State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for April 1
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for April 1 -- Transcript
Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
April 1, 2005
Darfur War Crimes
UN Security Council Resolution
International Criminal Court
U.S. Abstains / Explanation of Vote
Security Council Oversight
Transitional Government in Kenya
Ambassador Klosson's Comments
U.S. Policy Toward Foreign Military Forces in Cyprus
Support for the Annan Plan
Withdrawal of Greek and Turkish Forces
12:50 p.m. EST
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If we haven't made enough news already today with various briefings and encounters with the Secretary and others, I'm here to take your questions.
QUESTION: All right. Let Arshad have it.
MR. BOUCHER: Sir.
QUESTION: I'm going to ask one that George isn't expecting to get it out of the way and then we can go where he wants to go.
On Zimbabwe, I'm sure you've seen the ZANU-PF has claimed victory and the opposition has cried foul. What is your assessment? Do you regard this claim of victory as justified? And what's your assessment of the polls yesterday?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the final results are not in yet. I think we are starting to see some numbers and claims by both sides and there's already different numbers that I've been seeing. I think the important thing to remember as well, the conduct of the elections yesterday was orderly and peaceful. The opposition has expressed very serious concerns about the results and particularly about the balloting process. We know from information we have been able to -- I guess it is official information from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission that as many as 10 percent of the voters were turned away from polling stations when they tried to vote. And there are some indications, I think anecdotal evidence, that voters were disproportionately turned away in districts that might be favoring the opposition. This is just another sign that this whole process has been seriously tainted. The election process all along has been tilted in favor of the government and there are many aspects to this, whether it's the muzzling of the press or the intimidation of voters or the restrictions on opposition candidates.
Despite this, despite the flaws in this overall process, a lot of Zimbabwean voters turned out and voted for change. We think those are important voices and those are voices that need to be listened to and voices that need to be respected. As this process continues, I'll try to get you more, I think, a more complete statement. We might even have something later in the day.
QUESTION: Okay. But at present, aside from saying that the entire process has been seriously tainted, you can't squarely address whether you regard the entire process -- at least, give the information you have now, absent final results, whether these elections could in any way be described as free and fair and transparent?
MR. BOUCHER: I think given everything that's gone on during the whole election process, including some of the reports we're getting now, it would be very hard to say that these are free and fair.
QUESTION: Can we go to Sudan for a second?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: And I think this is where George wants to go.
QUESTION: No? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Can you explain why it is that the U.S. Government believes that citizens of Sudan, which signed the Rome Statute, but has not ratified it and therefore is not a state party to it, should be subject to its jurisdiction, when the crux of the American argument is that U.S. citizens should not be subject to its jurisdiction because the United States is not a state party to it?
MR. BOUCHER: You might understand that I think this is the third time you've asked this question today, and so my answer might be similar to the answer that previous officials, including the Secretary of State, have given to you to this question.
The United States believes very firmly in accountability for the crimes that have been committed in Sudan. We thought it was very important that the UN Security Council take action. As you know, we have explored, along with some of the Africans who have supported the idea, of an African-led tribunal that can do that, but all of us keeping to the fundamental point that it is vital to ensure accountability.
This is a Security Council action. This is an action where the Security Council has determined the crimes that have been committed need to be prosecuted, and the Security Council has determined what the appropriate forum is for those prosecutions. To that extent, it is similar to some of the other decisions that the Security Council has made; it's just in a different court.
Second of all, I think the circumstances in Sudan, Darfur in particular, have been extraordinary and need to be addressed. Other states that are not party to this, including the United States, have appropriate judicial and legal vehicles to address crimes that might have occurred. The United States itself is in the process of prosecuting crimes or allegations against Americans who might have committed abuses in Iraq. And we're demonstrating, I think, to the world now that we do follow up on our own on those things.
No such mechanism exists in Sudan. We explored whether a mechanism like that could be established in Africa. There wasn't sufficient support for that. And there is a mechanism that many members supported in terms of doing that before the International Criminal Court. And so we abstained because we think it is very important that these crimes are prosecuted.
QUESTION: Did the Security Council stay within the rules when it did what it did last night? In other words, there's a treaty here. I don't think that the Security Council has the power to go beyond what the treaty says. Was there an overreach by the Council in this regard?
MR. BOUCHER: I think first of all, that would have to be a question the treaty would have to treaty members, parties, would have to try to answer. If there is any legal question, I have not seen one raised. Certainly, the nine members of the Council, I think it is, or parties to the treaty, didn't think so.
We have -- I mean, it was important to us in this resolution to achieve two things, and that we did achieve: one was accountability for the crimes, and two was protection for Americans who are not party to the treaty.
The fact that this was done, and I think you'll see this in the explanation of the vote we gave in the UN and other statements that we have made, the fact that this was done by the Security Council is important to us, but nonetheless, we still have our fundamental objections to the Rome Statute and the International Criminal Court, and therefore, we wanted to build in certain protections. Those are built in for nationals of states not party. The resolution also recognizes that absent the consent of the state involved or a Security Council referral that persons of states not party to the Rome Statute should not be subject to ICC jurisdiction.
The resolution also takes note of Article 98 agreements within the scope of the Rome Treaty. As you know, we signed a number of those, I think over 100 -- or 99, sorry, Article 98 agreements the United States has already entered into.
QUESTION: Do you have one with Sudan?
MR. BOUCHER: No. The other thing that is recognized is that none of the expenses incurred in the referral on the prosecution would be borne by the UN members, but rather they'll be borne by parties to the Rome Statute. So in that way it protects, I think, our position on the Rome Statute, the International Criminal Court, but fundamentally what it achieves is something very, very important to all of us, and that's it achieves accountability for the crimes of Darfur.
QUESTION: But let me follow up. You note that the resolution states that states that are not party must give their consent; therefore, if Sudan does not give its consent, and I believe it has not yet, no Sudanese citizen could be tried and therefore there would be no accountability for Sudanese citizens at all. Why --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I --
QUESTION: No -- may I finish my question?
MR. BOUCHER: It's based on a false premise. I can stop you there.
QUESTION: Oh? How?
MR. BOUCHER: I just said absent consent or referral by the Security Council --
QUESTION: Excuse me --
MR. BOUCHER: In this case, we have referral by the Security Council.
QUESTION: Excuse me, but to go to the rest of the question -- and forgive me for that error -- why should not Sudan continue to argue what is essentially your position, that because they're not a state party their citizens shouldn't be subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Because, first of all, Sudan doesn't have a mechanism to show that there can and will be accountability for these crimes; and second of all, because the international community has looked at this situation and decided that this is the appropriate way to ensure prosecution of some horrible abuses and crimes, crimes that we have called genocide.
QUESTION: But, Richard, doesn't this set precedent for the future in that, you know, any country that is not a party to the ICC at some point may be referred by the Security Council to the ICC? And there are certainly plenty of countries in the world that don't have the internal mechanisms to deal with such an issue, like Zimbabwe, for example, or there are several others that I could name.
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, the resolution itself recognizes that absent consent from the state or referral from the Security Council that parties, persons from states that are not a party, won't be subject to this. But under those circumstances, they could be. So it's -- yes, it establishes a practice. As I think many of you know, one of our fundamental problems the United States has had, going back to the previous administration, I would add, with the Rome Statute has been the lack of Security Council oversight to begin with.
QUESTION: And just one more. Do you have a reason to believe that Americans could be accused of involvement in crimes in Darfur, which is why you wanted to have this protection clause?
MR. BOUCHER: No, absolutely not. We have -- I think if you go back to Security Council resolutions, if I remember correctly, Liberia might have been the first, but there have been several Security Council resolutions that one way or the other have dealt with this kind of protection, it's been fundamental to the United States to achieve that when we deploy people overseas. But that in no way implies that we think Americans are committing crimes. And if they did, of course, they would be subject to American prosecution.
QUESTION: Richard, by contrast, and it's been without a government for a good number of years, upwards of 15 years, Somalia has set up a new government. They're currently in Kenya and want to move over to Somalia and they're asking for security assistance. And meanwhile, there's a radical cleric who's vowed jihad both on the new government officials and anyone that intercedes on their behalf. Do you have any comments?
MR. BOUCHER: I would just point back to things we've said before. I think we've talked about how we have supported the process of a transitional government for Somalia. We have certainly worked with the process in Kenya that's been going on to try to reconcile people and give Somalia a government and we continue to support that effort.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, on Cyprus. Your Ambassador to Cyprus, Michael Klosson, who on March 29th at the Fulbright Center in Nicosia in the buffer zone stated, "The substantial increased presence of foreign military personnel on the island are not acceptable long-term solution. The United States has long opposed the militarization of the island. We remain committed to supporting the UN Secretary General vigorously in pursuit of a settlement that will resolve all security concerns of the island and see the removal of foreign troops."
Do you agree with this statement?
MR. BOUCHER: Absolutely.
QUESTION: And then how --
MR. BOUCHER: Our position has always been, it's been longstanding, the elements that you yourself just cited. Longstanding U.S. policy opposes militarization of the island, has supported the UN efforts, including the Annan plan, and Ambassador Klosson's comments are fully consistent with that.
I remind you, the Annan plan called for immediate reduction of Turkish troops, called for reduction of Turkish troops to 6,000 by January 2011, a further reduction to 3,000 by January 2018 or when Turkey joins the European Union, whichever comes sooner. After that, Greek and Turkish forces would have been allowed to remain at the Treaty of Alliance guarantee levels -- that 950 Greek, 650 Turkish troops. Simultaneously, beginning in 2010, Cyprus, Greece and Turkey would regularly review troop levels with the objective of withdrawing all Greek and Turkish troops from the island.
So what the Ambassador was expressing is longstanding U.S. policy and is very consistent with the provisions of the Annan plan, which we supported.
QUESTION: One more question on another issue. What is the U.S. position vis-à-vis to the Greek Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which is in the middle of the crisis, as you know, from the religious freedom point of view, very supported by the U.S. Government?
MR. BOUCHER: I realize the events are going on, but we don't have a position on the Greek Patriarchate in Jerusalem. That's our position. Our position is we don't have a position.
QUESTION: A bold stand.
MR. BOUCHER: A bold stand.
QUESTION: Can we go to (inaudible) issue? WHA? China's Minister of Foreign Affairs expressed saying the China this year will support Taiwan's bid of entrance to WHA. And is there any comment from the U.S. Government?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry, once again? What's WHA?
QUESTION: China's Minister of Foreign Affairs said China will assist Taiwan to enter the WHA this year. I think it is a recent remark.
QUESTION: You mean WHO?
MR. BOUCHER: You mean WH World Health Organization? I'm not quite sure what you're talking about.
QUESTION: Yeah, (inaudible) on the WHO. Yeah, it's (inaudible) WHA.
MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen any remarks from China on that score, so I don't have anything new. I think U.S. policy is well known.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:10 p.m.)