An Obligation for WorId FederaIists
by Erin Boeke Burke, Issues Team Intern,
Macalester College, Class of 2004
World Federalist newsletter, Summer 2002
After the horrific human destruction of the Holocaust, the
world set out to ensure that such crimes would "never again"
happen. Unfortunately, genocide has occurred many times since
that noble goal was first proclaimed. But the world did create
a mechanism to address conflict and war and to establish and maintain
peace-the United Nations. Peacekeeping is one of the tools the
UN has at its disposal to resolve and prevent conflict. On July
1st, the world saw the entry into force of another tool to address
the human side of war-the International Criminal Court (ICC).
But both of these tools are under threat by the Bush administration,
and thus the product of years of work by world federalists is
in danger of destruction.
Despite overwhelming support for the ICC amongst our allies
and throughout the U.S., the Bush administration has not only
nullified the U.S. signature on the Rome Statute, which established
the ICC, but has now used its muscle as a permanent member of
the UN Security Council (UNSC) to threaten peacekeeping efforts
around the world as part of a purported effort to protect American
personnel serving in UN operations. U.S. threats include systematically
vetoing all UN peacekeeping operations or, in the event missions
are undertaken, withdrawing U.S. troops and funding.
One Set of Rules for Us, Another for Them
The U.S. has been attempting to gain perpetual exemption from
ICC jurisdiction for peacekeepers. This was first tried for in
May, with the East Timor operation, but that effort failed due
to strong opposition from allies. At the time, the U.S. warned
it might veto the renewal of future peacekeeping missions if it
did not get its way. Thus, not surprisingly, even with the ICC
fully in force after July 1 st, the administration continued its
effort to dismember the jurisdictional authority of the ICC. In
late June, the U.S. introduced two resolutions-one calling for
a universal ICC exemption, and the other for a more limited ICC
exemption applying only to the UN Mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina
(UNMIBH), attached to a renewal of the mission's mandate.
Neither exemption is appropriate or necessary according to
most international legal experts. Not only does the ICC have numerous
protections from misuse in the Statute, the result of forceful
U.S. diplomacy during the negotiations for the Rome Statute, but
also it will only pursue an accused criminal when national courts
are unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute. According
to the standard agreements signed upon the establishment of a
peacekeeping mission, the sending state (the country that is sending
peacekeepers) agrees to prosecute any crimes committed by its
personnel-which would prohibit the ICC from acting.
The U.S. proposals have been based on Article 16 of the Rome
Statute, which allows the Security Council to intervene to prevent
the prosecutor of the ICC from proceeding with a particular case
for a limited time. However, as pointed out in a letter from Secretary
General Kofi Annan to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, the
U.S. proposals would have literally amended Article 16, "which
is meant for a completely different situation...to be used by
the Security Council for a blanket resolution, preventing the
Prosecutor from pursuing cases against personnel in peacekeeping
missions." Annan pointed out that "Contrary to the wording
of Article 16, which prescribes that such resolutions by the Council
can be adopted for a period of 12 months, which period is renewable,
it is proposed that the resolution is automatically prolonged,
unless the prohibition is lifted."
A further problem with the U.S. actions was that many countries
(including most of the Security Council countries) were unwilling
to tolerate the use of the Security Council to amend a treaty
concluded among sovereign states. These countries and the NGO
community (WFA among them) maintained that if the U.S. was allowed
to strong-arm its way into an exemption, the door would be open
not only to further erosion of the Court's authority, but also
to Security Council tinkering with other international treaties.
Annan also pointed out in his letter that no UN peacekeeper had
ever been accused of committing the sort of crimes that come under
ICC jurisdiction and that "the only real result that an adoption
by the Council of the proposal would produce-
since the substantive issue is moot-is that the [Security]
Council risks being discredited."
Without a doubt, the U.S. actions were designed in part as
an assault on the ICC itself, and its authority, notwithstanding
the administration's promise in May to not attack the ICC or its
supporters. Elements in the administration see the ICC as an infringement
upon national sovereignty, and clearly will go further than many
thought they would in an effort to stop the ICC from properly
functioning. In the end, though, the U.S. was forced to considerably
soften its original proposals, following a strong and united front
of opposition from all of Europe, Canada, Mexico, and other major
U.S. allies. The Security Council approved language on July 12
that would allow the Security Council on a case-by-case basis
to defer action for twelve months should a case involving peacekeepers
from a non-party state come before the ICC. The language also
states that the Security Council will have the intention to renew
such deferral requests, but that the renewal will not be automatic
as the U.S. originally wanted.
We Do War, Not Peacekeeping
A second aspect of the U.S. actions is also important, and
relates to the existence and capacity of UN peacekeeping operations
themselves. Although many now recognize that peacekeeping is increasingly
necessary to help nations recover from conflict and build a stable
society, the U.S. explicitly threatened to end those operations.
The U.S. initiated this threat by vetoing the six-month extension
for UNMIBH, although it allowed several temporary extensions while
negotiations took place to attempt to resolve the impasse. The
further threat was that unless the U.S. was able to obtain the
universal ICC exemption it sought for peacekeepers, it would continue
to veto the extension of peacekeeping missions.
This seemed to make little sense, if as suggested the administration
was merely concerned about American personnel. The U.S. could
have simply said it would pull American personnel out of UN peacekeeping
missions- there are less than 800 Americans currently serving
in UN-led missions, after all, out of more than 47,000 total personnel
worldwide. Instead, although the U.S. did pull its three military
observers out of East Timor on July 1st, it left behind hundreds
of civilian police personnel. In Bosnia, the U.S. said it would
remove the 40-odd civilian police trainers, but would not pull
out the thousands of soldiers serving in the NATO-led peacekeeping
mission. Although these actions are contradictory, it is when
you look at the larger picture that a pattern begins to emerge.
World federalists-indeed, internationalists of any stripe-should
understand that some in the administration would not view the
end of UN peacekeeping as a bad thing. Secretary of Defense Donald
Rumsfeld has made no secret of his dislike for UN peacekeeping,
often calling for the reduction or ending of various operations
the U.S. is involved with. The Bush administration has ignored
the growing threats to peace in Afghanistan, refusing to allow
the peacekeeping force there to be expanded beyond the capital
city of Kabul. The Defense Department has recently authorized
the closure of the Army War College Peacekeeping Institute, has
renamed and de-emphasized the mandate of its peacekeeping office,
has dramatically reduced peacekeeping training programs, and has
notified military officers liaising with the State Department
on peacekeeping operations that their positions are under review.
In short, this is an administration that is frequently extremely
hostile to multilateral efforts such as peacekeeping.
Congress has also joined the attack, and this seems likely
to continue. Money slated for peacekeeping in the emergency supplemental
was swiped for Amtrak, potentially creating new arrears even before
the old arrears are fully paid off. The anti-ICC legislation,
the American Servicemembers Protection Act, also insists upon
a blanket exemption from the ICC for American peacekeepers. It
is entirely possible that, given the U.S. failure at the Security
Council to get what it and some Members of Congress wanted, that
Congress may now begin to withhold peacekeeping assessments. If
Congress withholds the entire amount the U.S. pays-25% of the
UN peacekeeping budget-it is very likely that most if not all
missions will quickly close anyway, even without a U.S. veto.
WFA is striving to bring the consequences of these developments
to the attention of the public, and to urge policymakers not to
let UN peacekeeping come to an end. Through the Partnership for
Effective Peacekeeping (PEP), WFA facilitates an open dialogue
on how to improve UN peacekeeping capacity.
Through the Partners Program, individual WFA members stay
informed of critical developments and the policies behind UN peacekeeping
that allows them to engage their elected representatives. Through
the targeted State Action Alert network, members receive the timeliest
updates possible from Washington with instructions and contact
information that help them make a real difference.
The majority of Americans support U.S. participation in peacekeeping,
and our allies believe in the importance of such missions to provide
regional stability and protect human rights around the globe.
WFA works to represent those interests, and remind those in power
in Washington that international peacekeeping efforts, under the
auspices of the UN, are the only way to secure victory in the
war on terrorism.