US opposes global court use for Darfur war crimes suspects
The International Criminal Court (ICC) based in The Hague was set up specifically to handle cases concerning suspected war criminals. Setting up an ad hoc court is extremely costly, which is one of the reasons for the creation of the ICC. If an ad hoc court was set up for Sudan simply to accommodate the Americans, one would guess the US would have to foot the bill. Imagine how many peacekeepers for Darfur could be hired instead.
The US is aligning itself with several rogue states that are refusing to recognise the ICC. Britain and other countries have no problems signing up to the global court, so it is not easy to understand why the US refuses to be subjected to the same standards.
No doubt Kofi Annan is not too sad watching the US squirm on this issue, after all it was the US who made a big deal out of declaring Darfur as genocide. It is still unclear what they intended doing about it. They have ruled out US troops for Darfur and refuse to join forces in bringing the perpetrators of atrocities committed in Darfur, to a global court. The US appears to have no firm alternative even though the UN inquiry, carried out over the past three months, will report its findings in a few days time.
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An AFP report today confirms the US has backed prosecution of Sudanese suspected of committing atrocities in Darfur, but opposed bringing them before the International Criminal Court.
"We have had a number of objections to the International Criminal Court, and therefore don't believe it's the best option for this," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.
The US has refused to recognise the ICC, based in The Hague, fearing the court could be used to prosecute politically motivated charges against US diplomats or troops around the world.
Boucher said various options were under consideration to bring suspected Darfur war criminals to justice, including use of the ICC set up in Tanzania to try Rwanda genocide suspects. He said Washington was awaiting the results of a UN inquiry in Darfur and would then discuss the issue of prosecutions.
"We want to find effective and appropriate means of accountability and will consider various options for doing that," he said.
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A report in the Washington Times today says the US has urged European officials to consider setting up a new court or empowering UN lawyers who are now prosecuting accused perpetrators of genocide in Rwanda to take on Darfur cases, two senior Bush administration officials said. Extracts from a report by the Washington Post:
European envoys have cited US misgivings about these ad hoc courts in pushing for the ICC. UN ambassadors from Britain, France and Denmark told John Danforth, the former US representative to the UN, in a private meeting earlier this month that the ICC was the best option for obtaining justice in Darfur.
"From our point of view, it doesn't make sense to create another special court but rather to use the international court we have just created for these instances," said Germany's UN ambassador, Gunter Pleuger, who was not at the meeting but is a leading European advocate of the ICC.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan backed the Europeans on Wednesday, saying the ICC, which is based in The Hague, is the "most logical place" to try Sudan's accused war criminals. "They need to be held accountable so that we don't give the impression that impunity is allowed to stand," Annan said.
Court advocates have urged the Bush administration to waive the legal provision that bars US cooperation with the ICC. "There is not a possibility of any unfair prosecution of Americans resulting from an ICC investigation" in Darfur, said Richard Dicker, an expert on the court at the New York-based advocacy organisation Human Rights Watch.
The US, he noted, has previously "favored a Security Council trigger" for ICC investigations, "and that's exactly what this is."
Even some critics of the ICC have encouraged the administration not to rule it out for Darfur.
"I'm of two minds," said Lee A. Casey, a Justice Department official under President Ronald Reagan who has written extensively about the ICC.
"On the one hand, I think it's important for the United States not to indulge the court until some fundamental areas are settled, most importantly that it does not have jurisdiction over US citizens," Casey said. But "no one has actually come up with a much better idea, so perhaps that is something to be considered," he added.
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UPDATE: SA police prepare for duty in Darfur
South African news online Jan 22 reports the South African Police Service (SAPS) is readying a contingent of peacekeepers for service in Darfur. "Discussions are under way and arrangements are being made," national police spokesperson told reporters today.
Cabinet on Friday announced that it had approved a request by the AU for South Africa to contribute a contingent of 100 police officers to Darfur, as part of the civilian police component of the AU Peace Mission.
"The advance guard of this police contingent is meant to establish the police headquarters in Darfur during January. The AU police mission will be under the command of SAPS," the Cabinet statement said. - Sapa
Further reading: New York Times Jan 22 Analysis: Bush's Smiles Meet Some Frowns in Europe.