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Wednesday, 10 July, 2002, 18:18 GMT 19:18 UK
US under fire over immunity
US peacekeeper in Bosnia
The US demands blanket immunity for its troops
The United States has come under intense criticism at the United Nations for demanding immunity for American peacekeepers from the new International Criminal Court (ICC).


US concerns can be addressed in ways that do not compromise the court or international law

Paul Heinbecker, Canadian ambassador to the UN
In a heated debate at the UN Security Council, member countries condemned Washington for threatening to end peacekeeping operations if it does not get the immunity.

The debate was called after the US vetoed the extension of a UN police training mission in Bosnia last month.

The US does not support the ICC, and is concerned about politically motivated prosecution of its peacekeepers around the world.

Opposition

But the BBC's Greg Barrow at the UN says Washington appeared to be standing almost alone, with most speakers attacking the US position.

Canada's UN ambassador, Paul Heinbecker, said peacekeepers were not above the law.


It certainly will affect our ability to contribute peacekeepers

John Negroponte, US ambassador to the UN
He said US concerns can be addressed "in ways that do not compromise the court or international law, or place the UN Security Council in the untenable position of permitting the possibility of impunity for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes".

Under the Rome treaty which establishes it, the court will step in only when countries are unwilling or unable to dispense justice.

New Zealand ambassador Don Mackay urged members "to consider the pragmatic solutions that have already been identified without sacrificing the principles for which the International Criminal Court stands".

Speaking on behalf of the European Union, whose members have all ratified the Rome treaty, Danish ambassador Ellen Margrethe Loj expressed the EU's "profound concern" over the American threat to UN peacekeeping.

Opposition to the US demand also came from Costa Rica on behalf of Latin America, Jordan, and South Africa.

Only India, which does not support the ICC, backed the US stance.

Precedent

For its part, the US is standing firm.

International Criminal Court
Launched on 1 July and due to start work early in 2003
Aims to prosecute for atrocities committed anywhere in the world
Shunned by Washington but backed by most UN Security Council members
Ambassador John Negroponte stressed that Washington is committed to peace in Bosnia and accountability for war crimes.

But he insisted that all American peacekeepers in Bosnia should be immune from the court's jurisdiction for 12 months, subject to renewal.

He has vetoed a six-month extension of the Bosnian mission to reflect the US "frustration" at the Security Council for dismissing US concerns.

"Failure to address concerns about placing peacekeepers in legal jeopardy before the International Criminal Court can impede the provision of peacekeepers to the United Nations," Mr Negroponte said.

"It certainly will affect our ability to contribute peacekeepers," he added.

The 15-member Security Council has until Monday to reach a decision about the Bosnian mission - thereby setting a precedent for other peacekeeping missions around the world.

The United States has only about 700 personnel among the 45,000 in UN missions - none of them combat troops.


Talking PointTALKING POINT
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