- The Washington Times - Friday, June 21, 2002

The Bush administration appears to be alone in believing that U.N. peacekeepers deserve special recognition at the International Criminal Court (ICC) because they, as their title suggests, endeavor to keep peace. Peacekeepers engage in humanitarian missions that, almost by definition, don't further the national interests of the government dispatching them in any significant way. Since the motivations for sending peacekeepers are by and large altruistic, the White House has quite reasonably asked the U.N. Security Council to exempt them from prosecution at the ICC, which is slated to open July 1.
But, as Betsy Pisik of The Washington Times reported Monday, diplomats from Britain and France have indicated that the Bush administration's draft proposal "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."
If the U.S. request for the peacekeeper exemption fails to win the necessary support, it is still unclear how the White House would respond. A U.S. source told The Washington Times that "There could be ramifications for future peacekeeping missions, or the U.S. could pull out troops," adding that Congress "could also re-examine its 27 percent contribution to the U.N. peacekeeping budget."
In an interview with editors at The Washington Times, Richard Williamson, the U.S. alternate representative to the United Nations for special political affairs, said, "We want to find a way to continue to support peacekeeping that supports our rights. But if they're not protected, we're not going to expose ourselves."
Perhaps what really lies at the heart of the Bush administration's request for a peacekeeper exemption is its well-placed skepticism of the international court in general. One of the most problematic aspects of the court is the functioning of its prosecutor, who serves for a 15-year stint and ultimately decides which cases brought before the court will be investigated and prosecuted. Since the prosecutor is elected by the governments that have signed onto the ICC, the court isn't securely separate from government. "You give me a 15-year ride to prosecute wherever I want to, and there can be a lot of political motivation and mischief involved," Mr. Williams said.
In the end, the ICC, which claims to have jurisdiction over all countries, could infringe on U.S. sovereignty while imposing a more compromised form of justice. Although the ICC may be sound in theory, the international community should work to help developing nations bolster accountability and the rule of law within their own borders. And in order to broaden the reach of the law, the United Nations should consider streamlining the process of creating ad hoc tribunals when needed. So far as peacekeeping goes, the soldiers and civilians who risk their lives in hot spots around the world deserve some peace of mind.


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