U.S. Puts Off War Crimes Court Decision

The United States delayed consideration of a resolution calling for a new exemption for U.S. troops from international prosecution for war crimes (search).

"All I know is that it's been deferred and will be taken up in due course," U.S. deputy ambassador Stuart Holliday (search) said Tuesday, noting the current exemption doesn't expire until June 30.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Washington wants to concentrate now on getting the Iraq resolution adopted and denied that it was short of votes to pass the exemption for U.S. peacekeepers.

The Bush administration argues the International Criminal Court (search) — established on July 1, 2002 and started operating last year — could be used for politically motivated prosecution of U.S. troops.

Human rights groups say that a U.S. exemption is unjustified in the face of the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal.

When the court was established, the United States threatened to end far-flung U.N. peacekeeping operations if it didn't get the exemption.

After contentious negotiations, the council approved a one-year extension. Last year, the resolution to exempt U.S. peacekeepers was renewed for another year.

Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice program at Human Rights Watch (search), said the United States was forced to put off a vote because Security Council members were acting in support of the court.

"This ill-conceived resolution is running into a firestorm of opposition," Dicker said. "They don't have the votes and they're as much as saying so."