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Annan concerned on peacekeepers'immunity from ICC

Annan voices concern over extending UN peacekeepers'immunity from ICC

As the Security Council met today to consider extending immunity for United Nations peacekeepers from prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC), Secretary-General Kofi Annan voiced concern that it might become an annual routine that could undermine the tribunal’s and the Council’s authority, as well as the legitimacy of UN peace operations.

In Council debates last year, the United States said it would not expose its personnel serving in UN peacekeeping missions to the additional risk of politicized prosecutions before the ICC, which was established to try individuals responsible for war crimes, and Washington temporarily blocked a full renewal of a UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia.

Speaking at the outset of today’s session, Mr. Annan said he understood that the Council’s purpose was to enable peace operations to continue with the participation of all UN Member States, whether or not they are parties to the Rome Statute, which set up the ICC. “Indeed, I fervently share that hope, and I am grateful to you for giving priority to the continuation of this Organization’s vital peacekeeping work,” he declared.

But, he said, he did not believe the request was necessary because no UN peacekeeper had been “anywhere near committing the kind of crimes” falling under the ICC’s jurisdiction, and the case was thus hypothetical and “highly improbable.”

Moreover, UN peacekeepers remain under the jurisdiction of their home countries and anyone accused of committing a crime during a mission is immediately repatriated and dealt with by the home State’s courts, Mr. Annan added. Furthermore, no case is admissible in the ICC if a home State is already investigating or prosecuting it, which he assumed the home State would be “most anxious” to do.

Noting that it was reasonable to adopt the immunity resolution last year to give members time to study the Rome Statute, which was only then entering into force, Mr. Annan said: “I can accept that you feel it is necessary to renew the request now for a further twelve months, since the Court is still in its infancy and no case has yet been brought before it.”

But he voiced hope that it would not become an annual routine. “If it did so, I fear the world would interpret it as meaning that this Council wished to claim absolute and permanent immunity for people serving in the operations it establishes or authorizes,” the Secretary-General said. “And if that were to happen, it would undermine not only the authority of the ICC but also the authority of this Council, and the legitimacy of United Nations peacekeeping.”

Such an outcome “would cause me grave concern, and I would hope that that concern would be shared by all members of this Council,” he concluded.


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