U.S. Reconsiders its Bilateral Immunity Agreement Policy

U.S. Reconsiders its Bilateral Immunity Agreement Policy

The Spanish newswire service EFE is reporting that the Bush administration is reconsidering its policy of refusing to provide economic and military aid to countries that refuse to sign Bilateral Immunity Agreements with the U.S (BIA’s). Such agreements — commonly known as “Article 98 agreements,” in reference to the Rome Statute provision dealing with requests for surrender — prohibit countries from transferring U.S. nationals, current or former U.S. government officials, members of the military, and other personnel to the the ICC.

18 countries have lose some kind of aid for refusing to sign BIA’s, including eight in Central and South America: Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Costa Rica, and Mexico. At least 54 countries overall have refused to sign.

This latest development may to some extent be part of what Peggy has described as a “warming trend” between the U.S. and the ICC. The article notes, however, that more pragmatic political and economic concerns are involved, as well:

Nevertheless, in Latin America, [the US] is concerned about the increased influence of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, for his subsidized petroleum, and China, which has increased investments in that region because it is considered to be an important source of raw materials.

These threats were clear in the hearing yesterday in the House of Representatives where the Republican Dan Burton, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Latin America, asked the White House to change its policy.

“Many of us are worried about the Chinese influence in the region”, said Burton, who said that Beijing does not have any problems with training Latin-American militaries if the US doesn’t. In similar terms, Eliot Engle, leader of the Democrats in the Subcommittee, said, “These sanctions are undermining seriously our interests in the region”, and argued the policy is a “failed policy”.

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