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UK's Afghan troops given immunity
21 June 2002
Britain secured immunity from prosecution in the International Criminal Court for its troops in Afghanistan, while criticising the United States for its refusal to accept the tribunal.
President George Bush's opposition to the court has provoked sharp disagreements with his Nato and United Nations allies, all of whom have signed up to the body, intended as the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal. Last week, Britain and France said they would oppose a draft American resolution to the United Nations Security Council seeking judicial immunity for UN-mandated military missions. The US said that failure to adopt the measure could lead to it withdrawing its troops from UN missions.
However, before committing its troops to Afghanistan, Britain obtained a guarantee from the interim government that British and Allied troops with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) would not face trial before international tribunals for offences under international law.
American officials said the deal illustrated the double standards of Britain and itsallies. One said: "It is hypocritical of them to claim that we are somehow blocking justice when they seem to have the same reservations about international tribunals."
British diplomatic sources said the immunity deal had been made because the force was under overall US command and because of the turbulent situation in Afghanistan. But American sources said the ISAF was British-led and the deal was a British and European initiative.The Ministry of Defence said the aim was to ensure British soldiers were under British jurisdiction.