Wednesday, May 08, 2002
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By Sridhar Krishnaswami
"It's over. We are washing our hands of it,'' remarked Pierre-Richard Prosper, State Department's Ambassador at Large for War Crimes issues. The outgoing Democratic President, Bill Clinton, signed the treaty in December 2000 but did not submit it for ratification by the Senate. The Republican President, George W Bush, never hid his total dislike and disdain for the treaty; and made no attempts to send it for Senate ratification as well. On Monday, the administration formally informed the United Nations that the United States "has no legal obligations'' to the ICC because there was no intention to become a party.
The reaction to the decision to get away from the ICC has been along expected lines conservatives praising the administration and human rights groups attacking the move. In the words of one leading conservative, Representative Bob Barr, the administration has shown "real courage and leadership...in refusing to sacrifice America's constitutional principles to those bent on creating a one world government''. But disappointment was expressed by many, especially among America's close allies in Europe and in this part of the world.
The reaction from Canada was particularly sharp. "I think there's a certain irony in the fact that the United States, which tends to extra-territorially apply its laws rather widely, is not willing to participate in a truly international consensus,'' the Foreign Minister, Bill Graham, remarked.
Even while walking away from the treaty, the Republican administration has given the impression that it was getting out of the process in a rather soft way.
Asked why this administration did not `renounce' the signature on the treaty, Mr. Prosper argued that a decision was made by the President "not to aggressively attack or undermine'' the treaty. "This was a better way to go,'' he said.
The Bush administration decision on the ICC is seen as a victory to hardliners such as in the Pentagon who were always wary of the implications to American service personnel overseas.
Unlike the World Court at The Hague which is restricted to governments, the ICC could try even individual citizens referred to it by the U.N. Security Council, by a government of an ICC Member or by the Court's own prosecutors.
The Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Marc Grossman, took the position that the ICC had the potential to go after American military personnel in politicised prosecutions and investigations.
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