White House urged not to re-sign ICC Rome treaty News
White House urged not to re-sign ICC Rome treaty

[JURIST] The Obama administration should not re-sign and ratify the Rome Statute [text] and join the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website], according to a study [text] released Tuesday by the Heritage Foundation [advocacy website]. According to the report, the ICC lacks checks on its power, is a threat to national sovereignty, and could cause complications to military cooperation between the US and its allies. The report concludes:

While the International Criminal Court represents an admirable desire to hold war criminals accountable for their terrible crimes, the court is flawed notionally and operationally. The ICC has not overcome many of the problems plaguing the ad hoc tribunals established for Yugoslavia and Rwanda. It remains slow and inefficient. Worse, unlike ad hoc tribunals, it includes a drive to justify its budget and existence in perpetuity rather than simply completing a finite mission.

Its broad autonomy and jurisdiction invite politically motivated indictments. Its inflexibility can impede political resolution of problems, and its insulation from political considerations can complicate diplomatic efforts. Efforts to use the court to apply pressure to inherently political issues and supersede the foreign policy prerogatives of sovereign nations – such as the prosecutor's decision to consider Israel's actions in Gaza – undermine the court's credibility and threaten its future as a useful tool for holding accountable the perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

The report urges to US not to re-sign the Rome Statute, and to press for changes at the 2010 review conference.

The Heritage Foundation study comes in response to recent media reports that suggest the Obama administration may be considering joining the ICC. Earlier this month, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during a visit to Kenya that it is a "great regret" [Reuters report] that the US is not a signatory to the ICC. The Rome Statute was approved in 1998, and the ICC was established in 2002. The US signed, but never ratified the treaty. Then-president George W. Bush later "un-signed" the treaty by notifying the UN that the US did not intend to ratify it. As of August 2009, only 110 of the 192 UN member states have ratified the treaty. Other states that have refused to ratify it include China, India, and Russia.