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June 27, 2004 

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New action to ratify International Criminal Court

Amnesty International

Bangladesh was the first South Asian State to sign the Rome Statute. It should now fulfil its pledge to international justice and pave the way for other South Asian states to do the same by completing the ratification process as soon as possible . At the close of the Rome Diplomatic Conference, at which the Statute was signed, Bangladesh declared that its adoption "represented a giant leap forward in the establishment of justice and human rights worldwide".

Bangladesh signed the Rome Statute on 16 September 1999, indicating its intention to ratify the treaty. To date, it has not done so. When ratifying the treaty, the government will need to enact legislation allowing the Bangladesh courts to exercise their primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes and to provide full co-operation with the International Criminal Court. Amnesty International is urging the government of Bangladesh to begin the process of enacting implementing legislation as soon as possible. In the past half century, millions of victims of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes have been denied justice, truth and full reparations. The Rome Statute creates a new system of international justice to end this injustice and to send a clear message to those planning such horrific crimes that they will no longer enjoy impunity for their actions.

The International Criminal Court requires the support of the whole international community. Amnesty International is encouraging the people of Bangladesh and all the peoples of South Asia to take part in this action calling on Bangladesh to ratify the Rome Statute as soon as possible. In doing so, they will be joining the struggle to end impunity for these horrific crimes forever.

This is an edited version of the website action of Amnesty International.

US withdraws resolution on ICC immunity

Acknowledging resistance among the members of the U.N. Security Council, the United States this morning withdrew a draft resolution that would have exempted U.S. personnel from prosecution by the U.N. permanent war crimes tribunal.

Deputy Ambassador James Cunningham said although he felt the draft fairly addressed the concerns of all council members, "the United States has decided not to proceed further with consideration and action on the draft at this time in order in avoid a prolonged and divisive debate."

The 15-member council was deeply divided over the issue, with most countries seeing the draft and the two identical resolutions the council adopted in the previous two years as an attack on the legitimacy of the International Criminal Court. The Iraq and Afghanistan prisoner abuse scandals, in which U.S. soldiers tormented detainees in violation of the Geneva Conventions, intensified opposition to the measure.

While no country was likely to vote against the draft, council Diplomats said it was likely that there would be enough abstentions to deny the United States the nine votes needed to pass the resolution.

Cunningham hinted today that Washington would remember the forfeiture when it came to future votes on U.N. peacekeeping operations.

"In the absence of a new resolution, the United States will need to take into account the risk of ICC review when determining contributions to U.N.-authorised or established [peacekeeping] operations," he said.

Council delegates said they were pleased the United States decided not to press the draft to a vote.

"It is better not to present a draft resolution to a vote when the council appears to be divided," Ambassador Heraldo Munoz of Chile said.

"This is better than voting on such an important issue and appear divided after the consensus and the unity we showed on Iraq" (Jim Wurst, U.N. Wire, June 23).

With council members clearly balking at the proposal, the United States yesterday offered a compromise proposal that would make this year the last it seeks exemptions (Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times, June 23).

"The United States is the biggest provider of global security and we have special concerns in this area," Cunningham said after offering up the concession. "We agreed to the change because members of the council are becoming increasingly uncomfortable. We are willing to take this step to preserve council support and to provide a year to phase out this arrangement."

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's warnings last week that the council could undermine its authority by approving the U.S. resolution may have influenced some council members, according to diplomats.

Source: UNwire 24 June, 2004.

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