this just makes me sick...
July 2, 2003
U.S. Suspends Aid to 35 Countries Over New International Court
By ELIZABETH BECKER
New York Times
ASHINGTON, July 1 The Bush administration suspended all American military assistance to 35 countries today because they refused to pledge to give American citizens immunity before the International Criminal Court.
The administration warned last year that under a provision of the new American antiterrorism law, any country that became a member of the new court but failed to give exemptions to Americans serving within its borders would lose such aid.
That includes training programs as well as financing of weapons and equipment purchases.
Many of the countries affected, like Colombia and Ecuador, are considered critical to the administration's efforts to bring stability to the Western Hemisphere. Others, like Croatia, are preparing to join NATO and were counting on American help to modernize their armed forces.
Officials said that in all, $47.6 million in aid and $613,000 in military education programs would be lost to the 35 countries.
The new court is the world's first permanent forum for putting on trial people charged with genocide and other crimes against humanity. The administration strongly opposes it on the ground that Americans could be subjected to politically motivated prosecutions.
"There should be no misunderstanding, that the issue of protecting U.S. persons from the International Criminal Court will be a significant and pressing matter in our relations with every state," Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, said today.
President Bush signed a waiver exempting 22 countries because they had signed but not yet ratified immunity agreements. That list includes Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
Full members of NATO, and other major allies including Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Japan and South Korea are not part of the military assistance prohibition.
Prince Zeid Raad al-Hussein of Jordan, the president of the assembly of nations that signed the treaty establishing the court, said 90 countries had become members despite Washington's opposition.
"The simple conclusion is that the American campaign has not had a negative effect on the establishment of this court," said the prince, who is his country's ambassador to the United Nations. "We have a court in place, a very fine panel of judges, a prosecutor, and we should be fully running by the end of the year."
The original provision passed by Congress in the antiterrorism law emphasized American service members, but the administration has interpreted it to include all citizens of the United States.
Lincoln P. Bloomfield Jr., the assistant secretary for political military affairs, said the administration had no intention of undermining the court.
Instead, he said, the administration wants to preserve its right to remain outside its purview, especially with a rise in the number of attempts to charge American officials with war crimes.
"Our opposition is not meant to be a lack of respect for the jurists involved in the I.C.C.," Mr. Bloomfield said. "It is concern that there could be politically motivated charges against American citizens. Several standing officials have been under war crimes indictment in Belgium this year for their roles in the 1991 gulf war."
He said those included Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.
Supporters of the court dismissed that argument, saying the Belgian court is a national body very different rules from those of the new international court, which has safeguards that would help protect American officials.
Richard Dicker, a director of Human Rights Watch in New York, which has lobbied for the court's creation, said the suspension of military aid today amounted to a defeat for the current campaign against the court.
"This policy is creating a dilemma where the administration has to chose between sound military cooperation with democratic nations and this campaign of ideology against the international criminal court," he said. "I've never seen a sanctions regime aimed at countries that believe in the rule of law rather than ones that commit human rights abuses."
Senior administration officials said the announcement should not be seen as a permanent freeze on all military aid to the 35 countries.
The aid can be resumed if they sign the exemption agreement, or the president can issue waivers at any time if he believes that by failing to help a foreign government face an emergency, the country's national security would be put at risk.
That was little comfort to the nations that lost military assistance today. Richard A. Boucher, the State Department spokesman, said the July 1 cutoff would have differing impacts on the countries.
"There may be places where, you know, most of the money has been spent," he said. "There may be places where most of the money has not be spent."
One example he cited was Colombia. Of the more than $100 million that the United States was to give to Colombia this fiscal year in military assistance, only $5 million will be suspended.
"As of today we're suspending the assistance and the provision of defense articles to countries that failed to receive waivers," said Maj. Michael Shavers, a Defense Department spokesman."I can't tell you which countries will be affected, because we don't have the list yet."
Among those in limbo could be foreign officers and students preparing to receive professional military training here, as well as governments that were relying on the United States to finance the purchase of American weapons and services.