UK govt accused of delay over world criminal court

The UK government is dragging its heels on establishing an international criminal court, said one of the leading lawyers involved in its establishment.

Cherif Bassiouni, vice-chairman of the UN committee charged with setting up an international criminal court, told the Lockerbie conference: “A number of governments, including the UK, are not very favourable to the idea and are trying to delay it as much as possible.

“The (UN) General Assembly has mandated my committee to do some drafting. We spent six weeks in New York but it was very disappointing. All of the governments opposed to the idea of establishing the court were using the delaying tactic of saying they do not want to go into drafting [so] we spent a great deal of time talking and were flooded with hundreds of proposals.

“Now it seems we will have another year of further drafting and then a diplomatic conference in 1998. If we are lucky it will be 2001 by the time the court is established.”

He said even if the court was established, a Lockerbie trial under its jurisdiction would not be possible. “When we discussed the court's jurisdiction, it was quite clear that the major powers didn't want to include terrorism.”