U.S. Rejects International Court

From the May 2003 Trumpet Print Edition

A particularly strong example of an institution designed to consolidate European power at the expense of American power is the International Criminal Court (icc), set up last year.

It is intended to complement the existing International Court of Justice (known as the World Court), which deals with conflicts between nations. The icc differs in that it will put individuals on trial for crimes against humanity. Both courts are located in The Hague, in the Netherlands.

Many nations have eagerly welcomed the new court, hoping to find a new global implementer of justice. The icc came into force on July 2, 2002, after 76 countries ratified it—excluding the U.S.

The U.S. has concerns regarding the icc’s authority over sovereign states, even states that never signed the Rome Statute that implemented the icc. For example, will the icc step in if it doesn’t like a verdict or sentence from a sovereign state’s own judicial system? Because the icc lacks checks and balances to guarantee fairness and allows no possibility for a trial by a jury of one’s peers, Washington will not submit to this judicial institution.

The Bush administration was first worried about politically motivated allegations resulting in prosecutions of American citizens and soldiers. The Bush administration later explained that its biggest concern was for America’s highest leaders. “The soldiers are like the capillaries, the top public officials—President Bush, Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary Powell—they are at the heart of our concern,” a senior official said (International Herald Tribune, Sept. 9, 2002). The possibility of American leaders being charged for war crimes was the main reason for the U.S. government refusing to sign the Rome Statute.

Just one year after the 9/11 attacks, high-ranking European and Canadian officials overtly expressed their irritation over Washington’s opposition to the icc. Both have vowed to make the court’s jurisdiction extend throughout the entire world (New York Times, Sept. 10, 2002).

Even though nations like China and Russia also refuse to ratify the treaty, only America has been universally criticized for standing in opposition to this new judicial authority.