The International Criminal Court:|
The United States and the International Criminal Court
The United States of America was one of only 7 nations (joining China, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Qatar and Israel) to vote against the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in 1998.
The Bush administration's hostility to the ICC has increased dramatically in 2002. The crux of the U.S. concern relates to the prospect that the ICC may exercise its jurisdiction to conduct politically motivated investigations and prosecutions of U.S. military and political officials and personnel. The U.S. opposition to the ICC is in stark contrast to the strong support for the Court by most of America's closest allies.
In an unprecedented diplomatic maneuver on 6 May, the Bush administration effectively withdrew the U.S. signature on the treaty. At the time, the Ambassador-at-large for War Crimes Issues Pierre-Richard Prosper stated that the administration was "not going to war" with the Court. This has proved false; the renunciation of the treaty has paved the way for a comprehensive U.S. campaign to undermine the ICC.
First, the Bush administration negotiated a Security Council resolution to provide an exemption for U.S. personnel operating in U.N. peacekeeping operations. The administration failed in May to obtain an exemption for peacekeepers in East Timor. In June the Bush administration vetoed an extension of the UN peacekeeping mission for Bosnia-Herzegovina unless the Security Council granted a complete exemption. Ultimately, the U.S. failed in its bid for an iron-clad exemption, although the Security Council approved a limited, one year exemption for U.S. personnel participating in UN peacekeeping missions or UN authorized operations. The Security Council has expressed its intention to renew this exemption on 30 June next year.
Second, the Bush administration is requesting states around the world to approve bilateral agreements requiring them not to surrender American nationals to the ICC. The goal of these agreements ("impunity agreements" or so-called "Article 98 agreements") is to exempt U.S. nationals from ICC jurisdiction. They also lead to a two-tiered rule of law for the most serious international crimes: one that applies to U.S. nationals; another that applies to the rest of the world's citizens. Human Rights Watch urges states not to sign impunity agreements with the United States.
Thirdly, the U.S Congress has assisted the Bush administration's effort to obtain bilateral impunity agreements. The Congress passed the American Servicemembers' Protection Act (ASPA), which was signed into law by President Bush on 3 August. The major anti-ICC provisions in ASPA are:
- a prohibition on U.S. cooperation with the ICC;
- an "invasion of the Hague" provision: authorizing the President to "use all means necessary and appropriate" to free U.S. personnel (and certain allied personnel) detained or imprisoned by the ICC;
- punishment for States that join the ICC treaty: refusing military aid to States' Parties to the treaty (except major U.S. allies);
- a prohibition on U.S. participation in peacekeeping activities unless immunity from the ICC is guaranteed for U.S. personnel.
However, all of these provisions are off-set by waiver provisions that allow the president to override the effects of ASPA when "in the national interest". The waiver provisions effectively render ASPA meaningless.
Position of Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch strongly opposes the Bush administration's approach to the ICC. In any event, the Court is now a reality. Anti-ICC laws and impunity agreements only serve to align the U.S. with pariah states of the international criminal justice system (for example, Libya). HRW considers that the major impact of the Bush administration's anti-ICC campaign is to diminish the credibility of U.S. efforts to forge coalitions against human rights abusers and to undermine future U.S. efforts to advance international justice in discrete cases, such as leading NATO in arrests of war criminals in the Balkans, or bringing war crimes charges against Saddam Hussein.
- U.N.: U.S. Should Not Undercut Protection of Aid Workers August 25, 2003
- U.S. Punishes Latvia in Campaign Against the ICC August 6, 2003
- U.S.: End Bully Tactics against Court July 1, 2003
- Letter to Colin Powell on U.S. Bully Tactics Against International Criminal
Court June 30, 2003
- 'New Justice' vs. Impunity Commentary, June 18, 2003
- Why the US needs this court Commentary, June 15, 2003
U.N.: Defend ICC in "Open Meeting"
U.S. Seeking Exemptions from Prosecution
Press Release, June 11, 2003
U.S. Pressure on Croatia and Slovenia Undermines Justice
Press Release, June 10, 2003
The ICC and the Security Council: Resolution 1422
Legal and Policy Analysis, May 2003
Bilateral Immunity Agreements
A Background Briefing, March 2003
English PDF, 81k
Spanish PDF, 81k
French PDF, 85k
- Human Rights Watch Letter urging continued resistance to U.S. impunity agreements October 21, 2002
- United States Efforts to Undermine the International Criminal Court
Legal Analysis of Impunity Agreements September 2002
- Resist Washington's arm-twisting September 30, 2002
- International Criminal Court Assembly Of State Parties
Remarks of Kenneth Roth Executive Director, Human Rights Watch September 9, 2002 (Spanish)
- ICC: Rules for Elections are Critical September 3, 2002
- EU Commitment to Criminal Court Facing Test August 28, 2002
- Opposition Mounting to U.S. Arm-Twisting on ICC August 13, 2002
- Letter to State Parties and Signatories to ICC on Article 98 Agreements August 9, 2002
- U.S.: 'Hague Invasion Act' Becomes Law August 3, 2002
- U.S. Campaign for Permanent Immunity Fails July 12, 2002
- Security Council Needs a "United Front" On the ICC July 10, 2002
- Efforts to Exempt U.S. Personnel from ICC Jurisdiction: Article 98(2) Agreements July 9, 2002
- U.S. Attack on War Crimes Court Rejected at U.N. July 3, 2002
- U.S. Veto Betrays the Bosnian People
July 1, 2002 Français
- Human rights, American wrongs
U.S. in New Fight Against War Crimes Court
By Kenneth Roth, Published July 1, 2002 in Financial Times
June 26, 2002
- U.S. Proposals to Undermine the International Criminal Court Through a U.N. Security Council Resolution
June 25, 2002
- United States "Unsigning" Treaty on War Crimes Court
May 6, 2002
- Update on the "American Servicemembers Protection Act"
February 2, 2002
- Sample letter on the "American Servicemembers Protection Act"
- U.S.: Waiver Needed for War Crimes Court
Senate Legislation A "New Low for Human Rights"
December 10, 2001
- Europe Should Oppose U.S. Law on War Crimes Court
December 10, 2001
- U.S.: Don't Support Legislation Against War Crimes Court
December 10, 2001
- The Council of the European Union Common Position
June 11 2001
- The ICC: An Alliance for Justice
July 9, 2001 HRW Op-ed published in The Washington Post
- Clinton Signature on War Crimes Court Praised
President Signs Treaty before December 31st Deadline
December 31, 2000
- Sharp Increase in Support for War Crimes Court
Pressure on U.S. Growing as Dec. 31 Deadline Nears
December 29, 2000
- Letter to President Clinton
December 13, 2000
- U.S. Government Efforts to Undermine the International Criminal Court Treaty
May 25, 2000
- Endorse the International Criminal Court, by Kenneth Roth
July 21, 2000
- U.S. Thwarted in Effort to Weaken War Crimes Court
June 30, 2000
- ‘Scare Tactics'on International Court Denounced
June 14, 2000
- U.S. Senator Can't Stop Human Rights Tribunal
Helms "Losing the Battle" on International Court
June 13, 2000
- The Debate on Constitutional Compatibility with the ICC,
by Helen Duffy and Brigitte Suhr, June 2000
English PDF, 14k
Spanish PDF, 15k
The ICC Jurisdictional Regime; Addressing U.S. Arguments
English HTML, 16k
Spanish HTML, 19k