A deal in the long-running battle to secure the UK’s legal contribution on whether foreign powers are committing genocide appears to have collapsed after the No. 10 protests.
An amendment to the commercial bill to be debated in Lords on Tuesday proposes that a committee of five senior judicial peers in parliament can examine allegations of genocide instead of the higher court, as originally proposed.
Iain Duncan Smith, the top conservative advocate for higher court involvement, thought last week that senior ministers were prepared to support the plan that downgraded judicial involvement to a peer committee capable of examining the evidence, rather than the higher court. as originally proposed.
But now colleagues have been informed that the proposal is not seen as viable by number 10 and will be resisted by the government.
Colleagues had voted twice by a large majority inserting the involvement of a higher court in determining genocide in an amendment to the commercial bill, but the proposal was rejected twice in the House of Commons by small majorities after considerable conservative rebellions.
Ministers are opposed to any judicial involvement for a mixture of legal, constitutional and diplomatic reasons, but argue mainly that the determination of genocide is a matter for international courts.
Ministers instead gained Commons support for the matter to be referred to Commons’ foreign affairs committee, but critics say the foreign affairs committee already has powers to carry out such investigations, contains little relevant experience and only would have the authority to ask the government to organize a The Commons debate if it found that the genocide was taking place. It would be expected that ministers would not sign any trade agreement with a country that was committing genocide.
In the face of government objections and two defeats in the House of Commons, advocates of the genocide amendment offered the new commitment whereby allegations of genocide would be referred by the multiparty foreign relations committee to an ad hoc peer judicial committee for preliminary determination.
The judiciary committee would be made up of parliamentarians with a senior judicial background, removing the issue from the hands of official UK courts.
Lord Alton, the tablemate and driving force behind the amendment in the Lords, must now push for the proposal of a judicial commission for a vote in the Lords. At some point, peers will have to decide how far they can take the issue before violating their constitutional right to challenge the Commons.
The Canadian parliament, with ministers abstaining last week, declared that the genocide was underway against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province, China.
On Monday, at the UN human rights council, the secretary of foreign affairs, Dominic Raab, asked the council to pass a resolution requiring UN human rights commissioner Michelle Bachelet to have unrestricted access to examine what is happening in Xinjiang.
Senior Chinese diplomats said negotiations had been underway for more than a year to grant her a visit in 2020. The offer was repeated on Monday to the human rights council by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Raab said: “We now see almost daily reports that shed new light on the systematic human rights violations in China perpetrated against Uighur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang.
“The situation in Xinjiang is beyond limits. The reported abuses – which include torture, forced labor and forced sterilization of women – are extreme and extensive. They are occurring on an industrial scale. “
He added: “The UN mechanisms must respond. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, or another independent fact-finding expert, must – and I repeat must – have urgent and unrestricted access to Xinjiang. If the members of this human rights council are to fulfill our responsibilities, there must be a resolution that guarantees that access. “