Deputy German Foreign Minister said that keeping Americans out of ICC trials would erode the tribunal's charter.

Helsingoer, Denmark, Aug. 30 (AP) -- Germany said Friday Washington's demand that European governments exempt U.S. nationals from war crimes trials in the new International Criminal Court may be legally doable, but morally dubious.

Deputy German Foreign Minister Gunter Pleuger said while it was legally possible to keep Americans out of the dock at the ICC, this would erode the tribunal's charter.

"It will certainly not be compatible with the spirit" of the tribunal which was created to bring war crimes suspects to justice when national governments refuse to do so, Pleuger told reporters. The Bush administration seeks bilateral accords with EU governments that would exempt American citizens from war crimes prosecutions under Art. 98 of the ICC charter.

A British diplomat said his government sees the article "providing an avenue" to satisfy Washington.

Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller said he was working on a compromise with the United States.

"We want to make sure the court is not weakened, and at the same time we will find a solution for American concerns," he told reporters outside an EU foreign ministers meeting.

Denmark, which holds the EU rotating presidency, hoped to reach a compromise with Washington "by the end of September," he added.

He said it must ensure both continued U.S. participation in international peacekeeping and the ICC's ability to bring individuals charged with war crimes to justice.

The legal service at the EU executive Commission has already said that Art. 98 of the ICC charter - a "Status of Forces" provision common in troop stationing accords - applies normally only "in the context of a military assignment."

It said Washington seeks to cover "all U.S. nationals, not just members or personnel of the military force" in blanket exemptions unrelated to a specific military mission. The EU legal service also argues keeping U.S. nations out of the ICC violates "the object and purpose of the (ICC) statute and thereby violates its general obligation" to help the tribunal do its work.

In Rome in 1998, 139 nations, including the United States, agreed to create an international tribunal to hold individuals accountable for misdeeds committed in times of war and crisis. It opened for business in The Hague, the Netherlands, in July, two months after 60 nations had ratified the tribunal's charter and despite the fact the United States had withdrawn its support.

The Bush administration move to keep U.S. nationals out of the ICC has been denounced by human rights organizations.

European officials have expressed concern Washington may use differences over the ICC to reduce its commitment to NATO - something U.S. officials deny. However, the Bush administration has threatened non-NATO nations they may lose U.S. military aid unless they agree not to extradite Americans to the ICC. Israel and Romania have already signed such accords.

Source: Associated Press, 30Aug02

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This document has been published on 23Sep02 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights