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Friday, 1 March, 2002, 15:32 GMT
US wants no permanent tribunals
Thirteen judges of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal
The US wants The Hague tribunal to wrap up by 2008
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By Jan Repa
BBC's Europe Analyst

The US administration has confirmed its opposition to plans for a permanent international criminal court to try war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Critics say this is another case of American unilateralism

The American ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, Pierre-Richard Prosper told a congressional hearing that The Hague tribunals for former Yugoslavia and Rwanda should be wound up by 2008.

Mr Prosper said the UN Security Council - in authorising the establishment of The Hague tribunals - had not intended to usurp the authority of sovereign states.

He suggested that in many cases war-crimes suspects could be tried by local courts.

US concerns

This issue has once again highlighted differences between the United States and many European states over how to deal with oppressive regimes and international terrorist threats.

So far 52 countries have ratified the Rome Statute establishing a permanent International Criminal Court, with Portugal and Ecuador being the latest countries to do so.

Once 60 countries have ratified it, the court automatically comes into existence.

America has signed, but has not ratified. And a number of Republican politicians have called for America to withdraw its signature.

They say a permanent court would impinge on US sovereignty by subjecting American military forces to the possibility of prosecution at a time when they are being increasingly deployed around the world in the fight against terrorism.

Critics say this is another case of American unilateralism.

At the same time, the US administration has not ruled out the possibility of further ad-hoc tribunals - with Iraq being cited as a possible future example.

The BBC's Jon Leyne
"The lesser fry must be thinking this is good news"
See also:

25 Aug 00 | World
Obstacles to world court
25 Aug 00 | UK Politics
UK pushes for war crimes court
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