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U.S. Drops International Criminal Court Exemption Bid

The resolution was first adopted in 2002 after the Untied States threatened to veto U.N. peacekeeping operations if its troops were not granted immunity from the International Criminal Court. The exemption was renewed in 2003 but is set to expire on June 30.

Allegations of U.S. abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan made it difficult for American diplomats to make the case for a third time, even though the scandal is not expected to come before the Hague-based tribunal.

Citing the abuse scandals, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan helped cement opposition to the exemption when he told council members last week to oppose the resolution, saying it sent an “unfortunate signal any time — but particularly at this time.”

Other diplomats echoed Annan’s concerns.

“My government is under particular pressure not to give a blank check to the United States for the behavior of its forces,” China’s U.N. ambassador, Wange Guangya, told Reuters.

The United States needed a minimum of nine votes in the 15-member Security Council to support its bid for an exemption from the court. More than seven countries had signaled they would abstain, making it impossible for Washington to reach the threshold.

The new court is largely financed by Europeans and was created to prosecute individuals responsible for atrocities such as genocide, war crimes and systematic human rights abuses.

The Bush administration opposes on principle an international court that would have jurisdiction over U.S. soldiers serving abroad.

The court’s supporters say it is a tribunal of last resort and only accepts cases when a nation is willing or unable to prosecute, making it unlikely a country with a functioning justice system, like the United States, would ever see its soldiers before the tribunal.

Human Rights Watch, commenting on U.S. opposition to the court said in May 2002, “The International Criminal Court will only take on cases that national courts are demonstrably unable or unwilling to prosecute. The treaty for the court includes numerous safeguards to protect against frivolous or unwarranted prosecutions.”

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