In 1998, the nations of the world agreed to create the International Criminal Court (ICC) to hold accountable and bring to justice individuals responsible for mass murder, genocide, and war crimes.

Sixty ratifications were needed to get the ICC off the ground. This was achieved April 11, 2002. This means that from July 1, 2002 onwards, any acts of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity committed after this date can be tried by the Court.

In Rome, July 1998, the ICC was given the go-ahead with a vote of 120 to 7. The seven who voted against were United States of America (USA), China, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Qatar, and Yemen. All of USA's allies voted for the ICC, while the United States (U.S.) were very vocally against it and left standing with a list of countries that included those that the U.S. itself has termed as 'rogue'.

The question is Why?

At the beginning of May, 2002, the Bush Administration announced that it had resolved to 'unsign' the Rome Statute creating the ICC. Were the U.S. afraid of an international body having jurisdiction over them? This is unlikely; at least the Center for Defense Information pointed out that the meaning of such a Bush administration non-ratifying signatory relates with the fact that the U.S. do not feel like to be bound by the ICC’s jurisdiction or to follow any of its orders.
Would the United States like pre-empt ICC jurisdiction by investigating any charges against U.S. citizens? This is unlikely, too: the treaty specifically limits the court’s jurisdiction to 'the territory of any State Party and, by special agreement, on the territory of any other State' (Article 4).

And thus, the explanation of that enigmatic attitude could be 'It's a mystery' .

More doubts coming:
'Because the U.S. government has no intention of ratifying the court's treaty anytime soon, it has focused on the supposed outrage that the court would have jurisdiction over the citizens of a state that has not ratified the treaty. But it is common practice for a government to prosecute a foreign national for crimes committed on its territory without first seeking permission of the foreigner's government. The jurisdiction of the ICC amounts to no more than a delegation of this widely accepted power for the most serious human rights crimes. Indeed, Washington itself routinely exercises far more expansive jurisdiction in unilaterally pursuing alleged terrorists or drug traffickers even when their crimes were not committed on U.S. soil'.
A Selective U.S. Vision of Justice. Human Rights Watch World Report 2000.

It's not widely understood by the lay population why the United States of America deems the ICC unfit for jurisdiction over American citizens and military personnel. The previous posts on this topic make it sound like the United States is an arrogant bully, unwilling to relinquish its perceived monopoly on Justice.

The real reason the United States refuses to get on board this noble enterprise is that the ICC violates the most important document in American law: the US Constitution. Most Americans have heard of this document, and many find it to be somewhat important.

The fundamental issue: All parts of the American judicial system are, in one form or another, answerable to the American citizenry. There is a complex system of checks and balances in place to make sure that any power that is granted can be removed by a mandate from the people. This is not so with the ICC. Based on the most fundamental principles of the nation, the United States cannot recognize the jurisdiction of such a body.

Some in the international community would have the United States ignore the Constitution. Those countries in Europe who have Constitutions (not all of them do) have relatively new ones, which are easily changed, and do not always protect all of the freedoms which Americans hold dear. The Freedom of Speech and the accountability of governors to the governed (something which is not present in the EU, which is governed by a body far removed from the voters) are both curtailed in many European national charters. This represents a very important distinction between American and European political philosophy. With the emergence of the EU, the latter has of late been more and more designed to keep the "damage" that can be caused by the people, who are considered to be uninformed, unintelligent, and unwashed, to a bare minimum. The people with true power are the elite, the aristocracy, the intelligensia. These groups are expect to know what is Right, and to not abuse their power under any circumstances. Conversely, American political philosophy is based on an overriding mistrust of government. It assumes that power will be abused eventually, no matter how good the original intention was. Thus the system of checks and balances for every level of American government.

The proponents of the ICC expect the US citizenry to simply trust that the court will not be used to carry out political grudges and that no one could ever be wrongly indicted. They do not seem to recognize that there is no trust of government in the American system.

Even further undermining the ICC's chances of US ratification is the method by which judges are selected. Each signitory country gets one vote for nominated judges. That means that Britain's vote is the same as Nigeria's vote is the same as Russia's vote is the same as tiny Lichtenstein's vote. Thus, the judges elected will not be representative of people, but of governments. Small countries that are politically and economically insignificant can vastly affect the ICC's agenda. This is great for those small countries, but not so great for the majority of the world's population, who end up getting jilted if they live in a large country. The disturbing ramifications of this are that relatively minor countries with dubious interests can form voting blocs that will put their own nominees into power. Third world African nations could align with Arab nations in exchange for oil or military support or some other equally valuable commodity, and in return they would use their votes to help put in judges sympathetic to the middle east and antagonistic to the West. At that point there is no limit to the number of "war crimes" trials that could be held against nations defending interests which are perfectly legitimate in the eyes of the West but criminal in the eyes of the Middle East (or, at least, the eyes of the autocratic and generally corrupt rulers that reside there.) Rest assured that the first people on the chopping block would be the entire upper eschelon of the Israeli government, soon followed by those of the American government. For all the assurances by its supporters that the ICC will not be used for political retribution, there is virtually nothing to stop exactly that from happening.

There is much, much more. A look at the ICC's charter reveals a long list of purported "crimes" that have yet to truly be defined. One of the crimes, though, is the crime of "humiliation". It is a war crime to humiliate someone during a war, and that person need not be present, or even alive. This is well-intentioned, of course, making it a war crime to drag the bodies of the vanquished behind your tanks. However, how far is it possible to take the "humiliation" case? It will be humiliating to Iraq and particularly to Saddam Hussein if we discredit and then remove their current regime during war. Will that be a war crime? You can bet on it, if most of the judges are put in place by small, sparsely populated, under-developed countries with nefarious governments and interests in Iraqi oil. There is a long litany of cases much like this, where well-intentioned articles in the charter defining what a war crime is could easily be manipulated to serve virtually any political goal.

The ICC is definitely worth a closer look to anyone who feels indignant over the US' unwillingness to accept its jurisdiction. By all accounts, it doesn't reflect American principles. If standing up for their long-held principles makes Americans arrogant, elitist, unilateralists, then so be it, but the ICC will not govern over citizens and military personel of the United States until it is made answerable to them, just like every other court in the nation.

Special thanks to Steven Den Beste of USS Clueless ( for bringing these issues to my attention. Before I read his material, I thought the ICC was a pretty good idea, too.

The claim that the USA's opposition to the ICC is a necessary and justifiable result of upholding the US constitution is nothing but a quite transparent lie. A couple of reasons:

  1. The court will not admit cases which are being investigated or prosecuted genuinely by a state which has jurisdiction over it (Article 17, 1(a) of the Rome Statute). Thus, the USA could easily prevent any American from ever being tried in the ICC by trying them under their own oh-so-great system of justice instead. But I guess what they really want is to reserve the right to not even try war criminals, as long as they're American war criminals.
  2. If concerns about procedure or yet-to-be-defined crimes were the issue, the US could easily demand clarification and define clear requirements that would have to be met in order for the US to support the ICC. If those were resonable and fair, I'm sure the international community would be willing to accomodate. However, so far the USA have insisted on its citizen to be immune from prosecution, period.
  3. It is perfectly normal and accepted that if you leave your country and commit crimes elsewhere, you will be tried under the laws of the country where you committed them. The USA isn't willing to go to war about its citizens being tried for murder or drug trafficking elsewhere. Apparently because those crimes can usually not be tracked back to the US government itself.
  4. The US government cares not a nickel for the constitution and the benefits of its judical system when they apply to people it doesn't like. POWs of the war against the Taliban are deliberately kept off US territory in order to avoid having to grant them all those pesky rights they would have if they were tried in a US court. Better yet, the US claims they're not even POWs at all, because POWs have some rights too.

So to summarize: There is only one reason why the US government is opposed to the ICC, and it has nothing to do with standing up for any principles or rights, except the principle that The USA can do no wrong (because "wrong" is defined as "what the USA doesn't like") and the right of the USA to do whatever it damn well pleases, in any way it pleases. And if that includes genocide, crimes against humanity or a war of aggression or two, then so be it.

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