Global Policy Forum

US Blocks UN Text on Massacre in Tiff Over Court

November 29, 2004

The United States for weeks blocked a U.N. statement supporting an investigation into a massacre in Burundi because of Washington's disdain for the International Criminal Court, diplomats said on Monday. The Security Council statement, initially drafted by France in mid-November and now transformed into a resolution, is finally expected to come to a vote on Tuesday after the United States agreed to a compromise, the diplomats said.

Based in The Hague in the Netherlands, the court is the first permanent world tribunal set up to prosecute individuals for war crimes, genocide and other gross human rights abuses. It came into being last year and 97 countries have ratified the 1998 statute creating the tribunal. Of the 25 European Union nations, only the Czech Republic has not submitted its ratification papers.

Washington, which fears politically driven prosecutions of its officials serving overseas, calls the court "fatally flawed" and has been campaigning hard in recent weeks to prevent it from becoming a routine part of U.N. operations. In recent weeks, U.S. diplomats campaigned unsuccessfully to have the tribunal taken off the agenda of the U.N. General Assembly and have fought to prevent the use of U.N. funds to support it, even trying to bar discussions of it in U.N. meeting rooms.

Burundi's government has been trying for more than three months to fix blame for the Aug. 13 slaughter of more than 160 ethnic Tutsi Congolese in the Gatumba refugee camp.

Washington argued the language of the French draft's offer of "international support as appropriate" was a hidden reference to the International Criminal Court and blocked its approval. French Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere complained about the U.S. drive during a Nov. 15 closed-door council meeting after the United States blocked his draft statement on the investigation into the massacre, council diplomats said.

A U.S. source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "We were very concerned about having the council expressly announcing the offer of international assistance." In the compromise reached on Monday, the council linked the possibility of international support to a commitment by the Burundian government to quickly wrap up its investigation.

More Information on International Justice
More Information on US Opposition to the International Criminal Court
More Information on the ICC in the Security Council


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