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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Tuesday, July 02, 2002
11:02 PM

Uh, whose Army is it, bub?...The Post ran an editorial today suggesting we just give the International Criminal Court a whirl and, like, see how it goes:

YESTERDAY'S OPENING of the International Criminal Court in the Hague has been hailed as the biggest advance for human rights in a half-century.

In the Hague, that is.

The celebration is premature: The court may succeed in holding war criminals to account, but without much in the way of democratic checks and balances it may also prosecute the innocent. A subset of that worry is the risk that the court may at some point be turned for political reasons against American service members, in which case it will constrain the Kosovo-style humanitarian interventions that human-rights groups rightly advocate. Whether this risk is contained depends on the prosecutors and judges who are appointed to the court. The right policy for the United States, which has refused to be party to the treaty establishing the tribunal, is to make clear that the court's pursuit of American military personnel would be intolerable, then give it a chance to prove whether it can become a useful part of the international system.

The Post says that there aren't any checks and balances, and a subset of that worry is that the court might turn against American soldiers. "Turn against" is PostSpeak for arrest, prosecute, and imprison. But hey, ya never know until you try! Maybe if we just put our foot down everything will work out.

In theory, a prosecutor at the tribunal could seek the backing of its judges to go after peacekeepers. But this seems unlikely except in cases of blatant war crimes or genocide.

Seems unlikely.

Look, I admit it. I'm not an international criminal court expert and I turn to my reliable righty analysts for stuff like this. Here is what I believe, courtesy of NRO:

Although the United States refused to sign an agreement earlier this month creating an International Criminal Court, significant threats to American sovereignty loom in the years ahead. According to a new Cato Institute report by Gary T. Dempsey, the ICC could prosecute American citizens for the ill-defined crime of "aggression," which presumably outlaws preemptive military strikes and naval blockades. "President Kennedy might have been prevented from doing what he did in the Cuban Missile Crisis," says Dempsey. "That would really tie the hands of U.S. policymakers."

The ICC's charter claims not to allow universal jurisdiction--meaning it won't prosecute the citizens of non-member nations such as the United States--unless the crime is genocide. But the draft treaty's "fine print" gives reason for alarm on the part of non-signatories. It seems the Court can prosecute Americans for war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and "aggression" if the country where these allegedly occur is a member of the ICC. As Dempsey tells NR: "Americans in some foreign land could find themselves arrested and prosecuted by the ICC as soon as the 60 nations necessary to activate the treaty ratify the document." Troublesome, as well, is the fact that seven years from now the ICC's charter will be open to amendment. Attempts already have been made to include "serious threats to the environment" and "committing outrages on personal dignity" as global no-nos.

It is positively written into the charter of some nations and certainly some political leaders to be on the lookout for others committing outrages on their personal dignity. I marvel at the willingness of some--many--U.S. politicians to put our military, our diplomats and ultimately our citizens under the power of other nations and novel multilateral authorities. I don't think many people realize how different some of the traditions even of Western European nations can be.

Here's an excerpt from National Review's cover story this week, The New Holland, on the Netherlands as the "canary in the mine" of multiculturalism. Author Rod Dreher is talking about the risks, not just social ones, that Pim Fortuyn took when speaking out against intolerant, unassimilated Muslim immigrants:

Fortuyn's criticism of Islam was risky. Holland has a clause in its constitution criminalizing "discrimination," which has been interpreted by the country's highest court to include speech deemed too critical of women and minorities.

It is not a very long walk from criminalizing speech "deemed too critical" to the ICC indicting Americans for inciting hate crimes, especially given the European Union's simultaneous inferiority complex and inflated sense of grandeur, which come to think of it are two sides of the same coin.

The Post concludes by saying that what Bush may be really up to is trying to find a way out of peacekeeping commitments in places like Bosnia (he's threatening the withdrawal of peacekeepers, and we sure have a lot of them, unless we get sweeping assurances against ICC jurisdiction). But I'm left with the idea that the Post is willing to ask U.S. soldiers to test its theory of the ICC.

Funny, the editorial is titled On The Backs Of Bosnians.

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