The self-proclaimed guardian of the world should lead by example


he International Criminal Court, or in short, ICC, is an international tribunal based in The Hague is the Netherlands. It's job, responsibility, is to prosecute individuals for the international crimes against humanity, genocide, and war crimes. It can only exercise its jurisdiction if the national courts are unable or unwilling to prosecute criminals or if the individual states or the United Nations Security Council refer investigations to ICC. Currently 122 states have joined the jurisdiction, including Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Ghana, Mexico, Senegal, not to mention the well-fare states like Norway, Austria, Canada, Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom.

The ICC's functional and governing document is called the Rome Statute that all the member states have ratified. One of the countries that hasn't ratified the Rome Statute is United States, the self-proclaimed guardian of the world. On 31 December 2000 Bill Clinton signed the treaty, but even though he supported the proposed role of the ICC and its objectives, he suggested that his successor, George W. Bush should not submit it to the Senate for ratification. He said that

  "The United States should have the chance to observe and assess the functioning of the court, over time, before choosing to become subject to its jurisdiction. Given these concerns, I will not, and do not recommend that my successor, submit the treaty to the Senate for advice and consent until our fundamental concerns are satisfied.

Nonetheless, signature is the right action to take at this point. I believe that a properly constituted and structured International Criminal Court would make a profound contribution in deterring egregious human rights abuses worldwide, and that signature increases the chances for productive discussions with other governments to advance these goals in the months and years ahead."

The reasons why the U.S. has still not ratified it, depend on whom you ask.

Some US Senators have suggested that the treaty could not be ratified without a constitutional amendment. US opponents of the ICC argue that the US Constitution in its present form does not allow a cession of judicial authority to any body other than the Supreme Court.

Stephen Rapp, the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice, said that long-standing political and philosophical traditions in the U.S. have prevented them from joining the ICC. And the most important of these traditions, according to Rapp, is the belief by Americans that they can better help suffering people than the international community, and that their ability to help others without changing their national identity or culture will be threatened by joining an international institution that has its own laws and regulations which come from non-American societies. (source)

There is also a concern from some American lawmakers that if we as a country join the court, individuals from the global community will punish America for its aggressive foreign policy by using the ICC to prosecute American soldiers and other military actors. (source)

The main reason for Obama's timidity lies elsewhere: He doesn’t want to pick another fight with the rightwing, which would be in conniptions about his "surrender" of U.S. sovereignty. But Obama should stand up to them, affirm the primacy of international law, and join the International Criminal Court. - (source)

By the end of the day, the question why is in the insignificant details. The truth is that if they wanted to join, the could do it without much hassle. As long as there's a will to do it, which is not there right now.

Now, the question is, should the U.S. become a full member of ICC? My answer to that would be a definite yes. Not because I think W. Bush and alike should be prosecuted. Which, btw, they couldn't:

  Can the Court prosecute crimes from the past?
The Court has jurisdiction over crimes committed after July 1, 2002, i.e. the date when the Rome Statute entered into force. Crimes committed before that date cannot be prosecuted by the Court. For those crimes, other solutions need to be found, such as prosecution in the national justice system, in an ad hoc international tribunal such as the International Tribunal for Rwanda, or any other special tribunal such as the Special Court for Sierra Leone or before the courts of a third country where individuals could be prosecuted under universal jurisdiction. If a country ratifies the Rome Statute later than 7 July 2002, the Court will only be able to prosecute crimes committed after the date of ratification. (source)

But the answer is simpler, or more philosophical, if you want, than that. If you're the world's watchdog, a self-proclaimed guardian, the main exporter of freedom and democracy, you should lead by example. You should make it publicly known that you are ready to take responsibility for your actions, if someone deems it so wrong that it should be prosecuted by the ICC. As you remember, ICC is the court of last resort and deals only with the most horrifying crimes. If you can't join an organization like that, organization which has hundreds of members, organization meant to prosecute war crimes and alike, you pretty much admit that what you're doing is wrong. And what impression does that leave to the rest of the world? What impression does that leave to other superpowers like Russia or China or...if you lead, lead by example. That's nothing new in the business world, neither is it nothing new in our everyday lives. But it would seem that the concept is not liked when countries are concerned.

Or if we look at this from another angle. Let's say American laws are better than everyone else's, let's just be in the dream world for a moment, let's say Americans can do better job than anyone else in the world in reliving the suffering. If we say both of these things, what does it have to do with having immunity from prosecution of war crimes? If someone says that their identity and culture is threatened by joining an organization, the identity and culture couldn't have been too strong in the first place. If an atheist can ruin the religion of a Christian, was the faith of the Christian really worth a thing?

I can make fun of everyone else all the time, but only because I'm ready to accept fun on myself as well. The U.S. imposes their own standards on the rest of the world all the time, and as such, they should be willing to be judged by others, it would be logical, right? Especially if you're the self-proclaimed guardian of the world. Lead by example, lead by example, please. Not with your exceptionalism.

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