Protesting Too Much About Samantha Power and the ICC

Protesting Too Much About Samantha Power and the ICC

I think Julian doth protest too much about Samantha Power’s opinion piece in today’s New York Times.

First, a point of logic. Saying someone doesn’t know which they dislike more, A or B, is not the same as saying that person condones A or B. At no point in the piece would it be fair to say that Power even implied that the Bush Administration condoned genocide. To the contrary, she gives the Administration credit where credit is due:

“The Bush administration has been more forthright than any of the United Nations’ 191 member states in denouncing the atrocities in Sudan – a fact that should shame European nations that pride themselves on their human rights pedigrees. The United States was the first to characterize the violence as genocide and the first, way back in June, to name potential perpetrators and call for punishment. It has also dismissed offers by the Sudanese government to conduct the trials at home, rightly recognizing that Khartoum is unlikely to prosecute crimes that it has ordered and committed.”

However, she also takes it to task for where its actions do not match its rhetoric over the Sudan. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m sympathetic to it since I made a similar point in an earlier post. The fact is, although there is consensus building for an ICC referral, the U.S. does not want to do that because, in the words of War Crimes Ambassador Pierre-Richard Prosper, “We don’t want to be party to legitimizing the ICC.” So, according to an Administration official, a main reason for not sending the Darfur issue to the ICC is not because an ad hoc would do a better job (an argument that Power does an excellent job in debunking) but because, essentially, we don’t like the ICC.

Moreover, regarding the torture in Abu Ghraib and the (ever increasing) allegations about Guantanamo, one should note that the reason the ICC prosecutor isn’t investigating is because the prosecutor himself does not believe the ICC has jurisdcition over any of these claims. If the ICC actually was some out-of-control international tribunal, as the over-heated rhetoric of some of the its detractors suggests, the result would have been different.

The ICC, like any institution, is flawed. Moreover, as I’ve said before, I don’t think any international tribunal will stop the genocide (see also Peggy’s post). Nonethleless, a competent international tribunal can play an important part in securing the peace. It is important that the population in a transitional society believes that justice is being served (such as by a truth commission, an international tribunal, or the domestic courts). According to Power there is a hope in Darfur that those responsible for the killing will be put on the dock in the Hague. We could make that closer to becoming a reality as soon as we stop impeding a referral to the ICC. Doing so would be a step on the road to a sustainable peace. For the moment, though, the Bush Administration isn’t walking that road.

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“ICC, like any institution, is flawed” – yikes, give it a chance to come into existence first!

Re Abu Ghraib/Guantanamo – you can read the Rome Statute yourself: not many grounds for ICC jurisdiction, since Iraq, the U.S., and Cuba are not ICC members. Intriguing prospect though: by ratifying and not conferring immunity, could Cuba unilaterally render U.S. troops subject to ICC jurisdiction? Castro’s last gasp of defiance…

Looks like things’ve changed, finally, and for the better.