UNITED NATIONS — Defying the United States, Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the U.N. Security Council on Thursday to stop shielding American peacekeepers from international prosecution for war crimes.
Annan cited the U.S. prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq in opposing a U.S. resolution calling for the blanket exemption for a third straight year.
The United States introduced the resolution last month but has delayed calling for a vote. Despite intensive lobbying, Washington does not have the minimum nine “yes” votes on the 15-member council to approve a new exemption, council diplomats said.
The current exemption expires June 30.
The Bush administration argues that the International Criminal Court, which started operating last year, could be used for frivolous or politically motivated prosecutions of U.S. troops.
The 94 countries that have ratified the 1998 Rome Treaty establishing the court maintain it contains enough safeguards to prevent frivolous prosecutions.
This year, human-rights groups argue that another U.S. exemption is unjustified in the wake of the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal. And council nations that support the court say nobody should be exempt.
Annan supported both arguments.
“For the past two years, I have spoken quite strongly against the exemption, and I think it would be unfortunate for one to press for such an exemption, given the prisoner abuse in Iraq,” he told reporters Thursday.
“It would be even more unwise on the part of the Security Council to grant it. It would discredit the council and the United Nations that stands for rule of law and the primacy of rule of law,” Annan said. “Blanket exemption is wrong. It is of dubious judicial value, and I don’t think it should be encouraged by the council.”
The International Criminal Court can prosecute cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed after it was established July 1, 2002, but will step in only when countries are unwilling or unable to dispense justice themselves.