While Mauritian Prime Minister, Sir Aneerood Jugnauth, was in Washington trying to squeeze trade advantages out of the USA by begging derogations in the very Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) that he had previously supported whole-heartedly, George W. Bush squeezed him into signing an agreement on another topic. This was on 26th June, 2003.
The trade unions and LALIT denounced, and continue to denounce, the conditions of the AGOA that encourage precisely this kind of hideous blackmail. One of the worst explicit conditions in AGOA is that any Government wanting the exporters in its country to benefit from a cut in customs duty, has to comply with US foreign policy.
So, under diplomatic and trade threats, the Mauritian Prime Minister caved in and has signed the despicable agreement that it will not hand over any US officers accused of war crimes for trial by the new International Criminal Court (ICC). He has done this despite the fact that the Mauritian Government has recently signed up to the ICC.
When the Mauritian Government signed up to the ICC, it made a great deal of noise. But when it signed the shameful “way out of prosecution” for US officers, it has kept so quiet that even the Minister of Foreign Affairs Press Attaché was not able to inform us whether it had been signed or not. There has certainly been no public debate. The Government’s unpopularity will sink even lower if we can get people to know about this agreement to hide war criminals.
This bilateral agreement is particularly odious when we know that there has been information that Afghan prisoners are being held and subjected to torture on Diego Garcia, part of Mauritius illegally occupied by a US military base, and when we have recent information that certain of the Iraqi leaders in the so-called “pack of cards” will be held in Diego Garcia, rather than at Guantanamo Bay, if they co-operate with the US military.
Both LALIT and AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL have denounced the Mauritian Government for undermining the International Criminal Court. We add that the US Government must feel that its officers are likely to be accused of such crimes, otherwise it would not go to such lengths to avoid any possibility of prosecution.
Here is the total text of the US-Mauritius Joint Statement on Article 98 Agreement (as it is called).
“The United States Government and the Government of the Republic of Mauritius have signed a bilateral non-surrender agreement consistent with Article 98 of the Rome Statute. The United States Government and Government of the Republic of Mauritius are committed to holding accountable those who commit war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Both Government have expressed their intention to, where appropriate, investigate and prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide alleged to have been committed by their respective officials, employees, military personnel, and nationals. The US Government respects the right of Mauritius to become a party to the International Criminal Court, just as the Government of the Republic of Mauritius respects the right of the Untied States not to join the International Criminal Court or to place US persons under the jurisdiction of the court. Both Governments intend to continue to work to promote justice and accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.”