Botswana: Up USA, Down ICC: After Days of Denials, Botswana Has Finally Admitted Signing an Agreement with America Giving US Citizens Immunity from Prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Rodrick Mukumbira Reports from Gaborone

Article excerpt

Despite being a signatory of the ICC treaty, Botswana has created controversy by becoming the second African country to throw its weight behind America in its raging battle with the ICC. Botswana later admitted that it did so under arm-twisting.

Botswana joins the ranks of The Gambia, which created contention last October by entering the deal with America. Mauritania was the first African country to do so, but it has not ratified the ICC treaty.

The agreement was signed on 30 June by Botswana's minister of foreign affairs, Mompati Merafhe, and the US ambassador Joseph Huggins, 10 days before President George Bush's visit to the country on 10 July.

Under the agreement, Botswana pledges not to extradite American citizens for prosecution by ICC tribunals unless they are established by the UN Security Council or if America expressly consents to the surrender.

The agreement, to be renewed annually, also covers current and former US government employees and contractors.

The ICC was created on 1 July 2002, and it opposes any attempts by America to give its citizens elitist status from prosecution under its new system of international justice.

The court is an independent treaty-based system separate from the UN and accountable to the countries that have ratified its treaty. Over 20 African countries have so far ratified the ICC Treaty.

Botswana says it did not violate ICC regulations by signing the American deal as the ICC's Article 98 allows for some derogation for countries that might want to sign immunity agreements with other countries.

But since the creation of the ICC, the US, noting the loophole in Article 98, has been cajoling unsuspecting countries into signing immunity treaties.

So far (excluding Botswana), America has concluded 13 such agreements with The Gambia, the Dominican Republic, East Timor, the Marshall Islands, Palau, Romania, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Honduras, Israel, Micronesia, Afghanistan, and Romania.

Only five of the 14 countries have ratified the ICC treaty. They are Botswana, The Gambia, Honduras, Tajikistan, Romania and the Marshall Islands.

After a period of bickering and denials, Botswana's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation finally admitted on 14 July that the decision to sign the American deal was based on Botswana's national interest. …