UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan sharply criticized the United States on Thursday for for seeking another exemption from the International Criminal Court, particularly in light of the Iraqi prisoner scandal.
“The blanket exemption is wrong. It is of dubious judicial value and I don’t think it should be encouraged by the council,” Annan told reporters.
The Bush administration, for the third year, is seeking to renew a Security Council resolution that would exempt from the court’s prosecution military and civilian personnel “related to a UN-authorized operation” such as that in Iraq.
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The immunity is extended to all nations not among the 94 countries who have ratified a treaty establishing the new court. The resolution expires by the end of the month.
“It would be unfortunate for one to press for such an exemption, given the prisoner abuse in Iraq, “ Annan said. “It would discredit the council and the United Nations that stands for rule of law.”
The United States is investigating abuse, including sexual humiliation, of prisoners by the US military in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Security Council envoys say Washington does not yet have enough support or will barely reach the required nine “yes” votes needed for the resolution to pass in the 15-nation body.
Among the 15 council members, Germany, France, Spain, Brazil, Chile, Benin and Romania, are expected to abstain. But some, like Romania, are reluctant to be responsible for failure of the resolution, if it dies by one vote.
Crucial is whether China, which has criticized the resolution, casts an abstention. Diplomats say Beijing is seeking some concessions from Washington on Taiwan, although China’s UN ambassador, Wang Guangya, denies this.
The resolution is strongly opposed by European nations, except for Britain, which says Washington would veto UN peacekeeping missions as it did on one operation three years ago, although US officials have yet made that threat.
Kofi Annan said that Iraq was still too dangerous for the United Nations to return to the country.
“On the security situation on the ground in Iraq, obviously I am extremely worried,” Annan told reporters.
“And I am grateful to the Security Council that they inserted the phrase that we could go in ‘as circumstances permit’. As of today circumstances do not permit and we are monitoring the situation extremely carefully,” he added.
The United Nations withdrew international staff following two bomb attacks on or near the UN offices in Baghdad in August and October. A UN Security Council motion left it up to Annan to decide when Iraq was safe enough for a UN return. agencies