- The Washington Times - Friday, February 4, 2005

LONDON — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice won backing from Britain yesterday to keep charges of Sudanese crimes against humanity in the Darfur region out of the International Criminal Court.

Although Britain withdrew its earlier support from a European effort to involve the court in Darfur, it insisted that it strongly supports the tribunal.

“Under the ICC statute itself, because Sudan is not a state party to that statute, the matter falls to be decided in the [U.N.] Security Council,” British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said at a joint press conference with Miss Rice.

London’s change of heart shields Washington from accusations that it stands alone against much of the Western world because of politically motivated objections to The Hague-based tribunal.

“American views of the ICC and the dangers of the ICC have, of course, not changed,” Miss Rice said during her overseas debut as America’s top diplomat. “We are concerned about unaccountable prosecutors and, therefore, unaccountable prosecutions.”

Mr. Straw said that the ICC should not take charge of the case without endorsement from the 15-member Security Council, even though the court was set up as an autonomous body that is not accountable to any international organization.

“All of us know that the natural authority of the international community is greatly strengthened where there is a consensus behind a Security Council decision, and that’s what we shall be working for to achieve in the Security Council in New York,” Mr. Straw said.

At the same time, he said Britain’s support for the ICC in general, as a party to its statute, is “long-standing.”

The United States refused to back the ICC because of fears that the court will be used for politically motivated prosecutions of U.S. officials and military personnel.

“We have believed that we are better off with regional and local accountability mechanisms like the [International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia] that has dealt with crimes in the Balkans and Yugoslavia,” Miss Rice said yesterday.

“We have also, of course, supported the Rwandan tribunal, which I think was a great success for the way in which it held accountable the [perpetrators of genocide] in what was one of the world’s most horrible sets of crimes in recent memory,” she said.

On Tuesday, the United States asked the Security Council to establish a separate Africa-based tribunal for war crimes in Darfur, to impose sanctions on the government in Khartoum and to create a U.N. peacekeeping mission in the country.

The State Department said that court would build “on the existing infrastructure” of the Rwandan tribunal, which was established after the 1994 genocide there.

Britain was instrumental yesterday in weakening the European Union’s previous call for the ICC to try the Darfur case. Luxembourg, which holds the bloc’s rotating presidency, expressed “constant support” for the court but refrained from explicitly linking it to Darfur.

“It is up to the United Nations Security Council to decide” where the accused war criminals should stand trial, it said.

On Monday, a report by a U.N. commission said war crimes and crimes against humanity had occurred in Darfur, but it stopped short of describing the crimes as genocide.

The report also recommended that the ICC take up the case.

The U.N. panel compiled a list of “likely suspects” in the worst crimes, including Sudanese government officials, members of the Arab Janjaweed militia, rebels and “certain foreign army officers acting in their personal capacity.” The names were not made public.

London was the first stop of Miss Rice’s first foreign trip as secretary of state.

Later yesterday, she met with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Berlin, where the German leader expressed support for President Bush’s effort to spread democracy and freedom.

“The president’s heart is where it should be — namely with the democrats, irrespective of what country we are talking about,” Mr. Schroeder said.

Today, Miss Rice is scheduled to visit Poland and Turkey. She will later travel to Israel and the West Bank, as well as Italy, Belgium and Luxembourg.

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