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Consensus Unlikely At Rome Statute Conference In Uganda

Former U.S Ambassador David Scheffer has expressed doubt a consensus can be formed among participants over the crime of aggression at the Rome Statute Review Conference which ends Friday in Kampala.

Scheffer, who served as an ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues in the Clinton Administration, described as constructive the debate and dialogue among governments at the conference.

“There has been an enormous amount of, I think, very constructive dialogue among governments at this conference. There has also been divisiveness. There have been very divergent views about how to achieve particularly the incorporation of the crime of aggression into the Rome Statute. But, it has been a two-week venture and we are in a better position today than we were two weeks ago on this issue,” he said.

Amendment proposals that were deliberated upon during the conference included the revision of Article 125 of the Rome Statute, the crime of aggression and the inclusion of the use of certain weapons as war crimes.

Scheffer, now law professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois who is participating in the Kampala conference, said it is unlikely there would be a compromise on including the crime of aggression in the Rome Statute.

“I think that is doubtful because there are too many governments in the world that view how to use military force differently. There are governments who (say) there a very lawful uses of military force that should not be questioned by a court. It’s a political matter. And, there are governments, for example, at the Security Council that do see it as an issue that is solely to be determined by the Security Council,” Scheffer said.

Last year, the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar al Bashir after accusing him of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity during the conflict in Darfur – charges his supporters deny.

Critics say the ICC has often targeted poor and less powerful countries, mostly in Africa, while ignoring crimes allegedly committed by Western countries – a charge officials of The Hague-based court deny.

Scheffer said some participants agree with the ICC criticism.

“That has been a common train of thought among some delegations here in Kampala that there has to be a balance that the major governments need to be held accountable for their military action just as other governments are held accountable. And, that is a very delicate balance in these negotiations,” Scheffer said.

Participants said the Rome Statute review conference also centered on analyzing the success and impact of the Rome Statute system on victims and affected communities, as well as peace and justice.