nettime's_roving_correspondent on Sat, 18 Jul 1998 04:09:50 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Yahoo!!!

Permanent international war crimes court approved

Copyright 1998 Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

ROME (July 17, 1998 5:46 p.m. EDT -- Delegates from more than
100 countries overwhelmingly approved a historic treaty
Friday creating the world's first permanent war crimes
tribunal -- ignoring strenuous U.S. objections.

The delegates erupted into cheers and applause when the
treaty won final approval by a vote of 120-7, with 21

An American bid to undermine the package deal was beat
back by a vote of 113-17, with 25 nations abstaining.
India also tried to torpedo the deal.

The showdown at the U.N. talks attended by 160 nations
created strange bedfellows: Joining the United States
in denouncing treaty provisos were nations like Libya,
Algeria, China, Qatar and Yemen. Meanwhile, its closest
allies, countries like Canada and Britain, mustered to
the treaty's defense.

But more than a defeat for a superpower, the vote was a
victory for an idea, one born with the Nuremberg trials
of Nazi war criminals, put in the deep freeze by the
Cold War, then revived in the ethnic bloodbaths of
Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

"I think this is a great, historic achievement," said
Benjamin Ferencz, 78, a Nuremberg prosecutor who's
worked ever since for a permanent tribunal.

The new international criminal court, which will
operate out of The Hague, Netherlands, will bring
individuals to justice for genocide, crimes against
humanity, war crimes and aggression.

Independent of the United Nations, it will be able to
act even when the international community is divided,
as it was in the Balkans and in Africa.

A temporary war crimes tribunal, also in The Hague, was
established in 1993 by the U.N. Security Council to
prosecute war crimes in the former Yugoslavia. It has
indicted 75 people. The court also is pursuing
atrocities committed in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Friday's carefully crafted compromise treaty emerged
after weeks of difficult talks in Rome and years of
preliminary negotiations.

The United States wanted the option to veto the
prosecution of any American citizen. With U.S. troops
deployed in hot spots around the world, Washington
fears they could become targets of politically
motivated charges.

But the escape hatch wouldn't have been exclusive; many
feared the Pol Pots of the world could also jump
through it. A wide coalition of nations, including
America's best allies, fought vehemently to block it.

Despite weeks of arm-twisting, U.S. diplomats failed to
win the day. Their bid to prevent the creation of an
independent prosecutor also met with defeat.

"We don't expect them to sign the treaty," Canadian
Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy said of the Americans.
"But at least if they aren't aggressively opposed ..."

The American pressure was intense and its delegation
wielded virtually every carrot -- and stick -- at its
disposal. It threatened poor nations with a loss of aid
and allies like Germany with the rupture of key
military alliances.

In the final hours of the grueling, five-week
conference, the behind-the-scenes maneuvering reached a
fever pitch.

The draft was already full of concessions; proponents
feared any tinkering might unravel the whole deal.

The list of crimes, for example, was expanded to add
aggression, which the nonaligned nations had sought. In
a nod to the five nuclear powers on the U.N. Security
Council, the treaty omits any specific mention of
nuclear weapons. A proviso on war crimes addressed
French concerns.

The negotiations split the conference into two opposing
camps: one lobbying for the strongest, most independent
court possible and the other hoping to curb its scope.

A major force was a broad coalition of 800 citizen
groups from around the world, which worked closely with
a group of about 60 nations, many of them America's
best allies and fellow democracies.

The citizen groups lobbied hard for an independent
prosecutor, the inclusion of crimes of sexual violence
and internal conflicts, victims' rights, and a host of
other issues.

William Pace, the coalition's coordinator, praised the
treaty as "one of the greatest victories for peace in
the last 100 years."

"This is the rule of law prevailing over the rule of
brute force," he said.

A formal signing ceremony for the treaty was scheduled
for Saturday.
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