Does Mitt Romney Want the U.S. to Join the ICC?
U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney has joined a growing public movement to “indict” Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for incitement to commit genocide against Israelis. In his letter to the U.N. Secretary General from last week (and developed more here), Romney writes,
If President Ahmadinejad sets foot in the United States, he should be handed an indictment under the Genocide Convention. This approach has been called for by experts as diverse as Nobel Prize Winner Elie Wiesel, human-rights advocate and former Canadian Minister Of Justice Irwin Cotler, former Ambassador John Bolton, and law professor Alan Dershowitz.
Is Romney serious? Putting aside the hard legal question of whether Ahmadinejad’s statements constitute an incitement to genocide under the Genocide Convention, what nation, international institution, or court is supposed to indict him?
It seems clear that the ICC does not have jurisdiction because Iran has not yet ratified the ICC Statute.
The U.S. government can’t prosecute him under the Genocide Convention Implementation Act , because this act is limited to offenses committed within the U.S. or offenses committed by U.S. nationals.
There are two other possibilities: First, Romney may be calling for the U.N. Security Council to refer the case to the ICC Chief Prosecutor, who would certainly then have jurisdiction to indict Ahmadinejad. I don’t think this is what he is saying, and if it is, he may be the most friendly Republican to the ICC in the presidential field.
Second, and more likely, Romney may be endorsing the idea of bringing an application or “civil” suit against Iran in the International Court of Justice under the Genocide Convention. (I think this is what he means, based on this old 2006 Guardian article). But that “suit” would most likely have to be brought by Israel, and not the U.S. or the U.N. (And it would take so long to get to the merits that Romney could be elected in 2008 and out of office in 2012 before a judgment is released)
Most importantly, it would not be an indictment. I think the confusion was started by this 2002 op-ed from Human Rights Watch entitled “Indict Saddam” even though it was mostly about a similar ICJ lawsuit under the Genocide Convention.
Should Romney be forced to reveal which of these options he really wants to pursue? Yes. Each particular approach should reveal something more substantial about his policy preferences and attitudes toward international institutions. And he shouldn’t be allowed to use loose and imprecise language that gives the impression he wants to do something meaningful without revealing exactly what he wants to do. Of course, he is a candidate for the U.S. presidency, and using loose and imprecise language (see, e.g, George W. circa 2000 and Hillary C. circa 2007) is exactly how one gets elected to that office.