Backing for international court for worst crimes

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The United Kingdom is to embrace a new court designed to try the perpetrators of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in cases where national legal systems are unable or unwilling to help.

The United Kingdom is to embrace a new court designed to try the perpetrators of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in cases where national legal systems are unable or unwilling to help.

The International Criminal Court Bill will enable the UK to ratify the July 1998 Rome Statute, which laid out plans for an International Criminal Court.

The statute has since been signed by 89 states - the UK signed in November 1998 - and ratified by four. The court, to be based at The Hague, will come into existence once 60 states have ratified.

Background notes to the Queen's Speech said: "The Government considers the ICC to be a major advance in international justice which will help ensure that more of those who commit some of the worst crimes known to mankind are brought to justice".

The new Bill will be introduced in draft form during the new session, and introduced as soon as the Parliamentary timetable allows. The Government intends the UK to ratify in time to be among the court's founding members.

Once the Bill is passed, the UK's obligations to the Court will include arresting and transferring suspects - an issue which has featured prominently in the legal arguments over the detention of former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet.

:: A new Prevention of Terrorism Bill will replace the existing, temporary counter-terrorism legislation. The intention is to establish "permanent UK-wide legislation, effective and proportionate to the threat which the UK faces from all forms of terrorism".

It would also contain additional time-limited provisions for Northern Ireland, subject to annual renewal.

The Bill will include a new definition of terrorism, covering domestic phenomena such as attacks by animal rights extremists, as well as international and Northern Ireland-related terrorism.

The Bill will omit powers to make exclusion orders.

"The Government has decided that a power of this sort is not right in policy terms, nor has it proved effective in recent years," the explanatory notes said.

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