July 30, 2003

Namibia snubs US on ICC

Namibia has rejected a United States ultimatum to give American soldiers blanket immunity from prosecution in the International Criminal Court (ICC). The US has decided to suspend military aid to countries that refused to enter into an agreement with it which would effectively grant American servicemen immunity from prosecution in the ICC.

Defence Minister Erkki Nghimtina said yesterday, July 29, that Government would not go back on parliament’s decision to accede to the Rome Treaty setting up the ICC - the court that was formed to try people accused of crimes against humanity wherever they are committed. “Let’s go hungry if we must,” said Nghimtina. “We will not change our decision”. The United States government reportedly wrote to the head of the Namibian army, Lieutenant General Solomon Hawala, urging him to “advise” Government to enter into a bilateral agreement that will shield American soldiers.

The ICC came into operation this year after the number of countries required to get it off the ground ratified the Rome Treaty. However, George W Bush’s administration reneged on an undertaking by his predecessor, Bill Clinton, who signed up to the ICC. Bush argued that US soldiers would be made targets of political trials by the ICC, ostensibly because of the hate many people around the globe have developed for the Bush administration’s bullying tactics and double standards. The US wrote to a host of nations, including Namibia, warning them to enter into an agreement with their government or forfeit any further funding related to the military.

Namibia now stands to lose US funding for education and military training after turning down the request. “All the [suspects] must be prosecuted. We cannot do things on the side,” said Nghimtina, referring to the bilateral agreement that the US wants. Nghimtina confirmed the decision to dismiss the offer and that it might have already been communicated to the US through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. US Deputy Chief of Mission, Jonathan Moore, referred queries on the matter to the Namibian Government. Added Moore: “The US has continued to pursue a bilateral agreement with Namibia for over a year. Should the Namibian Government make a response then we will respond to that”. Nghimtina said: “We believe in the criminal court and will not enter into bilateral agreements”.

The ICC provides for governments to enter into bilateral agreements not to hand over citizens of one another’s countries if indicted. Head of the American Cultural Centre, George Kopf, said earlier this month that aid to the Namibia Defence Force, which amounted to US$200 000 (about N$2 million at the time), would not be suspended this year as the funds had already been transferred.

The US decision is expected to affect Namibia when the US draws up its new funding allocations later this year. Namibia is among several countries which have turned their backs on US aid and thrown their full support behind the court. The largest recipient of military aid was South Africa, which could lose N$10,5 million this year.

The US programme, international military education and training programme (Imet), aids African military officers from 44 countries at facilities in the US. This year Imet was expected to have trained more than 1 600 African officers. Senegal, which is the second largest recipient in Africa, has signed an agreement with the US, as has Botswana. (The Namibian, Windhoek)


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