Security Council postpones action on UN's Bosnia mission

Security Council postpones action on UN's Bosnia mission

With the end of the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH) fast approaching, the Security Council today postponed action on the issue, which has hit an impasse over a United States proposal to exempt peacekeepers from prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Following closed-door meetings on UNMIBH both this morning and afternoon, the UN announced that the Security Council would resume its consideration of the issue on Sunday.

According to a UN spokesman, Council members were discussing differing draft resolutions to deal with an extension of UNMIBH before it expires on 30 June. Both the United States and France have presented language intended to resolve a dispute over whether international peacekeepers can be placed under the jurisdiction of the ICC, which will be established at The Hague on Monday now that over 60 countries have ratified its Statute.

Spokesman Fred Eckhard recalled that a representative of the United States told reporters that if Washington is not satisfied with language conferring immunity to peacekeepers from the ICC, it may veto any further extension of UNMIBH.

Set up in 1995, the Mission is working to strengthen law enforcement in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In his latest report on the issue, Secretary-General Kofi Annan recommended that the Council extend UNMIBH's mandate through the end of this year to allow time for "a seamless transition of responsibilities" from the International Police Task Force to the European Union Police Mission, which will take over in 2003.

Asked what would happen if the US exercised its veto, Mr. Eckhard replied, "those plans for a smooth hand-over go right out the window if we have to suddenly terminate this mission on Sunday, so from the point of view of the peacekeeping department and the Secretary-General himself the hope is that Council members will be able to find some compromise in this current stand-off and not cause the premature end of our mission in Bosnia."