U.S. Needs To Support ICC, Not Undermine It

Citizens for Global Solutions is alarmed and dismayed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent announcement that the U.S. will deny or revoke visas for International Criminal Court staff, a move intended to impede a potential investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

U.S. Refuses to Join Other Nations Signing Statute

CGS has been a longtime supporter of the ICC and has worked with other Non-Governmental Organizations to help promote the ICC. The refusal of the United States to join the more than 120 other nations that have signed on to the Rome Statute of the ICC is a black mark against the nation’s claim to be a defender of human and civil rights. At the start of the 21st Century, the U.S. was poised to commit to the ICC but backed away from that commitment; Pompeo’s announcement is a further step in the wrong direction.

While the United States has vigorously called for the prosecution of war criminals elsewhere, it hypocritically refuses to let its own possible perpetrators be held to the same standard. Following Pompeo’s announcement, Andrea Prasow of Human Rights Watch said, “Taking action against those who work for the ICC sends a clear message to torturers and murderers alike: Their crimes may continue unchecked.”

Rule of Law is ICC Mandate

Though Pompeo has threatened economic sanctions “if the ICC does not change its course,” an ICC spokesman defended the court as “an independent and impartial judicial institution crucial for ensuring accountability for the gravest crimes under international law” and insisted that “the ICC, as a court of law, will continue to do its independent work, undeterred, in accordance with its mandate and the overarching principle of the rule of law.”

CGS envisions world peace through world law, and calls for the creation and strengthening of democratic international institutions to better govern the world and make it safer, more just, and more sustainable. We implore Pompeo to reverse his stance, and for the U.S. to recommit to the ICC. It is time for the U.S. to join the 120 other nations of the world to support the ICC and the rule of law. We should not see ourselves as being above international law.

Issue is Not National Sovereignty

The current Trump administration is suggesting that if the U.S. joins the ICC we surrender our national sovereignty. That is not the case. According to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, the ICC cannot prosecute any American for any of the crimes covered by the ICC until after the U.S. has failed to try that person in our own U.S. courts. This is the principle of complementarity and it is quite clear in the Rome Statute.

We Must Hold Ourselves to International Standards

Unfortunately what seems to be the case is that the U.S. is not willing to hold ourselves to the international standards of human and civil rights. When this is the case we lose whatever moral authority we thought we had as the U.S., the leader of the free world. It is time to join the ICC, not undermine it.