U.S. Rejection of Court Defies Law, Logic and Morality

Article excerpt

On July 1, a historic event occurred of great international importance. The Rome Statute establishing the first International Criminal Court in human history went into force. The court will be fully operational by mid-2003. This means that the perpetrators of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide will henceforth be indicted and tried.

But the United States will be on the sidelines. To the chagrin of the whole world, President Bush announced that the United States would refuse to join and that, in addition, America would pull out of the United Nations peacekeeping operations unless all U.S. personnel involved received immunity from the court.

The United Nations declined to offer immunity in advance, but the issue is pending. The Bush White House is wrong in its demand because no alleged crime committed before July 1, 2002, may even be investigated, much less prosecuted.

In addition, no charges against American soldiers would be necessary because the United States has committed itself to follow the four 1949 Geneva Accords on the conduct on war.

The White House warns about "political" charges being made by some of the 76 nations that have joined the International Criminal Court. These countries that might charge American soldiers and others have reason to distrust the United States, but would they bring charges alleging violations of the serious crimes covered by the court?

I served on the task force of the American Bar Association on the court. All of the proposals were examined by jurists and diplomats of every ideological orientation. The United States refused to join for reasons that cannot be justified by law, logic or morality.

Indeed, the United States was the original author of the idea of the world court when it created the Nuremberg tribunal following World War II. The International Criminal Court is a permanent Nuremberg tribunal.

There are now 9,166 Americans in peacekeeping missions under NATO or under a U.N. mandate. No member of any peacekeeping mission has ever been charged with the crimes now under the jurisdiction of the court. …