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19 June 2002

U.S. Demands Immunity for U.S. Peacekeepers

(Wants specific Security Council resolution on World Court) (1040)
By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent
United Nations -- The United States is asking the Security Council to
adopt a resolution exempting U.S. citizens serving in U.N. operations
from prosecution by the new International Criminal Court (ICC).
"We have tendered two resolutions in draft form that we think could
take care of our concerns, we've invited input from others; but the
bottom line that the United States will not endanger U.S. citizens to
the reach of the ICC -- a treaty we have not agreed to -- is a firm
principle that has been laid out by the United States Government time
and again," U.S. Ambassador Richard Williamson said June 19.
Williamson is the U.S. representative to the U.N. for special
political affairs. Talking with journalists after a private council
meeting on the issue, he said the United States wants the issue
addressed before a vote on the mandate of the U.N. mission in
Bosnia-Herzegovina, which is due to expire June 21, and especially
before the ICC treaty goes into effect July 1.
There are three fundamental principles behind the U.S. action, the
ambassador said. "One, we recognize the right of sovereign states to
make decisions in their interest and, therefore, recognize the right
of those states to decide to join the International Criminal Court.
And in this exercise we are not trying to change their position."
"But, two, the United States also has a sovereign right and has made a
decision not to join the International Criminal Court and the other
members of the Security Council will not change our position," he
said.
"So therefore, three, all the members of the Security Council,
including the United States, support and have supported the
effectiveness of U.N. peacekeeping around the world and we hope to
find a pragmatic way in which we can strengthen peacekeeping while
respecting the United States position that we will not put American
men or women under the reach of the International Criminal Court while
serving in a United Nations peacekeeping operation. Period."
The ambassador said that "the whole spectrum of United Nations
peacekeeping operations will have to be reviewed if we are
unsuccessful at getting the protections we demand."
U.S. diplomats have been stressing that the United States is not
trying to weaken U.N. peacekeeping efforts. Such a resolution, they
say, will strengthen peacekeeping overall.
Diplomats representing other members on the council say that the draft
must be studied carefully because agreeing to such a resolution may
have implications for them either as full parties to the treaty or for
the ratification processes that are now under way. About five current
members of the council are parties to the treaty and a similar number
are in the process of ratifying it.
Currently there are about 740 U.S. citizens -- both military and
civilian -- participating in 16 U.N. peacekeeping missions. One U.S.
soldier is serving as a peacekeeper in the Ethiopia/Eritrea mission
and another 33 are military observers in the Western Sahara, Kuwait,
Kosovo, Georgia, East Timor, and the Golan Heights. The vast majority
of Americans in U.N. operations are civilian police, with 549 in
Kosovo alone.
The United States has made clear to the council that "we need to have
the ICC issue addressed before we could support a resolution on
Bosnia," Williamson said.
However, the ambassador rejected suggestions that with the deadline
for the Bosnian mission just days away the U.S. was engaging in
diplomatic blackmail.
"It's part of what I'd call the normal diplomatic dialogue -- trying
to get a discussion and a resolution," he said. "Everyone of our
colleagues on the Security Council reiterated their desire to seek a
pragmatic solution to address our concerns. We think that can and
should be possible."
Neither is the U.S. using the threat of a U.S. withdrawal from
peacekeeping operations to get the resolution passed, Williamson said.
"We are stating that the United States, just like every other country,
has an obligation to pursue its national interests," he said. "We have
made our views very well known on the ICC and we've now made our views
very well-known on our concerns on the ICC potentially reaching
American men and women serving in U.N. peacekeeping operations."
Williamson also said that the bilateral agreements that are currently
used internationally, including the so-called status of forces
agreement and status of mission understanding, are helpful, but do not
satisfy U.S. requirements.
"The U.S. position is they are not adequate in and of themselves to
protect U.S. citizens under U.N. peacekeeping operations," the
ambassador said.
"The view of the lawyers is that a U.N. resolution has a more blanket
effect. The status of forces and status of mission agreements are
bilateral, so therefore travel to a third country (by Americans in
U.N. missions) would not necessarily be covered," Williamson said.
Under the draft proposed by the United States, the council would
decide that persons of or from states contributing to operations
either established or authorized by the Security Council "shall enjoy
in the territory of all member states other than the contributing
state immunity from arrest, detention, and prosecution with respect to
all acts arising out of the operation and that this immunity shall
continue after termination of their participation in the operation for
all such acts."
The draft says that states contributing personnel would have the
responsibility of investigating crimes and prosecuting offenses
alleged to have been committed by their nationals in connection with
the operation. A state may also waive the immunity for their nationals
if "in its judgement, the interests of justice will be served."
One of the main U.S. objections to the ICC treaty is that there are no
safeguards in place to protect individuals against political
prosecutions. Thus a member of the U.S. military or a U.S. official
could be brought before the court for purely political reasons rather
for legitimate offenses.
Diplomats gave no indication on whether the council will be able to
vote on the resolution by June 21.
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
http://usinfo.state.gov)



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