After arduous negotiations, the United Nations Security Council agreed unanimously Friday to give American peacekeepers a 12-month exemption from the jurisdiction of the new International Criminal Court. This cleared the way for a six-month renewal of a U.N. police training operation in Bosnia, and an observer mission in Prevlaka.
The United States did not get the blanket immunity from the court that it originally sought. But U.S. diplomats called the 12-month exemption a victory. It effectively keeps U.S. nationals out of reach of the court, which the United States does not subscribe to.
The United States, as the sole superpower, has argued its citizens serving with U.N. missions might be targeted for politically-motivated prosecutions.
U.S. ambassador John Negroponte expressed relief at the agreement, though he conceded it was the result of a compromise. "In effect, I think for practical purposes, it achieves the kind of protection for a one-year period we were seeking," he said. "We would have preferred that this protection were for an indefinite period of time."
Security Council members were not happy with the U.S. position, which they said would undermine the credibility of the new court, the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal. But they worked hard to break down an impasse that could have seriously damaged the U.N.'s peacekeeping ability. The United States had threatened to veto operations, one by one, as they came up for renewal, unless the Council agreed to the exemption.
Washington's position offended the vast majority of the international community, which widely supports the new criminal court. One-hundred-thirty-nine governments have signed the treaty creating the tribunal. Seventy-six governments have ratified it.
U.N. diplomats are not sure how the compromise that led to the vote will play with conservative Republicans in Washington, who have already criticized the Bush administration for being ready to settle for softer terms on the immunity.