- The governments of Mauritius and the United States have signed an agreement of not surrendering their citizens suspected of war crimes or crimes against humanity for prosecution in the International Criminal Court.
According to a press release by the US State Department today, the two governments had signed what is called an "Article 98" bilateral non-surrender agreement, in reference to Article 98 of the Rome Statute.
The Article 98 Agreements are also known as "impunity agreements" because the US is demanding that any person accused of war crimes or crimes against humanity be returned to the USA, without any commitment that they will be prosecuted by US courts and without any recourse if US courts fail to fulfil their responsibilities.
The human rights group Amnesty International strongly has protested the signing of these "illegal impunity agreements" because they violate governments' "duties to cooperate with the International Criminal Court" and the obligations of all states "to ensure that the people responsible for these crimes, as the most serious crimes under international law, are brought to justice."
According to today's US State Department release, however, the governments of the USA and Mauritius had "expressed their intention to, where appropriate, investigate and prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide alleged to have been committed by their respective officials, employees, military personnel, and nationals."
Human rights groups however do not agree. "In fact, in many cases US courts will not be able to do so as US law does not include many of the crimes under international law as defined in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court," according to Amnesty.
The US initiative is part of "a worldwide campaign to undermine the International Criminal Court and ensure impunity for US nationals," Amnesty says. By now, 44 states are known to have signed these "impunity agreements" and parliaments in four states have approved ratification of the agreements.
Other African countries which have signed similar agreements with the US include Congo Kinshasa (DRC), Egypt, Djibouti, Madagascar, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Mauritania, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Tunisia and Uganda. Togo is also said to recently have signed an "impunity agreement" with the US, but this has not yet been confirmed.
Mauritius has not yet signed the statutes of the international court, but plans to do so. The deal with the US government, published today, was not to hinder these plans.
According to the agreement, the US government "respects the right of Mauritius to become a party to the International Criminal Court," while the Mauritian government "respects the right of the United States not to join the International Criminal Court or to place US persons under the jurisdiction of the court."
Both governments however said they intended to "continue to work to promote justice and accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide."
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