U.S. Opposes International Court

from the Internet



Is the U.S. opposed to an international war crimes tribunal because of Operation Tailwind and similar dark operations, which we don't even know about, because they were "secret" operations and would qualify as war crimes? What do you think?

The world's first permanent war crimes tribunal was been proposed over strenuous U.S. objections. The vote was 120 to 7 with 21 abstentions to establish the court.

Countries joining the U.S. to denounce the treaty were: Israel, India, Indonesia, Libya, Algeria, China, Qatar, Yemen whereas Canada, Australia, and Britain in opposition to the U.S. supported the treaty. Strange bedfellows indeed. Or, are they?

It also seemed ironic that Syria, which has been labeled a "terrorist state" by the U.S. wanted a clause which would define terrorism as a war crime and India, which just tested nuclear weapons, wanted nuclear weapons to be considered a war crime.

This creation of an international court was a logical extension of Nuremberg, an idea whose time has come, especially since all the global bloodbaths in the intervening period since W.W.II.

This new INTERNATIONAL criminal court will be situated at the Hague in the Netherlands to try those guilty and accused of genocide, crimes again humanity and war crimes.

The Court would not be attached to the United Nations, but will remain independent and therefore less politicized. There were however many attempts to politicize the treaty and the Arab block voted to define as a war crime the transfer of civilian populations.

The court would succeed the temporary war crimes tribunal [also located at The Hague], which was established in '93 to prosecute war crimes in Yugoslavia, which resulted in indictments for 75 war criminals.

There is also a U.N. court in Tanzania which has as its objective the uncovering of those who perpetrated atrocities in the Rwandan genocide of '94.

What does the U.S. fear from such a tribunal? Prosecution for war crimes in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and elsewhere? The U.S. wanted the right to veto prosecution of Americans. U.S. negotiators expressed the concern that with U.S. soldiers all over the world, they can become targets of "politically" motivated charges for war crimes.

That option was opposed by even America's closest allies.

The U.S. pulled out all the stops and it threatened Third World countries with cutting off aid if they supported the treaty.

Cicero said "laws are silent in time of war," and by this behavior civilization has failed. This criminal court can be a catalyst for correcting that fault and herald in a change in civilized behavior, by prosecuting heinous crimes, and by declaring to the rest of the world that acts of barbarity are not acceptable behavior in the emerging 21st Century.

This is different from the World Court which tries nations. The NEW ICC [International Criminal Court] will try individuals - those accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

The International Court may not however become a reality. It still requires ratification. And, the U.S. doesn't want it to happen.

The United States was an important player and proponent of the Nuremberg trials after World War II. And, Clinton pushed for the creation of war-crimes tribunals for the Balkans and Rwanda but the U.S. is opposed to the establishment of an international court to try war crimes.

If the Clinton administration promoted an international court for years publicly, why now did the U.S. oppose it so vehemently? Was it because of new disclosures like Operation Tailwind that has shaken Washington to the core?

It is reasonable to presume that the idea of an international court to investigate war crimes would make the Pentagon nervous. American troops do not track down war criminals. The Pentagon is busy covering up it's own war crimes and doesn't want to be accountable for to do so would make U.S. leaders subject to prosecution by this special international court.

Clinton doesn't always appear to go along with the Pentagon, but this decision may come from even higher up. The CFR, of which Clinton and Kissinger are members couldn't have wanted this to happen.

But in what may be considered irony, in the face of U.S. opposition to the court, the U.S. Senate just passed a resolution urging that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic be tried as a war criminal responsible for ``the deaths of hundreds of thousands, the torture and rape of tens of thousands and the forced displacement of nearly 300,000.''

So, the U.S. is not happy. Israel is not happy. Many Arab countries are unhappy. But even UNICEF is unhappy, though for other reasons. UNICEF is concerned because of elements in the statute which could "deny or severely delay justice for many children and women."

A key provision which UNICEF finds fault with is one which guarantees that nations can "opt out" of the agreement seven years after the treaty goes into effect. They can simply declare they do not accept the ICC's jurisdiction - if the crime is committed on their territory or by one of their nationals. So, where is the meat? Where is the substance? This is a serious flaw in the treaty.

The treaty also allows for 15 year-olds to be drafted ["pressed into"] into military service.

UNICEF's spokesman said: "This clause, if exercised, could give those responsible for today's atrocities a green light to continue their nefarious violations of human rights and international law."

The time frame for establishing the treaty also permits current atrocities to go unpunished. Crimes can continue unabated until the treaty becomes law.

UNICEF says this applies to current crimes where Dinka children are stolen in southern Sudan and the maiming, kidnapping and slaughter can continue.

This also applies to the "wholesale mutilation of children and rape of women from Sierra Leone to Indonesia" without impunity and these crimes will not be prosecuted.

And, under pressure from the Arab states, chemical and biological weapons were not mentioned in the final treaty.

The agreement does include the crime of aggression, but doesn't define it. It will do that at a later date. The Court was championed by the Non-Aligned Movement, but did not include India's demand for the use of nuclear weapons to be defined as a war crime.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said while it would have been better if the court was vested with more far reaching power and though he recognized the many shortcomings of the treaty, "the establishment of the ICC is still a gift of hope to future generations, and a giant step forward in the march towards universal human rights and the rule of law."

But, ratification is still a long ways off.

If ratified, it will be a step towards justice for crimes against humanity. Whether or not it is properly implemented remains to be seen. Is this progress? Not as far as getting at the root cause of oppression. For that we still have a very long way to go.

The treaty will have to be ratified by 60 countries for it to become law. This ratification process is expected to take up to five years and the U.S. can still put pressure on other nations not to do so.

Human Rights, Justice, Reform

International Criminal Court