Sat, Jul 17, 2004 - Page 7 News List

US House snubs world court with conditional aid bill

AP , WASHINGTON

US economic aid could only flow to countries that have agreed not to surrender Americans to a world court for prosecution for war crimes, under a measure passed by the House of Representatives.

The 241 to 166 vote on Thursday by the Republican-controlled chamber expanded the current prohibition on military aid to such countries.

The target of the amendment was the International Criminal Court, which began operating last year in The Hague, Netherlands. It is a permanent court that is supposed to enter cases involving genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity when the countries involved cannot work out a solution on their own.

"If these countries want to receive money from the United States, it's simple" -- sign an agreement not to turn over American forces, said Republican Representative George Nethercutt, the provision's sponsor.

`Kangaroo court'

Nethercutt also received backing from House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a longtime critic of the court. DeLay called the tribunal "Kofi Annan's kangaroo court," a reference to the UN secretary-general.

DeLay said the court is "a clear and present danger to the war on terrorism and Americans fighting it all over the world."

Representative Nita Lowey said that the proposal would have "a sweeping and devastating impact."

She and other opponents warned that if enacted, the prohibition would eliminate or curtail aid to many nations.

These would include Jordan, Turkey, South Africa, Kenya, Mexico and Peru, she said.

"I don't see how that helps us in the war against terrorism," Representative Jim Kolbe said.

Agreements

About 90 countries have signed agreements with the US, pledging they would not surrender Americans forces to the international court.

The Bush administration has been a steady foe of the court, arguing that the US' enemies could use it to prosecute captured US soldiers.

Ninety-four countries have ratified the treaty that created the court, including Canada and all members of the EU.

The court has jurisdiction over war crimes committed in any nation that has joined the court.

The US, Russia, China, Israel, Iraq and many Arab countries have not joined. Under international law, the UN Security Council or non-member nations may ask the court to intervene in a case.

The provision was added to a US$19.4 billion foreign-aid bill.

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