UNITED NATIONS - A coalition of more than 1,000 non-governmental organizations
(NGOs) rejected Thursday a new proposal seeking temporary immunity for U.S. peacekeepers
from the jurisdiction of the newly established International Criminal Court (ICC).
Washington had earlier sought permanent immunity from the court, being set up
to try those accused of war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity.
William Pace of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) said Washington's current stance represents a slight revision of ''the same illegal proposal'' put forward last week, full exemption from the court's jurisdiction.
''This is totally unacceptable'', he said. ''This is the lowest level the United States has sunk to in its leadership at the United Nations.''
The CICC, which led the global campaign to create the new court, said it was deeply concerned by the U.S. government's fresh efforts to use the Security Council to amend the Rome Statute that created the ICC.
Under the earlier proposal, the United States wanted blanket immunity for its peacekeepers and under Article 16 of the Rome Statute it sought this exemption for a 12-month period. The immunity would then automatically roll over for successive 12-month periods, thereby effectively making it permanent.
The new proposal will force the United States to renew its request at the end of every 12 months.
The United States is invoking Chapter VII of the U.N. charter to justify its request for intervention by the Security Council.
Under this chapter, the Council has the right to take action with respect to threats to peace, breaches of the peace, and acts of aggression.
But the ICC, Pace said, is no threat to peace, and none of the provisions of Chapter VII apply to it.
Article 16 of the Rome Statute provides for Security Council deferrals only on a temporary, case-by-case basis. But the U.S. proposal constitutes a generalized preventive exemption clearly not envisaged by Article 16, he added.
Yvonne Terlingen, Amnesty International's representative at the United Nations, rejected the new U.S. proposal. ''We feel that even with the changes, the new proposal contains obligatory language that binds the court,'' she said.
She added that the proposal represents a bad precedent because it gives the Security Council authority to amend international treaties. ''This is of great concern to us,'' she said. ''Any attempt to undermine the integrity of international justice is unacceptable.''
The U.S. proposal needs nine votes, and no vetoes, to be adopted by the Security Council.
''There is a lot of arm-twisting going on behind the scenes,'' said one diplomatic source.
Of the five permanent Security Council members, the United States is expected to get the backing of Britain, Russia and China, the last two who are not parties to the ICC.
France is the only veto-wielding permanent member who may not go along with the U.S. proposal. However, it is considered unlikely to exercise its veto.
Of the 10 non-permanent members, Washington is seeking support from Singapore, Bulgaria, Ireland, Mexico, Norway, Colombia, Mauritius, Guinea, Cameroon, and Syria.
Pace said that if members of the Security Council give in under U.S. pressure, they will have elevated the United States to the status of a country above international law.
''It is also an attempt to undermine the integrity of the Rome Statute, the
mandate of the Security Council and international law,'' he added.
Copyright 2002 IPS