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Double standards in exempting peacekeepers

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Media Statement

3 July 2002

Double standards in exempting peacekeepers from Court

Foreign Minister Phil Goff has urged the Security Council not to exempt United Nations peacekeepers from the jurisdiction of the newly established International Criminal Court.

“The purpose of the new Court is to send a clear message that there will be no impunity for those who commit crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

“To exempt UN peacekeepers from the jurisdiction of the Court would send a message that there were double standards and would damage the moral authority of UN peacekeeping forces.

“Placing UN forces above the law and protecting them from responsibility for their actions contradicts the very purpose of creating the court.

“Further, the court has been created after years of debate by sovereign nations who have agreed to accept its jurisdiction. Allowing un-elected permanent members of the Security Council to override this process and these obligations is unacceptable,” Mr Goff said.

Related to the Security Council move, Mr Goff has also urged the United States to withdraw its veto on the extension of the UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia.

The United States had vetoed the extension so as to apply pressure on the UN to exempt its armed forces there from coming under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court which came into being on 1 July.

The veto is also likely to impact on the NATO-led but UN-backed SFOR mission in Bosnia which New Zealand is a part of.

“Just two months ago in Bosnia I was told by senior UN and SFOR staff that withdrawal of the peacekeepers would result “within weeks” of renewal of inter-ethnic conflict in that country.

“Tens of thousands of Bosnians were murdered, raped and dispossessed in that conflict. It is unconscionable for whatever reason to put at risk again ordinary people who have already suffered too much.

“The United States of course has a right to withdraw its own forces from peacekeeping, with reasonable notice, but it must not continue to veto the continuing existence of the peacekeeping force itself.

“The United States has played an honourable role in the former Yugoslavia in working to bring an end to the conflict there.

“It would be a tragedy if it were to undo its good work in order to further its objectives of opposition to the International Criminal Court.

“New Zealand and the US’s NATO allies in Europe believe that the US fear that its soldiers will be put at risk of political prosecution by the Court are unfounded.

“There are strong safeguards against politically motivated prosecutions. These include;

- An independent prosecutor elected by the state parties.
- The requirement that a panel of judges authorise any investigation before it commences.
- The role of the ICC as a court of last resort which acts only if national courts are unable or unwilling to take action.

“Under both the ICC and the UN’s rules any US peacekeepers arrested for the serious crimes covered by the Court would be sent home for trial,” Mr Goff said.


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