l THERE was a small flicker of hope at the United Nations at the end of last week when a resolution was passed against the wishes of the United States but without its customary veto.

The issue was of crimes committed against humanity in Darfur, Sudan, and where those alleged to be guilty of them should be tried. Since the UN International Criminal Court (ICC) was set up a couple of years ago precisely to deal with this kind of crime it was naturally the court of choice for most members of Security Council and of the UN membership as a whole. However, the United States has been implacably opposed to the existence of the ICC from the moment it was first talked about and has refused to be associated with it now that it is in existence. Instead, it proposed instead that a special court to deal with the Darfur allegations should be created.

France tabled a resolution proposing reference to the ICC; Britain backed it and worked very hard indeed to persuade the United States that it was not in its best interests to block it. The result was one of those compromises that sometimes and unfairly get diplomacy, and legal diplomacy especially, a bad name. By abstaining from voting, with China and Russia, the US allowed the resolution to be passed and the ICC to be authorised to start work on identifying and charging those alleged to be guilty of atrocities in Darfur. The first vote by which the Security Council referred an international crime to the ICC was therefore passed by 11-0. Human rights groups which have campaigned hard and long for the establishment of the ICC were jubilant at the outcome and generous in their praise of the United States for the compromise it made possible. Will other such compromises on holding back the veto follow? l By Monitor


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