Tuesday, October 05, 2004

UN Signs Pact With World Court

UN Signs Pact with New World Court Opposed by U.S.

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations signed a cooperation agreement on Monday with the new International Criminal Court, despite objections to the tribunal from the United States.

The pact that would encourage "greater cooperation and consultation" on administration and judicial matters was signed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Judge Phillipe Kirsch of Canada, the court's president.

The 191-member U.N. General adopted a resolution last month approving the agreement. But in a nod to the Bush administration, the assembly's resolution says that the world body would be reimbursed by nations supporting the court for any expenses occurred.

Some 97 countries, including the entire European Union, have ratified the 1998 statute creating the court. The last three nations to ratify two weeks ago were Burundi, Liberia and Guyana.

The Bush administration is bitterly opposed to the new court and rescinded former President Bill Clinton's signature to the tribunal's statutes, arguing that it would expose U.S. soldiers and officials to frivolous law suits.

But supporters of the court say the ICC steps in only when a country is unwilling or unable to investigate, making it highly unlikely U.S. citizens would be targeted.

The court, based at The Hague in the Netherlands, is the first permanent world tribunal set up to prosecute individuals for war crimes, genocide and other gross human rights abuses.

Its first investigations involve war crimes in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, where thousands have been killed, raped and tortured.

Another probe centers on leaders of Uganda's rebel Lord's Resistance Army, who have kidnapped and tortured thousands of children in their camps in Sudan.

On Friday, U.S. representative Stuart Holliday warned the Security Council after a vote to increase U.N. peacekeepers in the Congo that "any expenses resulting from the provision of any cooperation or support to the ICC would need to be on a reimbursable basis."

William Pace, head of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, representing 2,000 advocacy groups, said, that "by allowing for crucial cooperation between two of the most powerful global justice institutions, this agreement will play an important role in the fight to end impunity for the perpetrators of the world's most atrocious crimes."

10/04/2004 20:27