From Fri Dec 1 09:43:46 2000
Date: Thu, 30 Nov 2000 22:38:17 -0600 (CST)
From: (Dr. Jai Maharaj)
Subject: U.S.Republicans step up campaign against global court
Organization: Mantra Corporation
Article: 110225
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

U.S. Republicans step up campaign against global court

Reuters,, Wednesday 29 November 2000

United Nations, Nov 29 (Reuters)—U.S. Republican lawmakers stepped up their drive on Wednesday to get bipartisan support for legislation against the world's first permanent criminal court, saying the United States and Israel could become the targets of politically-motivated prosecutions. But an Israeli official, Justice Minister Yossi Beilin, disagreed and hoped his country would sign a treaty creating the court. It would try individuals accused of the world's most heinous atrocities—genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Mark Thiessen, spokesman for the Republican-dominated U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told a news conference at the United Nations the court should never be allowed to exist, in part because it failed to include airtight guarantees that those in the American services would not be prosecuted. He presented a letter opposing the treaty from a dozen former top U.S. officials: nine Republicans, such as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and three Democrats, including former Secretary of State Zbigniew Brzezinski.

The signers, he said, believed this court is a danger to American sovereignty, it is a danger to U.S. officials, it is a danger to American servicemen. And it has to be stopped. Thiessen said the United States and especially Israel were most likely to be the targets for political prosecutions. But Beilin, who visited Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Wednesday, favored signing the treaty immediately though not necessarily ratifying it. I believe that Israel should be part of the signatories of this treaty, Beilin told reporters. I think it is the moral duty of a democratic country like Israel and I hope that this will be the case. Beilin acknowledged some Israelis disagreed because of provisions in the statutes that could be aimed against Israel. I am aware of it and I cannot ignore it. Nevertheless, I don't think we should exclude ourselves. It is a privilege to be one of the signatories on this treaty and I hope my country will be one of its members, Beilin said.

Based on the model of the World War II Nuremberg trials against Nazi war criminals, the court is expected to be set up in the Hague, Netherlands, within three years. The treaty has been signed by 115 nations, including all of America's Western allies, who have been the backbone of the statute creating the tribunal. Legislatures in 23 countries have ratified the convention out of 60 needed for the treaty to go into force. Germany, a strong supporter of the court, will submit its ratification papers in mid-December.

The U.S. defense department has fought the treaty since a 1998 conference in Rome approving the court, demanding airtight guarantees that American soldiers or any U.S. government official would be excluded from prosecution. Supporters of the court say there are sufficient safeguards in the statutes to prevent frivolous prosecutions, especially against countries with a functioning justice system, like the United States. But Thiessen, in New York for the opening of another preparatory conference for the court, said he opposed the tribunal altogether, even if Americans were protected, as illegitimate and flawed, even in theory.

The idea you can have an international special prosecutor that answers just to a three-judge panel and doesn't have any other checks and balances on its powers is a very dangerous concept, he said.

The letter from prominent former U.S. officials was sent to Republican Congressman Tom DeLay of Texas in support of legislation he is sponsoring that would ban any U.S. cooperation with the court, including giving it information on war criminals. The United States must also secure immunity for American personnel from the court's jurisdiction before participating in any U.N. peacekeeping operation, the draft bill says. And it would exclude military assistance from any country, except NATO members and major non-NATO allies if they ratified the treaty, it adds. In response to Thiessen's statements, Richard Dicker, counsel for the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said, He doesn't quite understand that this thing is way too far along for this kind of high-level temper tantrum to interfere. This train has left the station and they may not have realized it in Washington. But it is a done deal, he said.