Monday, June 21, 2004

Positive side-effects

When the Treaty of Rome creating the ICC came into force, the US threatened to end its participation in and funding of UN peacekeeping operations unless that body granted them a blanket exemption from ICC jurisdiction. The UN reluctantly agreed. Now that exemption is up for renewal - and thanks to Abu Ghraib, it looks as if the motion doesn't have sufficient votes to pass. Nobody is going to veto, but enough nations look to be abstaining that the vote will fail. This doesn't mean that the US will suddenly be subject to the ICC - rather that the normal jurisdiction of countries playing host to UN troops and officials will be restored.

This is a positive side-effect both of Abu Ghraib, and of the US's unilateralism. The former has driven home the necessity of a framework for international law allowing torturers and human rights abusers to be prosecuted. The latter has destroyed the goodwill that would normally have resulted in the exemption being renewed (its already been renewed once).

The US will probably throw a hissy-fit and threaten to withdraw from UN operations, but I suspect the reply will be "withdraw what"? All the US's troops are in Iraq, coming home from Iraq, or preparing to return to Iraq. They have none to spare, and so wouldn't be directly in participating anyway (besides, they think it's beneath them). Or they could threaten to withdraw funding, but from a country which routinely didn't even pay their membership dues, that's a rather empty threat.