U.N. council exempts U.S. troops from war crimes charges for a

Saturday, July 13, 2002

UNITED NATIONS -- The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to exempt U.S. peacekeepers from war crimes prosecution for a year Friday, ending threats to U.N. peacekeeping operations.

The council prepared to immediately extend the mandates of the 1,500-strong U.N. police training mission in Bosnia and the small U.N. observer mission in the Croatian enclave of Prevlaka. Both were set to expire on Monday.

"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.

The resolution will lift a U.S. threat to end the world body's peacekeeping operations if it didn't get sufficient protection for Americans serving in U.N. missions.

The United States did not ratify the treaty establishing the court, arguing that it could be used by other countries for frivolous or politically motivated prosecutions of American troops.

The court's supporters on the council said the resolution did not violate the treaty establishing the tribunal. But some countries continued to argue that the resolution still undermined the court.

Facing intense international opposition, the United States backpedaled this week on its demand for permanent immunity for American peacekeepers.

Court supporters argued that the demand would have amounted to an amendment of the treaty.

The impasse was resolved when key court supporters -- Britain, Mauritius and France -- proposed Friday that there be a 12-month delay in investigating or prosecuting U.N. peacekeepers from countries that don't support the court "if a case arises."

The resolution allows the exemption to be renewed when the year is up.

The earlier debate dealt with whether the Security Council should be asked to renew the request after 12 months on "a case-by-case basis." The United States opposed the reference to the "case-by-case" so compromise language was found that didn't use the phrase.

The court will prosecute crimes committed after July 1, 2002, when it came into existence with ratifications from 76 countries and signatures from 139.

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