US is endangering the International Criminal Court and peacekeeping missions

The ICJ is greatly alarmed at unprecedented moves by the US to hold the new International Criminal Court (ICC) hostage to threats to veto the extension of the UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia (UNMBIH).

US fears that its peacekeepers will face politically motivated prosecutions are unfounded as the ICC can only exercise its jurisdiction once remedies in national courts are exhausted.

The ICJ condemns any attempts that undermine the ICC and the rule of law and jeopardize peacekeeping operations. It urges the US to immediately withdraw its threatened veto of UNMBIH.

The US has indicated that unless its personnel are granted immunity from the jurisdiction of the ICC, it will veto the extension of the UN peacekeeping mission to Bosnia whose mandate will expire tonight.

The US veto appears to be the last of a series of attempts to threaten the integrity of the Rome Statute and the effectiveness of the ICC. By seeking immunity for its personnel, the US undermines one of the most fundamental principles of the rule of law: that there can be no immunity for anyone, under any circumstances, for horrific crimes such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The present US attitude is even more worrying as it also threatens to damage international peace-keeping. The future of the 1,500-member UN police training mission in Bosnia and perhaps also of NATO’s peace-keeping mission in Bosnia is under threat.

It is regrettable that such strong-arm tactics are adopted today by a country which played a leading role in prosecuting international war criminals at Nuremberg more than fifty years ago. Moreover, the present US attitude runs counter to its instrumental support for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which is presently trying Slobadan Milosovic.

The Rome Statute, which came into force on 1 July, establishes an international court based in the Hague to try persons accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and serious war crimes. To date, 74 countries around the world have ratified the Rome Statute establishing the ICC.

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