Delegates at a meeting of countries signed up to the International Criminal Court neared a deal on Monday on allowing the tribunal to prosecute crimes involving countries that invade or attack another.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon called for an immediate investigation into the Israeli raid on international aid flotilla to Gaza and wanted it to be completed as soon as possible.
The foreign ministers of France and Britain said an "international" inquiry was necessary to resolve the dispute over Israel's deadly raid on Gaza aid ships.
Israeli soldiers attacked a fleet of boats carrying 700 international activist and 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid heading to Gaza, killing 9 Turkish activists.
The compromise at the Kampala review conference of the ICC on crimes of aggression, as they are called, centres on the U.N. Security Council's role in determining whether an act of aggression took place.
A draft paper circulated by Argentina, Brazil and Switzerland gives primary, but not an exclusive, role to the Security Council in determining whether an act of aggression took place, and was largely welcomed by delegates as a viable compromise.
"I think we're cautiously optimistic we're going to have a result," said Jordan's Prince Zeid, who chaired a working group on the crime of aggression.
The draft gives a role to the ICC prosecutor and pre-trial judges in determining whether an investigation should be launched, eliminating earlier options of giving power to the International Court of Justice or the U.N. General Assembly.
But it makes this conditional on seven-eighths of ICC member states ratifying or accepting the agreement, which some delegates said could take five years or more. The ICC currently has 111 members.
Until then, it will be for the U.N. Security Council, whose decisions are bound to be political rather than strictly judicial, to decide whether the ICC should open an investigation -- a so-called "external filter".
Security council control
A number of NGOs argue that this will undermine the independence of the ICC, which was only established in 2002.
"These efforts ... would give the Security Council effective control over the crime of aggression for the indefinite and long-term future," said Richard Dicker at Human Rights Watch.
Three permanent Council members -- China, Russia and the United States -- are not members of the ICC.
But Marcel Biato, head of Brazil's delegation, said that building in a time delay would allow the ICC to consolidate itself further, amid concerns that powers to prosecute state aggression will politicise it.
The crime of aggression is broadly defined as a use of force that manifestly breaches the U.N. charter and includes an invasion, a bombardment, a port blockade or a country allowing a state to use its territory to attack a third nation.
The United States withdrew its support for the ICC in 2002 under then-president George W. Bush, afraid of some prosecutions against its troops which involves war crimes in ocuupied land, -Iraq and Afghanistan- during unpopular wars, but has recently started to re-engage with the court.
It remains concerned that actions such as NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia in the 1990s to stop a crackdown on the Kosovo Albanian minority could be defined as acts of aggression.
It called for efforts to prevent crimes against humanity to be exempted from the definition.
ReutersLast Mod: 08 Haziran 2010, 08:50