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War Criminal are covering their Ass
by story from http://reuters.com/
Monday May 6th, 2002 9:10 AM
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration, flouting the advice of major allies and outraging human rights organizations, renounced on Monday legal obligations toward the treaty that set up the International Criminal Court.

The decision, formalized in a letter to the United Nations, means the United States reserves the right to ignore the orders of the court, the first permanent world tribunal to prosecute people for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

The administration of former President Bill Clinton signed the treaty in 2000 so that the United States could take part in talks on the setting up the court.

But both Clinton and the Bush administration said they did not intend to ask the Senate the ratify the treaty, on the grounds that it could be used for politically motivated prosecutions of U.S. officials or military personnel.

Pierre-Richard Prosper, U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, said the letter to the United Nations makes clear that "we are not going to be a party to the process."

"It neutralizes the signature. ... It frees us from some of the obligations that are incurred by signature. When you sign, you have an obligation not to take actions that would defeat the object or purpose of the treaty," he added.

For example, the United States could reject an extradition request from the international court and decide to send the suspect back to his or her home country, he said.

"That could be construed as inconsistent with the objects and purpose of the treaty, since you are not cooperating. What we are saying is we have no obligations," he added.

Most of Washington's major allies, including Canada and 14 of the 15 nations of the European Union, have signed and ratified the 1998 treaty and are strong supporters of the campaign for a system of international justice.

The United States says it prefers to rely on ad hoc arrangements for particular conflicts, such as the international tribunals for Rwanda and Yugoslavia.

JURISDICTION OVER MILITARY

But the issue which dominated domestic debate in the United States was that the court could claim jurisdiction over some of the 200,000 U.S. military personnel who serve abroad. The United States tried but failed to obtain guarantees that they would be not be liable to political prosecutions.

The international organization Human Rights Watch said on Monday that renouncing the treaty was "an empty gesture that will further estrange Washington from its closest allies."

"The administration is putting itself on the wrong side of history," said executive director Kenneth Roth. "'Unsigning' the treaty will not stop the court. It will only throw the United States into opposition against the most important new institution for enforcing human rights in fifty years."

"The timing ... couldn't be worse for Washington. It puts the Bush Administration in the awkward position of seeking law-enforcement cooperation in tracking down terrorist suspects while opposing an historic new law-enforcement institution for comparably serious crimes," he added.

A consortium of 23 other organizations, includes Amnesty International USA, the Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights and the Rainbow Push Coalition also criticized the Bush administration's decision on the tribunal treaty.

"It undermines American leadership and credibility at the worst possible time," they said in a joint statement. "This rash action signals to the world that America is turning its back on decades of U.S. leadership in prosecuting war criminals since the Nuremberg trials."

The formal letter renouncing treaty obligations is signed by U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton and addressed to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Prosper said the United States remained committed to the prosecution of war crimes and genocide but preferred to help individual countries strengthen their legal systems.

Where governments are incapable of pursuing cases, the international community can intervene through the U.N. Security Council, where the United States has a veto, he added.
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