4 - 10 July 2002
Issue No. 593
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Recommend this page|
A turbulent birthCourting controversy once more, the Bush administration is waging a fierce battle against the International Criminal Court, reports Judit Neurink from The Hague
With the opening of a postal box, the issuing of a telephone number and the inauguration of an office in Holland's capital, The Hague, the International Criminal Court (ICC) got off to a low-profile start, last week.
But the court's desks have still to be cluttered by work. The stipulation in its charter that it can only tackle cases related to genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity that were committed since 1 July 2002 means that, so far, no news is good news.
However, even as the court was being formally inaugurated on Monday, the United States was locked in a fight with the United Nations on a subject which, despite being apparently unrelated to the international court, may set a landmark precedent.
The Bush administration applied its veto, halting a new mandate for the UN peace- keeping mission in Bosnia because its demand that soldiers it deploys in Bosnia never be brought before the ICC was rejected. The US will not agree to a new mandate until it is assured of its soldiers' immunity. The US will not be quitting Bosnia completely and will remain in SFOR, the NATO-force there.
But the mandate for the 1,500 UN- policemen that have been training Bosnia's new, multi-ethnic police force since 1995, ended on Sunday. The UN decided to extend it by a few days in order to give the parties more time to hammer out a solution. On Thursday, talks resume in the Security Council.
Security Council members looking to safeguard their soldiers' immunity without courting global opprobrium might like to take a page out of the European Union's book -- the US's staunchest opponent on the issue of the Bosnia mandate. The EU struck a deal with Afghanistan's interim-government which stipulates that the latter will never officially complain about EU soldiers to the ICC. All EU member states, which come under the court's jurisdiction, have ratified the ICC's statutes. While such an agreement may grant EU forces a measure of immunity, this process is by no means foolproof. The court and the Security Council can still independently file a complaint with the court.
The US is not the only country to oppose the international court. The statute has been signed by 139 countries but only 74 parliaments have ratified it. Israel, China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iraq and Turkey are amongst these.
But none of the court's opponents are as staunchly opposed to it as the Bush administration. Last month, the US Senate passed a bill which angered the Dutch government. The bill makes it possible for US troops to invade the Netherlands with the purpose of freeing any US citizen imprisoned by the ICC in The Hague. Dispatched by an irate Dutch parliament, the Dutch foreign minister, Jozias van Aartsen, complained to officials in Washington about this provocative move.
The bill still has to be ratified by Congress and signed by President Bush. Along with their fellow EU partners, the Dutch will be watching developments in the next few months with heightened interest.
American no-show: The US delegate's chair remains empty at UN headquarters at the final meeting of an ICC ground-laying commission (photo:AP)
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