Members of the U.S. Congress are circulating a “Dear Colleague” letter to oppose the Obama administration’s decision to participate in a conference of the International Criminal Court. Next month, an American delegation will attend the International Criminal Court’s first “Review Conference” in Kampala, Uganda. At the meeting, countries that have ratified the treaty that created the ICC — called the Rome Statute – will decide whether or not to make certain amendments to it.
The United States has not ratified the court, so it has no “official” say in the process that may lead to certain amendments. However, the Obama administration is sending a delegation to the conference in hopes of influencing the results from the sidelines. Of particular concern to the United States is a proposed amendment that would have the “crime of aggression” fall under the ICC’s jurisdiction. Back in the late 1990s, the Clinton administration fought hard to keep that crime–which is generally understood to mean one country invading another without Security Council authorization — off the list of ICC-punishable offenses. Given the fact that both the Kosovo and Iraq conflicts proceeded without Security Council authorization, you can see why this is a sensitive issue for the United States.
It would seem that the Obama administration believes that by engaging with other ICC members directly it can steer the outcome of a decision on aggression in USA’s favor. Even though the United States is not a member of the ICC, the Obama administration recognizes that the ICC exists and is something that many of its allies take seriously. Rather than pretending this meeting doesn’t not exist, it is seeking diplomatic engagement to pursue its interests. This is what you might call a reality-based approach to international relations.
On the other hand, you have a group of anti-engagement types in the U.S. Congress who definitely don’t like the ICC and would prefer that the Obama administration ignore the conference. They believe that “engagement will do nothing to remedy the major defects of the Rome Statute.” But how do you know if you won’t even try?
Here’s the full text of the letter:
Protect U.S. Troops and American Sovereignty from the
International Criminal Court
Cosponsor H.Con.Res. 265, a Resolution Raising Concerns
Current Cosponsors: Ros-Lehtinen, L. Smith, Garrett, McCotter, Lamborn, W. Jones, Burton, Franks, Chaffetz, Latta, Bachmann, Pitts, Akin, Kingston, Gohmert, Conaway, S. King, McClintock, Gingrey, Burgess, Manzullo, Marchant, H.Brown, Wittman, Jordan, Poe, Posey, Souder
We urge you to join us in expressing the sense of the Congress that the United States should neither become a signatory to the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court nor attend the Review Conference of the Rome Statute in Kampala, Uganda in May 2010.
That American troops could face criminal indictments in a foreign court for actions taken in the defense of U.S. national security interests is abhorrent. Yet in September 2009 the Office of the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court announced that it was investigating accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed by U.S. and NATO forces fighting in Afghanistan. This presumably would implicate members of both the Bush and Obama Administration. As such, today we are closer than ever before to a reality where American soldiers, Marines, and other military personnel could be brought before an international tribunal, without any of their constitutional rights, to face criminal charges.
The United States must not become a party to the treaty that makes such charges possible—the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court. But in August 2009 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that it was a “great regret that we are not a signatory” to the Rome Statute.
A major step on the road towards U.S. membership in the ICC is mere months away. From May 31 to June 11 an international conference will be held in Kampala, Uganda to consider proposals for amendments to the Rome Statute. The Administration’s plan to participate in the Review Conference is in error. Engagement will do nothing to remedy the major defects of the Rome Statute, including:
· That the ICC claims the power to exercise authority and jurisdiction over the citizens of nations—including the United States—that have not ratified the Rome Statute;
· That the Rome Statute seeks to prohibit the “crime of aggression,” an offense that will inevitably be manipulated for political purposes to the detriment of U.S. national security interests, as the U.S. is regularly accused of “aggression” in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan, and;
· The Rome Statute would revoke rights guaranteed by the Constitution to American military personnel and U.S. government officials charged with crimes, including the right to a jury trial by one’s peers, protection from double jeopardy, the right to confront one’s accusers, and the right to a speedy trial.
To cosponsor H.Con.Res. 265, a resolution opposing the United States joining the Rome Statute or participating in the upcoming review conference, please contact Kristine Michalson in Congressman Lamborn’s office by emailing Kristine.Michalson@mail.house.gov.
Doug Lamborn Thaddeus McCotter Scott Garrett
Member of Congress Member of Congress Member of Congress