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Friday, 28 June, 2002, 04:31 GMT 05:31 UK
UN seeks to break Bosnia impasse
UN peacekeeper in Bosnia
The immunity row could affect the UN mission in Bosnia
Diplomats at the United Nations are consulting their national governments on how to resolve a dispute over the United States' future involvement in peacekeeping missions.

The US wants American peacekeepers to be exempt from prosecution by the new international war crimes court, but campaigners say such a move would set a dangerous precedent.


No person should be immune from prosecution for genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes

William Pace, Coalition for the International Criminal Court
America has threatened to veto a resolution to extend the UN's peacekeeping mission in Bosnia if the amendment is rejected.

The debate comes ahead of a Sunday deadline for the UN to renew its mandate, with the US ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte, saying he would consider vetoing the Bosnia operation.

Discussions were adjourned shortly after they began on Thursday and will resume on Friday morning.

Correspondents say there are signs that Britain is considering some sort of compromise to head off an open confrontation with the US.

Sixty-nine countries, including all members of the European Union, have ratified the treaty which empowers the Hague-based court to try war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

Wrong signals

A coalition of more than 1,000 groups supporting the International Criminal Court (ICC) has urged the security council to reject America's demands.

The UN Security Council
The council is debating the immunity issue

"No person should be immune from prosecution for genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes," the head of the Coalition for the ICC, William Pace, said in the open letter to the security council.

"The US proposal would send a very dangerous signal that peacekeepers are above the law if they commit one of (these) grave crimes," he said.

The United States says its troops and citizens would be vulnerable to frivolous or politically-motivated prosecution.

Supporters say the Rome Treaty governing the court already has safeguards against this and that the ICC will step in only when countries are unwilling or unable to prosecute suspects themselves.

The US has signed, but not ratified, the Rome Treaty.

Bosnia deadline

The dispute over immunity could have serious implications for the UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia.

The ICC
Comes into being on 1 July and begins work early next year
Will be based in The Hague
68 nations have ratified the treaty
100-plus nations have signed up and may ratify the treaty in the future
China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iraq and Turkey have failed to sign up to the treaty
The US, Egypt, Iran, Israel and Russia have failed to ratify the treaty

Last week, the deadline for renewing the mission's mandate was extended by nine days to allow discussions to continue, in the hope of reaching a compromise before the court comes into being.

The US has said it could pull out of the force in Bosnia if American peacekeepers are not granted immunity.

The US cannot veto the continuation of the peacekeeping operation, but its withdrawal from the force could have serious consequences.

The country provides 3,100 peacekeepers to the 17,000-strong force.

Officials say all of the US members carry out necessary work, and would need to replaced if they were removed.

See also:

26 Jun 02 | Europe
20 Jun 02 | Americas
20 Jun 02 | Business
06 May 02 | Americas
06 May 02 | Americas
11 Apr 02 | In Depth
11 Apr 02 | Europe
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