Message-ID: <Pine.GSO.3.95q.980718194304.12937B-100000@uhunix3>
Date: Sat, 18 Jul 1998 20:48:16 -1000
Sender: Southeast Asia Discussion List <SEASIA-L@LIST.MSU.EDU>
From: Vincent K Pollard <pollard@HAWAII.EDU>
Subject: forthcoming permanent International Criminal Court (fwd)

Worldwide War Crimes Court Is Approved

By Thomas W. Lippman, Washington Post, Saturday 18 July 1998; Page A01

Delegates from more than 100 countries voted overwhelmingly yesterday to create a permanent international court to try suspected war criminals and perpetrators of genocide.

They rejected U.S. objections to key provisions, making it unlikely the United States will participate in the creation or operation of a tribunal it had worked hard to create.

The 120-7 vote at a United Nations conference in Rome establishes the first permanent, standing court with recognized jurisdiction over the kinds of atrocities that marked conflicts in Rwanda, Cambodia, the former Yugoslavia and other countries where large numbers of civilians have been victimized and national legal systems have collapsed.

Like the existing, narrowly focused tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Court will be based in The Hague. It will have 18 judges from an equal number of countries, each appointed to a nine-year term, and a full-time prosecutor with authority to initiate cases. The maximum penalty it will be authorized to mete out is life imprisonment.

The court will come into existence once 60 nations have ratified the treaty, which could take years.

But the United States will not participate or accept the court's jurisdiction, senior officials said, because of the possibility that the prosecutor and the court might assert jurisdiction over U.S. troops or other U.S. citizens. According to observers at the five-week negotiations= , the United States exerted intense pressure on its allies and other negotiators to modify the agreement . But in a last-minute vote the U.S. position was soundly rejected, 113-17.

The outcome marks the second time in two years that the United States has rejected a major international humanitarian agreement. Last year the Clinton administration rejected a treaty banning the use of antipersonnel land mines, arguing that such mines are still needed in som= e places to protect U.S. troops.

The support for the package that was approved was overwhelming, and it included every major U.S. ally in the world, said Richard Dicker, chief monitor of the conference for New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Noting that in voting against the agreement the United States had placed itself in the company of nations to which human rights are anathema, such as Iraq, Algeria and Cuba, Dicker said, It's a sad thing to see, after the United States played such a crucial role in establishin= g the principle of responsibility for war crimes and genocide.

According to State Department spokesman James P. Rubin, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright has been a leader in trying to bring war criminals to justice for their crimes, including the creation of the tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. . . . But the instrument that is being created in Rome will not be an effective instrument. It is being created in a rush to judgment that does not adequately reflect the important role that America and our armed forces play around this world.

Rubin said the text as approved opens up the possibility of politically motivated and unjustified prosecution, which is unacceptable to us.

Shortly after taking office, Albright appointed Washington lawyer David J. Scheffer to the newly created position of ambassador at large for war crimes issues and designated him the lead U.S. negotiator in the effort to create a standing international tribunal with jurisdiction over war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The existing U.N.-sponsored tribunals have jurisdiction only over cases arising from the conflicts in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

But Scheffer acknowledged from the start that it would be politically unacceptable here to expose U.S. troops worldwide to prosecution outside the U.S. justice system. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) made clear that he would never approve any agreement that did so.

The U.S. rejection has appeared inevitable since July 9, when Scheffer staked out a position that most of the 160 nations represented a= t the negotiations refused to accept: that only sovereign states, or the U.N. Security Council, would be authorized to refer cases for prosecution.

Most other countries favored an independent prosecutor, and approved a system in which cases could originate from any of the three sources: countries, the Security Council or an independent prosecutor.