UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 9 Senior Canadian and European officials, openly
expressing their frustration with Washington's objections to the International
Criminal Court, pledged today to work to extend its jurisdiction worldwide.
As expectations heightened here of the speech President Bush will make Thursday
to rally support against Iraq, the differences over the court between the United
States and some of its closest allies were conspicuous.
While Mr. Bush met in Detroit this morning with Prime Minister Jean Chrétien
of Canada to seek his support for a confrontation with Iraq, Canada's foreign
minister, Bill Graham, was here chastising the United States for its "ad hoc and
often unilateral pursuit" of the prosecution of crimes against humanity.
As he reassured "democratic, law-abiding states that they have nothing to
fear" from the court, Mr. Graham warned that the United States' lack of faith
in it could erode the faith of other countries in American justice.
Officials from Germany, Italy and the European Union also said they would
move ahead on expanding the range and legitimacy of the court.
The Bush administration, citing fears that American soldiers or political
leaders could face politically motivated prosecution, withdrew the United States'
signature from the treaty creating the court and has sought bilateral agreements
from countries around the world to exempt American citizens from its reach.
Officials from the United Nations and countries supporting the court have
said the Bush administration's efforts could undermine the court's credibility,
crippling its ability to detain war criminals for trial.
The session today was part of the first organizing assembly for the new court,
and representatives of the nations that ratified the treaty by July 2 were invited.
By that date, 76 states had ratified the treaty, bringing it into force much more
quickly than many nations, including the United States, expected. It is expected
to go to work next spring.
None of the speakers today directly called for nations to spurn Washington's
overtures. But they made it clear that they thought the American tactics were
Many speakers said they thought the best way to convince the Bush administration
was by helping the court to get started prosecuting major human rights crimes
"in a fair, competent and effective manner," in the words of Lene Espersen, the
justice minister of Denmark, who spoke for the European Union.
Last week the organizing assembly approved a budget of $39.37 million through
2003 and rules for electing 18 judges and a prosecutor. The rules were intended
to ensure that recognized professional jurists would be chosen for the bench,
avoiding nominations based on political patronage. Diplomats also built in a requirement
that governments cast half their votes for women among the candidates.
The assembly also adopted descriptions of the human rights crimes to be prosecuted.
United States delegates had agreed to those descriptions in a series of meetings
since 1998, when the treaty was completed.
But Washington's pressure has worked with several countries, slowing the court's
progress. Colombia, the world's third largest recipient of American aid for its
war against leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries and drug traffickers,
opted for a treaty provision exempting it for seven years from war crimes prosecutions
under the court. The Philippines has also delayed ratifying the treaty.
But the representative from East Timor, a young nation that was reported to
have signed an agreement with the United States, said today in an unmistakably
defensive tone that the measure was still under debate by its Parliament.
Some of the United States' most important friends were the most blunt today.
Invoking the example of the trials of Nazi war criminals, Jürgen Chrobog,
a senior Foreign Ministry official from Germany, said the American concerns about
the new court were unfounded. He pointed out that under the treaty, national courts
take precedence, so if governments conscientiously prosecute war crimes by their
own citizens, the international court would not have jurisdiction to take over
Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company