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
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."
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.
"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