EU could offer US limited deals on International Criminal Court

EU legal experts meeting in Brussels on 4 September stated that the Union cannot guarantee the US blanket immunity from prosecution before the International Criminal Court. They did, however, begin to formulate a common compromise.

EU legal experts compromise proposal would limit the scope of the immunity deals to US military personnel and officials. They argue that US citizens would not have impunity and would instead be prosecuted by national courts if charged.

They also propose that immunity agreements should not be reciprocal, and Europeans would still be extradited by the US for prosecution before the ICC.

Consultations will continue on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York. EU Foreign Ministers will discuss the issue with the US Secretary of State Colin Powell and their colleagues from the candidate countries.

 

TheBritish Governmenthas proposed a compromise to other EU Member States for an agreement on the International Criminal Court with the US. The proposals consists of agreeing with Washington that officials and military personnel sent by the US Government would have immunity from prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Britain is also proposing that bilateral immunity agreements signed by the US with any other ICC signatory should not be reciprocal.

Britain and Italyhave indicated that they are willing to sign immunity agreements with the US but want to wait for the EU common position to be taken by the end of September.

TheCommissionand several Member States have indicated that any immunity agreements would undermine the ICC. The Commission's legal opinion states that such agreements are contrary to the Court's treaty.

Amnesty Internationalhas called on governments to refuse to sign agreements which would give impunity to US nationals should they be accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Such agreements would undermine the International Criminal Court and violate the signatory countries' obligations under international law, says a report released by Amnesty International on 3 September.

Romania's President Ion Iliescu has stated that the Romanian Parliament will ratify the agreement with the US only after the EU has adopted a common position.

 

The EU members are strong supporters of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which opened in The Hague in July 2002. The ICC is the first permanent court for judicial proceedings trying people charged with genocide and other crimes against humanity.

The US withdrew its signature from the ICC treaty in May, saying that it could be used for politically motivated prosecutions against American peacekeepers serving abroad. Washington is seeking permanent immunity from prosecution by signing bilateral agreements with ICC signatory countries. Washington has warned that it would cut US military aid to countries who refuse to sign the immunity agreement under the new US antiterrorism law.

The candidate countries for EU membership have come under pressure from the US to give American peacekeepers immunity from the ICC. Despite Washington using its military aid and its consent on NATO enlargement as leverage, the EU has warned the candidates not to sign any agreements with the US before the EU has taken its position on the issue. The Bush administration also warned the Europeans that the US role in NATO will change unless the EU signs immunity deals.

Only Israel, Romania, Tajikistan and East Timor have signed such immunity agreements with the United States.

 

Consultations will continue on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York. EU Foreign Ministers will discuss the issue with the US Secretary of State Colin Powell and their colleagues from the candidate countries.

The EU Foreign Ministers are scheduled to take the decision on the issue on 30 September.

 

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