27th May 2019

New transatlantic row looms over war crimes court

The US is set to table a resolution in the UN to prolong immunity for its troops from prosecution by the International Criminal Court, (ICC), as a one year exception for Americans serving in UN-authorised military operations is up for renewal by 1 July.

The resolution might face opposition from European Union member states and could cause a new transatlantic row, according to the Washington Post.

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In a confidential note to EU governments, the Bush administration threatened last week to complicate the United States' relations with its European allies over the issue.

"This will undercut all our efforts to repair and rebuild the transatlantic relationship just as we are taking a turn for the better after a number of difficult months," said the note obtained by the Washington Post.

Washington has managed 37 immunity pacts

When the ICC treaty was set up last year, the UN had accepted a one-year temporary exemption for American nationals. The US now wants to lengthen this exemption in order for Washington to negotiate bilateral agreements with governments not to surrender US nationals to the court.

So far the Bush government has managed to sign 37 such immunity pacts.

The US accused the European Union of actively lobbying countries, including the 10 future members of the European Union, not to sign bilateral deals with the US.

Germany and France believe that the United States is actively seeking to undermine the power of the court.

On the other hand, the US has accused the Europeans of using double standards, as Britain, France and other European governments have signed agreements with Afghanistan, securing European peacekeepers from surrender by Afghan authorities to the ICC.

The dispute over the war crimes court could very well end up as a hot potato on the table of the EU and US leaders' summit meeting on 25 June in Washington.

Ratified by 90 countries

The seat of the Court is at The Hague in The Netherlands. 139 countries are signatories to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court establishing the court. 90 countries have so far ratified the treaty, including all 15 EU member states.

The ICC has not yet tried its first case. On 16 June Luis Moreno Ocampo (Argentina) will be sworn in as the first Chief Prosecutor of the ICC. Once elected, all the principal officers of the Court will be in place for the first time since the Rome Statute entered into force on 1 July 2002.

US in fresh bid for Criminal Court exemption

At the request of Canada, Switzerland, New Zealand and Jordan, the UN is expected to hold an open debate today, 12 June, on the International Criminal Court, (ICC). Washington is asking for a vote on extending immunity for peacekeepers, so the administration is free to negotiate more bilateral agreements with other governments.


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