- WASHINGTON -- The United
States aims to secure agreements "with every country in the world"
guaranteeing immunity for its citizens from any prosecution from the new
International Criminal Court (ICC), and will cut off military aid to countries
which do not comply.
- In an uncompromising defence of Washington's decision
to shun the court, Under Secretary of State John Bolton announced yesterday
that the US has already reached so-called Article 98 exemption agreements,
under the Rome statutes setting up the ICC, with 70 countries; 50 of them
among the ICC's 90 signatories.
- Speaking at the conservative thinktank, the American
Enterprise Institute, Mr Bolton also accused the European Union of imposing
an "unfair choice" on aspirant members by insisting they do nothing
to weaken the authority of the ICC. This made it harder for these countries
to reach exemption deals with the US, he complained.
- The White House's total rejection of the court, announced
soon after it took office in 2001, fuelled some of the first criticism
of the Bush administration as unilateralist and scornful of international
pacts. The language of Mr Bolton, in-house 'neo-conservative' hawk at the
State Department, will only sharpen such complaints. He lambasted the "intolerable"
authority of the court, with its "unaccountable prosecutors and unchecked
judicial powers" which represented a "macro-constitutional"
issue for the US. More clearly than ever before, Mr Bolton indicated that
Washington's biggest objection is not to the risk that the court poses
to American soldiers, diplomats and other officials, but that it would
encourage attempts to prosecute top figures in US government, past and
present, for war crimes.
- He cited the efforts in Belgium - since abandoned - to
level charges against President Bush and military and civilian leaders
at the Pentagon over Iraq. "Launching criminal investigations can
have enormous political implications," Mr Bolton said.
- Washington's favoured retaliation is to sever military
aid to countries which refuse to grant Article 98 exemptions.
- The Act has been rigidly applied by the Bush administration,
even to close allies who have contributed to the American-led occupation
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