UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The Bush administration wants the U.N. Security Council to renew on Friday a controversial resolution exempting American peacekeepers from prosecution by the new International Criminal Court.
Although the resolution is expected to be adopted,
diplomats expect opposition among the wider U.N. membership
following the U.S. abuse of prisoners in Iraq and general
complaints about American unilateralism.
Two years ago the same resolution was adopted unanimously
after the United States threatened to veto U.N. peacekeeping
missions, one by one. A year ago, three countries abstained.
This year at least four nations -- Brazil, Spain, Germany
and France -- are expected to abstain. But U.S. officials are
confident they will reach the minimum nine votes needed for
adoption in the 15-nation council.
All 15 European Union nations are among the 94 nations who
have ratified a 1998 Rome treaty creating the court and are
financing most of its costs. But close U.S. ally Britain is
expected to vote in favor.
Washington has signed bilateral agreements with 89
countries who promised not to prosecute American citizens as
well as anyone under contract to the United States, said
Richard Grenell, spokesman for U.S. ambassador John Negroponte.
Some of those who ratified the treaty also signed the
agreement with the United States, which in some cases is tied
As the first permanent global criminal court, the ICC was
set up to try perpetrators for the world's worst atrocities --
genocide, mass war crimes and systematic human rights abuses.
The tribunal went into operation in The Hague, Netherlands,
this year and is investigating massacres in the Congo and by
the brutal Lord's Resistance Army in northern Uganda.
The draft resolution, introduced by the United States on
Wednesday, would place U.S. troops and officials serving in
U.N.-approved-missions beyond the reach of the court.
Specifically, it would exempt "current or former officials"
from prosecution or investigation if the individual comes from
a country that did not ratify a 1998 Rome treaty that
established the tribunal.
The United States argues it cannot put itself under the
jurisdiction of a foreign court it did not authorize and says
its many troops abroad would be open to politically motivated
Proponents of the court say that there are enough
safeguards in its statutes to protect countries like the United
States, which has a functioning judicial system that would take
priority over egregious cases.
"It's outrageous, considering everything that has happened
to U.S. armed forces in Iraq -- and then to flip it through
with less than 48 hours notice," said Richard Dicker, a counsel
with the New York-based Human Rights Watch.
In response Grenell said everyone knew Washington would
attempt to renew the resolution before it expires next month.
"It certainly is not 48 hours notice. It was more like 48
months. No one should be surprised at the U.S. position on the
International Criminal Court."
Of the 15 Security Council members, Britain, France,
Germany, Spain, Brazil, Romania and Benin are among the 94
nations whose legislatures have ratified the treaty creating
Russia, Chile, Algeria, Angola and the Philippines have
signed but not ratified it and China and Pakistan have neither
signed nor ratified.
The United States, under former President Bill Clinton, was
one of 135 nations that signed the treaty, but the Bush
administration rescinded the signature.
Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited