Coastal Post Online


August 2002

I'll Take My Dollies Home

By Edward W. Miller

Like the insecure bully that it is, all last week Washington argued with its 14 colleagues in the UN Security Council over the new International Criminal Court (ICC), threatening to withdraw all of its soldiers involved in the NATO "peacekeeping:" forces in Bosnia. After hours of intense and often recriminating negotiations, our UN Ambassador, John Negoponte reluctantly agreed to accept the compromise offered by Britain and France, to defer any investigation of an American peacekeeper for 12 months, and allow the US to take any accused soldier home. The United States has threatened to pull out of all UN peacekeeping operations if it doesn't get immunity and even stop paying its 25% share of the UN peacekeeping bill.

Washington has been wary of the new International Criminal Court since its inception in 1998 in Rome where the foundation for the Court was established on the 17th of July when UN delegates from 120 countries, after weeks of intense debate, and after rebuffing a series of US objections, finally agreed on a treaty establishing a permanent International Criminal Court (ICC) to be situated in the Hague in the Netherlands. Key provisions included the Court's power to prosecute individuals accused of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, as well as the Court's right to issue both arrest warrants and summons to appear. The Court was to become a viable entity when 60 of the founding nations had officially accepted it. The ICC, which may accept referrals from the UN Security Council, the Court's own independent prosecutor, and from a country, may not exert a death penalty, but may invoke life imprisonment. Situated in the Hague, the Court will, when fully implemented, have 18 judges overseen by representatives from those countries which accept the treaty.

As of June 28, 2002, 69 countries had ratified the Rome Treaty and the ICC had become an entity. All 15 European members have ratified and are presently bound by the Treaty, including Britain and France. Back in 1995, one the 50th anniversary of the Nuremberg trials, our then President, Bill Clinton, in the last weeks of his presidency, publicly endorsed and signed the US agreement to accept the Court. Since is final acceptance would require a vote from our Senate, and since there were many objections from Congress. The ICC has never been brought to our Senate for its consideration.

The US has reason to be wary of such international courts. During the Reagan Administration, our Country was accused by tiny Nicaragua of planting mines in both its Pacific and Caribbean harbors as part of our dirty Contra war the US was losing. Nicaragua took her case to the World Court in the Hague, a court established back in 1947 around the time the UN was founded, and won her case. Though Washington had given lip service to this Court for half a century, when the verdict was delivered against us and a $13 million fine imposed, Washington suddenly decided the World Court had no jurisdiction over either the US or this issue, and declined both to recognize the Court's authority and to pay the reparations demanded.

Though the US had been burned once, with the growing objections by countries around the world to NATO's destructive military actions in the Balkans, the US with its French and German allies decided to deflect this growing international criticism by the tried and true method of incriminating the acknowledged head of the country being targeted. As international lawyer Christopher Black pointed out ( 21 Jan 2002), since the NATO countries involved understood that they could not establish a tribunal without a treaty to legitimize such an organization, and since the US had fought against such an international court for some 30 years, it was decided by France, Germany, Britain and the US that to take the heat off NATO by both discrediting and then villanizing the Yugoslav president Milosevic, they would use the UN Security Council as their political machine, despite the fact that the United Nations Charter does not permit this body of only 15 members to construct such a court. So, with their political pressure in the Security Council, the NATO bigwigs in 1993 forced through Resolution 808 and 827, stating as Professor Black notes: "that the situation in Bosnia... constituted a threat to international peace and security and that a tribunal to prosecute war criminals would help to restore peace. It all sounds very nice until one realizes that there was no basis for the characterization of the situation in Bosnia as a threat to international peace... the setup for this characterization was Resolution 688 (1991) also fostered by the US, in which the Security Council stated that disregard for human rights constitutes a threat to international security, and can no longer be treated as an internal matter." This Resolution, as Professor Black stated, "undermines the very basis of the (UN) Charter." In fact, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, unable to find any legal basis for such a tribunal, publicly stated that: "this approach would have the advantage of being expeditious and immediately affective." So much for international law and the UN Charter.

The NATO-designated "international criminal," Slobovan Milosevic, indicted by this illegal Tribunal, was then kidnapped and imprisoned in the Hague after the US and other lending countries withheld desperately-needed reconstruction funds from the newly-elected Serbian leaders, thus forcing them to make Milosevic a prisoner of his NATO enemies. For some months, Yugoslavia's former president has been valiantly defending himself against trumped-up charges in a hostile and illegal court. Accused by witnesses whose credentials are often hidden from both the defense and the court, constrained again and again by the Court's hostile Chief Justice from pursuing his cross-examination of politically-positioned witnesses, denied any significant time with his wife and friends, and inadequately treated for his high blood pressure, Milosevic has managed to discredit many of his accusers, has presented his case with surprising capability, and has forced the prosecution to abandon many of the additional and spurious charges which were illegally imposed after the trial had commenced. He has the heart-felt support of a great many of his countrymen who see him correctly as the victim of NATO aggression.

Washington, thus, has discarded the jurisdiction of a World Court that found against it, and it now is doing its best to disregard and invalidate the International Criminal Court that most of the intelligent world supports. Our bubble-head Bush has said our Senate will not be asked to debate approval of the Court, and has gone so far as to say that Clinton's signature, accept Tome Treaty, must be overturned, despite the fact that our Constitution says only our Senate can approve or reject international treaties. On Monday, May 6, the Administration sent a letter to the UN renouncing any obligation to cooperate with the ICC.

While our pseudo-international Court in the Hague spends its political and legal energy vilifying the ex-head of a country destroyed by NATO, the fate of the new International Criminal Tribunal is far from settled, but the world is changing.

In Toronto in March 1999, 40 Canadian activists attempted to arrest our own International criminal Henry Kissinger. They failed, but their action resonated with peace-lovers around the world. In Sweden this week, the youth faction of that Country's ruling party filed a police complaint against Israel's arch-criminal Sharon. Israel's ambassador to Sweden said the complaint was "regrettable." Meanwhile, lawyers for 23 Palestinians had launched a similar case against Sharon in the Belgium courts earlier this year. An appeals court will decide on June 26 if a Belgium judge should hear the case.

In Zagreb, Croatia, the Balkans War Crime Tribunal is examining whether charges are warranted against former President Bill Clinton and his aides for supporting a 1995 military offensive by Croatia which captured territory from Serbian nationals. The Croatian World Congress (an NGO advisor to the UN) last week sent a letter to Carla Del Ponte, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) demanding she open a criminal investigation of Clinton and his colleagues. This Balkans Court angered US officials two years ago when it announced it was looking into a similar complaint against NATO commanders for their role in the 78-day bombing of Yugoslavia.

An increasing number of members of the former Yugoslav Federation are displeased with NATO's attempts to criminalize their ex-president Milosevic. The Soviet government is also at odds with NATO over this issue. Back on the 23rd of January, Russia's Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov stated publicly that the Yugoslav Tribunal "should be shut down" in the best interests of Balkan stability, while the Russian Duma on February 15, 2002, saying the ICTY violates the rights of the accused, demanded Milosevic be set free. ([email protected] 2/18/02)

Washington is a slow learner. Our bullheadedness and ill-deserved sense of superiority are landing us in trouble across the Planet. Germany's popular magazine, Der Spiegel was quoted last week ( as saying: "Nothing is more dangerous than combing pride with incompetence... Mr. Bush is insisting that American forces be immune to UN laws and regulations. And the jurisdiction of the ICC... because he is afraid the Court would be "politicized." In other words, Bush would have none of US peacekeepers serving abroad who commit a crime against humanity be tried by the Court... but while Bush was trying to shield his forces... the US... targeted an innocent wedding party in Afghanistan and killed some 48 people. Including the bride and groom... to use B-52s against a defenseless group in an impoverished country is the height of insanity... if the US wants to lead... it must not heap ridicule on itself by being the first to violate international norms."

Jeffrey Heyman, who has served with four peacekeeping groups in both Cambodia and the Balkans, states in a letter (SF Chronicle July 18, 2002) that "military and civilian corruption and serious criminal activity, I am sorry to report, are nearly rampant in many peacekeeping operations. Trafficking in everything from fuel to human beings takes place with the active or passive participation of corrupt peacekeepers. And tens of millions of dollars in development funds slated to aid peacekeeping have gone missing in recent years, largely due to corruption." Jeffrey argues that while the US is talking about corruption, "we should seize the moral high ground" and support the new ICC. He is right on target.




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