UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
BOTSWANA: Govt defends agreement with US on war criminals
GABORONE, 16 July 2003 (IRIN) - The Botswana government has defended its decision to conclude an agreement with the United States exempting US citizens in Botswana from being indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Amid local controversy over the agreement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said the decision was based on Botswana's national interest. It maintained that Botswana and the United States "enjoy excellent relations" which had brought many "tangible benefits to the people of Botswana".
"At the end of the day, our interests dictated that we should sign this agreement with the United States, which is what we have done," Ernest Mpofu, permanent secretary in the ministry of foreign affairs, said on Monday.
The agreement, concluded on 30 June, means that Botswana cannot extradite a US citizen to a third country for the purpose of appearing before an international tribunal without the express permission of the United States. The agreement is to be reviewed on an annual basis.
The ICC was established in 2002 to prosecute citizens of any nation who commit war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide, and is modelled after the war crime tribunals in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. The Rome Statute, which created the ICC, was signed by Botswana and the then US President Bill Clinton in 2000.
However, the administration of President George W. Bush nullified US membership of the ICC, partly over concerns of politically motivated action against US military personnel (for more details: www.state.gov), and has pushed other countries to sign bilateral treaties indemnifying US citizens from being handed over to the court for prosecution.
US military aid to Botswana was at stake if Gaborone did not sign the bilateral agreement. Neighbouring South Africa, which signed the ICC protocols but not the indemnity accord, has reportedly lost around US $7 million in military assistance.
"We fear that the US president may have also tied money for important humanitarian programmes, especially HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, to his political goals, such as undermining the International Criminal Court," said Alice Mogwe, director of Ditshwanelo - the Botswana Centre of Human Rights.
Ditshwanelo reminded President Festus Mogae that under the government's development blueprint, known as Vision 2016, it has stressed its commitment to transparency.
Bush visited Botswana earlier this month as part of a five-country tour of Africa.
Themes: (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Governance
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