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U.N. Exempts Peacekeepers From War Crime Prosecution

The council reluctantly approved a resolution that orders the new International Criminal Court to give a 12-month grace period to U.N. peacekeepers from countries such as the United States that are not in support of the new global court.

“This one-year directive is a temporary immunity from the International Criminal Court for not only the U.S. but for any country that is not a party to the treaty,” said Richard Grenell, spokesman for the U.S. mission.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Negroponte and members of the Bush administration warned that the U.S. would not participate in later international missions as long as American troops may be investigated or prosecuted by the new global court. The U.S. originally demanded that American peacekeepers receive blanket immunity from the new International Criminal Court. The court came into existence on July 1, 2002.

This threat could have terminated the mission in Bosnia if the U.N. did not reached a decision by Monday night.

The U.S. retreated from its original demands after facing intense criticism during an open meeting of the U.N. Security Council Thursday, when delegates from nearly 40 countries accused the U.S. of threatening the future of U.N. peacekeeping missions. Only India, which also opposes the ICC, supported the U.S. stance.

Negroponte introduced a proposal petitioning for a one year exemption that “expresses the intention to renew the request…for further 12-month periods for as long as may be necessary.”

“At stake today are entirely different issues that raise questions whether all people are equal and accountable before the law,” said the Canadian ambassador to the U.N., Paul Heinbecker, who originally called the open Security Council meeting to address the U.S. position on the ICC and U.N. missions.

“We have just emerged from a century that witnessed the evils of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and Idi Amin, and the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide and ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia,” Heinbecker said.

In order for a Security Council resolution to pass, it must receive at least nine votes from the 15-nation body with no veto from any of the five permanent members — China, Russia, U.S., Britain, and France. The remaining 10 members of the council also voted in favor of the resolution.