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Colombia: President Must Affirm ICC at the U.N.

(New York) - Colombian President Álvaro Uribe should reiterate his government's commitment to the International Criminal Court (ICC) when he addresses the U.N. General Assembly. President Uribe's speech, scheduled for Tuesday, will provide a key opportunity to highlight the ICC's potential for ending impunity, promoting accountability and reaffirming the rule of law.  
Human Rights Watch recognizes that Colombia has supported the ICC since its inception. Yet it noted with disappointment that Colombia recently signed an agreement with the United States that effectively grants U.S. citizens in Colombia immunity before the court.  
"Because the war in Colombia has brought atrocities into Colombians' daily lives, President Uribe is in an extraordinary position to speak to the ICC's potential to end the impunity that is so often associated with these crimes," said José Miguel Vivanco, executive director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch. "It is appalling that the United States would bully Colombia into signing an unprincipled immunity agreement, and deeply disappointing that President Uribe would yield to this demand."  
In an effort to pressure states into signing immunity agreements, the United States recently withheld military assistance from 35 countries, including Colombia, that had refused to sign such agreements. Despite this pressure, President Uribe's administration has attempted to justify the signing as consistent with Colombia's obligations to the ICC.  
Human Rights Watch believes that the immunity agreement is legally unsound, as no reasonable interpretation of the ICC treaty's provisions allows a state such as the United States to use bilateral agreements to ensure its citizens permanent immunity from the court's jurisdiction. The immunity agreement thus falls far outside the scope of the treaty's Article 98, which envisions bilateral agreements relating specifically to Status of Forces Agreements.  
The ICC is the first permanent international court in which those accused of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity may be brought to justice when national courts are unable or unwilling to do so. Colombia ratified the ICC treaty in August 2002.

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