While the Bush administration continues to relive the colonial history of the 19th century, the world is moving on without him and without us. The long sought and much needed International Criminal Court is now in session.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo is the first Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Elected by the ratifying countries in April of this year, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo has tried criminal and human rights cases involving the extradition of a former Nazi officer from Argentina, political bribery, journalists’ protection, and the crimes of the military junta during Argentina‘s “dirty war.” Moreno-Ocampo has also been a visiting professor at Stanford University and Harvard University in the United States.
Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch says, “Too many atrocities have been committed by ruthless leaders who calculated that they could get away with mass murderâ€¦the International Criminal Court will help break that deadly logic.”
The United States played a central role in the precursors to the International Criminal Court in the Nuremberg trials, the international tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, and the Sierra Leone court. Yet the U.S. government always demanded a high degree of control over the Court and resisted its authority to prosecute U.S. military and government officials. President Clinton authorized signing — but not ratifying — the Rome Statute on December 31, 2000, just before leaving office and on the deadline set by the statute.
In May 2002, a new position emerged as the Bush administration nullified the United States‘ signature on the Rome Statute. In so doing, the administration withdrew U.S. support for the creation of the International Criminal Court and asserted the exclusion of U.S. citizens from the Court’s jurisdiction.
After unsigning the Rome Statutes, the U.S. government passed domestic legislation withholding military aid from countries that ratify the ICC unless they agree not to turn over U.S. citizens or employees to the Court. The legislation also authorizes the U.S. President to use “all means necessary and appropriate” to free U.S. personnel detained by the ICC. In June of this year, the U.S. insisted that the UN Security Council extend immunity from ICC prosecution for its peacekeeping forces.
The Court can consider genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes which occurred after this date and which are not being tried in a national court. The ICC is independent of the United Nations and is funded by the ratifying states. The Court is housed at The Hague in the Netherlands.
For more details on this new and long overdue court check out: www.moveon.org/
Let us join our brothers and sisters throughout the world and demand that the United States participate in a 21st century legal system.
Blase Bonpane, Ph.D., is Director of the Office of the Americas. [email protected]