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US Asks Colombia to Grant Immunity to Military Trainers

16 August 2002

Senior US officials have asked President Álvaro Uribe to shield US military trainers in Colombia from prosecution by the International Criminal Court for any human-rights abuses that may arise in connection with their work.

The request, made Wednesday by Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman, is part of a global campaign by the United States to prevent U.S. nationals from being subjected to the international court, which the U.S. fears could be abused for political purposes.

The Colombian government hasn't responded.

The United States tried unsuccessfully to win U.N. Security Council agreement to blanket immunity for U.S. personnel and later sought agreements from individual nations that are allowed under the treaty setting up the court. The U.N. eventually granted immunity for one year to U.S. troops participating in peacekeeping forces.

Only two countries, Israel and Romania, have agreed to immunity pledges. Yugoslavia earlier this week rejected such a request from the United States, which has roughly 5,000 peacekeepers in the U.N.-administered Yugoslav province of Kosovo. Canada, Norway, the Netherlands and Switzerland also have shunned such deals.

After Romania's action, the European Union (EU) asked countries hoping to join the EU alliance, of which Romania is one, not to sign such agreements.

Under anti-terrorism legislation signed by President Bush this month, U.S. military aid would be cut to countries that have ratified the treaty, except those granted a waiver by the White House.

The issue has special importance for the Colombian government, which formally recognized the court Aug. 5. Uribe, who was sworn into office two days later, is relying on U.S. aid to help him wage a broader military campaign against leftist guerrillas who have been fighting for years to replace the government with a Marxist state.

Colombia's 38-year war is being fueled by drug profits in the security vacuum left by a weak central government. The conflict matches the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and a second, smaller Marxist-oriented insurgency against the U.S.-backed military and a privately funded paramilitary group that fights by its side. Last year, 3,500 people died in the war, most of them civilians.

Colombia, the third-largest recipient of U.S. military aid, has received nearly $2 billion in U.S. assistance in the past two years. The nearly 80 transport helicopters and hundreds of U.S. military trainers, among other aid, were initially meant to help the Colombian government attack the thriving drug trade.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.

Scott Wilson, Bogota, Colombia.
Published in the Seattle Times &coyp; 2002 The Seattle Times Company.

International Criminal Court and International Law


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