UK: BHRC supports the Genocide Amendment in letter to the Foreign Secretary

The Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (“BHRC”), has today written to the Foreign Secretary in support of the “Genocide Amendment” of the Trade Bill ahead of the Bill’s return to the House of Commons tomorrow.

In the letter, BHRC outlines support for the proposed amendments to the Trade Bill 2019-2021 relating to compliance with the UK’s international human rights obligations and to genocide (clauses 4 and 5 respectively).

Clause 4 requires that, before a trade agreement can be laid before Parliament, Ministers must determine whether the trade agreement, if ratified, would be compliant with the UK’s international human rights obligations.

Clause 5 provides for the High Court to make a preliminary determination that genocide has been or is being committed by a signatory to a bilateral trade agreement with the UK, and that as a consequence, the trade agreement should be revoked. The proposed amendment, although limited in scope and application, will be a positive step towards current and future genocide prevention.

In the letter, BHRC outlines its concern following the position taken by the Foreign Secretary in the House of Commons that genocide determination is a matter for the international judicial system or an independent body under the auspices of the United Nations.

“There is no requirement under the Genocide Convention 1948, or any principle of international law, that requires a State to seek a determination of an international court, or other body acting under the auspices of the United Nations, that genocide has or is being committed before that State’s obligations under the Convention are engaged,” the letter states.

“There is a real concern that this position is used, or may be used, to justify inaction in the face of credible evidence that genocide is occurring.”

“We note that waiting for a judicial determination by an international court or body that genocide has been committed or is being committed, where it is not apparent that there is any likely or realistic route to such a determination, undermines the object and purpose of the obligation to prevent: to ensure, in so far as is possible, that genocide is never again committed,” the letter continues.

Read coverage of the letter in the Guardian here.