Move to fight genocide endorsed

Fifty-five countries have signed a declaration to fight genocide and ethnic cleansing, but left out any mention of the International Criminal Court because of US objections.

    Swedish Prime Minister Goeran Persson said he was disappointed by the US stance

    An overwhelming majority of delegates at the three-day conference in Stockholm on preventing genocide backed the ICC, but had no hopes of reversing staunch US opposition to the court, Swedish Prime Minister Goeran Persson said.
    After the conference, Persson told reporters he was disappointed by the US stance.

    However, he conceded that to believe an "international conference in Stockholm suddenly will reverse (US President) George Bush's foreign policy in the beginning of an electoral campaign, that's not very realistic."
    The 1998 Rome Statute establishing the ICC has been ratified by 90 countries, but the court faces opposition from the United States. Bush administration officials fear that Americans, particularly soldiers abroad, could fall victim to politically motivated prosecutions.

    The head of the US delegation to the conference, ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, Pierre-Richard Prosper, said he did not pressure other delegates to leave out the ICC from the declaration.

    "There was no pressure," Prosper told reporters. "The reason was that they wanted to reach a consensus and clearly we could not join consensus on welcoming the establishment of the ICC."

    Persson criticised the US position, citing the progress made by UN-sponsored war crimes tribunals set up to prosecute former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and leaders of the 1994 mass slaughter of civilians in Rwanda.

    Kofi Annan and many heads of
    state attended the conference 

    "There is reason to also create something that is permanent, that goes beyond these two special cases," he said. "I think it's surprising that this opinion hasn't won in the USA."

    Credibility of UN council

    Persson also said that the future credibility of the United Nations Security Council will depend on India being offered a permanent seat

    "Is it possible to have in the future a credible multilateral organisation carrying the whole globe, without, for instance, letting in the biggest country according to population, at least soon, India?," Persson asked.

    "Is that possible? Of course not."

    One of the topics debated at the conference, was how to reform the UN to better respond to crises where genocide or the possibility of genocide become apparent.

    With a population of more than one billion, India has long sought a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, contending that the current membership - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - no longer represents today's world order.
    "We have to reform the Security Council," Persson said, pointing out that a small country like Sweden depends on a working multilateral system for its voice to be heard.
    "It's a crucial time because we realize that multilateralism is under pressure," Persson said. "If the multilateralist system does not work, we are in a situation where we don't have (any say) in a future that is decided globally."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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