Johnson Moves to Block U.K. Courts Deciding Cases of Genocide

Prime Minister Boris Johnson sought to swerve a rebellion by members of Parliament from his Conservative Party who want U.K. courts to determine genocide as part of a campaign against alleged human rights abuses in China.

Rebel Tory MPs were planning to use a debate on a Trade Bill Tuesday to add a clause that would scupper deals with any country found by British courts to have committed genocide. But, concerned by a vote last month that only narrowly avoided a government defeat, ministers put forward a compromise plan likely to dilute any rebellion.

The amendment, put forward in the name of Conservative Bob Neill and backed by Johnson, would allow the House of Commons’ foreign affairs committee to consider evidence of genocide and make non-binding recommendations. U.K. courts would not be involved.

Government ministers argue genocide should be decided by the International Criminal Court, though the rebels say China’s seat on United Nations Security Council means it can veto any referral to the ICC.

Uighur Anger

The decision to support the amendment in Neill’s name is “tantamount to spitting into the faces” of survivors of Chinese detention camps, Uighur advocates told Johnson in a letter.

“Why are you doing this to us, prime minister?” Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uighur Congress, said in the letter. “We know that it is long-standing policy for the U.K. to refuse to use the word ‘genocide’ without a court decision, and that this policy is not going to change.”

The Tory rebels, led by former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, see amending the bill as a chance to hold China accountable for the human rights abuses in Xingjiang province. China denies any wrongdoing.

In an interview, Duncan Smith said that even if the government succeeds in its aim on Tuesday, it will not be the end of the rebellion. The Trade Bill will return to the upper House of Lords, where peers will have another chance to re-insert the clause to make genocide a court decision.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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