U.N. agrees to U.S. peacekeeper exemption
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- After weeks of pressure from Washington, the U.N. Security Council voted Friday to exempt U.S. peacekeepers from prosecution by an international war crimes court for one year.
Without some kind of agreement, the United States had threatened to block the renewal of any U.N.-authorized peacekeeping missions.
The 12-month exemption could be renewed "for as long as may be necessary," according to a resolution that passed unanimously Friday evening. U.S. officials had hoped for an automatic annual renewal of any suspension but was forced to bend after encountering fierce opposition.
The International Criminal Court, established by treaty on July 1, is the first permanent tribunal capable of trying individuals for the most serious war crimes and other violations of international human rights law, including genocide.
President Clinton signed the treaty before he left office, but the Bush administration withdrew from the agreement and won't submit it to the Senate for ratification. The administration says the treaty does not go far enough to avoid the risk of politically motivated prosecutions.
The United States initially tried to get a complete exemption from prosecution for non-members of the court, but a firestorm of criticism from close allies and other nations prompted Washington to change that position. Determined to get some assurance of protection from the court on paper, the United States then worked to exploit a loophole provision in the treaty that established the court.
According to that provision, the Security Council could suspend any investigation or prosecution on a case-by-case basis. The goal of the provision was to allow peace negotiations to proceed unhindered by the workings of the court.
For example, court supporters say, any action by the tribunal could be suspended if the cooperation of an alleged war criminal were needed in peace talks.
Washington is expected to try to work out bilateral agreements with host countries to provide blanket protections for U.S. peacekeepers.
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