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US International Relations

International Criminal Court

Project: US International Relations
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The UN General Assembly adopts the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). One hundred twenty member-states vote in favor of the Statute with 21 abstaining and only seven voting against. The countries which oppose its creation are the United States (will sign Statute on December 31, 2000 but later withdraw (see May 6, 2002)), Israel (will sign Statute on December 31, 2000 but later withdraw (see August 28, 2002)), China, Iraq, Qatar, Libya, and Yemen. [Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, 7/17/1998; CNN, 7/8/2002; Anne E. Mahle, 1/15/2005] The Clinton administration’s vote against the ICC was made under pressure from the Pentagon which believes that US troops, military officers and officials will become subject to politically motivated or frivolous prosecutions. Additionally, the US says it does not want the court to supplant its own domestic and military court system. [Human Rights Watch, 4/14/1998; Anne E. Mahle, 1/15/2005] On April 11, 2002, the countries of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ireland, Jordan, Mongolia, Niger, Romania and Slovakia will submit their ratifications to the UN bringing the total number of countries to ratify the Rome Statute to 66, well beyond the 60 needed to make it a binding treaty. The Statute is entered into force on July 1, 2002. [Amnesty International, 4/11/2002; Coalition for the International Court, 4/11/2002 pdf file] The International Criminal Court (ICC) “is the first ever permanent, treaty based, international criminal court established to promote the rule of law and ensure that the gravest international crimes do not go unpunished.” [International Criminal Court, 3/27/2005] It has authority to try cases involving genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Significantly, Article 12 of the Rome Statute gives the court jurisdiction over the nationals of any state if the alleged crime takes place on the territory of a state that is a party to the Statute or that delegates jurisdiction for that case to the ICC—even in cases where the defendant’s state of nationality is not a party to the treaty. [Morris, 2001]

Entity Tags: UN General Assembly

Category Tags: International Criminal Court

The Bush administration formally withdraws the United States from the International Criminal Court (ICC). In a letter to Secretary-General of the UN Kofi Annan, US Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton writes: “This is to inform you, in connection with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court adopted on July 17, 1998, that the United States does not intend to become a party to the treaty. Accordingly, the United States has no legal obligations arising from its signature on December 31, 2000. The United States requests that its intention not to become a party, as expressed in this letter, be reflected in the depositary’s status lists relating to this treaty.” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says, “The United States will regard as illegitimate any attempt by the court or state parties to the treaty to assert the ICC’s jurisdiction over American citizens.” The ICC dates back to the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, and serves as the world’s first and most influential war crimes tribunal. The US did not become a signatory until former President Bill Clinton’s last day in office. [US Department of State, 5/6/2002; New York Times, 5/7/2002; American Forces Press Service, 5/7/2002; Carter, 2004, pp. 278; Organizations Coalition for the International Criminal Court, 1/2/2006] Bolton’s letter serves to both withdraw the US from the Rome Statute, which established the ICC, and relieves the US of its obligations under the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. That agreement prohibits the signatories of international treaties from taking steps to undermine the treaties they sign, even if they have not ratified them. [New York Times, 5/7/2002]
US Will Not be 'Second-Guessed' - The Bush administration defends its action, contending that the treaty infringes on US sovereignty because, under its provisions, an international prosecutor answerable to no one could initiate politically motivated or frivolous suits against US troops, military officers or officials. [New York Times, 5/7/2002; BBC, 7/13/2002] “We do not want anything to do it,” an administration spokesman has said. The ICC is “unaccountable to the American people,” and “has no obligation to respect the constitutional rights of our citizens,” Rumsfeld says. Secretary of State Colin Powell says the ICC undermines US judicial sovereignty and the US could not be held accountable to a higher authority that might try “to second-guess the United States after we have tried somebody.… We are the leader in the world with respect to bringing people to justice.… We have supported a tribunal for Yugoslavia, the tribunal for Rwanda, we’re trying to get the tribunal for Sierra Leone set up.… We have the highest standards of accountability of any nation on the face of the Earth.” [American Forces Press Service, 5/7/2002; Carter, 2004, pp. 278]
'On the Wrong Side of History' - Others do not share the administration’s rationale. Amnesty International’s Alex Arriaga says: “It’s outrageous. The US should be championing justice. It shouldn’t be running it down.” Judge Richard Goldstone, the first chief ICC prosecutor at the war crimes trials surrounding the former Yugoslavia, adds, “The US have really isolated themselves and are putting themselves into bed with the likes of China, Yemen, and other undemocratic countries.” Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch says: “The administration is putting itself on the wrong side of history. Unsigning the treaty will not stop the court. It will only throw the United States into opposition against the most important new institution for enforcing human rights in fifty years. The timing… couldn’t be worse for Washington. It puts the Bush administration in the awkward position of seeking law-enforcement cooperation in tracking down terrorist suspects while opposing an historic new law-enforcement institution for comparably serious crimes.” [Carter, 2004, pp. 278]

Entity Tags: Richard Goldstone, John R. Bolton, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Alex Arriaga, Bush administration (43), Clinton administration, Kofi Annan, Kenneth Roth

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, International Criminal Court

The Bush administration submits a proposed resolution to the UN Security Council that would grant indefinite immunity from prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC) (see July 17, 1998) to all UN peacekeeping military personnel who are from nations that do not accept the court’s jurisdiction. The proposal appeals to Article 16 of the Rome Statute which stipulates that the UN Security Council can grant deferrals on a temporary, case-by-case basis for nationals accused of war crimes who are from countries not party to the treaty. The US recommends that this provision for conditional immunity be universally pre-applied to all cases involving US military personnel engaged in UN peacekeeping. Immunity would be granted for a period of 12 months—but automatically and unconditionally renewed every year. As such, US troops would effectively be exempt from the jurisdiction of the ICC since it would take a UN Security Council resolution to end the automatic renewals and since the US holds veto power in the council. [New York Times, 5/7/2002; Boston Globe, 5/23/2002; Boston Globe, 7/1/2002; Independent, 7/4/2002] The US proposal is backed by threats that the US will withdraw its troops from international peacekeeping missions, starting with Bosnia (see June 30, 2002), and block funds to those missions as well. [Boston Globe, 5/23/2002; Agence France-Presse, 7/9/2002]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Kofi Annan, John R. Bolton

Category Tags: International Criminal Court

After much debate, the UN Security Council adopts Resolution 1422 under pressure from the United States. The resolution delays, for a period of twelve months, the prosecution and investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of any UN peacekeeping personnel accused of war crimes. After one year, the delay can be extended with the passage of another resolution. The privilege applies only to personnel from states that are not party to the Rome Statute. [United Nations, 7/12/2002; New York Times, 7/13/2002] The US had previously demanded a permanent exemption (see June 2002), which was strongly opposed by the other members. The US proposed Resolution 1422 as a compromise and threatened to block future resolutions extending UN peacekeeping missions, beginning with ones in Bosnia and the Croatian peninsula of Prevlaka, if the Security Council did not adopt it. [New York Times, 7/11/2002; New York Times, 7/12/2002; New York Times, 7/13/2002] Immediately after adopting Resolution 1422, the council extends the mandates for the two UN peacekeeping missions. [New York Times, 7/13/2002] Afterwards, John Negroponte states: “Should the ICC eventually seek to detain any American, the United States would regard this as illegitimate—and it would have serious consequences. No nation should underestimate our commitment to protect our citizens.” [New York Times, 7/13/2002]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), John Negroponte

Category Tags: International Criminal Court, United Nations

More than 50 countries sign “Article 98” agreements with the US under threat of losing US military aid. Article 98 agreements, so called because the US claims they have a legal basis in Article 98 of the Rome Statute (see July 17, 1998), are bilateral immunity agreements (BIA) that prohibit both parties from extraditing the other’s current or former government officials, military and other personnel to the International Criminal Court (ICC) . With the exception of a few close allies, countries that are party to the ICC (see July 17, 1998) and have not signed the agreements will become ineligible for US military aid when on July 1, 2003 (see July 1, 2003) Section 2007 of the American Servicemembers’ Protection Act (see August 2, 2002) goes into effect. The Bush administration hopes that the “Article 98” agreements will protect US troops and officials from being prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for any alleged war crimes committed in a country that is party to the court. Critics say the BIAs are inexcusable attempts to gain impunity from war crimes. Some countries sign the agreement despite popular opposition and ask the Bush administration not to make the agreements public. [CNS News, 8/5/2002; New York Times, 8/7/2002; New York Times, 8/10/2002; Coalition for the International Court, 9/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: International Criminal Court

US President George Bush signs the American Servicemembers’ Protection Act (HR 4775), making it Public Law 107-206. Section 2007, written by Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, prohibits the United States from providing military assistance to any nation that is party to the International Criminal Court (see July 17, 1998). Only countries that receive a special waiver from the president or that sign so-called “Article 98” agreements (see August 2002-July 1, 2003) will be exempt from the prohibition. The exemption is also extended to a select few other counties (Taiwan, NATO members, and “major non-NATO allies” like Australia, Egypt, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Argentina, the Republic of Korea, and New Zealand). Section 2007 will go into effect on July 1, 2003, one year after the Rome Statute entered into force. Section 2008 of HR 4775 gives the president authority to use “all means necessary and appropriate to bring about the release of any person… being detained or imprisoned by, on behalf of, or at the request of the International Criminal Court.” [US Congress, 7/24/2002; New York Times, 8/10/2002]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Tom DeLay

Category Tags: International Criminal Court

The Observer’s Ed Vulliamy writes: “One year on, the United States is more isolated and more regarded as a pariah than at any time since Vietnam, possibly ever. The bookends of that year are headlines in the French newspaper Le Monde. On 12 September 2001 it declared: ‘Now We Are All Americans.’ But last month, in Le Monde Diplomatique: ‘Washington Dismantles the International Architecture’; a reflection on a year of treaties broken or ignored (see March 7, 2001, March 27, 2001, July 9, 2001, July 23-25, 2001, November 19, 2001-December 7, 2001, December 13, 2001, December 31, 2001, August 28, 2002, and September 20, 2002), and a brazen assertion of the arrogance of power.” [Guardian, 8/18/2002]

Entity Tags: Ed Vulliamy, Le Monde

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, Environmental Treaties, International Criminal Court, Israel/Palestine Conflict, Neoconservatives in Foreign Policy, US Foreign Policy, US Interventions, US Policy towards Torture

Israel effectively withdraws its signature from the Rome Statute (see July 17, 1998). In a letter to the UN, the Israeli government writes, “[I]n connection with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court adopted on 17 July 1998,… Israel does not intend to become a party to the treaty. Accordingly, Israel has no legal obligations arising from its signature on 31 December 2000. Israel requests that its intention not to become a party, as expressed in this letter, be reflected in the depositary’s status lists relating to this treaty.” [Organizations Coalition for the International Criminal Court, 1/2/2006]

Category Tags: International Criminal Court, US-Israeli Relations

In compliance with the American Servicemembers’ Protection Act (HR 4775) (see August 2, 2002), the Bush administration halts over $47 million in military aid to 35 countries that are party to the International Criminal Court. The only ICC signatories that are exempt from the measure are countries that have signed bilateral “Article 98” agreements (see August 2002-July 1, 2003) with the US or that qualify for exemption under the provisions of the Act. [BBC, 7/2/2003; CNN, 7/2/2003; New York Times, 7/2/2003; Washington Times, 7/2/2003]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: International Criminal Court

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urges the Security Council to vote against a resolution that would exempt US soldiers serving in UN approved operations from prosecution before the International Criminal Court (ICC). Talking to journalists, he says, “For the past two years, I have spoken quite strongly against the exemption, and I think it would be unfortunate for one to press for such an exemption, given the prisoner abuse in Iraq.” [Inter Press Service, 6/21/2004] He adds, “It would discredit the Council and the United Nations that stands for the rule of law and the primacy of the rule of law.” [Truthout (.org), 6/28/2004] Since President Bush has taken office, the US, by threatening to withdraw funding for UN peacekeeping missions (see July 12, 2002), has made the Security Council adopt a resolution each year prohibiting the ICC from investigating or prosecuting officials from states that have not ratified the Rome Statute, like the US, for acts committed during participation in a UN-authorized mission. “Given the recent revelations from Abu Ghraib prison,” said Richard Dicker from Human Rights Watch, “the US government has picked a hell of a moment to ask for special treatment on war crimes.” [Inter Press Service, 6/21/2004] The US will eventually withdraw the resolution knowing China will use its veto power. China’s ambassador to the UN, Wang Guangya, later explains that his country did not want to support a resolution that could grant impunity to people committing abuses like the ones that happened at Abu Ghraib. [New York Times, 6/5/2004] The “major diplomatic defeat,” as the Financial Times calls it, “also marked,” according to the Washington Post, “the most concrete evidence of a diplomatic backlash against the scandal over abuses of US detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq.” [Truthout (.org), 6/28/2004] However, even with the defeat at the Security Council there is little chance that the US will be brought before the court for any future alleged war crimes because of bilateral immunity agreements that are still in force between the US and several countries (see August 2002-July 1, 2003). [Inter Press Service, 6/21/2004]

Entity Tags: Kofi Annan, Wang Guangya, Richard Dicker, United Nations, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Category Tags: United Nations, International Criminal Court, US Policy towards Torture

President Bush signs into law the 2005 Consolidated Appropriations Act 2005 setting a $338 billion budget for “Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs.” Section 574 of the Act (see August 2, 2002) blocks the distribution of economic aid to countries that are party to the Rome Statute (see July 17, 1998) and have not signed “Article 98” agreements (see August 2002-July 1, 2003) with the US. The provision states: “None of the funds made available in this Act in title II under the heading `Economic Support Fund’ may be used to provide assistance to the government of a country that is a party to the International Criminal Court and has not entered into an agreement with the United States pursuant to Article 98 of the Rome Statute preventing the International Criminal Court from proceeding against United States personnel present in such country.” [Washington Post, 11/26/2002; US Congress, 11/20/2004; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 12/3/2004]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Category Tags: International Criminal Court

In 2009, reflecting on the Bush administration’s decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC—see May 6, 2002), ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo will say: “When I started at the ICC, in 2003, the Bush administration appeared hostile towards the court, as though we were radioactive. But what started with hostility over time became less so. All of a sudden the court was seen to be useful. On Darfur, for example, the administration could have vetoed the Security Council vote referring Darfur to my office. They didn’t. That was a big change. But I’ve kept a respectful distance. They don’t give me intelligence. They cannot control me.… Ironically, the hostility has helped in my dealings with countries that might otherwise perceive me to be in the pocket of the Americans. It has been one positive factor in the Arab and African worlds. The US distance from the court seems to have had the very opposite effect of that intended—of strengthening it.” [Vanity Fair, 2/2009]

Entity Tags: Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Bush administration (43), International Criminal Court

Category Tags: International Criminal Court, United Nations

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