Claude Cartaginese

Hillary Clinton Regrets that Foreign Governments Currently Have No Way to Try American Citizens

Posted on August 10 2009 12:10 am
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Even though it has the potential to threaten the sovereignty of the United States and to weaken its system of justice, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week voiced her “great regret” that the United Sates is not currently a signatory to the International Criminal Court (ICC) treaty. Moreover, Mrs. Clinton has “signaled a potential shift in U.S. opposition” to that global body, Amy Goodman enthusiastically announced on Democracy Now!.

The ICC was established by treaty in 1998 to provide a forum in which to try persons who are “accused of the most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.” Although that treaty (known as the Rome Statute) has been ratified by some 110 countries, the United States, which has always opposed the prospect of a foreign body having jurisdiction over American citizens, is not among those nations; nor, for that matter, are Russia, China, or India.

Former President Bill Clinton, who ardently advocates an international dispenser of justice, signed the Rome Statute during the final days of his presidency. But that decision was subsequently rescinded by George W. Bush, who feared that American soldiers and government officials would be subjected to politicized prosecutions by ambitious prosecutors and judges.

The primary reason for President Bush’s reluctance to sign on to the treaty was the following provision, cited in Article 5, Section 2 of the document, which reads:

The Court shall exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression once a provision is adopted in accordance with Articles 121 and 123 defining the crime and setting out the conditions under which the Court shall exercise jurisdiction with respect to this crime.

Therein lies the problem.

Ten years after the treaty was drafted, its authors have yet to provide a satisfactory definition as to what constitutes “aggression.” Bush feared that the language was so broad that the potential for abuse in the form of targeted prosecution against American civilian and military leaders was too great a possibility to ignore. Former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton succinctly expressed the Bush administration’s reservations:

“Our principal concern [about the ICC] is for our country’s top civilian and military leaders, those responsible for our defense and foreign policy. A fair reading of the [ICC] treaty leaves one unable to answer with confidence whether the United States would now be accused of war crimes for legitimate but controversial uses of force to protect world peace…. No U.S. presidents or their advisers could be assured that they would be unequivocally safe from politicized charges of criminal liability. The ICC is part of an agenda to restrain American discretion.”

The Heritage foundation came to the same conclusion in its analysis of the ICC treaty:

Americans who appear before the court would be denied such basic constitutional rights as trial by a jury of one’s peers, protection from double jeopardy, and the right to confront one’s accusers.

The United States has always been — and still remains — perfectly capable of prosecuting its own citizens. The prospect of a global body putting Americans, over whom it has no jurisdiction, on “show trials” is just too repugnant to contemplate.

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