UK: Lords Vote to Bar Trade Deals With Genocidal Countries

December 8, 2020 Updated: December 8, 2020

LONDON—Britain’s House of Lords has voted to back proposals aimed at preventing the UK from making trade deals with any country deemed by the British High Court to be committing genocide.

Members voted late Monday for two proposals to amend the government’s post-Brexit trade bill to bar trade deals with countries that commit serious human rights abuses. Under one of the plans, minorities alleging they have been the subject of genocide can for the first time apply to the High Court of England and ask for judges to determine if a country trading with the UK has perpetrated genocide.

Bilateral trade agreements can then be revoked if the court makes a preliminary ruling against that country.

The proposals were intended as a way around the lack of international action in addressing human rights abuses in countries such as China.

Proponents argue that despite mounting evidence of atrocities targeting Uighurs in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang, the United Nations is highly unlikely to refer Beijing to the International Criminal Court because China, a permanent member of the Security Council, will veto the move.

“Parliament has had enough of this unconscionable inertia. We owe it to Uighurs to find another way, and now we have,” said Conservative lawmaker Anthony Mangnall.

Britain’s Conservative government opposes the measures, which will go to the lower house of Parliament next for debate.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said he is considering further action to address the Chinese government’s alleged rights abuses against Uighur Muslims, including mass detentions and forced birth control. Beijing has repeatedly denied Western reports of rights abuses in Xinjiang.