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World News

Christians urge MPs to vote for UK courts to define genocide

by Cara Bentley

MPs are being lobbied by Christian groups and individuals to vote to give UK courts the power to define genocide so that trade sanctions can be imposed with reason. 

On Tuesday, the House of Lords forced the Government to look again at an amendment to the Trade Bill which would give British courts the power to decide whether a genocide has taken place in a country and therefore impact whether trade deals should end or sanctions applied. 

This suggestion, by Christian Peer Lord David Alton, will now go back to the House of Commons and is expected to be tabled on Tuesday 9th February. 

Christian religious freedom charity Open Doors is urging its supporters to write to their MP. Open Doors UK and Ireland's head of advocacy and public affairs. Dr David Landrum. said: "This vote is on a knife-edge and if it passes, it would represent a statement of intent for the UK's role in protecting human rights globally."

The first draft of the amendment stated that if a country were deemed to be committing genocide, the UK Government would be bound to terminate all trade agreements with the country. The amendment was defeated by eleven votes in the House of Commons, with those against it arguing that it endangered the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary as judges would indirectly have a significant role in foreign policy. 

The latest draft does not automatically require trade agreements to be stopped but will leave that decision to Parliament. 

This suggestion was passed in the House of Lords, with the support of nine bishops, by 171 so will return to the House of Commons this week. 

Although it would apply in many situations, currently at the forefront of politicians' minds is how it would change trade and diplomatic relations with China, where Uighur people, an officially recognised ethnic minority of mostly Muslims in Xinjiang in Northwest China, are currently being kept in detention camps and treated abominably. 

In the camps, it is thought there is heavy surveillance, restrictions on worship, that Uighur women are being raped and sterilised and that those there are being forced to do manual labour for little or no pay. 

The case has not been able to reach the International Criminal Court because China is out of its jurisdiction, and the fact that China is part of the United Nations has also hampered an international ruling. 

Pro-life group Right To Life also supports the amendment because of reports of forced terminations on women. They say: "there is extensive evidence that many women in the Uighur Muslim community in Xinjiang, China are being subjected to forced abortions...[the amendment] would help with putting international pressure on the Chinese Communist Party to stop the practice of forcing abortions on the Uighur Muslim community along with the wider human rights abuses that evidence shows is being perpetuated against this community. "

The trade minister Greg Hands has opposed the amendment in its current form, saying: "To accept this specific amendment would allow the high court to frustrate, even revoke trade agreements entered into by the Government and approved after parliamentary scrutiny."

Politicians such as Iain Duncan Smith are backing the amendment as well Christian Solidarity Worldwide. 

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