AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL has responded to a proposal by the French government to weaken a new treaty on international legal cooperation in matters of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, which is entering final negotiations at a conference in Ljubljana, Slovenia this week,

Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said: “Diplomatic moves by the French government fly in the face of established human rights principles and call into question the very essence of universal jurisdiction.

“Their proposal, if accepted, could grant states a loophole to avoid prosecuting or extraditing those suspected of crimes under international law. Simply put, this disturbing amendment could let suspected torturers and war criminals off the hook, and even lead to providing them with a safe haven.

“The amendment would drastically dilute the potency and power of the new convention. It is tantamount to making justice subservient to politics. It signals a worrying slide backwards in international law, as well as the universal fight for justice, truth and reparation.

“The draft convention must incorporate the highest standards of international human rights. The French proposal risks undermining existing rules in globally accepted treaties against torture and enforced disappearances. Amnesty International calls on all states participating in the conference to strongly reject the French proposals on draft Articles 6 and 11 of the draft convention, and to keep the original text as proposed.”

The purpose of the treaty, also known as the Mutual Legal Assistance Convention, would require governments that have joined it to investigate and if there is sufficient admissible evidence, to prosecute suspected perpetrators of these crimes in their own domestic courts, or hand them over to another country or to an international criminal tribunal for trial.

Supported by the UK, among others, France has proposed amendments that would defeat the object and purpose of the new convention. These include changes to Draft Articles 6 and 11 to make the obligations of states to set up a mechanism of universal jurisdiction and to extradite or prosecute suspected perpetrators of crimes under international law discretionary.

* Read the draft Mutual Legal Assistance Convention here.

* Source: Amnesty International