Friday, April 01, 2005

That Shaking You Feel...

Is war criminals trembling in their boots. Democracy Arsenal has proclaimed that the long arm of the law has finally reached the Sudan. As the New York Times reports, a UN proposal to refer suspected war criminals to the controversial jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been approved in a 11-0 vote (with four abstensions). Of course, the United States has had long-standing concerns about the ICC first raised by President Clinton on the last day of his administraiton.

"Court jurisdiction over U.S. personnel shouldcome only with U.S. ratification of the Treaty. The United States shouldhave the chance to observe and assess the functioning of the Court, overtime, before choosing to become subject to its jurisdiction. Given theseconcerns, I will not, and do not recommend that my successor submit theTreaty to the Senate for advice and consent until our fundamental concernsare satisfied." - President William J. Clinton, 31 DEC 2000

The ICC has never troubled itself to address these concerns in the treaty on which it is founded, so they have to be addressed on a case by case basis if they can be overcome at all. Based on the apparent success of the Iraqi War Crimes Tribunal that has already began processing Iraqi war criminals less than a year after its formation, I supported the Bush administration's proposal for an African Union Tribunal. Instead, the French proposed the ICC that has managed to spend more than $500 million while remarkably abstaining from prosecuting even a single war criminal since it began operating in 2002. Also, the proposal of using the ICC for the situation in the Sudan, rather than putting an African face on the matter, risks the perception of yet another example of European powers once again imposing colonial justice upon their subjects.

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations rightly won the appropriate guarantees of immunities for Americans operating in the Sudan and abstained from the vote, allowing it to be approved by the Security Council. It should be an exciting opportunity, as President Clinton suggested, to observe and assess the functioning of the court. So, war criminals everywhere, ye be warned!

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