US Launches Offensive Against ICC

By the Women's Caucus for Gender Justice

At the same time as the work to end impunity for the world's worst crimes moves forward, there has been a resurgence of opposition to the Court by the United States which has deployed a multi-faceted global strategy aimed at undermining the institution and countries that support it.

After the U.S. 'unsigned' the Rome Statute in May, the Bush administration began seeking exemptions for peacekeepers from non-member states in Security Council resolutions authorizing the renewal of UN missions. The U.S.'s first attempt in the renewal of the East Timor mission was unsuccessful. This attempt was followed, however, by a more high-pressured and intensive effort to gain exemptions for peacekeepers from non-member states when the Bosnian mission came up for renewal. At this point, the U.S. threatened to use its veto in the Council to prevent the renewal of the Council did not agree to an exemption.

NGO's and ICC proponents protested the U.S.'s attempt to hold a peacekeeping mission hostage in exchange for an exemption for its nationals from the ICC. On 30 June, the day the Bosnian mission was set to expire, the U.S. vetoed the renewal. The Council quickly authorized a temporary emergency extension of the mission to allow for time to debate the issues raised by the U.S.

Members of the NGO Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) organized a protest in front of the UN on 30 June to protest the US's efforts and demand that the Security Council resist the pressure. Over the course of the next two weeks, the U.S. managed to cajole the support of other cancel members for a separate resolution providing the protection the U.S. was seeking but for only one year. Security Council resolution 1422 purports to give effect to article 16 of the Rome Statute which allows the Council to request the Court not to proceed with an investigation or prosecution, on a case-by-case basis, a period of one year if the Security Council.

The provision was intended to provide the Security Council with a deferral request on a case-by-case basis when the Council fears that an investigation or prosecution by the court would jeopardize its handling of a situation under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. The text of the resolution is a corruption of article 16 in that it operates prospectively over any case that could arise in the coming year involving UN peacekeepers from non-member states or military or civilian personnel from non-member states involved in UN-authorized operations such as the NATO force in Bosnia or Afghanistan.

During the course of the debates, Secretary-General Kofi Annan and various members of the Security Council argued that peacekeepers do not commit the kind of crimes within the ICC's jurisdiction and therefore the U.S. concerns and demands for exemptions for its peacekeepers were unfounded. In response, the Women's Caucus distributed a document entitled "Compilation of Violations by Peacekeepers" to Security Council members and delegates and NGO's present at the ICC Prepcom along with a letter urging the Council to resist the efforts to exempt peacekeepers and correcting the erroneous assertion that peacekeepers do not commit crimes that could be within the jurisdiction of the ICC.

Soon afterward, the U.S. government formally announced its plan to approach countries all over the world to enter into bilateral agreements providing that countries would not extradite U.S. nationals to the ICC. The agreements are linked to article 98 of the Statute which sets some possible limitations on the Court's ability to gain access to suspects. So far, Romania, East Timor, Tajikistan and Israel are party to such an agreement. Japan and Colombia have refused to enterinto the agreements.

Also, in July, President Bush signed into law a piece of anti-ICC legislation known as the American Servicemembers Protection Act. The law has been strongly criticized because it gives the U.S. president the authority to use military force to free U.S. nationals or allies held by the Court. Because of this aspect of the law, opponents have called it "The Hague Invasion Act." The law would also seek to withhold military support from countries that support the Court and who are not parties to the bilateral article 98 agreements.

Source: IccWomen News - The E-Newsletter of the Women's Caucus for Gender Justice, Vol. III / Issue 3 - August 2002

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This document has been published on 24Sep02 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights