[Sound of Kevin Bashing His Head Against His Desk...]
I know I shouldn’t let mainstream American conservatives’ ignorance of international law bother me, but it does. Today’s example:
The United States is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court, and Spanish judge and prosecutor Baltasar Garzon is a good reason why.
He is considering a lawsuit by lawyers for human rights groups seeking the arrest and extradition of six former Bush administration officials for sanctioning torture at Guantanamo Bay. The New York Times quoted an official as saying it is “highly probable” Garzon will grant the arrest warrants.
Spanish law and a doctrine called universal competence — an underpinning of the ICC — allow Spain and other governments to arrest and try persons for heinous offenses, generally war crimes, even if the crime did not occur on Spanish soil or involve Spanish citizens.
The author at least gets props for making as many mistakes as humanly possible in the space of three paragraphs: (1) the US is a signatory to the Rome Statute; (2) it’s “universal jurisdiction,” not “universal competence”; and (3) universal jurisdiction is not an “underpinning of the ICC.”
Oh, and by the way, the title of the editorial? “A Misuse of International Law.”
PS: Before someone writes in to claim “gotcha,” I’m fully aware that universal jurisdiction is sometimes referred to as “universal competence,” particularly in reference to Belgium’s controversial law. No one who knows anything about international law, though, would use that term instead of “universal jurisdiction.”