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US, Cuba Thumb Down Compromise on Jurisdiction

The United States on Monday made clear that it rejects compromise efforts by Germany and South Korea to widen the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) beyond its signatories.

"The proposals of Germany and the Republic of Korea have the effect of applying a treaty to a state without the state's consent," US Ambassador David Scheffer argued. "This really cannot be justified on the basis of existing law, and we must oppose it in principle."

Scheffer noted that under any compromise that would give the ICC inherent or automatic jurisdiction over certain crimes, a country's officials - and even its head of state - could be arrested even if that country had not formally signed the ICC statute or otherwise consented to the Court's authority.

Dozens of nations have similarly been wary of granting the ICC jurisdiction without the specific consent of involved states, a fact Scheffer also noted. But efforts like those by Germany and South Korea have sought to bridge the gap between "like-minded" nations who want the ICC to have wide jurisdiction over genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and critics of that doctrine of inherent ICC jurisdiction.

Last week, Seoul floated a proposal that would, in effect, allow the Court to hear a case if any one of four possible types of nations - the state in which a crime is committed, the one in which the suspected culprit is living, the state of the suspect's nationality or the state of the victim's nationality - accedes to the Court's authority.

Moreover, under the South Korean proposal, the simple act of signing on to the ICC statute could signify the acceptance of the Court's jursidiction over subsequent cases. The compromise, the South Korean delegation noted, "will give the Court a wider window of opportunity to exercise its jurisdiction."

The US rebuff, however, is not the only one Seoul has faced. Ironically, Scheffer's dismissal of the compromise came at the same time as a similar rejection by Cuba, whose envoy, Caridad Cueta Millan, voiced Havana's support for making jurisdiction conditional on state consent.

"An optional regime of acceptance ... would encourage most states to ratify the statute," Cueta Millan said.

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