Many nations around the world are preparing for the establishment of a new International Criminal Court to try crimes of major human rights abuses, such as genocide. The United States, under the Bush administration, has been boycotting the new court and is the only vocal opponent to the treaty.
The new International Criminal Court has been ratified by 66 nations, many of whom are considered U.S. allies. Both the European Union and the United Nations fully support the treaty, and other signatory nations hope to make the treaty universal. By boycotting the court, the United States may be the only major nation not to take part in the court.
The United States should not declare such a strong divergence from this global consensus, especially when engaged in a global war on terrorism targeting a number of countries included in the Axis of Evil defined by President Bush. A country as strongly committed to justice as the United States should be a part of this international court.
Under the Clinton Administration, the United States signed as one of the 139 signatory nations interested in constructing an international criminal court. Although the Bush Administration has not withdrawn the United States signature, it has boycotted proceedings related to the Rome treaty that establishes the court, according to an Associated Press article dated April 14.
The court is designed to try war crimes, genocide, and other crimes against humanity that previously were dealt with via ad-hoc courts, such as the Nuremberg and Tokyo courts that tried war crimes of Germany and Japan after World War II. This new court will enforce existing laws that outlaw among other things, genocide, poison gas and chemical weapons, by holding individuals accountable.
Because more than 60 countries have ratified the Rome treaty, the court will enter into force on July 1, 2002, even without the support of the United States. The court will have a seven-year review to iron out details, such as the definition of aggression. The possibility of the definition of aggression conflicting with U.S. interests is one of the points argued by U.S. opponents to the treaty.
According to the Independent Student Coalition for the International Criminal Court, a United States-based organization in support of the Rome treaty, the treaty will not adversely affect the United States The new court will follow conventions of the United Nations, where the United States has a large influence. And as a signator, the U.S. has a voice in determining the definition of aggression.
Democrats and Republicans alike fear that the International Criminal Court would be used to go after U.S. citizens, especially U.S. soldiers serving abroad, for ideologically-motivated purposes.
Most likely, this will not be the case.
The caseload of the new court is expected to be low, especially at first, and the court would serve more as a deterrent against major crimes against humanity, according to an April 14 article from Reuters. The treaty is also not retroactive, meaning that only crimes committed after the date the treaty goes into effect, July 1, 2002, can be tried by the court.
With other nations abiding by the treaty, the United States will not be able to escape involvement with the new international court even if it declines membership. As one of the world’s major nations and a leader in global politics, the United States should not refrain from involvement in the International Criminal Court.
Vincent Lizzi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org