EU agrees to ICC immunity deal with the US

The EU Foreign Ministers agreed on 30 September that Member States can conclude bilateral agreements with the United States to give American officials and soldiers immunity from the International Criminal Court.

Any bilateral agreements with the US must respect a number of conditions, set by the EU Foreign Ministers on 30 September:

  • they will apply only to American officials or soldiers sent abroad;
  • the US must agree to prosecute Americans accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in US courts;
  • there will be no reciprocity, so that EU citizens are not granted immunity in the US.

The candidate countries for EU membership will also be able to conclude bilateral immunity deals with the US under these conditions. They have come under pressure from the US to give American peacekeepers immunity from the ICC, but the EU has warned the candidates not to sign any agreements with the US before the EU has taken its position on the issue. Romania has already signed a deal with the US, but has withheld its ratification under EU pressure.

 

The Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Møller, who holds the rotating presidency of the Council, said that the bilateral deals with the US would not undermine the International Criminal Court.

The British Governmentintends to shortly begin negotiations with Washington on the ICC immunity agreement.

Italyis also expected to conclude an agreement with the US.

Romania, who concluded an immunity deal with the US in August, has pledged to align the agreement with the EU common position.

TheUS administrationsaid the EU decision was to "positive and constructive". However, the US disagrees with the EU decision to limit immunity agreements to American soldiers and officials sent abroad. It underlined that all US citizens on another country's territory should be exempt from prosecution by the ICC in accordance with the treaty setting up the court.

The US-basedHuman Rights Watchexpressed "deep dissatisfaction with the European Union's collective response" to Washington's demand that US citizens be exempt from court prosecution. However, Human Rights Watch predicts that the ICC will be defended by the national parliaments who have the last word on this issue.

Amnesty Internationalsaid that plan was "a step back". "The EU has allowed the US to shift the terms of the debate from legal principle to political opportunism," the human rights campaign group said.

 

The International Criminal Court (ICC), which opened in The Hague in July 2002, 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 by hostile states 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.

 

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