Subject: East Timor gives U.S. military exemption from ICC
East Timor Gives U.S. Soldiers Impunity, Quietly
By Charles Scheiner, La'o Hamutuk 21 November 2003
During the last week of October 2003, East Timor's Council of Ministers
approved an "Article 98 Agreement" with the United States which
promises that East Timor will never transfer "current or former
government officials, employees (including contractors), or military
personnel or nationals" of the United States to the new International
Criminal Court (ICC) in the Netherlands.
The impunity agreement had been signed by Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta
in August 2002. At that time, East Timor's government had said that it
required parliamentary ratification before it would go into effect.
The United States threatened to terminate military aid to any ICC
signatory countries which did not ratify such an agreement by 1 July 2003,
and the deadline was extended to 1 November for countries which had signed
an agreement but not yet ratified it.
As that deadline approached, three U.S. warships were on their way to
Dili for a courtesy visit, and U.S. special forces troops were training
East Timor's military in the eastern district of Los Palos.
East Timor's Government decided that an open parliamentary debate on
the impunity agreement might be embarrassing for Dili and/or Washington,
and that the agreement therefore did not need parliamentary ratification.
It was approved at a closed Council of Ministers meeting around October
27, and Washington was informed.
On 1 November, President George W. Bush determined that "... East
Timor (and five other countries) have each entered into an agreement with
the United States pursuant to Article 98 of the Rome Statute preventing
the International Criminal Court from proceeding against U.S. personnel
present in such countries..."
No press release or announcement was made in Dili, and nothing appeared
in the media in East Timor.
The special forces training in Los Palos and the port visit to Dili
went ahead as planned. United States Ambassador Joseph Rees assured the
East Timorese that the Pentagon stands ready to help train East Timor's
military at any time in the future.
East Timor, the victim of countless crimes against humanity between
1975 and 1999, became independent on 20 May 2002. On 13 August 2002, East
Timor's parliament ratified the statute for the International Criminal
Court, which can try such crimes committed from 2002 on. Ten days later,
East Timor became the third country in the world to sign an impunity
agreement with the United States. These agreements are part of a global
campaign by the United States government to undermine the International
For background information, see
For the text of the agreement, see www.etan.org\et2002c\september\01-07\02us-et.htm
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