- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 18, 2002

NEW YORK The Bush administration plans to ask the U.N. Security Council to exempt U.S. peacekeepers from a new world court set to open in two weeks, fearing that Americans will be targeted for political reasons.
Administration officials said yesterday that they were drafting a resolution that would formally exempt Americans, both soldiers and civilians, who are deployed overseas on U.N. peacekeeping missions.
The resolution also would exempt from the tribunal's jurisdiction any military effort that the Security Council has endorsed, and it would protect government officials from any nation that contributes troops.
The blueprint one of several U.S. diplomatic efforts in the countdown to the creation of the International Criminal Court has little support inside the 15-member council, diplomats said.
U.S. officials said they were not sure when a draft of the resolution could be introduced. The court is slated to open July 1.
"We are committed to strengthening peacekeeping," said Richard Grenell, spokesman for the U.S. mission here, confirming the effort to bring a draft resolution to the Security Council.
The draft has been shared informally with council allies France and Britain.
Diplomats from both those nations have indicated that the draft has virtually no chance of approval in the council, where six of the 15 member nations have ratified the treaty setting up the court, and all but China and Singapore have signed it.
"It won't even go to a veto," said one council envoy, who explained that the measure is unlikely to get the nine votes needed to come to a vote.
The Americans have "drafted something terribly carefully that doesn't talk about the ICC, just 'immunity from prosecution.' But they can't trick people into voting for it, we all know what it means," said the envoy, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
This is the second time in recent weeks the Americans have tried to shape a council resolution to address their fears about the ICC being used against U.S. troops.
U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte last month tried to have similar language added to an East Timor peacekeeping resolution and was swiftly rebuffed by French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte, who said it would go against the laws of France.
So far, 67 nations have ratified the treaty creating the court.
The Hague-based tribunal will prosecute accusations of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The United States, an early if wary supporter of the court, has since turned against it, saying it lacks sufficient safeguards to protect U.S. troops from frivolous and politically motivated prosecutions.
The court's jurisdiction will not be retroactive.
Council members and legal experts say the United Nations already has a "status of mission agreement" with nations contributing troops that guarantees that misbehaving soldiers will be sent home for trial and discipline by their governments.
The ICC statute also defers to a national prosecution, such as a military court-martial hearing for a soldier, before it can take up a case.
But U.S. officials say this is not adequate protection from a third nation that may want to prosecute war crimes or refer an incident to the ICC.
"If it's already established policy, let them put it in writing," said one U.S. official, who described the planned U.S. resolution as "pre-emptive measure."
Deputy U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham briefed British and French officials late last week, and other U.S. officials broached the subject at a Canadian meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of Eight industrial nations.
The United States last month took the unprecedented step of repudiating the ICC treaty that it signed during the Clinton administration. The treaty was never submitted to the Senate for ratification.
The United States had already vowed not to support the court financially, politically or with intelligence.
But one source familiar with the latest conversations at the United Nations said Mr. Cunningham indicated that there could be consequences if additional safeguards were not approved.
"There could be ramifications for future peacekeeping missions, or the U.S. could pull out troops," the source said, adding that Congress could re-examine its 27 percent contribution to the U.N. peacekeeping budget.
Some 47,000 U.N. peacekeepers are deployed worldwide. Just 712 of them soldiers and civilians are American.
Washington has been pressuring its allies against the ICC for more than two years, threatening to withhold military sales and training and to renegotiate the bilateral "status of forces agreement" that most nations have with the United States.
In each case, Washington's goal was to pressure nations not to sign or not to ratify the ICC treaty.


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