Obama Courts Disaster; White House May Regret Letting Judges Based in the Netherlands Take Lead on Libya

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The Obama administration is backing the International Criminal Court's (ICC) arrest warrants for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. It is a dangerous precedent for the United States to rush to affirm the jurisdiction of this relatively new international body, particularly with a president whose counterterrorism strategy has made his name synonymous with targeted killing.

On Monday, ICC judges granted warrants for Col. Gadhafi, his son Seif al-Islam and regime intelligence chief Abdullah Sanussi. The court said there were reasonable grounds to believe that the trio were criminally responsible as indirect co-perpetrators of the murder and persecution of civilians. The White House hailed the warrant against Col. Gadhafi as another step in [the] process of holding him accountable.

There's no argument that the Gadhafi regime has been a consistent human rights nightmare, but the United States should not encourage the use of an unaccountable, international group of judges to serve as an agent of regime change. The ICC's jurisdiction runs roughshod over traditional notions of state sovereignty. The fact that Libya is not a signatory to the 1998 Rome Statute that established the court is no barrier to ICC action; it has authority granted by the United Nations under Security Council Resolution 1970. Article 27 of the ICC Treaty states that sovereign immunity does not apply to the head of state. The precedents for this were set with the 1999 indictment against former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic and the 2003 indictment of President Charles Taylor of Liberia. There is ICC paper out on President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan.

The United States also is not an ICC signatory state. …