closing speech that the issues raised by Amnesty International have been taken fully into account. I do not intend to discuss the document in detail because the Minister will have read it just as I have. Amnesty International has raised issues such as increasing to 18 the age at which children may be conscripted or enlisted in armed forces. The existing articles provide that it is a war crime to conscript or enlist children under the age of 15 into armed forces or groups, or to use children under that age to participate actively in hostilities. It is not a theoretical problem because young children are being drawn into conflicts in many parts of the world, unfortunately. They are generally not involved in the regular armed forces of a country, but many children are actively participating in hostilities with irregular groups, militias and terrorist groups. There is a strong case for raising the age of prohibition from 15, which was set to comply with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. I would support an approach which would seek a higher standard of protection for children. Since 18 years is the age of majority, there is no case for conscription under that age, nor is there a case for drafting children under the age of 18 into militias and groups.

An issue which one might not speak about with complete certainty concerns voluntary enlistment of children under that age in the regular forces of a country. That might not be as clear-cut if we are talking about apprentices into a regular army or something of that nature. The case made by Amnesty International on that issue is a good one.

It also deals with the issue of other crimes under international law that are not contained in its own statute. I would be in agreement with the thinking on that. The establishment of the International Criminal Court is the most important progress in international law in years but I would hope that once it is fully supported by the entire international community, the ambit of the court will be extended. I could see the International Criminal Court having jurisdiction at some stage in regard to drug trafficking and issues of that kind. I realise that may be well into the future but it is possibly a development that will take place once the court is operational and fully supported by all members of the international community.

Fine Gael is fully supportive of the International Criminal Court. We want Ireland to comply not just with its obligations but take the lead and give an example in ensuring the International Criminal Court becomes a permanent successful part of the international architecture. We do not want it to be just a symbol but a working body that will help to bring to justice those who are guilty of these outrageous crimes. If the court succeeds in the short term, we will all be pleased and we can then hope to extend its ambit and jurisdiction to ensure it will have an even greater role in international affairs in future years.

I wish to share time with Deputies Boyle and Ó Caoláin.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the debate on the International Criminal Court. It is very relevant, particularly having regard to the current international situation. There is a need for a debate, detailed analysis and discussion among all parties on this important legislation dealing with the International Criminal Court.

In examining the question of war crimes and genocide, we must all pull back a little and make a clinical decision that will have legal effect when supporting legislation on international courts. That is the reason I am particularly critical of international Governments that do not have a clear record in terms of justice and fair play internationally. I am talking in particular about the Bush, Blair and Sharon Administrations which have not made any contribution to the International Criminal Court and in the area of justice. When international leaders walk away from bodies like the International Criminal Court they cannot lecture others about their commitments to non-violence and world peace. We should put that down as a marker before we get into the core of the debate.

In the past Ireland had a strong track record as an international broker and a country with an independent foreign policy. We are respected in Third World countries, the Middle East and South America but we are beginning to lose that respect because of the policies of successive Governments over the past nine or ten years. If we do not examine Ireland's role in this area, there is little point coming into this House to support the International Criminal Court when we appear to be siding with one side in international conflicts.

The events at Shannon Airport are a classic example of that. When we consider the question of guns, war crimes and other issues, and what has been happening in Iraq over the past year, particularly with more than 20,000 civilians dead, we must ask what exactly is going on at Shannon Airport. Last year, 3,691 foreign military aircraft carrying 120,855 armed troops passed through Shannon. A total of 612 civilian planes carrying undisclosed munitions of war landed at the airport and 270 other civilian planes landed carrying unspecified weapons. There are also question marks over the ownership of a small aircraft which regularly visits Shannon Airport and is based in Virginia, in the United States. Many people are concerned about what this so-called civilian aircraft is doing at Shannon. Who owns it? Who are the passengers being brought through Shannon and from where are they coming? Are there connections between the CIA and this aircraft which regularly uses Shannon? I raise these important questions because we are discussing the International Criminal Court which will try to deal with people who have a record of genocide, violence and war crimes. We have to face up to those realities.

On the Bill, the statute provides for the establishment of an international criminal court with jurisdiction to investigate, prosecute and punish persons who commit the most serious offences of concern to the international community — genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The International Criminal Court has jurisdiction over individuals rather than states who commit these crimes on the territory of the state party or where a non-state party has given its consent. The court will also have jurisdiction over crimes committed in situations anywhere in the world which are referred to it by the United Nations Security Council.

In addition to prosecuting the perpetrators of crimes, the court may also prosecute those in authority who ordered crimes to be committed, including Heads of State and government officials. I welcome that positive aspect of the International Criminal Court. The International Criminal Court operates on the principle of complementarity rather than a substitute for a national criminal justice system in that it will only take on an investigation where a state is unwilling or genuinely unable to carry out the investigation or prosecution.

The Bill creates new offences of war crimes and crimes against humanity and consolidates the existing offence of genocide under the Genocide Act 1973.

There are 18 judges of the court who were inaugurated on 11 March 2003, at which time 89 state parties had ratified the statute. I pay tribute to the Irish judge at the International War Crimes Tribunal for Yugoslavia, Ms Maureen Harding Clark, who has been elected as one of the 18 judges of the court.

States have a responsibility in this area but some states, particularly powerful ones like the United States, have not agreed to sign up to the International Criminal Court. That is not acceptable. I urge the Government, if it has any influence with the US authorities, to encourage them to sign up to this court.

When referring to violence, terrorism and war crimes, it should be noted that the British state did not accept its responsibility in dealing with the families of the victims of the 1974 Dublin-Monaghan bombings. As a member of the Oireachtas sub-committee on the Barron report, I was appalled that its Government did not facilitate the sub-committee's hearings on the report.

There are serious questions about the UK security forces' involvement in acts of violence in this State. In trying to develop the peace process and restore public confidence in all security forces, the public must be satisfied that the victims are looked after and protected. Many people have concerns about collusion. The events of the 1974 Dublin-Monaghan bombings can be construed as an act of war. However, we seem to be burying our heads in the sand in the hope it will go away. If there is a genuine interest in developing justice and truth and moving the peace process forward, we must face up to these issues and take responsibility for them. I call on the Government to do this. I challenge the British Government, in particular, in its role in the Dublin-Monaghan bombings.

Defining where violence comes from must also be addressed. States cannot be involved in terrorism while at the same time condemning it. I wish to raise the case of the Miami Five. Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González and René González were five Cubans trying to stop Miami-based terrorist groups carrying out violent actions against the Cuban people. They were found guilty by a Miami court from evidence of convicted terrorists of charges ranging from murder to espionage. Extensive intimidation of jurors by these US-based terrorists was also a feature of the trial. The Miami Five are innocent of the charges brought against them. They are currently appealing their convictions in this obvious miscarriage of justice. The campaign for their release and exoneration is dedicated to the memory of those 3,478 killed and 2,099 maimed Cubans by US-based terrorist groups since 1959. This reality is not faced up to often.

The major powers must be forced to be responsible to the principles of the International Criminal Court. I am concerned about the US lack of support for the court and I urge the Government to put pressure on the US through EU and UN channels that this is not an option. There is a need for a credible international independent court. Its integrity and independence needs to be emphasised and I am glad that an Irish judge is involved in the court. We must ensure that the International Criminal Court has the respect and support of all countries, not just the western and EU states — I am glad 89 states signed up to this. There must be a strong emphasis on civil liberties and human rights issues. Mistreating prisoners is not acceptable. I am grateful for the opportunity to debate the International Criminal Court Bill and I urge the Government, particularly the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, to use all its power to support the court in its work.

The Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Tim O'Malley, a Progressive Democrats Member, opened Second Stage of the Bill this afternoon. I note that his party colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Parlon, is overseeing the debate. Yet we have not seen their Progressive Democrats colleague, Deputy McDowell, the Minister responsible for seeing this legislation through the Oireachtas, in the Chamber. Is this an indication of his reticence about national jurisprudence being transferred to other international courts of justice? If it is, he should state for the record whether he is in favour of the International Criminal Court.

The Bill has been a long time in gestation. Most Members only heard of the International Criminal Court when the Government decided it was necessary to have a referendum on it. This was held with the referenda on the removal of the death penalty from the Constitution and the Nice treaty. As has transpired, the delay in putting this Bill together shows how unnecessary that referendum was. It was not a sincere attempt to engage the electorate about the principles of the International Criminal Court. It was more a cynical exercise to have people vote "yes" for the three referenda. However, the Government's plan came undone when people readily agreed to the International Criminal Court and the abolition of the death penalty but chose to reject the Nice treaty. I hope the Government has subsequently learned a lesson.

The principle of the International Criminal Court is largely supported by the Irish citizens which Members will endorse. There are crimes perpetrated of such devastation and evil that cannot be dealt with in a national jurisdiction. Instead, they require the international community to act in concert in tracking down the perpetrators to achieve justice for the many thousands of victims. However, this idea is compromised by the attitude of the US towards the International Criminal Court. Without the participation of the US, with its armed forces not being subject to the court's rulings, the court's aspirations are a nonsense. The US has defined for itself a role as the world's policeman which has resulted in thousands of its troops being deployed in places such as Iraq. In Iraq, a few bad apples caused certain crimes, which should be looked at individually and put through a judicial system. However, given the rabid nature of the US Administration, there is evidence that instructions on how the armed forces were to behave and how prisoners are treated came from the top.

Remaining outside the International Criminal Court, the US has decided what constitutes a prisoner of war and how he or she can be detained and treated. Events at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib in Baghdad show that the goodwill of the US is compromised on every level. Instead of encouraging the US to participate in the court, it should be shamed and embarrassed into doing so. The US should espouse those principles that have made it the world's greatest democracy. Ireland is compromised by these activities.

Despite events in Iraq being governed by a UN Security Council resolution, Government answers have been evasive on the suggestion that transit to Shannon Airport may be bringing people from Afghanistan and Iraq, particularly Afghanistan, to Guantanamo Bay. It has certainly done so in the past. The irony of this country presenting itself as a signatory and a participant, and having an Irish judge as an integral part of this process, somehow standing idly by while the principles of international justice have been compromised to such an extent, deserves a response from the Government. Unfortunately its silence speaks volumes.

The fact that an international criminal court was first suggested in 1948 with the foundation of the United Nations shows the difficulties and barriers put up by the larger countries which had a vested interest in ensuring that such a criminal court never saw the light of day and could never have an effect. The further irony is that the United Nations was largely founded through the efforts of Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of the wartime American President and that it is subsequent American Administrations which have poured cold water on the idea of a true international system of justice and have put most of the obstacles in its way. This should be a source of shame for the United States.

Even coming into being now, in the changed circumstances of the world we live in, an international criminal court must have its effectiveness questioned — even if the Americans were to take a full part in it tomorrow. The nature of war, if it was ever civilised, has gone beyond the civilities of formal declarations of war and the presence of known combatants. We now have systems of war that are globalised, akin to the economies we live in. The combatants do not come from a particular country. They are mobile, and they have rules of engagement which do not exist in the textbooks of military theory. The situation becomes even murkier when we look at people in those situations who commit acts of genocide. Is it the role of the court to decide if the person who pulls the trigger or wields the knife is ultimately responsible? What about the people in the background, the very respectable nations and corporations which are responsible for arming people in these situations? Surely they are as culpable in crimes of genocide? The criminal court does not seem to address that. The idea of corporate responsibility and of national responsibility for foreign policy that results in the deaths of thousands of people in other countries should be a responsibility of an international criminal court.

The Government has failed to take responsibility for Ireland participating in this court while trying to coerce those with whom we have an international involvement. By failing to make firm statements of intent as to where we stand on the principles of international justice we are losing most of the goodwill we have earned as an independent country through our work over the past 50 years in the United Nations. Unless we become less circumspect, less evasive in terms of condemning certain crimes and those who are ultimately responsible or have a shared responsibility for these crimes, the type of role we have played genuinely and successfully in UN peacekeeping missions will be compromised, and invitations for us to participate and people's willingness to trust our troops in situations where we might have to be part of an international force that tries to rebuild countries after genocide will be affected. I hope in the ongoing debate on this Bill the Government is prepared to respond to those criticisms.

Sinn Féin unreservedly welcomes the creation of an international criminal court to prosecute those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity including in particular the crime of genocide, which has been repeated down the centuries in all parts of the globe by those who will stop at nothing to build empires, and a crime which, until the present, has been carried out with virtual impunity.

After more than 50 years in gestation, the establishment of this permanent Court of International Justice in the Hague and the inauguration of its judges in March 2003 is a small source of hope for a more just future for everyone. I congratulate Judge Maureen Harding Clarke on her election to the court, and wish her every success. I also commend her recent appointment to our own Human Rights Commission. Now if only we could get our Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to take this body seriously and treat its opinions with the respect they deserve, we could make some real progress in the area of human rights in this state.

The Irish people are also to be commended for their 2001 referendum vote endorsing the establishment of the International Criminal Court, but why did the Government wait for nearly a year after that to ratify its statute? Given the popular mandate received for this legislation which gives domestic effect to its provisions, what possible reason could there be for the delay of two years to publish the Bill, and why the delay of another year to bring it to Second Stage? By the time this Bill reaches Final Stage, almost six years will have elapsed between the time Ireland first signed the Rome Statute in 1998 and the signing of this Bill into law. Given the subject matter, this negligence is totally inappropriate and must be a source of embarrassment. It reads to others as though the Irish people do not consider this to be a priority, while nothing could be further from the truth.

The grotesque acts of torture committed on Iraqi prisoners of war by American and British occupation forces have brought the issue of impunity for war crimes into sharp relief. While it is reluctantly accepted that according to the provisions finally agreed at Rome, all those who committed war crimes and crimes of genocide prior to the entry into force of the Statute of the International Criminal Court on 1 July 2002 may not be prosecuted, any such criminals committing crimes after that date must not escape international justice.

The will of the international community is clear on this point. All such perpetrators must be held accountable for their crimes without exception, regardless of official position, military rank or nationality. They must be tried either by national courts, or failing that, by the International Criminal Court. It is crucial to both the legitimacy and effectiveness of this new instrument that no person from any state be deemed immune. I express on behalf of Sinn Féin our deep concern over the continuing refusal of two states, the United States and Israel, to ratify the Rome Statute. The hypocrisy of wanting this statute to apply to others but not to themselves speaks volumes. I also criticise the lobbying effort by the United States to pressure other countries into signing bilateral Article 98 non-surrender agreements to effectively grant its nationals immunity from the International Criminal Court. Such agreements are illegal under international law as they violate the obligations of all states to ensure that people accused of such crimes, the most serious crimes under international law, are brought to justice.

For what crimes is this international immunity being sought? Article 6 crimes are genocidal crimes including acts committed with the intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. Article 7 crimes are crimes against humanity committed as part of a widespread or systemic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.

These include acts of murder, extermination, enslavement, forcible deportation or population transfer, imprisonment in violation of the fundamental rules of international law, torture, rape, sexual slavery or enforced prostitution, persecution against any identifiable group on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious or gender grounds, the crime of apartheid, and other inhumane acts intended to cause great suffering. Article 8 crimes are a series of 51 separate and distinct war crimes. According to Article 5.1(d), once definitions can be agreed by the parties, the crime of international aggression will also be included in the statute. Despite this, the United States is demanding that any US national accused of such crimes should be returned to the US, without any commitment that they will be prosecuted by US courts. In fact, in many cases the US will not even be able to do so, as many of these international crimes are not against US law.

The pressure to sign these agreements has been intense. According to the US state department, as of 15 June more than 80 countries have entered into such immunity agreements. However, 58 of the 94 state parties which have not signed, 45 countries have publicly refused to sign and 23 of these state parties have made the courageous and principled decision not to sign despite the consequent loss of US aid. The Irish people deserve to know in what category this State stands. Moreover, I want the Minister to give an unequivocal commitment in clear language that the Government will not sign any such bilateral agreement with any state at any time now or in future.

The ongoing campaign the US has mounted to undermine the ICC and to secure permanent immunity for itself is a disgrace, and Ireland must not stand idly by. It was with dismay and shame that I watched the UN Security Council pass Resolution 1422 in 2002 and Resolution 1487 in 2003 allowing US peacekeepers on UN authorised missions immunity from the International Criminal Court. Therefore, it was with relief that I learned a similar resolution tabled to the UN Security Council this year was withdrawn by the US on June 23 of this year, because it could not secure adequate support from the other members of the council. I understand the passage of these annually renewable resolutions — unanimously in 2002, when Ireland was a member, and with only three abstentions in 2003 — was in response to a US threat to hold future UN peacekeeping hostage to its demand. However, Ireland's acquiescence in 2002, and particularly the fact that we did not join the campaign of opposition led by South Africa, Canada, New Zealand, Brazil and Mexico, is a stain that will not easily wash away.

In his reply to a parliamentary question tabled by my colleague, Deputy Ó Snodaigh, the Minister stated that during the Irish Presidency of the European Union, the Government would lead European efforts to ensure the widest possible ratification and implementation of the ICC statute, and to develop a broader dialogue between the EU and the US on all matters relating to the International Criminal Court. Was this done and, if so, how? Was the issue of ratification of the ICC statute raised with the US President during the June summit by the Taoiseach acting either on behalf of the State or on behalf of the European Union? Will the Minister include a statement on these matters in his closing remarks?

The Bill and the related statute are complex. The ICC statute itself at Schedule 1 has 128 articles. Sinn Féin wants to see the Bill passed quickly but not so quickly that we miss the opportunity to make this legislation the best it can be.

Deputy Ó Caoláin tried to muddy the waters by raising the issue of the delay of the Bill as if to suggest that prejudice had somehow arisen in the period before the Bill came before the House, that somebody has been short-changed, that an injustice had been done or even that it is the deliberate intention of Government to side-step its responsibilities, which is not the case. The Deputy pointed out that the Government made commitments in regard to the International Criminal Court that other governments have not made. It would be wrong not to challenge the Deputy's comments. If there was delay, it was not due to prejudice by any party and no injustice was suffered by any party as a result of delay. It was not the intention of Government to delay the Bill for any nefarious purpose.

The Bill is needed. I learned about the Nuremberg war crimes trials as a history teacher. The defence laid before the court by the Nazis tried at Nuremberg was that the laws they were charged with having broken were created after the offences, and that it was wrong to retrospectively convict them of crimes that did not exist before 1945. These were strong and legitimate defences and, in another tribunal, might have succeeded. However, there was no moral strength to their defence. Nonetheless, the situation showed a clear need to bring together legislation such as that before us.

Whatever about the delay of six years, it is amazing we have waited this long to have a permanent court that can try individuals for the kind of crimes described in the statute. We have waited almost 60 years to have this kind of legislation in force in this country. While there is no question that the Bill has taken a long time to reach this stage, I would not put the responsibility for this on the Government. The issue required much negotiation between countries.

Deputy Ó Caoláin referred to UN Resolution 1487, a matter missed by media coverage. It is interesting to note that the UN is standing up to the Americans on this issue. The US has consistently tried to drag its heels on the application of the court to UN-type peacekeeping missions. While this is no longer the case, I want to examine the American argument.

People in Ireland give Americans a hard time and this is not always fair. The Americans argue that it is not in their interest to sign up to the court because of the danger of politically motivated prosecutions. Any country's foreign policy is determined by their base national interest. So long as that is the case, America is probably right in what it is doing as there is no doubt somebody will try to use the court in this manner at some stage. While I do not think there is any way that the International Criminal Court could host a politically motivated and frivolous prosecution, the Americans argue this is the case. it is against the constitutional principles of the separation of powers, checks and balances, and the fundamental nature of the judicial system. Again, this argument does not stand up because if that was the case, they could test its constitutionality in the US Supreme Court.

One argument which does stand up is that their own courts are adequate to deal with the problems addressed by this Bill. That is true. A couple of weeks ago the US Supreme Court gave its decision on issues arising from the detention of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. It found that the detainees were entitled to the protections of US law. That demonstrates the independence of the US Supreme Court. Anybody who is charged with any of the crimes outlined in the Rome Statute would be tried in an American court.

The Americans are saying, in effect, that this statute is for countries without a properly functioning judicial system. In view of the cases that have come before the court so far, that is the case. They involve places such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, not European or developed countries. That argument is valid. I do not envisage Americans being prosecuted under this statute because their own system is perfectly adequate.

However, America should return from its position of isolation in world affairs. Its isolation is seen in matters such as the landmines treaty and the nuclear test ban treaty, neither of which it has signed, and with regard to the Kyoto Protocol. It is not all George Bush's fault. These were not signed by former President Clinton either so let us not make a demon of George Bush unnecessarily. However, for so long as America remains outside these multilateral treaties, its isolation will continue. America should sign the International Criminal Court statute because it symbolises multilateralism and it would symbolise America coming back into the world from which it has isolated itself through its foreign policy. I am not an attacker of the United States but there are so many of these examples that it is becoming dangerous for them.

What is also dangerous is the bilateral approach the US has adopted. The EU is equally responsible for this. The European Union encouraged America to sign bilateral agreements. The Americans went mad with it and signed many more than anybody expected. Article 98 of the Rome Statue gives them that right. It states: "The Court may not proceed with a request for surrender or assistance which would require the requested State to act inconsistently with its obligations under international law with respect to the State or diplomatic immunity of a person or property of a third State, unless the Court can first obtain the co-operation of that third State for the waiver of the immunity." The Americans have a technical legal argument that this entitles them to absolve themselves from the application of the court. What they have done is unfortunate.

I do not believe the Americans have anything to fear from the International Criminal Court and it would be enormously symbolic if America signed the statute. It would be beneficial for better relations between the European Union and the US. I commend the Bill to the House.

Deputy Andrews is probably the only Fianna Fáil Member to comment on this Bill. I wonder if he is making a pitch for the position of Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is there word that somebody is on the move?

I will bring the Deputy on a few trips with me.

I better keep on good terms with him. The Deputy made a good case for himself today by showing he knows what is involved with this. I wish him the best of luck, which should guarantee me at least one trip.

When is the reshuffle?

He must know more about it than we do. We will see who else turns up in the Chamber on the last sitting day.

We have been a long time reaching this point with the International Criminal Court. Deputy Andrews is correct that it is not this Government's fault. The resolution was passed in 1948 when the UN General Assembly recognised that genocide inflicted great losses on humanity and stated that to liberate mankind from such an odious scourge, international co-operation would be required. In the same resolution, the General Assembly invited the International Law Commission to study the desirability and possibility of establishing an international judicial organ for the trial of persons charged with genocide. This was the early stage of the idea of establishing an international criminal court. It was later established under the Rome Statute on 17 July 1998 and ratified by Ireland in April 2002 and through a referendum in June.

What took so long? I am not blaming the Irish Government, but it demonstrates how slowly business is conducted internationally. Another example is the new EU constitution. It was meant to be an informative handbook guide on how the EU works and to make it simple and accountable. What was the result? Three hundred and fifty pages of jargon which only a solicitor could read. The International Criminal Court took more than 50 years to be established while the new constitution for Europe is a massive, long document. We need to look at other ways of getting things done more quickly and clearly so people who are not politicians, solicitors or barristers can follow what is happening and take part in it. That is what will generate accountability and encourage people to become more involved.

The referendum on the International Criminal Court was passed in 2001. I know more about the court now, after researching it for the past couple of days, than I did when I voted in the referendum. A high percentage of voters were in the same position. We are holding referenda without fully informing people or bringing them with us. That is how countries are doing their business. Something is wrong if it takes so long to establish something as important as the International Criminal Court. It is amazing.

Fifty four years is a long time to wait but nobody thought that the horrors of the Second World War, the concentration camps, the exterminations and the Holocaust, could ever happen again. However, history has shown how such atrocities can continue to happen. One need only look to the horrors of Rwanda, Bosnia and Cambodia for recent occurrences of genocide and crimes against humanity. Unfortunately, such shocking actions on the part of individuals will probably never stop but we must do all in our power to help prevent them and, if they take place, to ensure justice is done. We cannot sit idly by and not take part.

The message that needs to be sent to the perpetrators of these crimes is that Ireland, as part of a united world front, will no longer tolerate their actions. We will play our part in the administration of justice. They must know that they will be held to account for their actions and that no individual or group of people can carry out acts of violence and genocide against others. That is the reason I welcome this Bill and the establishment of the court. It is already up and running and I look forward to receiving the reports on its first cases.

I recall standing in one of the concentration camps in east Berlin a number of years ago. It was only then I realised how serious it was. One can discuss this and read books, but standing in the concentration camp on a frosty, cold morning with my colleagues from the House was when the events that happened there hit home. The suffering and unnecessary pain should never have happened. We cannot prevent these things. No matter how good the Government is, it cannot prevent these things occurring. We must hope and pray they will not happen in massive numbers and that we can attempt to control and deal with them when they do occur.

Ireland is seen internationally as a peacekeeping country which, through its role in the UN, assists countries in times of crisis. By introducing this law, we will accept a new role as a partner in investigating and prosecuting those who commit crimes against humanity. This role cannot be taken lightly. An important point in this Bill is that we will also accept that all state parties are potential defendants before the court. It is not just a case of the victors bringing the defeated parties in conflicts to justice, as happened in the past. In the past, when atrocities occurred, the winning party took control and administered justice by holding trials and so forth. It might also be those who came along and saved the day, generally those who were involved in sorting out the mess or ending the atrocities. It is only proper that we will now have a structure which is outside and above that process, which is fair and which no one can directly influence. Everyone knows how it will work and most countries have signed up to it. It will guarantee fairness and justice. There will be no doubt about the results coming forward because it will clearly be an independent court.

While this Bill is necessary, it has some minor flaws which we should consider before it is passed. The first is the exclusion from the Bill of jurisdiction over crimes that occurred in the past. Genocide and crimes against humanity are already contrary to existing law. They should, therefore, be included as crimes under this Bill. It is my understanding of the Bill that it cannot deal retrospectively with crimes. If that is correct, what prevents it from doing so? This is a proactive attempt to administer justice. I do not, therefore, see why it could not apply to previous crimes.

The Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Tim O'Malley, moved Second Stage of this Bill in the House in May 2004. He stated that the Bill would enable assistance to be given to the International Criminal Court by permitting the arrest and surrender of persons requested by the court. Will that affect any of our current extradition agreements with other countries? Will these arrangements be compromised or replaced?

I am dismayed that the United States of America has not signed up to the International Criminal Court. The United States is a supposed superpower in the global economy that often acts as a superbully in pursuit of its international policies. Why is it afraid to join with the rest of the law-abiding countries of the world in backing the International Criminal Court? Deputy Andrews suggested some reasons and said the US might be putting its case forward. Others will ask whether the Bush Administration is afraid of the court, given what is coming out of Iraq at the moment, and whether the United States is afraid it might have to appear before the court. Did the Taoiseach use his famous diplomatic skills of persuasion during the Irish Presidency of the European Union to try to persuade the United States to sign up to the court? Was it on the agenda? Was it discussed? I hope it was, but I would bet it was not. I would like to hear the Minister's comments on that.

This Bill needs to be enacted and a message sent out that Ireland is not afraid to stand up and be counted when it comes to bringing those who commit crimes against humanity to justice. The case for the International Criminal Court is a simple one. It will be the first court to be established on a permanent international basis. It will be the first to be in existence prior to any conflict or war. That is extremely important and very proactive. The practice of setting up ad hoc committees or tribunals after a conflict arises or after an atrocity takes place is a bad one. It is not good enough in a modern age and often gives poor results and convictions that are questionable. The practice is reactive and cannot guarantee justice. There can be no doubts regarding the recommendations or convictions of a court of this magnitude. Everyone should know the rules of operation of the court which exists to protect and administer justice. It is only right to have a permanent structure. It is a pity some countries have chosen not to support it. I hope this will not affect its powers in the long term or the results, recommendations and feedback from the court when it investigates crimes.

A ready-made existing structure should prevent unnecessary delays. Delays in the administration of justice are not acceptable because they can lead to mishaps. Documents can go missing. Even the people on trial can go missing or pass on. It is, therefore, important to be seen to move quickly when people are to be tried for crimes against humanity so that justice will be seen to be done. It can take months or even years to set up an ad hoc committee. I am not yet convinced as to how fast the International Criminal Court will work. It has been set up and is ready to go, but how quickly must it report?

The International Criminal Court will act only when countries are unable or unwilling to prosecute. What timescale will be involved in that context? If a country states that it intends to prosecute or investigate and sits back on its laurels, how long will it be before the International Criminal Court steps in to investigate? What will happen if it is believed a country carrying out an investigation has not done or is not trying to do a good job and is leaving stones unturned? Can the International Criminal Court take over in the absence of a fair result?

What punishment can the court impose? If it intervenes in a country that has not asked for it to become involved and which was hoping to carry out its own investigation, who is responsible for imposing the punishments?

I welcome the Bill and urge everybody to support it. I will watch closely when the court reports on its first case. I wish all who are involved in its operation well. It was not easy to set it up. It took 55 years. I am sure it was not easy to get total agreement on it because many countries, including Ireland, had to make changes to their constitutions and give up certain areas of responsibility. It may also be difficult to run it and prove it successful. I hope justice will win. I understand that one of the 18 judges sitting on the court is an Irish judge and I wish her the best of luck. It is good that Ireland is so involved.

Since we are debating crime, it would be remiss of me not to mention crime at home, although it has nothing to do with this Bill. Ireland has a problem with crime and we continually bury our heads in the sand and do nothing. People are afraid. It is not just elderly people but young people who are afraid to go out on their own, always travelling in twos or threes.

We do not seem to be moving quickly to solve the problem here. There is plenty of talk. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is well able to talk. He has all the answers and he sounds good. However, very little seems to be happening on the ground where it matters. I do not recall any Bills being passed here in the past 12 months that would make any difference to crime on the ground. That is a shame. We are here to react and solve problems that arise. We hardly ever fully debate crime or seek answers or results. We spent last year discussing alcohol and brought in one or two Mickey Mouse Bills which will not change anything. We have not got down to the nitty-gritty which involves not merely introducing new Bills but implementing new ideas and initiatives. The Budget Statement was devoted to the issue of decentralisation. A certain Minister did well out of that. I hope the next budget will home in on crime and health because crime can leave people in need of treatment.

We have a problem which we cannot leave to one side. We must try new initiatives and put money into them. The drive to recruit 2,000 gardaí will help. We will probably need 3,000 by the time they are recruited. We need movement, more gardaí and other ways of solving crime. People of all ages are involved in crime. Some of these crimes are minor, but there are more serious crimes which involve beatings on the street after a night out. A greater fear of the law, of what will happen if one is caught, and an increase in the chance of being caught will help to prevent crime. Most people assume they can get away with crime because there is no one to catch them. They also feel that if they are caught they will get away with a slap on the wrist. Those are two perceptions that we need to change. What is required is action, not fancy words and jargon.

In 2001 the people voted in a referendum to amend the Constitution to accept the provisions of the statute of the International Criminal Court. Its effect was also to reconcile our constitutional obligations with our obligations under the International Criminal Court and, consequently, the ceding of a degree of national sovereignty in the area of criminal justice administration.

The Bill is to be welcomed. It is a landmark development, something that the world has needed for a very long time. I note that it has been ratified by the vast majority of the world's nations. This legislation is not before its time. It will enable us to co-operate with most countries in critical areas of investigating, arresting and extraditing alleged war criminals.

As regards offences such as involvement in the arms trade and participation in war crimes and crimes against humanity, it is not inconceivable that large corporations could be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court. Many large companies escaped prosecution in the aftermath of the Second World War. Instead, the emphasis was mainly on putting the leading individuals on trial at Nuremberg and Tokyo. International law in this area must be further developed so that criminal liability for collusion in war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity can attach to corporations as well as mere individuals.

The past century was one of the bloodiest in human history and at the end of it, on 17 July 1998, the world's first independent and permanent criminal court was created. Its primary aim was to investigate and prosecute those individuals accused of crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes. The International Criminal Court complements existing judicial systems and steps in only if national courts are unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute such crimes. The International Criminal Court will also help uphold the rights of those, such as women and children, who have often had little recourse to justice. In July 1998, 120 countries voted to adopt their own statutes, with only six countries voting against. Significantly, those voting against the establishment of the International Criminal Court included Israel, Iraq, the US and China. Nevertheless, the International Criminal Court is now a reality. It represents a turning point for justice and the rule of law.

Ruthless leaders who committed far too many atrocities have calculated that they could get away with mass murder. Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic are the two individuals who most readily come to mind. They still roam free with apparent impunity in the Republika Srpska, the Serbian state within a state that is part of Bosnia Herzegovina. The wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo following the break-up of the former Yugoslavia introduced the phrase "ethnic cleansing" into our vocabulary in the final decade of the 20th century. Nine years have passed since the slaughter at Srebrenica, the scene of the worst massacre of the Bosnian war, and in Europe, since the Second World War. Srebrenica was a so-called UN safe area where tens of thousands of civilians had taken refuge from Serb offensives in north-east Bosnia. Yet it was overrun in July 1995 by Serb forces. That in excess of 8,000 men and boys could be slaughtered wholesale was virtually unthinkable more than 50 years after the Holocaust.

Nevertheless, after six years of painstaking research, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia determined that genocide had occurred and sentenced Bosnian Serb general Radoslav Krstic to 46 years on eight counts of genocide and crimes against humanity. However, the sad and shocking truth remains that most of the perpetrators of human rights violations at Srebrenica remain unpunished. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the Rwanda tribunal have given momentum to and paved the way for the drive to establish a permanent, independent international criminal court empowered to act when national courts fail. Whatever a ruthless leader may do to undermine his own national justice system, the International Criminal Court will stand ready to prosecute his acts of violence or interrupt his plans for immunity.

The Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court is a tremendous advance for the cause of human rights, and it comes not a moment too soon. After the hopes of "Never again war" were shattered in Croatia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Cambodia, East Timor and, latterly, Iraq, after slaughter and atrocities in many countries around the world, a court has finally been established that stands ready to prosecute and sentence the authors of those crimes anywhere in the world. The International Criminal Court will have jurisdiction over crimes committed by Irish citizens in the territories of Governments that ratify the Rome treaty. It can also try any individual responsible for such crimes, regardless of his or her civilian or military status or official position, right up to a country's leaders. In addition to prisoners and combatants captured in conflict, generals and heads of state can also be brought to book for the types of crimes that fall within the International Criminal Court's jurisdiction.

The statute contains a detailed list of the rights that any accused person shall enjoy, including the presumption of innocence, the right to counsel, the right to present evidence, the right to remain silent, and the right to have charges proven beyond reasonable doubt. The complementarity principle would apply, giving the state the primary responsibility and duty to prosecute the most serious international crimes. If a national court were not willing or able to bring a case against someone accused of those crimes, it would be necessary to have an international forum to do so. It would allow the International Criminal Court to step in only as a last resort if the state failed to implement its duty, that is, only if appropriate investigations or prosecutions had not been carried out in good faith. Bona fide efforts to discover the truth and hold accountable those responsible for acts of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes would bar the International Criminal Court from proceeding.

There is an overriding need to ensure that the International Criminal Court upholds the highest standards of fairness and justice. There is also an urgent need to redress today's atrocities and deter tomorrow's would-be killers. The 18 judges elected include people of unimpeachable integrity, including Ms Maureen Harding Clark, formerly of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and an Irish judge of very high repute.

The International Criminal Court is under very considerable challenge, particularly from the US, which refused to ratify the Rome Statute setting up the international court. The US regards its justice system as infallible, refusing to subject its citizens to enforceable international standards. That opposition to the International Criminal Court seems strange since the US firmly pressed for the setting up of tribunals in Rwanda and Yugoslavia. It also held war criminals individually responsible for their actions through the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals after the Second World War, which were dominated by the Americans. That could be regarded as the victor's justice, doing nothing to alter the cycle of killing and revenge.

The US has labelled the International Criminal Court as an institution of unchecked power, a charge that is patently untrue. The US frequently blasts other countries for human rights violations and often supports war crimes prosecutions against other countries' leaders. In the case of Iraq, it initiated such prosecutions against Saddam Hussein and other members of his ruling council. However, at the same time, it failed to acknowledge that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. It seeks to immunise US leaders from war crimes prosecutions entirely, irrespective of what they may do.

The International Criminal Court is accountable to an assembly of member states but chooses its prosecutors and judges and can vote to have them removed. Unsurprisingly, the court consists predominantly of democratic states deeply committed to the values on which it was founded. Equally unsurprisingly, the world's worst violators of human rights have declined to join the court. The Bush Administration also announced that it would withhold military aid from most ICT member states unless they first signed formal agreements never to extradite US citizens to the court's jurisdiction. That is a punitive policy against countries that have pledged to prevent human rights abuses and atrocities and that endeavour to protect their inhabitants from those crimes. It is also threatening that, unless its armed forces receive guarantees of immunity, it will veto extending the UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia and perhaps in other places too. For the International Criminal Court to hold perpetrators of human rights accountable is not merely about securing justice and truth for victims but about preventing future crimes from occurring.

Repressive regimes are rewarded by becoming beneficiaries of the largesse of US military assistance. This amounts to a cynical undermining by the United States of an international effort to protect basic human rights. It also sends the unfortunate message around the world that there is one standard of justice for Americans and another for everyone else. Such haughty foolishness makes the world a less safe place, even for Americans.

The ideological antipathy of the United States to the International Criminal Court which it fears might focus on an American has inspired its dislike of any international tribunal. The manner in which the United States Government has treated Afghan and Iraqi prisoners in Guantanamo Bay puts it outside the pale of civilised treatment of prisoners, and displays an utter disregard for the norms of international law.

The International Criminal Court needs careful stewardship, attention, resources and support during its critical formative period. The establishment in this new century of a new international institution dedicated to protecting people against violation of their human rights is a remarkable achievement in the progress of humankind. Our Government's ratification of the Rome Statute and the passing of the referendum approving this is typical of our respect for human rights. I am happy to welcome this Bill without reservation.

I am glad to have the opportunity to say a few words on this Bill. The various comments on it have been interesting. As democrats we must support its contents but the success or failure of the concept remains to be seen. Unfortunately, despots do not take account of what might become of them. They judge a situation as they see it. Recent crises, such as those in Rwanda and Sudan, which remain fresh in our memory are sufficient to remind us of how despots feel about international courts. The success of this internationally desirable and acceptable legislation will be determined by the extent to which it becomes a deterrent.

The Nuremberg war crimes trials were no consolation to the 60 million who died in the concentration camps and elsewhere in the Second World War. While it would be good to know that an international criminal court could interrogate and try the perpetrators of the attack on the World Trade Centre on 11 September 2001 that might not be a sufficient deterrent to those people. I and others have spoken often in this House about people who have chosen, in pursuit of their own goal, to eliminate, literally and figuratively, innocent people with no direct involvement in their cause. I remain to be convinced of the effectiveness of this proposed legislation.

It appears that the trial of Slobodan Milosevic and his colleagues is proceeding well but I am concerned about his attitude to the court which he treats as the Colosseum where he takes on the assembled forces of all those whom he regards as evil. He is setting about to prove his case and, worse, to validate the events in Serbia, including the execution of 8,000 people in Srebrenica. Although it is not often remembered, the United Nations was there at the time and was unable to do anything about that. The comment was made here that the Dutch Government had to resign afterwards. I doubt that was a consolation to the 8,000 people who died, coming after the event, as so often happens. The success or failure of international criminal trials as envisaged in this legislation will depend on the extent to which it becomes a deterrent.

I have tabled countless parliamentary questions about the developing world and the destination of overseas aid. I read recently of one leader who, shortly after receiving a considerable international donation of development aid, turned up in a brand new plane worth €35 million. Meanwhile, there was no sign of that aid entering the economy of his country. We must find a way to deal starkly with people who disregard human life and rights, and care only for the pursuit of their own selfish ends. This might be used to teach them beforehand that if they pursue that route, there will be swift retribution.

The question arises of how to deal with that. Deputies have argued that there are two sides to the war in Iraq, and US involvement in it. There was no great outcry following the attack on the World Trade Centre, which was not condemned as an atrocity. We all, as politicians and members of the public, tend to accept some atrocities on the basis that there was a reason for them or that they were perpetrated in retaliation for something. If we continue in that fashion we will reach the point where there is no purpose in having international criminal law or courts because they will mean nothing. The result is the criminal or despot will believe himself or herself to be no worse than anyone else in pursuing what appears to be his or her natural way of life. Saddam Hussein was one of those who thought nothing of executing 500,000 people for his convenience, by chemical methods or whatever. We tend to forget about these events afterwards.

How would the International Criminal Court have dealt with Adolf Hitler had it sat in Nuremberg when his cohorts were tried? It probably would have ordered his execution. That would have been of no consolation to those against whom the atrocities were perpetrated, including those in the concentration camps, and who were mercilessly slaughtered in the course of Hitler's push for power and in his retreat.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has come before the House and I would like to hear his comments on this issue in the not too distant future.

If the Deputy gives way I will comment on it now.

I do not doubt it. However, I would not want to overload the schedule of the Select Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights which will be obliged to deal with 14 or 15 Bills during the recess. It will, therefore, be well occupied.

The concept of the International Criminal Court is fine but we must accept that it can only act after the event. It is like the old story about crime, namely, that we have means of punishing people if we catch them. It is in that context that international despots seem to get away with what they have done.

Let us consider what happened in Rwanda or current events in Sudan. The most awful atrocities are occurring in the latter country and the unfortunate people there are starving. These atrocities and the starvation being suffered have been largely brought about by a war over which these people have no control and in which they have no wish to be involved. These events are happening when our so-called sophisticated and alert society is supposed to be in a position to take action. We are able to do very little, even at this stage.

I will not have adequate time in which to comment on the various matters I wish to raise. However, I would like the Minister to indicate, in anticipation of the successful application of the International Criminal Court, the steps the international community will be able to take to put in place measures that will intimidate the perpetrators of evil before they act. There may be some possibility of intimidating these individuals on a national level but I have serious doubts about whether it will be possible at international level. The concept behind the Bill is good. I attended the hearings in the Hague and I was quite impressed. However, as I stated before the Minister entered the House, a certain Mr. Milosevic is not as impressed or intimidated by the courts as were some of those people who appeared before them previously.

In order for a court of this nature to be successful, it must observe the rights of individuals under the law. People who are accused will not need any encouragement in this regard and they will ensure their rights are observed. They will go through the legislation with a fine tooth comb in order to ensure that not one of their rights will be trampled upon in any way. This will be despite the fact that they will have probably spent the earlier part of their lives trampling on the rights of others. I am sure they will resume that behaviour if they manage to get away with what they did previously. I hope the Minister will refer to this matter in his reply.

This is a substantial item of legislation which will allow the court to operate across countless boundaries. It will bring the entire concept of breaches of human rights into an arena in which, I hope, some form of retribution can be delivered. However, it will do little in terms of acting as a deterrent.

I would have preferred to continue my contribution because I had a number of further anecdotes I wanted to recount. However, time is against me and I know the Minister is anxious to refer the Bill to the select committee which I presume is anxious to deal with it, even though it has approximately ten other Bills with which it must deal. It would not be fair to ask the House to sit for a further week to go through the legislation in finer detail.

I am grateful to Deputy Durkan for his unusual exercise in verbal continence which has allowed us to deal with this matter today.

I am always surprising people.

I must admit that it was a very pleasant surprise.

I hope the Minister was also impressed.

I thank Deputies on all sides for their contributions. The breadth of the exchanges that this wide-ranging measure has provoked is an indication of the potential contribution of the International Criminal Court in protecting those who often have no voice from the most heinous crimes.

The opening contribution of the Minister of State, Deputy Tim O'Malley, recalled the difficult birth of the Rome Statute and the many atrocities which occurred from 1948, when the idea of an international court was first raised, to 2002, when the statute came into effect. Enactment of this legislation will ensure that Ireland can comply with its obligations under the Rome Statute and co-operate with the International Criminal Court in ensuring that those responsible for such atrocities can no longer escape punishment for their offences.

Unlike previous tribunals, the Rome Statue could potentially apply to any state party. While we may consider that the statute would never be applied to Ireland, its very existence and our obligations to the International Criminal Court will ensure that we will not become complacent in our dealings with these offences. The Bill provides for the new offences of war crimes and crimes against humanity and consolidates the offence of genocide under the Genocide Act 1972, while, at the same time, establishing the practical framework for providing assistance to the International Criminal Court and for the prosecution of offences.

Deputy Durkan referred to the protection of human rights. I have no doubt that the jurisprudence of this court, as it develops, will fully respect human rights and that the court will, in its procedures, vindicate the rights of those who are tried before it as well as the rights of victims in respect of whom prosecutions are brought.

Deputy Costello queried the number of signatories to the convention. It was stated during the Minister of State's opening contribution that 94 states had signed the statute. That is now understood to be 139, with 94 of these having ratified the statute.

Deputies have made a number of suggestions regarding possible amendments to the Bill. Some of these, while worthy of consideration in their own right, go beyond the objective of the Bill, namely, the implementation of the Rome Statute. I do not doubt that the select committee in its wisdom will consider the text of the Bill carefully in order to discover if it requires amendment. I will be open to accepting any appropriate amendments.

I again thank Deputies for their contributions and for the research they undertook in respect of those contributions. I look forward to the Bill being brought before the select committee in due course. As far as I am concerned, Deputy Durkan is correct to state that the committee is facing a very heavy workload. On the other hand, however, members of the public are looking to us not merely to become signatories to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court but also to bring it into effect. I know I will have all-party support in bringing the deliberations on the legislation to an early conclusion.

Question put and agreed to.