U.S. State Department Criticizes European Union Over International Criminal Court

By BARRY SCHWEID .c The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) – Under Secretary of State John R. Bolton on Monday accused the European Union of using pressure to make it difficult for countries to exempt American personnel from prosecution by the International Criminal Court.

Bolton said the European group is imposing an unfair choice upon U.S. friends and allies that want to join the 15-nation political and economic Union but are urged to reconsider cooperating with the United States. [BAFL: the Baltic countries were among those pressured by the EU.]

In a speech to the American Enterprise Institute, a private research group, Bolton said the Court “is an organization that runs contrary to fundamental American precepts and basic Constitutional principles.”

He said the United States, in soliciting agreements from countries not to surrender U.S. citizens to the court’s jurisdiction, was trying to protect American soldiers, contractors, students, journalists and others from “the illegitimate assertion of authority over them.”

So far, Bolton said, the United States has concluded exemption agreements with 70 countries and ultimately hopes to have agreements with every country in the world.

The Article 98 agreements exempt the countries that sign from a threatened cutoff in U.S. military or humanitarian assistance.

The White House announced last Saturday that Botswana, East Timor, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, Uganda and Antigua and Barbuda were the latest countries to sign agreements with the United States.

Bolton said the agreements “serve to ensure that U.S. persons will have appropriate protection from politically motivated criminal accusations, investigations and prosecutions.”

He said U.S. military and civilian personnel and private citizens are currently active in peacemaking and humanitarian missions in almost 100 countries at any given time.”

“It is essential that we remain steadfast in preserving the independence and flexibility that America needs to defend our national interests around the world,” he said.

In each agreement, he said, “the United States makes clear its intention to bring to justice those who commit genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.”

As an example of how U.S. officials can be subjected to politically motivated charges, Bolton cited allegations of war crimes brought under Belgian law against President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld.

The accusations were dropped.

The 1998 Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court has been ratified by 90 countries, including all 15 members of the European Union. Non-governmental organizations have complained that Washington has pushed countries into signing the agreements by saying it will withhold humanitarian aid or military support or even by blocking NATO membership.