U.N. Passes Deal on War Crimes Court
Fri Jul 12, 7:45 PM ET

By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer

UNITED NATIONS (AP) 7/12/02  - The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to exempt U.S. peacekeepers from war crimes prosecution for a year Friday, ending threats to U.N. peacekeeping operations.

The vote culminated one of the most contentious disputes between the United States and its closest allies as well as countries around the world that support the International Criminal Court.

"It offers us a degree of protection for the coming year," said U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte. But he warned that it was only "a first step" and the U.S. government would never permit the detention of any American by the court.

The United States did not ratify the treaty establishing the court, arguing that it could be used by other countries for frivolous or politically motivated prosecutions of American troops.

The council quickly approved resolutions extending the mandates of the 1,500-strong U.N. police training mission in Bosnia and the small observer mission in the Croatian enclave of Prevlaka. Both were set to expire on Monday.

The court's supporters said the resolution did not violate the treaty established the tribunal, though some countries argued it undermined the court.

Canada's U.N. Ambassador Paul Heinbecker claimed the resolution didn't have the support of many countries outside the Security Council.

"We think this is a sad day for the United Nations ( news - web sites)," he said. "We are extremely disappointed with the outcome and we don't think it's in the mandate of the Security Council to interpret treaties that are negotiated somewhere else."

Facing intense international opposition, the United States backpedaled this week on its demand for permanent immunity for American peacekeepers.

Court supporters argued that the demand would have amounted to an amendment of the treaty.

The impasse was resolved when key court supporters Britain, Mauritius and France proposed Friday that there be a 12-month delay in investigating or prosecuting U.N. peacekeepers from countries that don't support the court "if a case arises."

The resolution allows the exemption to be renewed when the year is up.

The earlier debate dealt with whether the Security Council should be asked to renew the request after 12 months on "a case-by-case basis." The United States opposed the reference to the "case-by-case" so compromise language was found that didn't use the phrase.

Establishment of the court culminated a campaign that began after World War II for a permanent tribunal to prosecute individuals for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. It will prosecute crimes committed after July 1, 2002, when it came into existence with ratifications from 76 countries and signatures from 139.

The United States objects to the idea that Americans could be subject to the court's jurisdiction if a crime is committed in a country that has ratified the treaty, even if the United States is not a party.

Supporters argue that the court can step in only when states are unwilling or unable to dispense justice, one of many safeguards to prevent such abuses.

Richard Dicker, head of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch, said that the effect of the resolution "remains blanket immunity for 12 months for peacekeepers."


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