BRUSSELS - The European Union has attacked United States efforts to undermine a global war crimes court which came into existence in April despite Washington's opposition.
In a statement issued after a meeting in Luxembourg late on Monday, EU foreign ministers severely criticized the draft American Servicemembers' Protection Act, which seeks to guarantee that U.S. soldiers could never face trial before the International Criminal Court.
The 15-nation bloc expressed concern that the bill, being considered by Congress, would restrict U.S. participation in U.N. peacekeeping operations, prohibit the transfer of evidence to the court and bar U.S. military assistance to parties to the tribunal.
"These provisions could seriously undermine the work of the ICC," they said.
"The Council is particularly concerned about the current provision authorizing the President to use all means necessary and appropriate to bring about the release of any person who is being detained or imprisoned by, on behalf of, or at the request of the ICC, including on the territory of EU member states."
The new court, which has yet to sit, will be based in The Hague. Created by a U.N. treaty negotiated in Rome in 1998, it is meant to try the most heinous war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.
The United States voted against the court's statute, largely because it wanted exemptions for its own personnel and demanded that the U.N. Security Council determine who should or should not be prosecuted in the tribunal.
Former President Bill Clinton signed the statute shortly before leaving office in January 2001, but the Republican administration of President Bush withdrew that signature and has vowed to oppose the court.
In its latest move, the Bush administration is trying to get the U.N. Security Council to exclude all peacekeeping operations from the tribunal's jurisdiction, diplomats in New York said on Monday.
Copyright 2002 Reuters Ltd