The European Union (EU) agreed yesterday to allow its 15 member nations to form bilateral immunity agreements with the United States to exempt US military personnel from prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Over the last several months, the US has adamantly called for immunity of all US nationals from prosecution by the court. Under the EU policy, only US military and official personnel are exempt from the ICC. In addition, they must be tried in US courts.
This policy will now pave the way for possible agreements with allied countries such as Britain, Italy, and Spain. However German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer appeared resistant, saying: “What matters is that the Europeans stand together on the basis of a strengthening of the court’s statute. What matters to us is not to assuage anyone,” according to Reuters.
The Bush administration has strongly opposed the ICC, claiming that it could subject US personnel to politically motivated prosecutions abroad. The ICC has widespread support in the US from groups such as the Feminist Majority because it identifies gender crimes and the crime of apartheid as crimes against humanity. Article 7 of the Rome Statute, which created the court, presents clear language that defines gender crimes as rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity.
So far, 81 countries have ratified the Rome Treaty—on December 31, 2000 former President Bill Clinton added the US signature, which President Bush then renounced in May.
Media Resources: NY Times 9/30/02; Human Rights Watch 9/30/02; Reuters 9/30/02; USAforICC.org 10/1/02; ICCnow.org 10/1/02