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Thursday, 11 July, 2002, 02:18 GMT 03:18 UK
US criticised in UN debate
US soldier in Bosnia
UN missions around the world are threatened
Diplomats at the United Nations have strongly criticised the United States during an open debate on America's opposition to the newly-established International Criminal Court (ICC).

The session was called after the US vetoed the extension last month of a UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia unless Americans were given immunity from prosecution by the court.


It is the old wine in a slightly dented used bottle

Richard Dicker
Human Rights Watch
After the debate, the US put an amended proposal to other Security Council members which would allow immunity for peacekeepers from nations that have not ratified the Rome treaty setting up the new court.

The BBC's UN correspondent, Greg Barrow, says that the latest proposal still appears to fall short of what many council members want to see; debate on the issue is due to resume on Thursday.

The Bosnia mission has been extended until 15 July to allow time for a compromise to be found.

But if the stalemate is not broken, it is feared the US will veto more peacekeeping operations when their mandates come up for renewal in the weeks ahead.

Our correspondent says that if the council bows to US demands, it could be accused of undermining the integrity of a court that has been hailed as one of the greatest advances in human rights in the past century.

Angry tones

This view was repeatedly expressed during Wednesday's open debate.

In sometimes angry tones, diplomats questioned the right of the US to renegotiate an internationally agreed treaty.

India was the only country to speak in support of the United States, saying the council should consider opposing views.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Denmark's UN envoy Ellen Margrethe Loj said there were already sufficient safeguards to protect peacekeepers from prosecution.

John Negroponte
The US fears for its peacekeepers
Germany's deputy ambassador, Hanns Heinrich Schumacher, said that if the Security Council met US demands it risked "undermining its own authority and credibility."

Canadian Ambassador Paul Heinbecker, who had organised the debate, warned that changing the mandate of the court would undermine international law.

He warned: "We have just emerged from a century that witnessed the evils of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Idi Amin, and the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, and ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia.

"Surely, we have all learned the fundamental lesson of this bloodiest of centuries, which is that impunity from prosecution for grievous crimes must end."

Threat to Africa

South Africa's Ambassador, Dumisani Kumalo, warned that America's "unfounded fears" threatened peace and stability in the Balkans and had implications for peacekeeping around the world - especially in Africa.

"The Security Council cannot fail the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina because if it did so, it shall have failed people everywhere," he said.

The US Ambassador, John Negroponte, said the United States was committed to being accountable for war crimes but used its veto to reflect "frustration" at the Security Council for not taking seriously concerns "about the legal exposure of our peacekeepers".

After the debate, Richard Dicker, head of the International Justice Programme at Human Rights Watch, said: "This is precisely the amendment of the Rome treaty that virtually every speaker at the Security Council open meeting opposed.

"It is the old wine in a slightly dented used bottle."

Police force

The American decision to veto an extension of the UN mission in Bosnia has put in peril the training of a new police force in the Balkan country.

The US is concerned that countries it considers enemies could use the new court to try American troops for war crimes.

Supporters of the ICC say the court can only prosecute individuals whose governments are unable or unwilling to do so.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Greg Barrow
"The dispute is threatening to disrupt UN peacekeeping operations"
See also:

11 Jul 02 | Americas
04 Jul 02 | Americas
01 Jul 02 | Europe
01 Jul 02 | Americas
01 Jul 02 | Europe
01 Jul 02 | Americas
01 Jul 02 | In Depth
06 May 02 | Americas
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