U.S. averts another battle over International Criminal Court
ReligionNewsBlog.com • Wednesday June 18, 2003
Associated Press, June 13, 2003
EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer
The United Nations averted a battle over the U.S. demand that American peacekeepers be exempt from prosecution by the new international war crimes tribunal — but the battle lines were drawn for another showdown next year.
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The Bush administration got the quick approval it wanted Thursday for another yearlong exemption, but without the unanimous Security Council support that it had over the same issue last year.
France, Germany and Syria abstained in the 12-0 vote.
“States showed today that they were not ready to simply bow to the will of the United States and rubber stamp the resolution,” said Fiona McKay, director of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights’ International Justice Program.
The Bush administration argues that the International Criminal Court — established last year and expected to start operating later this year — could be used for frivolous or politically motivated prosecution of American troops.
The United States wants a permanent exemption, but the European Union opposes that. The 90 countries that ratified the 1998 Rome Treaty, which created the court, say there are safeguards against such prosecutions.
The court — which will handle cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed after July 1, 2002 — will step in only when countries are unwilling or unable to dispense justice themselves.
Greece’s U.N. ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis, speaking on behalf of the 15-nation EU, said automatic renewal would undermine “the letter and the spirit of the statute of the ICC and its fundamental purpose.”
Even Britain, the closest American ally, opposed any permanent exemption.
The resolution adopted last year, and again on Thursday, expresses the intention to renew the U.S. request for a yearlong exemption every July 1 “for as long as may be necessary.”
But France’s deputy U.N. ambassador Michel Duclos said even another one-year renewal “risks in effect giving credence to the perception of permanent exceptions which can only weaken the court and impair its authority.”
Last week, the United States warned the EU that its criticism over the exemption request was further straining the bitter trans-Atlantic division over the war against Iraq. France and Germany, which which led opposition to the war and strongly back the court, ignored the warning.
When the court came into being last July, the United States threatened to end far-flung peacekeeping operations established or authorized by the United Nations — from Afghanistan and the Middle East to Bosnia and Sierra Leone — if it didn’t get an exemption for American peacekeepers.
But a compromise was reached to allow for the one-year exemption.
U.S. deputy ambassador James Cunningham, however, warned the council that U.S. opposition to the court — which he called “a fatally flawed institution — is “not going to change in the foreseeable future.”
“We all need to acknowledge that fact and its implications,” he said without elaborating.
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