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Saturday, 13 July, 2002, 03:20 GMT 04:20 UK
Dispute over war crimes court settled
US soldier in Bosnia
The US was concerned its soldiers may be prosecuted
The United Nations Security Council has voted unanimously to exempt US peacekeepers from prosecution by the new war crimes court for a year - ending a bitter row that threatened peacekeeping operations.

The Bush adminstration, which considers the court an affront to US sovereignty, had said it would veto such missions wherever it believed American troops might be prosecuted.


We will never permit Americans to be jailed

John Negroponte
US ambassador
But after weeks of wrangling and amid howls of protests against the US stance, Washington backed away from seeking permanent immunity for its troops, so enabling the UN to adopt the compromise resolution.

The council then immediately renewed the UN's peacekeeping mandate in Bosnia, which Washington had threatened to block.

Assurance

But while the future of UN peacekeeping and the newly established International Criminal Court (ICC) appear to have been saved, neither the UN nor the court have emerged unscathed from what has been a marathon diplomatic battle, says the BBC's Greg Barrow in New York.

The UN Security Council
Days of intense negotiation ended in compromise

The resolution calls for a 12-month exemption in investigating or prosecuting peacekeepers who are from countries that do not support the ICC.

The Security Council will have to renew this immunity on an annual basis which gives Council members an option to take away this added protection.

For Washington, it falls short of the blanket immunity that it had first sought against what it fears could be frivolous or politically motivated prosecutions of US troops.

But the deal does offer a practical way out of a damaging dispute with most other UN member states.

'Sad day'

The US ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, said the resolution offered a degree of protection but warned that the US Government would never permit the detention of any American by the court.

"We cannot accept a structure that may transform the political criticism of America's world role into the basis for criminal trials of Americans who have put their lives on the line for freedom," he said.

But some of the strongest supporters of the ICC court say that while the new resolution will have little practical effect on the court's work, it has set the bad precedent of Security Council interference in an internationally agreed treaty.

"We think this is a sad day for the United Nations," said Canada's ambassador Paul Heinbecker. "We don't think it's in the mandate of the Security Council to intepret treaties that are negotiated somewhere else."

The ICC is the first permanent court to try war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. It is expected to start work in The Hague in about a year.

In terms of UN business, the settlement of the dispute allowed Council members to extend the mandate of a UN police training mission in Bosnia, and also a smaller mission in the Croatian enclave of Prevlaka.

They were in danger of being terminated on Monday by a US veto if the court dispute was not settled.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Greg Barrow
"The compromise won all 15 of the council's votes"
British Amabassador to the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock
"There's no immunity, it's all about deferral"
See also:

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