Monday, 6 July 2009

Government announcement due on war crimes loopholes in UK law, following five-fold increase in war crimes investigations by UK Border Agency

In response to an amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill tabled by Lord Carlile, the British Government is expected to announce in the House of Lords on Tuesday what if any action it intends to take to close loopholes in UK law that in many circumstances currently prevent prosecution for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

This comes in the wake of a massive jump in activity by the war crimes team of the UK Border Agency over the past six months. The Government last week revealed that cases screened each month for possible involvement in war crimes are up five-fold, recommendations of immigration status refusal following investigation are up four-fold, and referrals of cases to the police each month have more than doubled.

In the period April 2004 to December 2008, 1863 cases were screened; in 300, immigration action was recommended; 22 were referred to the police. Since December, another 1006 have been screened, immigration action recommended in a further 121 cases, and 8 more suspects have been referred to the police.

As the law stands, no-one in the UK can be prosecuted for genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes committed in most circumstances before 2001. Even if people here are suspected of committing such offences since 2001, they can only be prosecuted if legally resident here, not merely if they are present in the country (for eg., visiting on a student or business visa).

"Some suspects can’t be deported, extradited or prosecuted. Despite the best intentions of the Government, this is getting close to the definition of a safe haven. Tomorrow the Government has an opportunity to act decisively to close the legal loopholes which prevent prosecution of war criminals here," says Nick Donovan, Head of Campaigns for the Aegis Trust and editor of the recent report, Suspected war criminals and genocidaires in the UK: Proposals to strengthen UK law.

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