Losing the Immunity Challenge

From the August 2004 Trumpet Print Edition

As of June 30, U.S. peacekeeping personnel are subject to prosecution by the International Criminal Court (icc). Until then, the U.S. was immune from such prosecution. Under intense pressure, the U.S. was forced to withdraw a draft Security Council resolution seeking renewed immunity for American peacekeeping forces.

The icc, which is based in the Netherlands and came into force in July 2002, is the world’s first permanent court capable of trying individuals accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The U.S., the largest contributor to international security, refused to fall under jurisdiction of the icc, fearing it would lead to “politically motivated suits” against its personnel and hinder peacekeeping missions. The icc also doesn’t recognize certain rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution such as trial by jury.

In the wake of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, the resolution guaranteeing America’s exemption faced fierce opposition. Chinese UN Ambassador Wang Guangya, who had supported U.S. immunity for the past two years, said, “Clearly from the very beginning this year, China has been under pressure because of the scandals and the news coverage of the prisoner abuse, and it made it very difficult for my government to support it” (Xinhua News Agency, June 25).

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan also criticized the resolution, stating it would be a “discredit to the council and the United Nations.” Germany, France and Spain, devoted supporters of the icc, also opposed it.

Originally, the UN Security Council adopted a one-year resolution in July 2002 granting the U.S. immunity—mainly because the U.S. threatened to veto UN peacekeeping missions. In 2003, the resolution barely passed because three nations abstained. This year, only Britain openly supported it. Without adequate support, the U.S. withdrew the resolution. It marks the biggest defeat for the U.S. in the UN since the UN refused to back the war in Iraq.

It is rare when the U.S. is unable to get one of its resolutions passed in the UN, but the recent war has shown many nations to be wavering in their support. This resolution’s failure provides more evidence of this trend. For more on where this alarming trend is headed, see our February 2004 article “Superpower Under Siege” under Issue Archives on www.theTrumpet.com.