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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 June, 2004, 08:57 GMT 09:57 UK
Should US soldiers be exempt from international law?
US marines at the entrance to Falluja, Iraq. April, 2004
The UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has spoken out against the immunity of US peacekeeping troops from prosecution in the International Criminal Court.

He's called on the UN Security Council not to renew the exemption, which has been passed for the last two years and runs out on June 30, as it would discredit the UN's claim to represent the rule of law.

"I think it would be unfortunate for one to press for such an exemption given the prisoner abuse in Iraq," Mr Annan told reporters.

Washington negotiated special dispensation when the International Criminal Court came into being two years ago, saying it feared that troops could be prosecuted on war crimes charges for political reasons.

Should US troops be exempt from prosecution at the International Criminal Court?

This debate has now closed. Thank you for your comments.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far.

Any country that isn't prepared to be encompassed fully by international law does not have the right to claim it is democratic. The attitude that "one law for us and one for them" is ok simply isn't right.
Helen, UK

When US soldiers act under UN approval, I would agree that they can be exempt from prosecutions, as they work as peacekeepers for the international community. If not, I don't see any valid reasons for them to be exempted.
Luc, France

Absolutely, the ICC should have authority over US troops. Why should the USA be excluded from responsibility for its actions? The claim of potential politically-motivated charges is a smokescreen, covering the real reason for America's exemption from having to take the blame for its actions: arrogance.
Andrew, Chicago IL USA

Kofi Annan is right, of course. Given the US record in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, it makes the ICC a farce to give the US exemption. However, they will make sure they get it. I still think the point is well made, though.
andrew, Cirencester, UK

The UN is not fit to judge anyone
Dave Mate, Nevada, USA
No American President can constituinally agree to recognise a foreign organ of governance as having sovereignty over the USA, so submission to a foreign court is not possible. In addition, it would be extremely unwise to blow up the small scandal of Abu Graihb and ignore the huge scandal of the UN oil for food program - a racket that sustained Saddam for years. The UN is not fit to judge anyone.
Dave Mate, Tonopah, Nevada, USA

Whilst I'm not a fan of US policy and methods, the same people who cryout that they should not be exempt should be careful that they also no the same people who cry out for the US to get involved in solving other nations humanitarian crisises.
A.B., Edinburgh, Scotland

If American troops are violating international law, then they should be held accountable like every other country. And the US isn't going to hold them accountable, so the ICC is necessary.
Espon Murphy, London, Ontario, Canada

To exempt the US troops from the ICC is to grant them a super status. If all humans are equal why should the US soldiers be accorded special status? Kofi Annan is absolutely right. There should be no immunity for the US soldiers from international laws.
Damien Perera, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Let us all be subjected to the same ground rules as this will go far to fight terrorism and spread democracy
Ahmad Hmoud, Jordan

Why should they have immunity? This is the question that springs to mind. Reality proved they are the strongest power in the world and so the answer becomes clear. Because they can. This leads me to question the values of American actions around the world. Most actions taken had nothing to do with humanity or freedom. The majority are for self interest and to establish a strong grip on the world's weak nations so they can be recruited to serve America. Let us all be subjected to the same ground rules as this will go far to fight terrorism and spread democracy.
Ahmad Hmoud, Jordan, Amman

Absolutely. They should be prosecuted! I doubt if a fraction of the abuse that US troops have done would have occurred if they knew that the law applied to them. It applies to all other countries in Iraq, so why not them?
Adrian, London

If some troops come under the jurisdiction of the court but others don't, then it has no validity. Unless it can claim to be truly international, it is a sham. Procedures must be put in place to ensure that charges cannot be brought against any country's troops for political reasons.
Trevor Barker, Surrey, UK

Absolutely, they should be exempt. Why should the USA cede its sovereignty over to the UN (ICC)? Most Americans have no faith in the UN and do not accept foreigners making decisions for us. Sovereignty means everything. We fought two wars with Britain to be free from Europe's meddling, we are not about to give it up now.
Michael, Chicago, USA

What is so special about the US troops? If we are not equal in the eyes of the ICC, then what is the point in having a body dubbed the international body?
Nelson Pelaelo-Sibanda, Botswana/UK

It makes you wonder why the US want to be exempt from prosecution by the ICC. I thought they believed in democracy and equality?
Chantelle, Manchester, UK

The US should support the ICC and operate within rules
PH, Canada
The law should be applicable to all countries, even the USA. The evidence from Iraqi prison scandal, shows that even US citizens or troops are willing to commit crime against humanity. Especially if they feel that they are untouchable by the law. The US should support the ICC and operate within rules and show the world what a great nation is made of.
PH, Canada

I am very ashamed to admit that I am live in a country that refuses to comply with international law. I find it very ridiculous that the US (basically George Bush) is so stubborn and will not subject its citizens to justice. It is a very poor moral lesson teaching Americans that they can do whatever they wish and not get in trouble for it.
Jacqueline, Princeton, NJ, US

And they wonder why they are despised so much in the world - with their hypocrisy, double standards, arrogance. I could go on. There are a vast majority of people out there who like me firmly believe the time is not long now when the US Administration and countries like Israel's time is about to come.
Farooq, Scotland

Be careful how much power your nation relinquishes to a higher authority
Ron Blackburn, Houston, USA
The ICC doesn't have anyway near all the participating nations of the world, not even half I think. Nor anywhere near the majority of the population of the world. The US was right to repudiate this court, partly established to try to control US foreign policy. Just because the UN establishes a treaty, organization, or whatever doesn't mean it is automatically binding on all the nations. Be careful how much power your nation relinquishes to a higher authority controlled by who?
Ron Blackburn, Houston, USA

Not only should US soldiers be exempt, everyone should. The entire ICC should be scrapped. The behaviour of our troops, while abominable in this case, is not the issue here.
Raymond, Hagerstown, USA

No, they should not be exempt. Though I abhor many of the baseless comments made against the US, this is a legitimate area for criticism. Sure I share the fears of a politically-motivated body that infringes on national sovereignty, but eventually we have to decide to act like an international community.
Guy, USA

We the US, more so then any other, must maintain the standard
Jim Bonds, Cullman, Al
US Soldiers should be exempt, as well as any other Soldiers that have in place a complete legal system for this. It should not be possible to sue a single soldier for action revolving around that of which their nations have set into actions. The US Soldiers will face punishment through their own justice system which in most cases will be far more severe anyway. This type of actions from other nations only sets in motion more methods of each nations "blackmailing" another to move or vote in their direction. I feel and hope that those soldiers that did this and their immediate supervisors are all punished . We the US, more so then any other, must maintain the standard.
Jim Bonds, Cullman, Al

The USA should be willing to accept full responsibility for the actions of its soldiers, especially if it wants to be the "leader of the free world" as its leaders claim. Exemption by the few leads to repression of the many.
Aaron Joslin, Oak Ridge, TN USA

Another example of US insensitivity and Bush administration arrogance. It stems from the conviction that, as the "good guys", Americans can uniquely be trusted. They need to open their eyes and see themselves as the rest of the world sees them.
J R Fish, London

If America signs up it will be an open invitation for anti American abuse of the ICC
Sebastian, Oxford, England
The International Criminal Court is not designed to put legally developed democracies on trial. It was designed to act as a court when it is clear that the nation under question is incapable of providing such a service. In an age when people are desperate to get soldiers of unpopular democracies tried for war crimes when all they have done is accidentally cause collateral damage, which is an unavoidable consequence of war, if America signs up it will be an open invitation for anti American abuse of the ICC.
Sebastian, Oxford, England

The reason why courts exist is to decided whether charges brought against someone are true or false. If US citizens where to be prosecuted for political reasons that would be proven beyond doubt in a fair trial. So reason given by the US for asking for impunity is either implying that the ICC can not contact a fair trial or is unfounded
Pault T, Patra, Greece

Does the US intend for their 'peacekeeping' troops to break international law? Surely if they are going to operate within the law, the question is academic. If they are not, then there is all the more reason to make sure they are not exempt from the law.
Josephine, Reading, UK

Our troops are prime targets for frivolous or bogus charges fuelled by anti-Americanism
Chris, USA
US troops are providing security in over 120 countries. We provide significantly more peacekeepers than any other country. Our troops are prime targets for frivolous or bogus charges fuelled by anti-Americanism.
Chris, USA

Until the ICC lives up to the standards of American transparency and ensures the same rights that are afforded our own citizens on our soil then, the U.S. should not and will not ever join such a 'kangaroo court'. We did not created this great nation to escape the despotic and Napoleonic-type codes of Europe, in the hundreds of years prior, only to be subject to them again in modern times.
Brian O'Hare, New York, New York

The United States is not a fair player since it uses the United Nations and every other international organization to further its own interests and it does not allow reciprocation.
Artur Freitas, Johannesburg, South Africa

My absolute respect goes out to Mr Annan who time and again has resisted the political forces which have endeavoured to sway the integrity of his judgement. Bravo Kofi Annan !!
Ainslie French, Rome. Italy

The mere suggestion that the ICC could be used against the US is pure paranoia
Mike, Tampa, Florida, USA
US Forces should not be exempt from the ICC. The mere suggestion that the ICC could be used against the US is pure paranoia, which is typical for the Bush Administration. I am a US Veteran and I would never have expected special treatment while I was in the Navy.
Mike, Tampa, Florida, USA

America's reluctance to submit to the jurisdiction of the ICC is perfectly justified. A broad definition of the term "War Crimes" can be construed to mean almost anything. How many of us as private citizens of any country would voluntarily place themselves under the jurisdiction of a politically influenced foreign court where "crimes" are loosely (sp) defined and that is part of an organization (UN) that has demonstrated a pattern of political bias against both yourself and your friends? An example of this bias is the fixation of the UN on the claimed "war crimes" of Israel while ignoring Sudan, The Taliban etc.
John, Dallas USA

Absolutely. How can the US ask other nations to be subject to international ideals of justice if it is unwilling to submit itself to the same scrutiny?
Krista Bennett, Lafayette, IN 47901

What is the point in having an International Criminal Court if some people are allowed to be exempt?

Everybody else is big enough to accept the consequences if they are prosecuted
Steve, Aberdeen, Scotland
Why should the US be different to any other nation? Everybody else is big enough to accept the consequences if they are prosecuted. If they have nothing to fear they should operate within the same rules as everybody else. By having immunity from prosecution just festers discontent with the US by other nations and people.
Steve, Aberdeen, Scotland

The only way this organisation is ever going to have any credibility is if the jurors are chosen from insular people with no knowledge of international affairs. Otherwise, this will only be used to gang up on the USA, rather than being used to uphold justice.
Graeme Phillips, Berlin, Germany (normally UK)

I don't see why anyone should fall under a law that has been devised by bureaucrats sitting behind a desk somewhere in Geneva or New York.
Matt, Plymouth

Annan slams war crime exemption
17 Jun 04  |  Americas
International court opens its doors
01 Jul 02  |  In Depth
ICC to exclude many cases
16 Jul 03  |  Africa

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