The Devil Has Come to Roost
On Monday the International Criminal Court (ICC) ordered Thomas Lubanga to stand trial “for war crimes consisting of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15.” This will mark the first trial of the ICC, and a giant leap backward for democratic autonomy.
The ICC officially came into existence on July 1, 2002, after being created under the 1998 Rome Statute, an international treaty signed by almost 140 countries. Despite strong opposition by the Bush administration, 99 countries have ratified the Statute to date. The significance of the ICC cannot be understated. Hans Corell, a Swedish judge and international lawyer, aptly told NY Times columnist Barbara Crosette, “A page in the history of mankind is being turned.”
The Court will claim jurisdiction over American citizens whether we ratify the treaty or not, and that itself should give cause for alarm. Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan tried to allay our fear by saying, “The court will prosecute in situations where the country concerned is either unable or unwilling to prosecute. Countries with good judicial systems, who apply the rule of law, and prosecute criminals and do it promptly and fairly, need not fear. It is where they fail that the court steps in.” The problem is that the court decides when a country “fails.” Simply put, the Court will step in when a country is out of line with its expectations.
As with most big government creations, a large fear centers on the “slippery slope” it could send us down. Currently supporters argue the ICC will be limited to only the most heinous crimes such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. But the ICC treaty already covers such vague offenses as causing “serious injury to mental health” and committing “outrages upon personal dignity.” Moreover, amendments to the treaty and expansion of its jurisdiction are almost certain in the future.
Indeed, just what are the benefits to such a Court? Will we be better able to prosecute murderers such as Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein? Not likely. The international community has already condemned these sorts of criminals. The ICC will only be another body working to prosecute them, without the enforcement to do any good. It will have, however, the opportunity to go after individuals not yet labeled criminals by the international community, such as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
So now we’re left with a power hungry, unaccountable World Court that claims vast jurisdiction. What is our recourse? A couple years ago the Bush administration’s initial response was to threaten withholding US troops in UN peacekeeping missions unless the troops are shielded from the Court’s reach. Congressional Republicans even threatened to withhold US funds for UN peacekeeping missions altogether. Considering the US already owes millions to the UN, withholding more funds may not yield the most leverage.
The threat of the ICC will not go away simply by refusing funds. The ICC is the realization of a long-time dream by Europeans, born first through the EU and now through the ICC. The ICC represents an ideology bent on matching or besting American might, and evolving into consolidated governments as part of humanity’s march toward utopia. The threat is deeper than an unfair trial for Americans, or even the loss of some autonomy. The ICC is a great leap forward toward subordination of the American political and legal system into a global order. This should be cause for alarm; the threat is real and dangerous.