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16. Ecuador and Mexico Defy US on International Criminal Court

Sources:
Agence France Press News (School of the Americas Watch), June 22, 2005
Title: “Ecuador Refuses to Sign ICC Immunity Deal for US Citizens”
Author: Alexander Martinez

Inter Press Service, November 2, 2005
Title: “Mexico Defies Washington on the International Criminal Court”
Author: Katherine Stapp

Faculty Evaluator: Elizabeth Martinez
Student Researchers: Jessica Rodas, David Abbott, and Charlene Jones

Ecuador and Mexico have refused to sign bilateral immunity agreements (BIA) with the U.S., in ratification of the International Criminal Court (ICC) treaty. Despite the Bush administration’s threat to withhold economic aid, both countries confirmed allegiance to the ICC, the international body established to try individuals accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

On June 22, 2005 Ecuador’s president, Alfredo Palacios, vocalized emphatic refusal to sign a BIA (also known as an Article 98 agreement to the Rome Statute of the ICC) in spite of Washington’s threat to withhold $70 million a year in military aid.

Mexico, having signed the Rome Statute, which established the ICC in 2000, formally ratified the treaty on October 28, 2005, making it the 100th nation to join the ICC. As a consequence of ratifying the ICC without a U.S. immunity agreement, Mexico stands to lose millions of dollars in U.S. aid—including $11.5 million to fight drug trafficking.

On September 29, 2005 the U.S. State Department reported that it had secured 100 “immunity agreements,” although less than a third have been ratified.

“Our ultimate goal is to conclude Article 98 agreements with every country in the world, regardless of whether they have signed or ratified the ICC, regardless of whether they intend to in the future,” said John Bolton, former U.S. Undersecretary for Arms Control and current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations—and one of the ICC’s staunchest opponents.

The U.S. effort to undermine the ICC was given teeth in 2002, when the U.S. Congress adopted the American Servicemembers’ Protection Act (ASPA), which contains provisions restricting U.S. cooperation with the ICC by making U.S. support of UN peacekeeping missions largely contingent on achieving impunity for all U.S. personnel.
The ASPA prohibits U.S. military assistance to ICC member states that have not signed a BIA.

Legislation far more wide-reaching, however, was signed into law by President Bush on December 2004. The Nethercutt Amendment authorizes the loss of Economic Support Funds (ESF) to countries, including many key U.S. allies, that have not signed a BIA. Threatened under the Nethercutt Amendment are: funds for international security and counterterrorism efforts, peace process programs, antidrug-trafficking initiatives, truth and reconciliation commissions, wheelchair distribution, human rights programs, economic and democratic development, and HIV/Aids education, among others. The Nethercutt Amendment was readopted by the U.S. Congress in November 2005.1

In spite of severe U.S. pressure, fifty-three members of the ICC have refused to sign BIAs.

Katherine Stapp asserts that if Washington follows through on threats to slash aid to ICC member states, it risks further alienating key U.S. allies and drawing attention to its own increasingly shaky human rights record. “There will be a price to be paid by the U.S. government in terms of its credibility,” Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch’s International Justice Program, told IPS.But criticism of the administration’s hard line has also come from unlikely quarters.

Testifying before Congress in March, Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, the commander of U.S. military forces in Latin America, complained that the sanctions had excluded Latin American officers from U.S. training programs and could allow China, which has been seeking military ties with Latin America, to fill the void.

“We now risk losing contact and interoperability with a generation of military classmates in many nations of the region, including several leading countries,” Craddock told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Experts say it is particularly notable that Mexico, which sells 88 percent of its exports in the U.S. market, is defying pressure from Washington.

“It’s exactly because of the geographic and trade proximity between Mexico and the United States that Mexico’s ratification takes on greater significance in terms of how isolated the U.S. government is in its attitude toward the ICC,” Dicker told IPS.

Notes
1. “Overview of the United States’ Opposition to the International Criminal Court,” http://www.iccnow.org.

UPDATE BY KATHERINE STAPP

As noted by Amnesty International, the United States is the only nation in the world that is actively opposed to the International Criminal Court (ICC). However, more and more countries appear to be resisting pressure to exempt U.S. nationals from the court’s jurisdiction. Since the time of my writing, the number of “bilateral immunity agreements,” or BIAs, garnered by Washington has remained the same: 100, of which only twenty-one have been ratified by parliaments, while another eighteen are considered “executive agreements” that purportedly do not require ratification. Only thirteen states parties to the ICC (out of 100) have ratified BIAs with the United States, while eight others have reportedly entered into executive agreements. In the past two years, only four countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have signed BIAs, also known as Article 98 agreements.

Some key figures in the Bush administration have recently expressed doubts about the wisdom of withholding aid from friendly countries that refuse to sign. At a March 10 briefing, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice likened the BIAs to “sort of the same as shooting ourselves in the foot . . . by having to put off aid to countries with which we have important counter-terrorism or counter-drug or in some cases, in some of our allies, it’s even been cooperation in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Bantz Craddock, head of the U.S. Southern Command, remains a vocal critic of the American Servicemembers’ Protection Act (ASPA) sanctions, noting in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on March 16 that eleven Latin American nations have now been barred under ASPA from receiving International Military Education and Training funds. These include Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Mexico.

“Decreasing engagement opens the door for competing nations and outside political actors who may not share our democratic principles to increase interaction and influence within the region,” he noted.

And in the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review Report published on February 6, the Defense Department said it will consider whether ASPA restrictions on “foreign assistance programs pertaining to security and the war on terror necessitate adjustment as we continue to advance the aims of the ASPA.”

Meanwhile, a May 11 poll by the University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes found that a bipartisan majority of the U.S. public (69 percent) believes that the U.S. should not be given special exceptions when it becomes a party to human rights treaties. 60 percent explicitly support U.S. participation in the ICC.

Mexico has stood firm in its refusal to sign a BIA, with the Mexican Parliament’s Lower Chamber stating that immunity is not allowed under the Rome Statute that establishes the ICC. As a result, $3.6 million in military aid has been frozen, and further International Military Exchange Training aid cut to zero in the administration’s proposed 2007 budget request. The country also stands to lose more than $11 million from the Economic Support Fund (ESF).

Other countries currently threatened with aid cuts include Bolivia, which could lose 96 percent of its U.S. military aid, and Kenya, which could lose $8 million in ESF aid.

More information can be found at:

Citizens for Global Solutions (http://www.globalsolutions.org/programs/law_justice/icc/icc_home.html); Coalition for the International Criminal Court (http://www.iccnow.org/?mod=bia); The American Non-Governmental Organisations Coalition for the International Criminal Court (http://www.amicc.org/); Washington Working Group on the International Criminal Court (http://www.usaforicc.org/wicc/)

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