U.S. Withdraws from International Criminal Court Treaty
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 7, 2002 Bush administration officials notified U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan May 6 that the United States is withdrawing from the International Criminal Court Treaty.
The ICC treaty, which goes into force on July 1, puts U.S. service members and officials at risk of prosecution by a court that is "unaccountable to the American people, and "has no obligation to respect the constitutional rights of our citizens," according to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
In a written statement, Rumsfeld said the United States rejects the jurisdictional claims of the ICC. "The United States will regard as illegitimate any attempt by the court or state parties to the treaty to assert the ICC's jurisdiction over American citizens," he said.
The United States has a number of serious objections to the treaty, Rumsfeld said. There is a lack of adequate checks and balances on the powers of ICC prosecutors and judges. The treaty dilutes the U.N. Security Council's authority over international criminal prosecutions.
As written, U.S. service members and officials could be charged with war crimes as a political move by other nations. Putting U.S. service members at risk of politicized prosecution, Rumsfeld said, would discourage U.S. military engagement in the world and be a "recipe for isolationism."
"We have an obligation to protect our men and women in uniform from this court and to preserve America's ability to remain engaged in the world," he said. "And we intend to do so."
The treaty would have caused problems at any time, Rumsfeld said, but they are "particularly troubling in the midst of a difficult, dangerous war on terrorism. There is a risk that the ICC could attempt to assert jurisdiction over U.S. service members, as well as civilians, involved in counterterrorist and other military operations -- something we cannot allow."
Rumsfeld said the United States respects other nations' decisions to join the ICC. They in turn need to respect the U.S. decision to stay out of the ICC.
"Unfortunately, the ICC will not respect the U.S. decision to stay out of the treaty," Rumsfeld wrote. "To the contrary, the ICC provisions claim the authority to detain and try American citizens -- U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, as well as current and future officials -- even though the United States has not given its consent to be bound by the treaty."
Secretary of State Colin Powell said May 5 on ABC's This Week that the United States "found that this is not a situation that we believe was appropriate for our men and women in the armed forces or our diplomats and political leaders."
Powell said the United States has been in the forefront of bringing war criminals to justice. "We have supported a tribunal for Yugoslavia, the tribunal for Rwanda, we're trying to get the tribunal for Sierra Leone set up," Powell said.
Nor is it a matter of allowing Americans to not pay for any crimes they commit. "We have the highest standards of accountability of any nation on the face of the Earth," he said.