KAMPALA (Reuters) - Dozens of countries were trying to reach a deal on Thursday to give the International Criminal Court powers to prosecute crimes of state aggression, despite divisions over how investigations would be triggered.
At a landmark review conference of the ICC in Kampala, delegates were seeking to agree a definition of state aggression and how ICC investigations into the crime, one of four grave crimes the court has jurisdiction over, could be triggered.
A draft resolution outlining how the United Nations Security Council, the ICC or a state referral might trigger a probe into an act of aggression had been positively received, one delegate said. "No one wants to fail," another delegate said.
The resolution includes papers floated earlier by Argentina, Brazil and Switzerland and another from the Canadian delegation and is based on a draft paper seen by Reuters prior to its publication on Thursday.
It includes a type of "opt-out clause" for states that would shield them from investigation if they have lodged with the ICC registrar a "declaration of non-acceptance".
Amnesty International has raised concerns about an opt-out clause, but a delegate said this version, although not ideal, was an attempt at a compromise making it harder for member states to opt out by requiring them to specifically declare it.
Delegates were still discussing this, as well as whether the ICC would be able to start an investigation if the Security Council had not determined that an act of aggression took place.
Under the proposal, the court cannot investigate an act of aggression committed by a non-member state.
Security Council powers the United States, Russia and China are not members of the ICC, and states such as India, Indonesia and Israel and many Islamic countries have not signed up to the court either.
The crime of aggression is broadly defined as the use of force that manifestly breaches the U.N. charter and includes an invasion, a bombardment, blockade or a country allowing another state to use its territory to attack a third nation.
In a morning plenary session prior to informal talks, Christian Wenaweser, president of the Assembly of States that oversees the ICC's work, urged delegates to reach a deal.
"We are nearing the end of the conference and we have to agree very soon on what we can adopt tomorrow," he said.
Permanent members of the security council are concerned about granting the ICC powers to prosecute state aggression, arguing such powers must be vested with the council and that it is premature to push forward without consensus.
NGOs argue that giving the council powers to determine whether an act of aggression has taken place could undermine the ICC's independence, while investigations into acts of aggression could also be seen as politically biased. (Editing by Philippa Fletcher)