Jordan: Parliament Should Reject U.S. Impunity Deal
- For Immediate Release
Jordan: Parliament Should Reject U.S. Impunity Deal
No Exemptions from International Justice for the Gravest Crimes
(London, December 7, 2005) Jordan's parliament should reject an
agreement that would shield U.S. citizens and personnel under Jordan
jurisdiction from ICC prosecution for war crimes, crimes against
humanity or genocide, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International
This bilateral agreement with the United States would require Jordan
to refuse to surrender to the International Criminal Court (ICC)
persons accused of such crimes when they are U.S. nationals and non-
nationals working for the U.S. government. Instead, Jordan would be
required to surrender them to the custody of the U.S. government, in
violation of Jordan's obligations to the ICC.
Deputies in the lower house of Jordan's Parliament should maintain
their refusal to pass this bilateral agreement, and senators in the
upper house should reverse their previous approval of the agreement,
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said.
"Jordan's parliament should firmly reject this strong-arm attempt by
the United States to exempt its own citizens from international law,"
said Richard Dicker, International Justice Director at Human Rights
Watch. "No one should enjoy impunity for genocide, crimes against
humanity or war crimes regardless of their nationality", said Amnesty
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International join with local groups
such as the Adaleh Center for Human Rights Studies in urging Jordan's
lower and upper houses of parliament to reject this agreement.
The U.S. government has pressured Jordan to enter a bilateral
agreement since August 2003, when the Congress passed the American
Service Members' Protection Act and the administration began its
worldwide campaign to place U.S. nationals and personnel beyond the
reach of international justice. After having resisted intense U.S.
diplomatic pressure for more than 18 months, King Abdullah of Jordan
signed the agreement during a visit to Washington last December.
For the agreement to enter into force, it must be ratified by
Jordan's parliament. On July 14, the lower house rejected it by an
overwhelming majority, concluding that it is contrary to Jordan's
obligations under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal
Court (Rome Statute). Regrettably, the upper house decided to approve
it shortly afterwards. Because of these diverging votes, the matter
has returned to the lower house, which must decide whether or not to
ratify the agreement.
The agreement between Jordan and the United States violates Jordan's
legal obligations under the Rome Statute and under other
international law. Under the Rome Statute, Jordan has to comply with
requests to arrest and surrender persons to the ICC (Article 89 (1)).
By agreeing to surrender individuals requested by the ICC to another
state, especially a country that has repudiated the Rome Statute,
Jordan would violate its international obligations under that treaty.
Under other international law, Jordan also has the duty to ensure
that those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and
grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions are brought to justice. If
the bilateral agreement were ratified, however, Jordan has no
guarantees that the U.S. will investigate these crimes, or, if there
is sufficient admissible evidence, to prosecute them or require those
responsible to provide reparations to victims and their families.
Indeed, many of the crimes, such as crimes against humanity other
than torture, listed in the Rome Statute are not defined or defined
correctly as crimes under U.S. law or would not fall under the
jurisdiction of U.S. courts. Therefore, surrendering persons sought
by the ICC to the United States instead of to the Court might
effectively provide them impunity from prosecution. Moreover, this
agreement would prohibit Jordanian courts from prosecuting U.S.
nationals or non-nationals working for the U.S. government accused of
committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide on
Finally, agreements such as this one create a two-tier system of
justice, placing a certain category of persons above international
law by sole virtue of their affiliation with a powerful country, in
this case the United States. No one, regardless of their nationality,
should enjoy impunity for the worst crimes known to humanity.
Jordan should reject attempts by the U.S. government to force it to
ratify the agreement by making their military and economic aid
contingent on ratification. U.S. law requires the suspension of
military and economic aid to states parties to the ICC treaty if they
refuse to enter into agreements, unless the President waives this
requirement. On July 21, after the United States awarded US $333.6
million in aid to Jordan for the coming year, U.S. President George
W. Bush used his executive powers to grant Jordan a six-month waiver
from the law for the purpose of giving Jordan time to ratify the
"By rejecting this agreement, Jordan would give support to other
countries that are likewise resisting U.S. pressure to violate their
obligations under the Rome Statute," said Amnesty International and
Human Rights Watch.
Currently, 99 countries have ratified the Rome Statute. Jordan was
the first country in the Middle East to ratify it on April 11, 2002,
and has been a strong supporter of the ICC since its creation. Queen
Rania of Jordan, who strongly supported her country's ratification of
the ICC treaty, was elected to the Board of the Court's Victim's
Trust Fund in 2003. Prince Zaid bin Ra'd of Jordan currently serves
as the President of the Assembly of States Parties, an important
oversight body of the court.
Over the past two years, the U.S. administration has pressured states
worldwide, including its closest allies, to enter into bilateral
agreements, to compel them not to surrender U.S. nationals and
persons working for the U.S. government to the ICC. Indeed, the
United States has threatened to suspend both military and economic
assistance for states parties to the ICC that refuse to enter into
However, despite strong U.S. pressure, at least 50 countries in the
world have stood firm and refused to violate their obligations under
the Rome Statute or under other international law. The 25 member
states of the European Union, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Ecuador,
Japan, Mali, Mexico, New Zealand, Niger, Paraguay, Peru, Samoa, South
Africa, St. Lucia, Switzerland, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago and
Venezuela, for example, have all refused to enter into agreements.
The lower house of Bolivia's Congress has refused to ratify the
agreement signed by the government, and Nigeria's Senate has passed a
resolution questioning the legality of the Nigerian president's
Although the U.S. government claims that more than 100 states have
signed agreements, very few of these agreements have been ratified.
Indeed, parliaments in only 20 states have approved ratification of
The U.S. government has claimed that such agreements are permitted
under Article 98 of the Rome Statute. However, that article was
designed for the limited purpose of permitting states parties to the
Rome Statute to honour existing Status of Forces Agreements, which
allocate jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute crimes committed
by members of armed forces of one country who are stationed in
another. It was not designed to permit states, whether or not they
are party to the ICC, to exempt military or non-military personnel
from any investigation or prosecution for crimes under international
For more information, see, for example, Amnesty International's two
legal memoranda, The International Criminal Court: U.S. efforts to
obtain impunity for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes,
AI Index: IOR 40/025/2002, 2 September 2002, and The International
Criminal Court: The need for the European Union to take more
effective steps to prevent members from signing impunity agreements,
AI Index: IOR 40/030/2002, 1 October 2002. European Union Council
Conclusions on the International Criminal Court (30/09/02) (available
at: http://ue.eu.int/uedocs/cmsUpload/ICC34EN.pdf), and Human Rights
Watch's briefing paper: United States Efforts to Undermine the
International Criminal Court- Legal Analysis of Impunity Agreements
(available at: http://hrw.org/campaigns/icc/docs/art98analysis.htm).
For more information, please contact:
In New York, Christoph Wilcke (Human Rights Watch): +1-212-216-1295
In New York, Richard Dicker (Human Rights Watch): +1-212-216-1248
In London, Amnesty International Press Office: +44-20-7413-5566