This month many constituents contacted me in relation to the Trade Bill and the so-called ‘Genocide Amendment’.
I believe it is absolutely right that, if a UK trade deal with a state potentially carrying out genocide is proposed or agreed, representatives of the affected community should be able to seek a legal determination of whether the crimes they face meet the criteria for a charge of genocide. This in turn should require the UK Government to consider revoking that trade agreement.
The original anti-genocide amendment to the Trade Bill from the House of Lords would have enabled the High Court to make a determination of genocide. This determination could then be used to revoke trade agreements with the state accused of committing genocide. I supported this amendment, as well as a revised amendment that made clear that after a court judgment, the decision on what action to take on trade deals is a matter for Parliament.
Unfortunately the Government opposed and defeated these amendments. In doing so it replaced a strong, substantive and historic new process for attributing genocide through the courts and acting on those rulings through Parliament, with a weak, flawed and minor change to the powers of parliamentary committees to report on genocide.
On 23 February, the House of Lords supported a compromise amendment that aims to build on the changes to the Bill introduced by the Government. It would require that after a parliamentary committee makes an assessment of genocide, the matter is referred to a Parliamentary Judicial Committee (PJC) made up of five members of either House of Parliament who have held high judicial office. The PJC would then be able to make a preliminary determination on whether genocide had taken place.
The Government has said that it is for courts to determine what is and what is not genocide. Yet it has opposed amendments to enable legal rulings on this matter. I do not believe this is good enough. I will continue to support efforts to press the Government on this issue and will look closely at the new amendment when the Trade Bill returns once more to the House of Commons.