WASHINGTON (IPS)�President George W. Bush�s
administration formally renounced all U.S. obligations as a signatory to
the 1998 treaty establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Although purely symbolic in legal terms, the move could haunt U.S.
foreign policy and interests, analysts said.
U.S. officials denied reports the administration would
launch a major campaign against the Court or the treaty, ratified by 66
countries, including Canada and all but one member of the European Union
(EU) and due to take effect July 1.
In a letter sent to United Nations Secretary-General
Kofi Annan, the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and
International Security, John Bolton, said Washington does not intend to
become a party to the Rome Statute of the ICC and that it "has no legal
obligations arising from its signature on Dec. 31, 2000."
Pierre-Richard Prosper, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for
war crimes issues, said the administration would not "wage war against
the ICC" but also emphasized that the Court should not expect Washington
to support its work by providing witnesses, evidence, or any other type
He added that Washington will seek assurances from the
100-odd countries where U.S. soldiers are deployed that these forces
will be protected from the Court�s reach. It would seek similar
assurances for U.S. deployments in peacekeeping missions authorized by
the United Nations.
The administration�s announcement drew strong criticism
here and abroad. In Madrid, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told
reporters: "The European Union is an organization that tends to respect
multilateral agreements, and we would very much like to see the United
States joining this effort."
The executive director of the U.S. section of Amnesty
International (AIUSA), William Schulz, said of Mr. Bush�s move: "Driven
by unfounded fears of phantom prosecutions, the United States has hit a
new nadir of isolationism and exceptionalism. Out of step with our
allies and America�s legacy, this is a historic low for the United
States� role in protecting human rights."
Meanwhile, a law professor at the University of
Botswana, Daniel Ntanda Nsereko, recently welcomed the creation of the
International Criminal Court (ICC), saying it "will act as a deterrent
against human rights abuses."
Prof. Nsereko said the ICC would also give a notice to
the perpetrators of such abuses that "they can no longer commit these
crimes with impunity."
He made that statement after he had given a lecture in
Cairo on "The Definition of Crimes of Aggression" within the
International Criminal Court.
He said that "millions of our people live outside their
countries as refugees and development has been impeded as a result of
human rights abuses committed with impunity by leaders. These abuses
amount to crimes against humanity and it is high time to bring
perpetrators of such crimes to justice and to turn the page of
He noted that the majority of African states are not
opposed in principle to the establishment of the ICC. "Only internal
problems seem to have kept some African countries from taking the
necessary steps towards ratifying the statute," he said.
Twelve African countries have ratified the ICC statutes.
These are Benin, Botswana, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic
of Congo, Ghana, Lesotho, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone
and South Africa.
The support of African countries was critical to the
completion of the negotiations at the Rome Conference in 1998. Since the
adoption of the treaty, regional organizations such as the Southern
Africa Development Community (SADC) and local NGO�s have continued to
play an active role in promoting the ICC.
"African states are conscious of the importance of
establishing a fair and independent international court," said Prof.
(Final Call / FinalCall.com news wires contributing.)