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US wins deal on immunity
13 July 2002
A badly fractured UN Security Council adopted a resolution last night that ends the long stand-off between the United States and the rest of the membership over the authority of the newly-formed International Criminal Court to prosecute UN peace-keeping troops.
The council accepted a last-minute compromise, that won British backing. It agreed that the court will refrain from pursuing any cases involving UN peace-keepers for one year from 1 July 2002. It will be up to the council to decide whether the exemption should be repeated in a year's time.
While the vote was unanimous, it barely disguised the ill-feeling that simmered in several delegations that the United States, by threatening to veto extension of peacekeeping activities in Bosnia, had managed to alter the terms of the court's founding treaty for its own ends.
"We are extremely disappointed with the outcome," Canada's ambassador to the UN, Paul Heinbecker, said immediately after the vote. "We don't think it is in the mandate of the Security Council to reinterpret treaties that were negotiated somewhere else."
Washington prevailed only after abandoning its first demand that peace-keepers be given blanket immunity from prosecution by the court.
The US could well employ strong-arm tactics once again to ensure the deferral for peacekeepers is extended. To that extent, human rights groups in particular will charge that the integrity of the court has been undermined.