The “Rule of Men”
After World War ii there began a movement to put an end to war and massive human injustice—especially in Europe, where so much of the carnage has occurred—by nations coming together, joining their systems of economy, military, trade and justice.
This was the idea behind the European Union, a group of 15 European nations that are joining in a common monetary, military and legal system. The idea was (and is) that if they all promise to work together as friends, one nation can’t war against or dominate the others.
This trend continues today. The world is unifying its legal system, creating a single court to represent many nations around the world. European nations in particular have pushed for a permanent International Criminal Court (icc). The purpose of the court is to bring to justice, when individual nations fail to do so, to people guilty of the worst criminal acts—war crimes, genocide and other “crimes against humanity.”
This court goes a step further than the International Court of Justice in The Hague, which is designed to settle issues between states, not prosecute individuals.
The idea of an international court has been tossed around since the end of the Second World War, but it took until June 1998 for the international community, in a meeting in Rome, Italy, to finalize the draft text for the creation of the court, where 138 nations signed the Rome Treaty that created the court. On April 11, 66 nations ratified it, which gives it well over the minimum number that it needed to come into effect. The icc will officially be taking cases on July 1.
It is starting out with grand ideas. UN Secretary of State Kofi Annan has said, “In the prospect of an international criminal court lies the promise of universal justice. That is the simple and soaring hope of this vision.”
Sounds great. But in May, U.S. President George Bush officially “unsigned” the treaty committing the U.S. to participation in the court. This provoked loud condemnation from the other icc members. Why did the U.S. do this? Doesn’t everyone want “justice for all”?
The problem with the icc is summed up well by the Daily Telegraph. “As an independent, supranational construct, the icc will inevitably reflect the ideas of the people who control it. This makes it extremely vulnerable to being hijacked by any force that has the organization, numbers and audacity to do it” (May 13). In other words, the icc will be as flawed as the members who compose its body—many of which have poor human rights records themselves, like Afghanistan, China and Cuba.
These member nations would decide which cases come to trial, or whether a nation is dealing with its own criminals “effectively”—in short, they would determine what “justice” is. For the icc to function as planned, it must have the authority to act even over the objections of its member states. Consider the implications, for example, if other countries felt the U.S. president was guilty of “war crimes” and demanded that he be tried in the international court.
Without the involvement of the U.S., the freest nation in the world, as one journalist wrote, the process will inevitably boil down to politics. “The very question illustrates the double standards that flow from the rule of ‘men’ as opposed to the rule of law” (ibid.).