U.S. Won't Get War Crimes Immunity From U.N.

In a stunning defeat for the U.S., it has withdrawn its resolution seeking immunity for American peacekeepers from prosecution for war crimes.

Facing strong opposition, the United States announced Wednesday it was dropping a resolution seeking a new exemption for American peacekeepers from international prosecution for war crimes. U.S. deputy ambassador James Cunningham made the announcement after a U.S. compromise that would limit the exemption to one final year failed to get support from key Security Council opponents.

One reason for the rejection:

Several council members refusing the compromise cited the abuse of Iraqi detainees by U.S. soldiers and Secretary-General Kofi Annan's opposition to renewing the exemption for a third year.

President Bush's position:

President Bush's administration argues that the International Criminal Court - which started operating last year - could be used for frivolous or politically motivated prosecutions of American troops. The 94 countries that have ratified the 1998 Rome Treaty establishing the court maintain it contains enough safeguards to prevent frivolous prosecutions and insist that nobody should be exempt.

Instead the U.S. will continue to seek bi-lateral agreements with other countries to provide immunity. Too bad. If Bush had agreed to join the ICC, the U.S. could have participated in making the rules. Now, we're locked out of the decision making process and it's no one's fault but our own. Here's what we had to say on the subject of the bilateral agreements in 2002:

This sounds like a purely manipulative gesture to try and defeat the power of the International Criminal Court--had we signed on to the Rome Statute, we'd be in there with the other 139 countries right now, making up the rules. Instead we're left out. The Court will go on without us or our input. We were ambivalent about the ICC in the beginning, but last year we had a chance to review the draft guidelines under consideration, and heard a panel of military and international law professors and experts dissect and debate it, and we changed our mind.

Reaction to the news, from the AP article above:

William Pace, head of the Coalition for an International Criminal Court, called it "a victory for international justice" and said U.S. concern about prosecution of American peacekeepers "was always exaggerated."

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