§ 9. Mr. John Heppell (Nottingham, East)
What progress has been made by British forces in detaining persons indicted for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia since 1 May 1997. 
§ The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. George Robertson)
Since 1 May 1997, seven people indicted for war crimes have been detained in Bosnia by the stabilisation force. Six of these detentions took place in the British-commanded sector and involved British forces, either directly or in support. A further 15 indictees have surrendered voluntarily to the international criminal tribunal in The Hague.
§ Mr. Heppell
Will my right hon. Friend join me in applauding the efforts of our forces in Bosnia? I am sure that that sentiment is shared by right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is necessary to continue to bring the guilty men to justice? Without justice, there is no chance of reconciliation and peace in Bosnia.
§ Mr. Robertson
My hon. Friend is right. I congratulate those whose courage and dedication have led to the capture of those whom I have spoken about. The reality of the tragic country of Bosnia is that bringing those who have been indicted for war crimes to justice is not easy. The process is not simple and it involves huge risks, as the exercise at Prijedor last July amply proved. However, as my hon. Friend rightly says, there will not be a proper or lasting peace in the former Yugoslavia unless those who were responsible for the most heinous crimes in that part of the world in the past decade are eventually brought to The Hague to face justice.
§ Mr. Martin Bell (Tatton)
Will the Secretary of State give the House an assurance that all relevant information gathered in this country over the past six years, including information from radio intercepts, will be made available as required to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, and that nothing will be held back?
§ Mr. Robertson
We co-operate fully with the international criminal tribunal on the former Yugoslavia 588 at The Hague. We shall give it all the assistance that we can in future. Indeed, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General visited The Hague earlier this month to open a new court room, which has been funded by the British Government.
During one of the first Question Times in which I participated, having taken up the office of Secretary of State for Defence, I made it clear that one of the Government's commitments was to bring to justice those who had been indicted of these horrifying and almost unbelievable crimes. The fact that six detentions have taken place in the British-led sector is an indication that, when I announced our resolve, we had every intention of carrying it out. We have been shown to have done so.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold)
Does the Secretary of State agree that the ultimate aim in Bosnia must be to establish stable institutions that are based on democracy and the rule of law? Does the right hon. Gentleman also agree that to achieve that, it is essential that the people who have committed such dreadful crimes against humanity are rounded up and brought properly to trial, and if found guilty, are sentenced? It should be a fundamental aim of the stabilisation force and its successor force to achieve that.
§ Mr. Robertson
The hon. Gentleman is right, and that is precisely what we are doing. However, I underline the risks, problems and dangers that are involved. From a long way away—in circumstances that are a million miles from the sort of environment in which our troops operate—it is simple to say that we should bring the war criminals to justice. Within the mandate that has been laid down, British troops operating with the stabilisation force have done the dangerous job that the world community expects of them. I think that everyone recognises now that we are trying to fulfil that obligation.
I have read some of the indictments relating to some of those who have been apprehended by British troops. They are horrifying; they are stomach-turning. Indeed, some of them would be classified as pornography in their present form. That is a sign of how necessary it is for that part of the world and others to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice as quickly as possible.