That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to provide for a universal jurisdiction of human rights; to enable the charging and conviction of persons who breach international human rights law in cases of but not limited to genocide, war crimes, torture and crimes against humanity, whether these breaches have occurred inside or outside the State; for these purposes to amend the Criminal Justice (United Nations Convention against Torture) Act 2000 and the International Criminal Court Act 2006.
The Bill seeks to enable the charging and conviction of persons who breach international human rights law in cases of genocide, war crimes, torture and crimes against humanity, whether these breaches have occurred inside or outside the State. Universal jurisdiction can play a crucial part in the quest to obtain international justice for those who have suffered horrendous crimes.
There are two types of universal jurisdiction. The first type can be enacted when a person who has breached international human rights enters the territory of a state which wishes to charge him or her. The offender's presence grants the state this universal jurisdiction. The second type of universal jurisdiction is practiced in absentia. This occurs when the person in question is not present in the state for the trial, but is tried for the crimes regardless. Spain, Germany, Belgium, France and Britain have long had universal jurisdiction statutes, which allow their national courts to pursue and prosecute war criminals. However, there is an unspoken rule in the West never to use international law against each other. This changed in 1998, when Spain, supported by France, Switzerland and Belgium, indicted the Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet, and sought his extradition from Britain, where he was having an operation. John Pilger has made the point that had Pinochet been sent for trial, he almost certainly would have implicated at least one British Prime Minister and two US Presidents in crimes against humanity. He was not extradited. Although unsuccessful, this attempt by Spain should be commended.
It has also been argued that the use of universal jurisdiction by states has lost some of its relevance since the creation of the International Criminal Court, which was established as a permanent court for cases of genocide, war crimes, torture and crimes against humanity. However, the court has been a disaster since its inception in 1998. An example of this is the record number of petitions the court has received for Tony Blair to stand trial for war crimes. He has yet to be called before the court. How surprising. Mr. Blair was partially responsible for the deaths of more than 1 million people, has created almost 4 million refugees and has caused untold misery in the Middle East region, through the invasions of Afghanistan in 2011 and Iraq in 2003. He lied to both the British public and Parliament in the run up to the invasion in Iraq in 2003, claiming that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. He later got to work for the US, EU and UN as a Middle East envoy. I must be missing something. Ireland has become complicit in some of these war crimes by allowing the United States to use Shannon Airport as a military air base. More than 2.25 million troops have passed through on their way to wars which have led to more than 1 million deaths.
There have been many crimes against humanity, such as the mass murders in Rwanda and the slaughter by Suharto in Indonesia, the US in Vietnam, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and the Israeli defence forces in Gaza. There have been stories of families, wedding parties and whole villages being wiped out in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya and Yemen by the US, initiated by Barack Obama, George W. Bush and NATO forces. There have been reports of the disappearance of students in Mexico.