“A person stands a better chance of being tried and judged for killing one human being than for killing 100,000.”
– Jose Ayala Lasso, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Earlier this year in Rome, delegates from all the world’s nations met to discuss the establishment of an International Criminal Court to try international criminals, instigators of genocide, and tyrants. With the support of all but a handful of countries, the UN conference came up with a blueprint for the creation of a role for a new global judicial body. In an unfortunate lapse of judgment, the United States was one of the few nations to vote in opposition to the proposal.
The Rome agreement calls for the establishment of an International Criminal Court as soon as possible. The court, which would be affiliated with the legal arm of the United Nations, would consist of three divisions: a panel of judges that hears cases, a prosecutor’s office that would investigate alleged “international crimes,” and a registry that would keep tabs on all the world’s suspected international criminals and tyrants.
The ICC would have jurisdiction over crimes against humanity, such as genocide (which according to the UN is “acts committed with intent to destroy â€” in whole or in part – a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”). The body would also try cases of war crimes and severe human rights abuses, including such atrocities as systematic executions on the part of a government. International terrorism and drug-trafficking could also be included under the ICC’s jurisdiction. According to the Rome report, the Court would only act “when national judicial institutions are unable to act [or] unwilling to act.”
The need for the ICC is quite evident, especially in light of recent events in various parts of the world. A body with an international mandate and the power to prosecute could arrest and try brutal dictators. The ICC could prosecute Slobidan Milosevic, the brutal Serbian leader, who tried to eradicate the Bosnian Muslims through ethnic cleansing and is now engaging in the horrific maltreatment of the Kosovars. The court could resolve the legal conflict between the UK, Spain and Chile over Augusto Pinochet by serving as a legitimate venue to try him for his crimes against Europeans in Chile during his rule.
A global judicial body could try Saddam Hussein for his numerous violations of international law, or by those responsible for the over million dead in the Rwandan massacres. The fact that the ICC would have the power to arrest, prosecute, and try those that commit crimes against humanity would serve as a strong message from the people of the world that brutality, state-sponsored violence, and genocide will no longer be tolerated anywhere.
Unfortunately though, the world’s preeminent economic and military power, the United States, has refused to sign on to the ICC. Under the guise of military necessity and protection of national security, the United States has dedicated itself to killing the ICC. The United States government is wrong.
The Pentagon and an isolationist Congress have led the White House to signal American opposition to such an effort. Why would America, which supposedly is a defender of democracy and human rights for all the peoples of the world, be opposed to the creation of a body that protects human rights by prosecuting those that have no obvious respect for them?
Because many in America’s political establishment have a misguided fanatical fear of the United Nations (or anything international for that matter). They are afraid that America will be selling out its sovereignty to the ICC. A court that tries brutal dictators and instigators of crimes against humanity does not endanger America’s interests; rather it legitimizes the values that our country was founded on. The United States is being selfish and dogmatic in its behaviour in this matter, we should stop our bickering and ensure that the ICC can be up and running as soon as possible so we can go after the Milosevics and Husseins of the world.
It is in the interests of the human race to have an institution that can protect the basic rights of the people of the world by ensuring that dictators, terrorists and other assorted brutal thugs do not violate them. It is the moral obligation of the United States to support the creation of an International Criminal Court that can protect and defend human rights for all.