Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Axis of Impunity

One of the positive steps in international law in recent years has been the establishment of the International Criminal Court, a permanant standing court to try cases of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Unfortunately, since its inception, the court has been virulently opposed by the United States, which fears that its soldiers (and more importantly, its political leaders) might be held accountable for any atrocities they commit or order to be committed (such as, say, the razing of Fallujah, the use of indiscriminate weapons in civilian areas, or a policy of torture approved at the highest levels). The chief mechanism used by the US to undermine the court has been a series of "Article 98 agreements" - bilateral agreements exploiting a loophole in the ICC's statute to exempt American citizens from the court's jurisdiction. The US has used strong-arm tactics to extract these agreements from weaker nations, including the passage of the American Servicemembers' Protection Act (AKA the "Invasion of the Hague Act"), which requires the US government to cut off military aid to countries which refuse to sign such an agreement. So far, payments have been withheld from 35 countries (mostly in Eastern Europe and South America) in an effort to get them to toe the American line.

So, who has signed these agreements? Below is a map of 96 of the reported hundred countries who have signed an impunity agreement with the US. The primary source is a list [DOC] compiled by Citizens for Global Solutions:


This is the axis of impunity. And its remarkable how well it tracks both poverty (meaning exposure to American economic threats) and shitty human rights records. What's also remarkable is that the US has been signing reciprocal agreements with the shittiest of the shitty, in effect promising to protect their rulers from international justice. One of those agreements is with Rwanda; if it and the ICC had been in place when the Rwandan genocide occurred, the US would today be providing a safe haven for genocidaires.

One other point in passing: Citizens for Global Solutions' list includes notes on which countries have firmly rejected any such agreement. And there's a striking absence from that section: New Zealand. I had expected my own government, with its stated commitment to human rights and international law, to behave far better than that...


The Ex US officials can now tour any country in the world in which the leaders think they might be accused of war crimes and need to hide in the USA one day.
lucky them...

Having said that The US could be saying that they prefer US justice and lets say Indian justice to ICC justice.

The basic argument I guess is that ICC could become quite political - lets take a likely scenario - say China was in control of most of the judges and it wanted to arrest some leader of another country for not doing what they told them to do - then they look at the actions of their state and find somthing worthy (lets say some action of their police) and demand their appearance in china in front of the court (courts location gets moved from europe to a more sensible location).

Posted by Genius : 11/30/2005 07:33:00 PM

Genius: The US has supported numerous tribunals to try war criminals around the world. They supported the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and of course the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg. The ICC adheres to the same standards of justice as those tribunals - innocent until proven guilty, proof beyond a reasonable doubt. If those standards are good enough for Serbs, Bosnians, Croats, Hutus, Tutsis, and Nazis, then they are good enough for Americans.

As for the ICC being political, the judges are elected by all states parties, and have a duty to deliver justice rather than politicised verdicts. It is not a kangaroo court, any more than those previously mentioned tribunals were - and having set up those other tribunals and praised their verdicts, its a little too late to say now that they were only kangaroo courts...

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 11/30/2005 11:19:00 PM

The fact that the US supported them hardly changes the fact that in a sense they WERE kangaroo courts. (in fact it might be part of the reason as per the next paragraph)

That doesnt mean I or anyone else might not support their judgements. Afterall most of us hate the Hutu leaders Milo and Hitler's men more than we hate corruption and kangaroo courts. that is probably one of the things the people setting them up were all too aware of.

From a practical point of view - I dont like what the US is doing but I think the rest of the world has created the problem to an extent. The US politicians have long existed under the threat that many countries would vote to have their leaders taken to court. It would seem very likely they would be charged (and not only bush and his admin) if the ICC was more powerful. Having said htat it could still work - there may be a clean break with Bush's approach in the next election - I think that is probably the case as lon as the democrats dont get too frothing at the mouth and keep the mike moore's under-wraps.

Posted by Genius : 12/01/2005 07:17:00 AM