June 10, 2010 / 3:56 PM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 2-ICC nations at odds over pursuing crimes of aggression

* Proposal may give power to Security Council, ICC, states

* States that are not members of ICC cannot be investigated

(Adds details on new draft resolution; fixes typo in lede)

By Aaron Gray-Block

KAMPALA, June 10 (Reuters) - Dozens of countries deadlocked on Thursday in efforts to agree powers for the International Criminal Court to prosecute crimes of state aggression, arguing over criteria for triggering investigations.

At a landmark ICC review conference held in Uganda, delegates were seeking to agree a definition of state aggression and how ICC inquiries into the offence, one of four grave crimes the court has jurisdiction over, could be triggered.

In a late-night meeting on Thursday, in an effort to reach a compromise, delegates were given a new draft resolution outlining how the U.N. Security Council, the ICC or a state referral might set off a probe into an act of aggression.

Christian Wenaweser, president of the Assembly of States Parties that oversees the ICC, urged states to try and bridge the gaps as they are now under “considerable time pressure.”

The issue has deeply divided states over the role the Security Council should play, with smaller nations wary of yielding authority to a world body dominated by five big powers.

Several draft papers and resolutions have been circulated among delegates this week.

One delegate said the latest draft resolution might still draw objections from smaller states as it allows the Security Council to thwart an ICC investigation with a so-called “red light clause.” Other delegates said it was too early to comment.

OPT-OUT

The new resolution still included a type of “opt-out clause” for states to shield them from a probe if they have declared with the ICC registrar that they do not accept ICC jurisdiction.

Amnesty International has warned against an opt-out clause, but the latest variant obliges states to review its opt-out within three years.

The proposal also provides for delayed entry of the court’s mandate to prosecute aggression, an idea widely supported.

But the key issue remained whether the ICC would be able to start an investigation if the Security Council had not determined that an act of aggression took place.

Under the latest proposal, the court could not investigate an act of aggression committed by a non-member state.

Security Council powers the United States, Russia and China are not members of the ICC, and states such as India, Indonesia and Israel and many Islamic countries have not signed up to the court either.

The crime of aggression is broadly defined as the use of force that manifestly breaches the U.N. charter and includes an invasion, a bombardment, blockade or a country allowing another state to use its territory to attack a third nation.

Big powers who are permanent members of the Security Council are concerned about granting the ICC powers to prosecute state aggression, arguing such writ must be vested with the council and that it is premature to push forward without consensus.

NGOs argue that giving the council powers to determine whether an act of aggression has taken place could undermine the ICC’s independence, while investigations into acts of aggression could also be seen as politically biased. (Editing by Philippa Fletcher and Mark Heinrich)

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