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U.S. softens stand against new International Criminal Court
Last Updated Thu, 11 Jul 2002 1:12:34

UNITED NATIONS - In a retreat from its tough position on a new war crimes tribunal, the United States says it would accept a year-long ban on investigation of its peacekeepers instead of permanent immunity.

The proposal came after a day of harsh criticism directed at the American stance.

Countries from around the world backed Canada's demand that U.S. soldiers should not receive immunity before the new International Criminal Court.

The support came at an open meeting of the Security Council called by Canada to address the threat to UN peacekeeping missions.

The U.S. had warned it won't contribute to future missions if its soldiers might face war crimes charges before the new court, but softened the demand following the meeting.

The U.S. ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, circulated the proposal asking for a 12-month exemption which "expresses the intention to renew the request � for further 12 month periods for as long as may be necessary."

Paul Heinbecker

Earlier, Canadian ambassador Paul Heinbecker told the council peacekeepers are not above the law and that UN credibility will be undermined if the U.S. receives an exemption.

"We just emerged from a century that witnessed the evils of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and Idi Amin, and the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide and ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia. I believe we have all learned the fundamental lesson of this bloodiest of centuries which is, that impunity from prosecution for grievous crimes must end."

The American position first threatens the 1,500-strong police training mission in Bosnia. That mission could end if no solution is found by midnight next Monday.

The U.S. has consistently opposed the court, which was approved at a conference in Rome in 1998.

John Negroponte

"While we full expect our peacekeepers to act in accordance with established mandates and in a lawful manner, peacekeepers can and do find themselves in difficult, ambiguous situations. Peacekeepers from states that are not party to the Rome Statute should not face, in addition to the dangers and hardship of deployment, additional, unnecessary legal jeopardy," said Negroponte.

Nations including Costa Rica, Jordan, South Africa, New Zealand and the entire European Union condemned the U.S. position.

Only India, which also opposes the court, took Washington's side.

Written by CBC News Online staff

H e a d l i n e s : W o r l d

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