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Jordan: Parliament Should Reject US Impunity Deal

Jordan: Parliament Should Reject U.S. Impunity Deal

No Exemptions from International Justice for the Gravest Crimes

Jordan’s parliament should reject an agreement that would shield U.S. citizens and personnel under Jordan jurisdiction from ICC prosecution for war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said today.

This bilateral agreement with the United States would require Jordan to refuse to surrender to the International Criminal Court (ICC) persons accused of such crimes when they are U.S. nationals and non-nationals working for the U.S. government. Instead, Jordan would be required to surrender them to the custody of the U.S. government, in violation of Jordan’s obligations to the ICC.

Deputies in the lower house of Jordan’s Parliament should maintain their refusal to pass this bilateral agreement, and senators in the upper house should reverse their previous approval of the agreement, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said.

“Jordan’s parliament should firmly reject this strong-arm attempt by the United States to exempt its own citizens from international law,” said Richard Dicker, International Justice Director at Human Rights Watch. “No one should enjoy impunity for genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes regardless of their nationality”, said Amnesty International.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International join with local groups such as the Adaleh Center for Human Rights Studies in urging Jordan’s lower and upper houses of parliament to reject this agreement.

The U.S. government has pressured Jordan to enter a bilateral agreement since August 2003, when the Congress passed the American Service Members’ Protection Act and the administration began its worldwide campaign to place U.S. nationals and personnel beyond the reach of international justice. After having resisted intense U.S. diplomatic pressure for more than 18 months, King Abdullah of Jordan signed the agreement during a visit to Washington last December.

For the agreement to enter into force, it must be ratified by Jordan’s parliament. On July 14, the lower house rejected it by an overwhelming majority, concluding that it is contrary to Jordan’s obligations under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Rome Statute). Regrettably, the upper house decided to approve it shortly afterwards. Because of these diverging votes, the matter has returned to the lower house, which must decide whether or not to ratify the agreement.

The agreement between Jordan and the United States violates Jordan’s legal obligations under the Rome Statute and under other international law. Under the Rome Statute, Jordan has to comply with requests to arrest and surrender persons to the ICC (Article 89 (1)). By agreeing to surrender individuals requested by the ICC to another state, especially a country that has repudiated the Rome Statute, Jordan would violate its international obligations under that treaty.

Under other international law, Jordan also has the duty to ensure that those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions are brought to justice. If the bilateral agreement were ratified, however, Jordan has no guarantees that the U.S. will investigate these crimes, or, if there is sufficient admissible evidence, to prosecute them or require those responsible to provide reparations to victims and their families.

Indeed, many of the crimes, such as crimes against humanity other than torture, listed in the Rome Statute are not defined or defined correctly as crimes under U.S. law or would not fall under the jurisdiction of U.S. courts. Therefore, surrendering persons sought by the ICC to the United States instead of to the Court might effectively provide them impunity from prosecution. Moreover, this agreement would prohibit Jordanian courts from prosecuting U.S. nationals or non-nationals working for the U.S. government accused of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide on Jordanian territory.

Finally, agreements such as this one create a two-tier system of justice, placing a certain category of persons above international law by sole virtue of their affiliation with a powerful country, in this case the United States. No one, regardless of their nationality, should enjoy impunity for the worst crimes known to humanity.

Jordan should reject attempts by the U.S. government to force it to ratify the agreement by making their military and economic aid contingent on ratification. U.S. law requires the suspension of military and economic aid to states parties to the ICC treaty if they refuse to enter into agreements, unless the President waives this requirement. On July 21, after the United States awarded US $333.6 million in aid to Jordan for the coming year, U.S. President George W. Bush used his executive powers to grant Jordan a six-month waiver from the law for the purpose of giving Jordan time to ratify the agreement.

“By rejecting this agreement, Jordan would give support to other countries that are likewise resisting U.S. pressure to violate their obligations under the Rome Statute,” said Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.


Background:

Currently, 99 countries have ratified the Rome Statute. Jordan was the first country in the Middle East to ratify it on April 11, 2002, and has been a strong supporter of the ICC since its creation. Queen Rania of Jordan, who strongly supported her country’s ratification of the ICC treaty, was elected to the Board of the Court’s Victim’s Trust Fund in 2003. Prince Zaid bin Ra’d of Jordan currently serves as the President of the Assembly of States Parties, an important oversight body of the court.

Over the past two years, the U.S. administration has pressured states worldwide, including its closest allies, to enter into bilateral agreements, to compel them not to surrender U.S. nationals and persons working for the U.S. government to the ICC. Indeed, the United States has threatened to suspend both military and economic assistance for states parties to the ICC that refuse to enter into such agreements.

However, despite strong U.S. pressure, at least 50 countries in the world have stood firm and refused to violate their obligations under the Rome Statute or under other international law. The 25 member states of the European Union, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, Japan, Mali, Mexico, New Zealand, Niger, Paraguay, Peru, Samoa, South Africa, St. Lucia, Switzerland, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela, for example, have all refused to enter into agreements. The lower house of Bolivia’s Congress has refused to ratify the agreement signed by the government, and Nigeria’s Senate has passed a resolution questioning the legality of the Nigerian president’s executive agreement.

Although the U.S. government claims that more than 100 states have signed agreements, very few of these agreements have been ratified. Indeed, parliaments in only 20 states have approved ratification of such agreements.

The U.S. government has claimed that such agreements are permitted under Article 98 of the Rome Statute. However, that article was designed for the limited purpose of permitting states parties to the Rome Statute to honour existing Status of Forces Agreements, which allocate jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute crimes committed by members of armed forces of one country who are stationed in another. It was not designed to permit states, whether or not they are party to the ICC, to exempt military or non-military personnel from any investigation or prosecution for crimes under international law.

For more information, see, for example, Amnesty International’s two legal memoranda, The International Criminal Court: U.S. efforts to obtain impunity for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, AI Index: IOR 40/025/2002, 2 September 2002, and The International Criminal Court: The need for the European Union to take more effective steps to prevent members from signing impunity agreements, AI Index: IOR 40/030/2002, 1 October 2002. European Union Council Conclusions on the International Criminal Court (30/09/02) (available at: http://ue.eu.int/uedocs/cmsUpload/ICC34EN.pdf), and Human Rights Watch’s briefing paper: United States Efforts to Undermine the International Criminal Court- Legal Analysis of Impunity Agreements (available at: http://hrw.org/campaigns/icc/docs/art98analysis.htm).

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