The United Nations Security Council is expected to vote before the end of the week on a controversial U.S. resolution exempting American peacekeepers from the jurisdiction of the new Hague-based International Criminal Court.
Members of U.N.-backed peacekeeping missions from nations that have not ratified the International Criminal Court are currently shielded from prosecution by the permanent tribunal. The U.S. draft resolution under consideration extends that exemption temporarily, for one year.
The Bush administration, which rescinded former President Clinton's signature on the treaty creating the court, fears that U.S. soldiers could become targets of politically motivated prosecution. The Security Council unanimously adopted the same resolution last year after the United States threatened to veto U.N. peace-keeping missions.
Now, Security Council members, who are said to be wary of another high profile debate after the Iraq war, are expected to approve the measure.
Members of non-governmental organizations lashed out at the Bush administration for its policy on the International Criminal Court. Richard Dicker of the New York-based watchdog group Human Rights Watch predicted a fierce debate in the open Security Council discussion on the issue scheduled for Thursday.
"We expect to hear opposition to the unlawful nature of this resolution," says Mr. Dicker. "The message will be that this resolution will never become automatic, that this is a resolution whose years on the books of the Security Council are limited and if not sooner than later will not be renewed and will be dropped."
Mr. Dicker also criticized Washington's bilateral negotiations to reach agreements barring individual countries from bringing American citizens before the International Criminal Court. So far, 37 countries have signed such agreements.
Members of the European Union are the chief supporters of the court. It is unclear whether council members France and Germany will abstain when the resolution comes to a vote.
The International Criminal Court was established in 1998 to prosecute individuals for atrocities, including genocide and crimes against humanity. Of the 15-Security Council members, five countries, Britain, Bulgaria, France, Germany and Spain, have ratified the treaty setting up the court.