The New York Times, via The News Tribune, July 2, 2003
ELIZABETH BECKER; The New York Times
WASHINGTON – The Bush administration on Tuesday suspended all U.S. military assistance to 35 countries because they refused to pledge to give U.S. citizens immunity before the International Criminal Court.
The administration warned last year that under a provision of the new U.S. anti-terrorism law, any country that became a member of the new court but failed to give exemptions to Americans serving within its borders would lose all U.S. military aid – including education, training and financing of weapons and equipment purchases.
Many of the affected countries, such as Colombia and Ecuador, are considered critical to the administration’s efforts to bring stability to this hemisphere. Others such as Croatia are preparing to join NATO and were counting on U.S. help to modernize their armed forces.
Officials said that, in all, $47.6 million in aid and $613,000 in military education programs will be lost to the 35 countries.
The Bush administration strongly opposes the new court, the world’s first permanent forum for trying individuals charged with genocide and other crimes against humanity, on the grounds that Americans could be subjected to politically motivated prosecutions.
President Bush signed a waiver exempting 22 nations from these sanctions because they had signed but not yet ratified the immunity agreement. That list included Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
Nations that are full members of NATO and other major allies – including Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Japan and South Korea – were not part of the military assistance prohibition.
Prince Zeid Raad al-Hussein of Jordan, the president of the assembly of nations that signed the treaty establishing the court, said 90 countries have become members despite the opposition of the United States.
“The simple conclusion is that the American campaign has not had a negative effect on the establishment of this court,” said the prince.
Lincoln Bloomfield Jr., the assistant secretary for political military affairs, said the administration had no intention of undermining the court.
“Our opposition is not meant to be a lack of respect for the jurists involved in the ICC. It is concern that there could be politically motivated charges against American citizens,” he said.
Richard Dicker, a director of Human Rights Watch in New York, which has lobbied for the court’s creation, said, “This policy is creating a dilemma where the administration has to choose between sound military cooperation with democratic nations and this campaign of ideology against the International Criminal Court.”