The United States is fighting a fierce last-ditch battle against
the world's first permanent war-crimes court, threatening the future
of United Nations peacekeeping missions in the Balkans and
elsewhere, according to UN diplomats.
With the International Criminal Court (ICC) set to become a
reality on Monday, US diplomats are waging a lone campaign to keep
US peacekeeping troops beyond its reach.
They have run up against strong opposition from their European
allies on the UN Security Council, who say Washington's proposals
would weaken the court.
The "collective EU (European Union) position ... is clear not
just on the maintenance, but also on the promotion of the court and
all it stands for," British ambassador to the UN Jeremy Greenstock
said earlier this week.
US deputy ambassador Richard Williamson, however, warned when he
introduced a resolution seeking immunity from the court for
peacekeepers that "the whole spectrum of United Nations peacekeeping
operations will have to be reviewed if we are unsuccessful at
getting the protections we demand."
Most immediately at risk is the UN peacekeeping mission in
Bosnia, whose Security Council mandate runs out on Sunday. US
negotiators are threatening to veto a renewal of the mandate unless
their personnel in Bosnia are given immunity from the ICC.
More broadly, according to a source familiar with the backroom
discussions currently under way, Washington is threatening to
withhold its contributions to the UN peacekeeping budget - 27
percent of the total - unless it is given satisfaction.
The Bush administration has strongly opposed the creation of the
ICC, which will try cases of genocide, war crimes, and crimes
against humanity. Although President Clinton signed the treaty
creating the court just before his term ended, Washington "unsigned"
it last month, saying the United States would have nothing to do
with the new institution.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said last week that the United
States should be exempt from the court to avoid "political
harassment that can take place unfairly, particularly when ... you
are fighting the global war on terror and ... the terrorist training
books are encouraging people to make those kinds of charges and
Under the ICC treaty, US soldiers could be brought before the
court even if the United States is not a signatory, if the alleged
crime were committed on the territory of an ICC member. Sixty-nine
countries have so far ratified the treaty.
Supporters of the court, including all of Washington's European
allies, say that US troops serving abroad have no reason to fear the
ICC, since it will hear only cases that the accused person's home
government has refused to try in a reasonable manner.
"In practical terms, it wouldn't make a huge difference, but it
is considerably magnified through a certain political lens," says
one European Security Council diplomat. …