Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Secret Agreements 

What do Egypt, Mongolia, Nicaragua, the Seychelles and Tunisia have in common? They have all signed a secret agreement with the United States exempting U.S. personnel from prosecution in the International Criminal Court, according to a state department document, via Reuters:

"The State Department said last week that several governments that signed the agreements had asked not to be named. Their identities will become public at some stage because the administration has to inform the U.S. Congress.

Congressional sources said the administration had already informed Congress of the agreement with Egypt, which they said was signed on March 5. Congress has not received notice of any other agreements, the sources said.

The Egyptian Embassy declined to comment on the report. Officials at the other embassies had no immediate comment or were not immediately available.

A State Department official said Togolese Foreign Minister Roland Kpotsra signed a public agreement with U.S. ambassador Gregory Engle in Lome last Friday.

That would bring to 44 the number of governments that have exempted U.S. personnel from prosecution in the court, set up to try war crimes and acts of genocide.

The Bush administration objects to the court on the grounds it could launch politically motivated prosecutions of U.S. civilian and military leaders. But other countries see it as a powerful tool for enforcing the rules of war.

The United States is seeking similar agreements, known as Article 98 agreements after the relevant article in the law setting up the court, with as many countries as possible.

Under the American Service Members Protection Act of 2002, many countries that recognise the International Criminal Court will not be eligible for U.S. military assistance, unless the president issues a waiver on grounds of national security.

The other countries which have signed agreements are: Albania, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, the Dominican Republic, East Timor, El Salvador, Madagascar, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Honduras, India, Israel, the Maldives, the Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Micronesia, Nauru, Nepal, Palau, the Philippines, Romania, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand, Tonga, Tuvalu, Uganda and Uzbekistan."

Now, what do the USA, China, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Qatar and Yemen have in common? They all voted against the ratification of the International Criminal Court in Rome in 1998:

A substantial amount of criticism of the ICC came, surprisingly for many, from the United States, who are proud to proclaim themselves as upholders of democracy and freedom. In that context, some in the U.S. point out that their own insitutions are strong enough to handle issues that an ICC would handle. The irony of this though, is that on the international level, they don't wish to support such an institution. Many raised fears that the U.S. has been trying to become more isolationist by appearing to refuse to take part in, or undermine, yet another international treaty. It should be stressed that this has not been a clear cut issue in the U.S., (or in any other nation). Many in the U.S. have also supported it as well. Even the U.S. President at the time, Bill Clinton, was facing growing pressure from the Republicans as well as military/Pentagon to oppose the ICC.

It was even more ironic when you realize that the ICC was given the vote by 120 to 7. The seven who voted against were USA, China, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Qatar and Yemen. All of USA's allies voted for the ICC and some of the nations that the United States has branded as "rogue states" were on par with the US on this issue. (This article, as well as the previous link offers a different perspective to how we define a "rogue state" and who else would therefore fit into such labels.)