Responsibility of commanders and other superiors

Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 10:15 am ar 15 Tachwedd 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts and Heritage)

As previously, I would be grateful if the Minister outlined the meaning of the clause for the Committee.

Photo of Tracey Crouch Tracey Crouch The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

The clause provides an additional form of individual criminal responsibility—that of commanders and superiors for the actions of their subordinates. That concept is one of the recognised principles of international law referred to in article 15, paragraph 2, of the second protocol, which parties to the protocol are obliged to implement.

The wording of the clause is based on article 28 of the statute of the International Criminal Court, which is regarded as an authoritative statement of the general principles of international law in relation to criminal liability. It mirrors the UK’s implementation of other international law, in particular the International Criminal Court Act 2001.

Subsection (1) provides that liability under the provision is to be treated as aiding and abetting in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and being art and part in Scotland. That takes into account the different criminal law in Scotland. A distinction is drawn between the standards expected of military commanders in relation to the military forces under their command, and other superiors, such as Government officials. That distinction is made to recognise that the latter may not have the same degree of control over their subordinates.

In the case of a military commander, liability will arise only if he or she knew, or owing to the circumstances should have known, that his or her forces were committing or about to commit an offence. In contrast, a superior who is not a military commander will commit an offence only if they knew or consciously disregarded information clearly indicating that the subordinate was committing or about to commit an offence. Importantly, subsection (7) makes it clear that liability under the clause does not preclude any other criminal liability in relation to the same event, so a commander can still be prosecuted as a principal offender under clause 3 as well as under this clause.

The clause ensures that the UK adheres to the requirements of article 15, paragraph 2, of the second protocol, and complies with the general principles of international law in relation to criminal liability.

Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Labour/Co-operative, De Caerdydd a Phenarth

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Buck. I apologise for my late arrival in Committee this morning; I was at a Select Committee meeting.

I have some specific questions for the Minister about how the clause will be put into practice. I have had the pleasure of seeing UK armed forces being trained, at very close quarters. I saw infantry, artillery and tank training, and I have always been impressed by the teaching in practice of compliance with international law, including the Geneva conventions. I was in Canada last year at the BATUS training area—British Army Training Unit Suffield—where much of our heavy armour training is done. The Bill will clearly be very much applicable to conduct with respect to artillery, tanks and other vehicles capable of seriously damaging cultural property, so will the Minister say a little about how it will be incorporated into training and what plans the Ministry of Defence has to bring that about?

A point has been made about embedded forces, and situations when UK forces are in command of forces from other countries. The clause states that

“references to a military commander include a reference to a person effectively acting as a military commander”.

There have been circumstances where civilians from the Department for International Development and the Foreign Office have held senior command roles—for example, in the provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan. Will the Minister say a little about the practical arrangements for ensuring that personnel, whether they be military, foreign military or civilians acting in a military capacity, comply with the terms of the Bill?

Photo of Tracey Crouch Tracey Crouch The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport 10:30, 15 Tachwedd 2016

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s contribution. He will of course understand and appreciate that I am not an expert on all things military, but I can tell him that the Bill applies equally to all the armed forces. No distinction is made for the specific services.

Cultural property protection is included in the annual training of all services of the UK armed forces. Specific cultural protection training is not tailored to the RAF, Army or Navy, but is provided for individuals across all three services when a certain deployment determines it necessary. For example, specific cultural property protection issues are covered on the joint targeting course run at RAF Cranwell and the Royal School of Artillery. Those courses are held for all three services and are attended by personnel who have responsibility for target selection and planning. The graduates of those courses have to demonstrate an awareness of cultural property protection issues in various planning exercises throughout the course.

As the hon. Gentleman pointed out, we should recognise that such training is already heavily embedded in our armed forces and we should be incredibly proud of that. There is a great deal of co-operation between the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Ministry of Defence in ensuring the ratification of the convention through the Bill, and work is being done to ensure the continued expansion of that. Members will be aware of the specific unit being set up in the Ministry of Defence. That is well under way and a great deal of progress is being made. Everybody, right from the very top of the Ministry of Defence down to the early recruits undergoing training, is certainly 100% behind making sure that we protect cultural property.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 5 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 6