22nd March is the day that Parliament must decide to take a stand against genocide
Wednesday March 17 2021
Amidst reports of heinous abuses being committed against Uyghur Muslims in China, Parliament currently has an opportunity to say “never again” and take decisive action against countries committing genocide.
On the 22nd March, Parliament will be voting on the Lord’s Genocide Amendment to the Trade Bill – an amendment which could see the scrapping of trade deals with countries that are determined to be committing genocide. As the amendment currently stands, it would give a Parliamentary Judicial Committee (consisting of a panel of five judges in the House of Lords) the power to examine the evidence and declare if a genocide is taking place in a certain country. This committee would then have the power to trigger a vote in Parliament on whether to scrap trade deals with the country in question.
If passed, this legislation would allow the UK to not only officially recognise when a genocide is taking place, but also hold that country to account.
According to Boris Johnson, determining whether or not a genocide is taking place in a country has to be a judicial decision – meaning that it must be declared by a judicial body. However, at present, the only judicial bodies that the UK recognises to make such a determination are:
- The International Criminal Court: China will use their power of veto to block any investigation in the International Criminal Court.
- Or the International Court of Justice: China will not recognise the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice so will not allow an investigation to take place.
This is a similar situation to the case of the Yazidis, where Russia and China had the power to block investigations by the International Courts.
Consequently, there are no current mechanisms for the UK to declare a genocide in countries such as China.
A previous amendment to the Trade Bill would have allowed the High Court to determine a ruling of genocide and automatically forced the UK to scrap any trade deals with that country. The Government defeated this amendment by only 11 votes –meaning that only six more were needed to ensure that this law came into effect.
The current Lords’ amendment ensures that there is still a route to a judicial decision as it provides for a Parliamentary Judicial Committee while addressing the Government’s previous concerns that a court ruling would interfere with Parliamentary sovereignty.
The Government has now proposed an alternative amendment, the Neill Amendment. However, this amendment is fundamentally flawed, particularly because it only applies to “prospective” free trade agreements, not existing agreements. Therefore, it does nothing to help the Uyghurs as China has an existing deal. Indeed, the Government seems committed to ensuring that its trade deals with China are not impacted by humanitarian and moral objections to genocide.
As such, when the bill returns to the House of Commons on 22nd March, it is essential that MPs vote in favour of the Lords’ Genocide Amendment and reject the Neill Amendment. As our political representatives, they must unequivocally pursue the morally right course of action in ensuring that acts such as those currently being committed against China’s Uyghur population will not be tolerated.
MEND, therefore, calls on all MPs to demonstrate their moral fortitude and stand in solidarity with the Uyghur people by supporting the Lords’ amendment.
If you would like to get involved, find our action alert here and contact your MP.