Skip to comments.Diplomats Say Court Immunity Solution May Be in Sight
Posted on 07/11/2002 10:09:52 PM PDT by kattracks
NITED NATIONS, July 11 After several hours of closed-door debate in the Security Council today about a new American proposal to keep peacekeepers outside the reach of the International Criminal Court, diplomats said there was a fair chance that the divisive issue could be resolved soon.
The discussions today were mostly exploratory, diplomats said, in contrast to the public session of the council on Wednesday. In that meeting, a parade of ambassadors lambasted the United States for threatening to veto United Nations peacekeeping missions unless the peacekeepers were given a blanket exemption from the jurisdiction of the global court.
Without a resolution, the mandate of the Bosnian peacekeeping mission will expire at midnight on Monday, followed by other missions as they come up for renewal.
But diplomats said that there was a strong desire to resolve the matter by Friday and that the latest American proposals had the potential for an agreement.
The issue has evolved into a nasty dispute between the United States and some of its closest allies, including the entire European Union, Canada and Mexico, all of which have embraced the new court. But the Bush administration, backed by conservatives in Washington, has refused to join a tribunal that it perceives as a potential invasion of American sovereignty.
The new International Criminal Court was formed to step in when governments are unable or unwilling to prosecute perpetrators of war crimes, genocide and gross violations of human rights.
On Wednesday, the United States considerably softened both the tone and the content of its initial demands, dropping its insistence on blanket immunity. The new proposal called on the Security Council to request the court not to investigate or prosecute peacekeepers for a year, with the intention of renewing the request annually.
Some members, however, argued that the demand was still flawed because the mandate of the court allows only for case-by-case delays and because it was not the Security Council's job to rewrite international treaties.
France, a leading critic of the American proposal, floated its own draft today, under which the International Criminal Court would have to notify the Security Council before taking action against any peacekeeping personnel, thus allowing the council to seek a delay.
Other diplomats said, however, that the Americans would not accept the proposal. American officials, already under pressure from right-wing members of Congress for abandoning the demand for blanket immunity, said they had no wiggle room left.
"The differences between those texts have not been resolved," Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the British president of the Security Council for July, told reporters after the day's discussions. Asked his position, he smiled and said, "We can quite clearly go with anything that France and the United States would sort out between them."
Though no one could be certain of how the Council would vote until the members had contacted their governments overnight, the general sense was that the United States still did not have enough votes to win in the 15-member council. In addition to France, diplomats said Ireland, Norway, Colombia, Mexico and Mauritius still had reservations about the American text.
Another swing vote was Syria, which was said to be torn between its own distaste for an international court and its reluctance to create yet another source of friction with Washington.
A group of nongovernmental organizations also continued to lobby strongly against accepting the American proposal.
"This latest U.S. proposal may have different words, but it has the same wrecking intent," Amnesty International said in a statement. "It would still grant immunity in the form of a 12-month head start on justice, and it remains unacceptable. Prosecution for the gravest crimes should not be subject to delay or obstruction."
We need blanket, permanent immunity. How do we settle for less on this issue?
But this implies that Syria has two valid reasons to support the American position. How can it be "torn" between them ?
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