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John Bolton is Right to Call Out the International Criminal Court’s Political Agenda (Washington Examiner) September 11, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds.
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National security adviser John Bolton stirred the international waters this week by calling out the International Criminal Court for what it is and has always been — a political institution with an agenda, clothed in the finery of judicial robes. The court was formed by a relatively small group of like-minded nations working with NGOs and nonprofits seeking to establish an international body that could counter the military power of the United States. In this 20 thanniversary year of the court’s founding, as the Prosecutor seeks to investigate U.S. military and intelligence officials for war crimes in Afghanistan, Bolton warned in the clearest terms that America will oppose the court at every turn.

A court created to fulfill the purpose of the ICC should have turned out differently. Noting the pattern of creating regional courts when judicial resources were overtaxed by war crimes and crimes against humanity — such as in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia — the idea was to create a permanent court that would be up and running at all times, able to deter such atrocities in the first place. However, late in the negotiations, these progressive “like-minded” states and their NGO partners pulled several surprises, proposing a court that would be radically different. Instead of referrals from the U.N. Security Council, for example, they wanted an independent prosecutor, a kind of Robert Mueller or Ken Starr with global reach. Rather than limit the court’s authority to citizens of nations that signed the treaty, it would seek unprecedented jurisdiction over crimes that occurred on the territory of member states.

Proponents of the ICC did not seek a broad consensus, as is normally the basis of international treaties, but instead “a court worth having,” in their view. They settled for a requirement that only 60 of the 190-plus nations of the world sign the treaty for the court with such sweeping jurisdiction to be established. Seventy countries, with roughly two-thirds of the world’s population, have not joined, including major powers such as China, India, Russia, and the United States. Countries that have been targeted for investigations in Africa (and more recently, the Philippines) simply withdraw, and other countries where war crimes have been serious problems, such as Iraq and Syria, do not join in the first place. This is hardly the way to build a credible international judicial body.

The U.S. was deeply involved in negotiations to establish the court until they politicized. In the end, the U.S. voted “no” on the treaty in Rome in 1998. Bill Clinton signed the treaty in his final month as president, knowing the Senate, as required by the Constitution, would never ratify it. George W. Bush then communicated that the U.S. would not ratify the treaty and was not bound by it. The Bush administration also negotiated bilateral treaties with many nations in which they promised not to submit American service members to the ICC.

Being the world’s policeman is not only difficult, but it also now potentially subjects American service members and intelligence officials to criminal prosecution, which is exactly what many proponents of the court wanted all along. Since Afghanistan is a member, war crimes or crimes against humanity committed on its territory may be prosecuted by the court. To this, Bolton channeled his inner Winston Churchill and said we will fight them at passport control entering our country, we will fight their funding in our financial system, we will fight them when foreign aid budgets are considered, and we will fight them in the United Nations. We will never surrender.

The ICC has spent $1.5 billion in its 20-year history and has obtained a paltry eight convictions. It does only two things well: (1) Convict the occasional African warlord, and (2) rattle the political cages of Israel and the United States. Bolton and the Trump administration have rightly rattled back.

To view the column at the Washington Examiner:
https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/john-bolton-is-right-to-call-out-the-international-criminal-courts-political-agenda
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