USA, War Crimes, and the International Criminal Court

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Wed Mar 31 11:49:01 PST 1999

In 1998, when nations of the world voted for a treaty for the establishment of the International Criminal Court, which would prosecute what the treaty calls "the most serious crimes of international concern" (genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and aggression), the USA was one of only seven nations to vote against it. (Those who spoke against the ICC included the delegates from China, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Algeria, and Israel.) Ironically, before America voted against it, the US Senate had just passed a resolution demanding that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic be tried as a war criminal.

The reason for American opposition to the ICC? The USA has 200,000 GIs permanently stationed in 40 countries and engaged in 'temporary' peacekeeping missions of various durations, so they didn't want to risk a chance of becoming tried as criminals against humanity themselves. U.S. Ambassador David Scheffer insisted upon a U.S. right to veto prosecution of Americans. Israel didn't sign because settlement-building was added to the list of the most serious crimes. (According to the Geneva Conventions, the transfer of civilian populations to territories captured in war is a war crime. Therefore, settling hundreds of thousands of Jews in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, captured by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967, is a war crime.)

Seeing how the current attacks on Yugoslavia and the successful process of dismantling Yugoslavia that started decades earlier (not to mention other activities of destabilization, past & present, against the regimes out of American favor) are seen by even some 'leftists,' I'm tempted to think that American fears of the ICC were overblown. They are so good at managing the mass media and the so-called NGOs internationally, so they could have also made the ICC do their bidding. Nonetheless, American hegemony has been based upon its ability to station and use its military and allied armed forces (be they regular soldiers or guerillas) as they see fit, with little formal interferance from outside. So I suppose the USA could not even allow for a mere possibility of an international institution meddling with its unilateral decision-making power.

How would Yugoslavia fare in this aborted International Criminal Court? The number of crimes it can be possibly accused of is not even remotely in the same league as the USA, whose acts of repression has not at all been temporary, but a permanet institution that sets a limit to what people of any country can do without being bombed (or worse) by the USA.


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