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Bush administration – a history of undermining the world court

Switzerland has already rejected the Bush administration's efforts to sign an exemption from the court

The United States has already withdrawn its signature from the Treaty of Rome, the founding document of the International Criminal Court.

In July, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution to protect US citizens from prosecution by the court for a year. And since then, the Bush Administration has continues its campaign to undermine the new tribunal.

Its officials now focus their efforts on European countries. The Bush Administration is attempting to negotiate a series of long-term bilateral accords that would protect US citizens from prosecution by the court.

Colin Powell, the US secretary of state, recently sent a letter to all European governments urging them to sign the accords “as soon as possible”.

Powell said the exemptions were consistent with the 1998 Treaty of Rome which ushered the court into existence.

Twist my arm

Powell also denied rumors that Washington has threatened to quit NATO if European countries fail to cooperate with the US.

Despite the rhetoric, however, the US reserves the right to review its military assistance programs with countries that do not sign exemption accords.

Romania, Israel and East Timor – three countries that remain heavily reliant on US military aid for their security – have quickly accepted the US exemptions.

Others, particularly among Baltic States, are expected to follow suit.

In Western Europe, US lobbying efforts are beginning to crack the unified resolve of the European Union’s 15 member states.

Even as the European Commission warned that the exemptions would violate the founding treaty, Italy, Denmark, Great Britain and even France have signaled their willingness to compromise.

The softer stance appears to be motivated by the need to avoid further complications in transatlantic relations – already tense due to rows about trade, the Israeli- Palestinian conflict and a possible US strike on Iraq.

As a result, while Europeans appear divided, the US presents a united front against the tribunal. Joining Bush, are Democratic politicians who say the court is a menace to US sovereignty.

They also remain concerned that the court would become a political tool for countries hostile toward the US.

Support for court withdrawn

In May, the Bush administration withdrew the US’s signature from the founding treaty. In doing so, America has joined countries that oppose the emergence of an international judicial system, including China, Russia, Israel and all Arab countries except Jordan.

In addition, the UN Security Council in mid-July backed a resolution that exempts US citizens, along with citizens from non-treaty countries that take part in peacekeeping missions, from prosecution by the new court for one year.

To obtain the moratorium, the US threatened to withdraw from all peacekeeping missions. The White House maintains that the Security Council’s resolution as just “a first step” towards a permanent exemption for US.

swissinfo, Marie-Christine Bonzom, Washington

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR