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Court boycott hits US aid budget

Posted to Poetry and Politics

US soldiers are safe in countries that have not ratified the ICC statute

The US House of Representatives has voted to stop aid to countries that do not grant American soldiers immunity from prosecution for war crimes. The bill is aimed at the International Criminal Court, described by House leader Tom DeLay as a "kangaroo court".

It adds tough financial penalties to a ban on military aid imposed last year.

The ICC, which began operating in The Hague last year, can try individuals for war crimes committed after 1 July 2002 anywhere in the world.

The US has signed immunity deals with 90 countries, but last month dropped a request for the UN to extend a two-year exemption for US personnel, because of lack of support.

The legislation is part of a $19.4bn foreign aid bill for 2005 that must be adopted by the Senate and signed by President George W Bush before it becomes law.

It is $1.9bn more than this year - but also $1.9bn short of Mr Bush's request.

The bill also:
  • cancels $25,000 in aid to US ally Saudi Arabia - triggering the loss of millions of dollars in discounts of military purchases and training
  • offers $1.25bn to countries moving towards democratic reforms
  • pledges $2.2bn to help fight Aids in Africa and other poor regions
  • gives Sudan $311m to help the victims and refugees from the fighting in the western region of Darfur
  • gives Pakistan, an ally in the US "war on terror," $300m and Poland - an ally of the US in Iraq - $66m

'Mr Annan's court'

The Republican-controlled House voted 241-166 to impose the new curbs.

Mr DeLay, a Republican, described the ICC as "[UN Secretary General] Kofi Annan's kangaroo court" - a "shady idea... of laughable legitimacy".

"The ICC presents a clear and present danger to the war on terror and to Americans that are fighting it all over the world," Mr DeLay said.

But opponents of the bill said it would punish US allies, including Jordan, Turkey, South Africa, Kenya, Mexico and Peru.

But the US does not recognise it , saying its forces could be subjected to politically-motivated prosecution.