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World court press

"World court press" Continued...

Issue: "Beyond bread and circuses," Aug. 15, 1998

Nor is there any provision for capital punishment, even as the court deals with genocide and other heinous crimes of mass proportion. To the contrary, Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in her opening remarks to the Rome conference: "I would look for the court to include provision for efforts to rehabilitate those it convicts."

State Department and Pentagon officials weighed in most heavily against the ICC because of potential risks to American soldiers who could, for example, be prosecuted for any unilateral U.S. action to depose Saddam Hussein. Under the Rome convention's definitions of "war crimes," the president and members of his cabinet could conceivably be taken to court if they were involved in "intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities." Ecological impact could also lead to indictments for "intentionally launching an attack in the knowledge that such attack will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects or widespread, long-term, and severe damage to the natural environment which would be clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated."

Had the treaty been in effect in the 1940s, the United States could have been "guilty of war crimes for its aerial bombing campaigns over Germany and Japan in World War II," said John Bolton of the American Enterprise Institute in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee July 23. Mr. Bolton was an assistant secretary of state for UN affairs under President George Bush.

In the finger-to-the-wind atmosphere of Washington, standing firm against the world court and world opinion would seem unlikely but for one ICC foe: Jesse Helms. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that any treaty establishing a permanent International Criminal Court will be "dead on arrival" in the Senate.

Prior to the June-July Rome conference, Mr. Helms warned Ms. Albright against any flexibility in the U.S. negotiating position. He told her he is "unalterably opposed to the creation of a permanent UN criminal court" because-like proposals allowing the UN to create a standing army or collect taxes-it would grant the UN "a principal trapping of sovereignty."

Mr. Helms said, "The UN is not now-nor will it ever be so long as I have breath in me-a sovereign entity."

Mr. Helms reiterated his opposition following the Rome conference, chiding the Clinton administration to go further still. In a July 30 op-ed published in the London-based Financial Times, Mr. Helms said it was not enough for the United States to vote against the treaty; it must fight it. He said he would go so far as to press for renegotiating status-of-forces agreements and peacekeeping missions in countries that sign the treaty and are bases for U.S. soldiers. Mr. Helms called the ICC "a monster" and said, "It is our responsibility to slay it before it grows to haunt us."

Mindy Belz
Mindy Belz

Mindy travels to the far corners of the globe as the editor of WORLD and lives with her family in the mountains of western North Carolina. Follow Mindy on Twitter @mcbelz.

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