EU Concerned Over Romanian Deal With United States on Immunity From International Criminal Court.

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- The European Union voiced concern Thursday over a deal signed between Romania and the United States that would grant U.S. citizens immunity from arrest in the Eastern European country under warrants from the International Criminal Court.

EU spokesman Michael Curtis told reporters the EU's executive arm, the European Commission, was disappointed that Romania decided to go it alone and sign a deal with Washington without first consulting the 15-nation EU, which it has applied to join.

"We regret this decision of Romania ... and we deplore that a candidate country to the EU has not waited until the European Union has established its position," Curtis said. Romania, which has ratified the 1998 treaty to create the court, became the first country to grant the United States an exemption when it signed the agreement last week. The deal will prevent its national authorities from surrendering U.S. citizens to the international court.

Romania is seeking to bolster relations with Washington ahead of a NATO summit later this year, where it hopes to get an invitation to join the military alliance. U.S. backing is key for its bid to join the 19-member alliance.

Romania's government said the deal would not weaken the court.

Curtis did not say however if Romania's action would damage its bid to join the EU.

EU foreign ministers are expected to make a decision in early September on whether to allow EU members to seek similar bilateral deals with Washington, Curtis said.

Other EU countries, including the Netherlands, Britain and Italy, have also been approached in recent weeks by U.S. officials seeking to forge similar deals - but all will have to consult with their EU counterparts before a decision can be made.

Human rights groups have slammed the U.S. action, saying it undermines the newly created court.

The court, based in The Hague, the Netherlands, came into existence on July 1. The tribunal is empowered to prosecute individuals for violations of international humanitarian law anywhere in the world.

The court's jurisdiction allows it to prosecute war crimes, such as genocide and crimes against humanity, committed after July 1.

The United States has rejected the court's jurisdiction, fearing Americans will become targets for politically motivated prosecutions. It has passed legislation authorizing the president to take any appropriate action to free Americans detained by the court. The law also prohibits the participation of U.S. armed forces in peacekeeping missions if they are not given immunity.

The European Union has taken a strong stance against Washington regarding the court, but after weeks of bitter wrangling at the United Nations in July, the United States secured a yearlong exemption from prosecution for its peacekeepers.

Source: Associated Press - August 8, 2002

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This document has been published on 26Sep02 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights