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Thursday, 29 August, 2002, 01:35 GMT 02:35 UK
US citizens 'cannot be exempt from ICC'
ICC graphic
The US has withdrawn from the ICC

Legal experts at the European Commission in Brussels say EU nations have no right to exempt American citizens from prosecution at the newly-created International Criminal Court.

An internal EU document says any country which agrees to the Bush administration's request to exempt US citizens would be acting against the object and purpose of the ICC.

The pressure group Human Rights Watch has urged the European Union to stand firm against American plans to dilute the power of the court.

The International Criminal Court was established in July after more than 60 nations had ratified its charter.

But the US had already withdrawn its support and Washington had urged individual European countries to conclude bilateral deals which would give its citizens protection from prosecution.

Test for EU

In a written opinion legal experts at the European Commission argue that the US requests defeat the very object and purpose of the International Criminal Court, which seeks to bring war criminals to justice.

They conclude that it is inconceivable to reconcile a strong commitment to the full effectiveness of the court with any attempt to give positive consideration to the US proposal.

Human Rights Watch has said this is a clear test of the EU's ability to co-ordinate its foreign policy.

The dispute over the ICC will now be discussed by EU foreign ministers when they meet in Denmark at the end of the week.

See also:

14 Aug 02 | Americas
01 Jul 02 | In Depth
11 Jul 02 | Americas
20 Jun 02 | Americas
13 Jul 02 | Europe
02 Jul 02 | Talking Point
08 Jul 02 | Hardtalk
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