June 12, 2010 / 1:00 AM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 2-ICC states reach compromise on crime of aggression

* Security Council, ICC, member states can trigger probe

* Deal delays entry into force until after Jan. 1, 2017

* Japan warns has “serious doubts” about agreement

(Adds comments, details, background)

By Aaron Gray-Block

KAMPALA, June 12 (Reuters) - Member nations of the International Criminal Court hammered out a compromise deal on Saturday that smoothed over divisions on how investigations into suspected crimes of state aggression could be triggered.

The adopted resolution said the United Nations Security Council would have the primary call for an investigation, but that the International Criminal Court (ICC) itself and individual member states would also be able to initiate probes.

The deal will shield non-members, such as the United States, China and Russia, from being investigated and also includes a type of “opt-out clause” criticised by Amnesty International.

The agreement also includes a review clause, delaying its entry into force until ICC member states grant formal approval after January 2017.

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.

Japan’s head of delegation, Ichiro Komatsu, criticised the resolution, saying there were doubts about its legality and that it undermined the credibility of the Rome Statute under which the ICC was set up.

Komatsu said he was “deeply concerned” about the policy direction of the resolution.

“A government of a state party surrounded by non-state parties will have difficulty selling to its parliament an amendment which unjustifiably solidifies blanket and automatic impunity of nationals of non-state parties,” he said.

But Christian Wenaweser, president of the Assembly of States Parties that overseas the ICC, said he did not share the same concerns as Japan and was confident of the continued support of Tokyo, the court’s largest financial backer.

“This is what I came in here to achieve and that is what we’ve been able to achieve,” he said of the agreement.

INTENSE NEGOTIATIONS

Several other delegates said the deal had come about only because certain countries were prepared to give way on some sticking points after days of intense negotiations.

The issue has deeply divided states over the role the Security Council should play. NGOs had also said that granting the Security Council sole power to authorise an investigation would have hit the court’s independence.

“This is a compromise and people need to make concessions. This is a deal and we should be happy with it,” said one delegate, who declined to be identified.

Latin American and African nations have been wary of yielding authority to a world body dominated by the five permanent Security Council members — Britain, the United States, China, Russia and France.

“What we saw was tremendous resistance by the permanent members of the Security Council to keep their exclusive power and on the other side the staunch insistence of states to preserve the principle of independence of the court from interference,” said Richard Dicker at Human Rights Watch. (Editing by Matthew Jones)

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