3 Jun 2003

Concerns raised in Fiji over U.S. push against International Criminal Court

5:37 pm on 3 June 2003

There's opposition in Fiji to government plans to sign an agreement with the United States which undermines international obligations and the International Criminal Court, the ICC.

Mick Beddoes, the leader of the United General Party, says he's writing to the Foreign Minister to ask why they're considering signing a bilateral agreement with the U.S. not to hand over each others' nationals to the ICC.

Mr Beddoes says Fiji has ratified the Rome Treaty setting up the ICC so this appears to be an attempt to get out of its obligations.

"I'm seeking clarification on this bilateral agreement with the US... what exactly is the nature of this bilateral agreement....What is Fiji getting in return for this.... And of course it's a known fact that the US has not ratified the Rome statute and that they've been trying to undermine the ICC's inception so Im wondering why Fiji is trying to get involved in this area and putting its obligation under the Rome statute at risk."

The U.S. is reported to have signed non-surrender agreements with 38 countries, including Tonga, Tuvalu and Nauru in the Pacific.

Meanwhile, Tuvalu says it has signed a deal with the U.S. over the ICC, but it wasn't pressured to do so.

The secretary to government, Panapasi Nelesoni, says Tuvalu isn't a signatory to the Rome statute which set up the ICC and it had concerns about some of its provisions.

Mr Nelesoni says it was these concerns that both countries had, which led to Tuvalu exchanging notes with the U.S.

there were provisions there that do not allow countries to exhaust what they need to do first to their nationals before they give them up to the international criminal court, and we thought of that provision and feel that yes, I think we should be given more time to exhaust our domestic arrangements in dealing with our criminals before we give them up.

The secretary to government, Panapasi Nelesoni.