|Subject: FT: US pursues creative ways to
evade the reach of the world criminal
Financial Times (London) May 30, 2002
US pursues creative ways to evade the reach of the world criminal
court: Washington may withdraw support for UN peace-keeping over the ICC,
which it sees as a threat to sovereignty, writes Carola Hoyos
For European leaders and many in the human rights community, the
establishment in July of a world court is the most important development
in international law since the United Nations was created more than half a
But Washington sees it as an ominous threat to its sovereignty - and,
in an attempt to evade its reach, could threaten to withdraw support for
UN peacekeeping operations.
From July 1, prosecutors based in The Hague will be authorised through
international law to try those believed to have committed crimes against
humanity. But the US has begun to pursue creative ways to try to extract
itself from their jurisdiction.
US lawmakers fear the International Criminal Court will be used to
embark on politically motivated witch-hunts against US politicians and
Their long-standing and passionate opposition to the ICC has set
Washington on a diplomatic collision course with the European Union, all
of whose member-states have ratified the court and staunchly support it.
So far the White House's tactics have been less confrontational than
expected, but with some of the most hawkish members of the State
Department, the Pentagon and Congress calling the shots, European
diplomats and the UN are bracing themselves for battle.
The US this month fired its opening salvo in the UN Security Council
against the ICC by attempting to set a precedent to prevent UN personnel
serving overseas being tried by the international court.
Behind closed doors, John Negroponte, US ambassador to the UN, warned
other members of the Security Council that the US would pull its observers
and police from the UN's peacekeeping operations in East Timor if the
15-member group did not amend a resolution to outlaw the international
prosecution of UN personnel working in the newly established country,
however unlikely the prospect.
The tactic failed when other members of the Security Council -
especially France and the UK, which like the rest of the EU strongly
support the court - refused to accept the US amendment and Washington
dropped the clause.
"People think this was just a shot across the bow, and that they
will come back with this again and again," said one UN official.
As the US offensive gets under way in the Security Council, mainly
Republican senators, such as Jesse Helms from North Carolina, are on the
Legislation that would bar the US from co-operating with the ICC and
possibly allow Washington to use force to extract any US citizen taken
into custody of the court in The Hague, is in the final stage of its
two-year journey through Congress.
The version of the anti-ICC bill being considered by a conference
committee - so it can be reconciled and rubber-stamped by the House and
Senate - gives President George W.Bush the leverage to waive the rules.
Nevertheless, Heather Hamilton, co-ordinator of the Washington Working
Group on the ICC, says: "The legislation would make it much more
difficult to co-operate with and be friendly with this court in the
future, even if the administration were to observe the function of the
court and become comfortable with its operation."
But even more dangerous, she says, is that Congress could use its
substantial grip on the purse strings of UN peacekeeping operations to
undermine the ICC.
Because Congress must approve US funding for all UN peacekeeping
operations, US lawmakers could stymie missions by refusing to pay its
share if the resolution establishing or extending the operation does not
state that the ICC's jurisdiction does not extend to those serving on the
The measure would almost certainly ground to a halt the UN's
peacekeeping operations, of which the US pays more than one quarter of the
Meanwhile, a US refusal to participate in missions could affect the
more than 700 US personnel serving in blue-helmet missions and undermine
international operations, especially in the Balkans, where US troops make
up much of the international force.
But UN officials point out that the clause protecting personnel in the
missions would be redundant. Host countries of UN-led, or UN- authorised,
peacekeeping missions generally sign agreements with the UN or those who
provide the troops and staff, that the international personnel would only
be subject to the jurisdiction of courts in their home country.
However, such bilateral agreements do not represent a strong enough
safeguard against the wrongful prosecution of US citizens in the eyes of
many Washington sceptics and US ambassadors have been told to push their
hosts to promise not to subject US nationals to the court.
Mr Helms, together with John Bolton, under secretary of state for arms
control, and Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary, have been three of the
most outspoken critics of the world court.
Mr Bolton last month wrote to Kofi Annan, UN secretary-general, to
officially inform the UN that the US no longer saw itself bound by its
signature on the Rome treaty, which outlines the court.
The move prompted criticism from EU capitals where July 1 is viewed as
marking an end to the impunity of war criminals - as passionately as the
same date is viewed by many US officials as the beginning of a dangerous
time for US personnel serving oversees.
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