NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Skeptics Assess An International Criminal Court

June 20, 2000

Meeting in Rome in 1998, some 95 nations voted to establish a permanent court in the Hague to investigate, indict and try individuals suspected and found guilty of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The U.S. was not among the 95.

While the idea of such a court might seem beneficial on the surface, critics cite some serious drawbacks.

  • The treaty would give such a court jurisdiction over American citizens that would supersede the U.S. legal system.
  • The court might haul up U.S. peacekeeping forces which become embroiled in armed conflicts in foreign countries.
  • There is the risk that to be seen as legitimate and "fair," the court might prosecute Westerners as readily as genocidal Third World dictators.
  • The court would have such wide jurisdiction that citizens of a country that doesn't sign the treaty could be prosecuted on behalf of victims in any signatory nation.

There are also a number of practical considerations. Who would pay the court's bills? Who would actually go and catch the criminals? The answer to that one is: probably the U.S., since it alone has the worldwide presence necessary to coordinate such actions.

The list of indictable crimes is long, and includes such offenses as deliberately bombing "cultural, educational, or scientific" facilities, or causing "humiliation" or "serious mental harm" to members of a targeted group.

Source: Nancy deWolf Smith, "Missing from the International Criminal Court," Wall Street Journal, June 20, 2000.

 

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