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Rumsfeld Talks About Dangers of 'Eroding' Sovereignty

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

GARMISCH, Germany, June 11, 2003 – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had harsh words for the International Criminal Court and a Belgium law that allows anyone to prosecute anyone for war crimes.

The secretary spoke at a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies here. He said the Belgian law is one example where nations are "eroding sovereignty."

Rumsfeld said that the world must strengthen organizations that allow nations to cooperate against a threat, "we must take care to not damage the core principle that undergirds the international system the principle of state sovereignty," he said.

The secretary said he sees respect for the principle of sovereignty eroding. "We see it in my view in the International Criminal Courts claim of authority to try the citizens of countries that have not consented to ICC jurisdiction," he said. "We see it in the new Belgian law purporting to give Belgian courts 'universal jurisdiction' over alleged war crimes anywhere in the world."

Rumsfeld said that charges have already been filed against U.S. Central Command's Army Gen. Tommy Franks. He called the law "dangerous" and said it has turned Belgium's legal system into "a platform for what I believe will be divisive, politicized lawsuits against officials of her NATO allies."

Under the law, suits are pending against former President George H.W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell all arising from their leadership in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. "I suppose if George Marshall were alive, there would be suits against George Marshall in the Belgian courts," he said.

He said erosion of sovereignty will erode the responsibilities nations have. "Too often the erosion of sovereignty gives states an excuse to take the easy way out by blaming globalization, or punting responsibility to supranational organizations instead of taking responsibility for problems that originate from poor national governance," he said.

Terrorists take advantage of this erosion and look for failed states that do not control their borders as places for their headquarters, training areas and planning sites, he said. "States have the responsibility to govern areas within their border," he said.

"We need to be able to hold states accountable for their performances. Those who want to push sovereignty away can't have it both ways: Either states are responsible for the governance of their countries or they are not."

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