Dear Colleagues: We’d Like to Share Some Lies with You About the ICC
My UN Dispatch friend Mark Leon Goldberg notes today that a group of Representatives are circulating a “Dear Colleague” letter urging their colleagues to support a resolution “opposing the United States joining the Rome Statute or participating in the upcoming review conference.” Reading the letter is an infuriating experience, not only for its ridiculously bad grammar — how does one “join” a statute? — but also because of its bald-faced lies about the ICC. Here is the 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 [dot] Michalson [at] mail [dot] house [dot] gov.
Doug Lamborn, Member of Congress
Thaddeus McCotter, Member of Congress
Scott Garrett, Member of Congress
In the words of the immortal Chris Rock, these people — which include those noted political theorists Steve King and Michele Bachmann — are just ign’ant. Let’s start with the most obvious lies, concerning the Rome Statute’s “revocation” of constitutional rights. The right of confrontation:
Article 67(1)(e): In the determination of any charge, the accused shall be entitled to… examine, or have examined, the witnesses against him or her and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his or her behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him or her.
The right to a speedy trial:
Article 67(1)(c): In the determination of any charge, the accused shall be entitled to.. be tried without undue delay.
And double jeopardy:
1. Except as provided in this Statute, no person shall be tried before the Court with respect to
conduct which formed the basis of crimes for which the person has been convicted or acquitted by
2. No person shall be tried by another court for a crime referred to in article 5 for which that
person has already been convicted or acquitted by the Court.
It’s true, of course, that the ICC does not use juries. But even that claim is misleading, because Americans who commit crimes in civil-law countries are tried without juries all the time — it’s called territorial jurisdiction, which the US has never challenged. Indeed, if the sponsors of the legislation are really worried about those evil “foreign courts,” they should prefer ICC trials to trials in a civil-law country — after all, the former are far more adversarial than the latter.
I could go on, but what’s the point? The sponsors of the legislation aren’t interested in facts or rational debate; if lying is the most effective strategy for whipping up opposition to the ICC, that’s fine with them. Pathetic — but business as usual in American politics.
P.S. Someone might want to let the various Representatives know that the US doesn’t have to “join” the Rome Statute for Americans soldiers and officials to be subject to ICC jurisdiction. Because Afghanistan is a member of the Court, they already are…