Jewish World Review July 12, 2002 / 3 Menachem-Av, 5762

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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The ICC tramples on rights Americans take for granted | A tragedy in Afghanistan illustrates why President Bush is taking a hard line against the International Criminal Court (ICC). Forty eight Afghans, most of them members of a wedding party, were killed July 1 when U.S. aircraft opened fire on suspected terrorists.

The innocents were killed either as a result of an errant bomb, or as "collateral damage" from AC-130 gunfire on antiaircraft guns that had been set up in their midst. The facts are in dispute.

One thing this wasn't was a "war crime." But it could be alleged to be one under the vague guidelines the ICC has adopted.

The United States does not recognize the ICC. President Bush has said American troops will no longer participate in UN peacekeeping missions unless they are granted an exemption from its provisions. Europeans describe this as "arrogant." But the arrogance is theirs.

The ICC claims jurisdiction over citizens of countries which did not sign the treaty, for acts committed in nations which also are not signatories. This is as if a U.S. court asserted jurisdiction over Canadian pickpockets or Danish burglars. It's hard to be more arrogant than that.

The arrogance is magnified by the small proportion of the world's nations and people who support the ICC. The ICC formally came into being in April when the 60th nation ratified the 1998 Treaty of Rome, and opened for business at the Hague in the Netherlands July 1. But there are 191 nations in the world, and most of the big ones have joined the United States on the sidelines. China and India, the world's most populous nations, haven't signed. Russia has, but is backing away from it now. In all, two-thirds of the world's nations, representing more than 80 percent of the world's people, have not given their consent.

The United States opposes the ICC because it will not surrender a vital element of national sovereignty to an international body; because the ICC tramples on rights Americans take for granted; and because we fear the ICC will become a propaganda tool of our enemies.

The ICC resembles the courts of the Star Chamber in one of the darker periods of English history. ICC judges act as both prosecutors and jurors. Defendants would not have a right to face their accusers, a right to a public trial, or to a trial by a jury of their peers. Conviction is by majority vote of the judges sitting on a tribunal. There is no right of appeal.

The ICC is likely to be highly selective in who it prosecutes for "war crimes." When the 60th nation ratified the treaty, President Emile Lahoud of that bastion of human rights, Lebanon, called for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to be dragged before it. There is a mountain of evidence that Yassir Arafat has ordered suicide attacks on Israeli women and children. But no muckety mucks are suggesting that he be put in the ICC's dock.

Other enthusiastic backers of the ICC have called for prosecution of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. There are no demands for prosecution of Fidel Castro, of Idi Amin, or of Saddam Hussein or Kim Jong-Il, the North Korean dictator who has permitted millions of his people to starve to death.

The United States is criticized by ICC backers for interfering too much in the internal affairs of other nations....and for not interfering enough. President Bush's insistence that Palestinians forswear terror and embrace democracy is called an unconscionable intrusion. But Bush also is lambasted for not ordering Israel to retreat to its 1967 borders.

The Lilliputians want to bind Gulliver to their hypocritical will. But they still want Gulliver to do the heavy lifting. The one thing successful peacekeeping missions (except for East Timor) have in common is participation by the United States. The UN did nothing to prevent genocide in Bosnia or Kosovo. The killing stopped only when the G.I.s came in. President Bush has made it clear the United States will no longer do the heavy lifting unless the rights of Americans are respected. We aren't telling them what to do. We're telling them the conditions under which we'll play. This isn't arrogance.

Arrogance is the preserve of the carpers on the sidelines who want to second-guess us for doing what they would not or could not do.

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© 2002, Jack Kelly