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Bush Threatens NATO in Latest Attempt To Undermine ICC

In President Bush’s latest attempt to strong arm US allies into supporting demands for American immunity from the International Criminal Court (ICC), the administration is threatening to use the US role in NATO against the European Union should they refuse to exempt American personnel from the newly created court, the New York Times reported today. The foreign ministers of the European Union are scheduled to meet this week to discuss whether the US should be granted immunity in the ICC – an international venue launched in July to protect victims of genocide and other war crimes.

In letters dated August 16, Secretary of State Colin Powell wrote to individual European nations urging them to hold off on a united European Union decision and instead sign individual agreements with the US promising that they will not press charges against American peacekeepers and other personnel through the ICC. Meanwhile, Pierre-Richard Prosper, the American ambassador for war crimes issues, said in an interview with the Danish news media last week that if the European Union decides against US ICC immunity, the status quo between the United States and NATO "will obviously not exist, and we will have to see how we can work through all this," according to the Times. The State Department, however, has denied any connection between NATO and ICC immunity.

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, 74 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. However, in light of severe criticism from some of its closest European allies, the Bush administration agreed to drop its demand for US immunity and instead opt for a compromise with the United Nations Security Council for a one-year exemption from prosecution. In the meantime, the administration has set out on a campaign to convince individual nations to grant US immunity before the one-year exemption runs out. So far, Israel and Romania have signed such agreements while Switzerland has refused to do so.

Media Resources: New York Times 8/26/02; Feminist Daily News 8/12/02

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