"Never Again":
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.

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