UNITED NATIONS, March 31 -- The U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution Thursday night authorizing the International Criminal Court to prosecute Sudanese war criminals for large-scale atrocities committed in Darfur, Sudan, since July 2002, dealing a setback for U.S. efforts to limit the reach of the tribunal.
The resolution passed by a vote of 11 to 0, with four abstentions -- by the United States, Algeria, Brazil and China -- and marked the first time the 15-nation council has endorsed a role for the Hague-based tribunal.
_____Crisis in Sudan_____
Q&A: Darfur A brief explanation of the issues and current humanitarian situation in Western Sudan.
Photos: Continuing Crisis
Photos: Sudan's Rebels
New U.N. Darfur Sanctions Passed (The Washington Post, Mar 30, 2005)
Sudan Leader: World Must Pressure Darfur Rebels (The Washington Post, Mar 22, 2005)
In Rebuilding Sudan, Birth Often Brings Suffering and Death (The Washington Post, Mar 4, 2005)
A Former Rebel's Search for Sudanese Identity (The Washington Post, Feb 11, 2005)
Sudan Offers War Crimes Trials (The Washington Post, Feb 9, 2005)
The agreement ended months of arduous negotiations between the United States and the Europeans over the course of justice in Darfur, where at least 180,000 black African civilians have been killed and more than 1.8 million forced from their homes by Sudanese-backed Arab militias.
Thursday's action represented a significant diplomatic victory for the council's European powers, France and Britain, which have advocated a central role for the tribunal in prosecuting the world's worst human-rights abusers. It followed a failed effort by the Bush administration to build international support for a Tanzanian-based African Union court to try those responsible for the most heinous crimes in Sudan.
The administration relented and agreed to abstain after the resolution's chief supporters, France and Britain, offered to include a provision that would shield nationals from the United States and other countries that have not ratified the 1998 treaty establishing the world court from prosecution by any foreign court.
"Justice must be served in Darfur; by adopting this resolution the international community has established the accountability mechanism for the perpetrators of crimes and atrocities in Darfur," Anne W. Patterson, acting U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said after the vote. She said the United States "decided not to oppose the resolution . . . because the resolution provides protection from investigation or prosecution for U.S. nationals."
Sudan's U.N. ambassador, Elfatih Erwa, declined to say whether his government would cooperate with the court but warned that its work in Sudan would complicate the country's effort to implement a landmark peace agreement between Khartoum and the country's southern rebels. He also accused the Security Council of engaging in a "double standard" by punishing poor countries while providing immunity to the world's superpower.
The International Criminal Court came into being in July 2003 with a mandate to prosecute individuals responsible for the most serious crimes. But it has been opposed by the Bush administration, which has cited concern that it could be used for politically motivated trials against U.S. citizens.