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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
09 January 2006

JORDAN: Amid protests, parliament exempts US nationals from International Criminal Court

AMMAN, 9 Jan 2006 (IRIN) - Jordan's parliament ratified a controversial accord with the United States on Sunday that prevents Amman from handing over Americans accused of violating international criminal law to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The decision was met by an outcry among opposition and human rights groups, who say the move sets a dangerous precedent.

Fifty-seven deputies voted in favour of the agreement, with 17 opposing the bilateral accord, including several independent politicians and the Islamic Action Front, the country's largest political party, when the government submitted it to parliament.

Dissenting deputies echoed the views of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, who see the law as a violation of Jordan's obligations under the court's founding Rome Statute.

Jordan was the first country in the Middle East to ratify the ICC statute in April 2002, and has been a strong supporter of the court since its inception.

Pro-government deputies said that Jordan's national interest dictated that they ratify the agreement with Washington, the country's primary financial donor.

Three independent deputies withdrew from the chamber, however, in protest at what they say was an infringement of their country's sovereignty.

"I leave the chamber in respect for the sovereignty of this country and in defence of our honour," said independent deputy Abdul Rahim Malhas, echoing the view held by most dissenters.

The US is firmly opposed to the ICC, set up in 2002 as the world's first ever permanent, treaty based, international criminal court. Washington justified its position by saying the court could be exploited for politically-motivated cases against US troops and citizens.

The agreement requires Jordan to refuse surrender to the ICC persons accused of war crimes if they are US nationals or non-nationals working for the US government. Instead, Jordan is required to surrender the accused to the custody of US authorities.

International rights groups, however, say the move sets a bad precedent for other countries.

"Jordan's parliament should firmly reject this strong-arm attempt by the United States to exempt its own citizens from international law," said Richard Dicker, International Justice Director at Human Rights Watch.

Amnesty International noted in a statement: “No one should enjoy impunity for genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes, regardless of their nationality."

Jordanian politicians, however, insisted that ratification of the accord was crucial to maintaining its current levels of US aid. US law requires the suspension of military and economic aid to states signatory to the ICC treaty if they refuse to ratify the exemptions.

Last July, US President George W. Bush used his executive authority to grant Jordan a six-month grace period in order to give it time to ratify the agreement.

In the same month, the US awarded US $333 million in aid to the Hashemite Kingdom for the coming year.

[ENDS]

This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but May not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2006



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