March 19, 2001Share this story by E-mail
"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others"
In January 2001, Congressman Ron Paul went on record as referring to the International Criminal Court (ICC) as "the latest UN outrage". The Congressman slams former president Clinton as having signed the ICC treaty in no more than another snatch at an elusive "legacy", thus, as the Congressman puts it, taking "another step towards imposing global government on US citizens". His oratory is vitriolic. International "laws" are only referred to thus, in quotes, and indeed are called phony outright; the institution of the ICC is savaged as the logical next step towards ever-expanding UN "power". UN? Power? Is this the same organisation so routinely ignored and sidelined when their agreement to some egregious power play is in doubt and therefore the safest bet is not to ask for it? Indeed, the Congressman goes on to elucidate his real beef with the ICC:
The proposed court will be made up of 18 "judges," elected by an Assembly of member nations ratifying the Rome treaty. Should the U.S. Senate ultimately ratify the treaty, America will have only one vote among hundreds of nations vying to decide which global visionaries will be anointed to judge us (perhaps Kofi Annan? Bill Clinton?). The court will claim international jurisdiction over "crimes against humanity" and the "crime of aggression." The Assembly, of course, is left to define such crimes and aggression. Undoubtedly, leftist political correctness, socialist economic philosophy, and environmentalist falsehoods will decide the definition of a crime with the new court. It clearly is no stretch to predict that the court will attempt to continually expand its jurisdiction in both the civil and criminal realms. 20 years hence, will we see U.S. corporations dragged before the court to answer for "environmental crimes?" Or will U.S. soldiers be prosecuted for their actions in wartime? What about rights guaranteed to all U.S. citizens by the Constitution, such as due process, jury trials, the right against self-incrimination, and the prohibition against unreasonable searches?
"America will have only one vote among hundreds of nations." Americans would have to answer for their actions, just as those the Americans accuse have to do right now, to the Americans. It will no longer be up to the Americans to define crime, power, or punishment to suit its own criteria.
"Once the court is in place, there is every reason to believe it will attempt to assert its jurisdiction over all nations, even those that have not ratified the Rome treaty," complained the Congressman. "The U.N. never has hesitated to exert its authority, militarily or otherwise, over non-member nations; surely the international court will follow suit. Remember, precedents set by the U.N. 40 and 50 years ago, such as engaging in 'peacekeeping' wars across the globe, were controversial at the time. Today those precedents have become commonplace U.N. practice, despite the objections of many Americans."
The objections of many Americans? To peacekeeping? Er, what? NATO, US-led and largely US-provisioned is supposed to be working at "peacekeeping" duties in many places where the locals are pretty fed up with their presence. I haven't heard many Americans object to this. Most of them don't know enough about the subject to care one way or another, as long as they don't have to watch body bags coming home draped in Old Glory.
Journalist Joel Krogen backs Rep. Ron Paul incongruity for incongruity, inconsistency for inconsistency, in his article "ICC deal doesn't serve American interests" in The Star Tribune (March 3, 2001). He describes the treaty signed by a number of countries as creating an "International Criminal Court, to prosecute war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity." I quote:
Pentagon officials oppose the treaty, and for good reason. U.S. military personnel are spread out across the globe on so-called (sic) peacekeeping deployments. Once the ICC is established, there is nothing to stop American-hating nations -- and there are many -- from bringing frivolous charges on "humanitarian" grounds. Once the inevitable attack on the United States and its allies begins, those who favor our world-policeman role will be sorely disappointed. America will hesitate to send peacekeeping forces to trouble spots for fear of stepping on the wrong political toes and ending up on trial. National sovereignty will be a casualty of the ICC, and not just in the United States. A world court infringes upon the freedom of people everywhere. They will be unable to flee if they perceive the court as oppressive; there will be no place to go. [ ] Signing on to the ICC decreases the importance of diplomacy. The ICC is a disincentive for nations to work out their problems. Hey, your voting laws violate human rights. See you in court. Another reason for the Senate to refuse ratification of the treaty is that a world court is not needed. The United Nations already has set up special courts for situations in Yugoslavia and Rwanda. It can do so anytime, and will have international support if violations are egregious enough to warrant action.
So, in other words, same old, same old. Special courts for special situations - those okayed by America - are fine - the UN can "do [this] anytime, and will have international support if the violations are egregious enough to warrant action". The ICC violates national sovereignty rights, the article says so explicitly, and then goes on to excuse that violation where everyone else but America is concerned. Not satisfied with this particular piece of sleight of hand, Joel Krogen goes on to back Rep. Ron Paul's original whine:
Clinton's claim that the United States has a better opportunity to change the treaty as a signatory is ludicrous. During the two years since the treaty was drafted, American negotiators have been unable to change anything to make it more palatable to U.S. interests. As one of more than 100 signatories, the United States has little chance to push its agenda.
So, um, the only real objection is that the United States is to be reduced to what it should be, just another in a community of nations, and that it will have little chance to "push its agenda". "Americans," Joel Krogen concludes, "are not served by signing on to a feel-good agreement that allows countries to abdicate their judicial responsibilities and handing over those duties to a small group of global moralists." For someone who has just written an entire article from a global moralist point of view, that's quite a statement.
America, of course, may have excellent reasons to oppose the formation of a world court which isn't financed by its corporations and which can therefore be counted on to look through the other way where Americans are concerned. In a February 14, 2001 report entitled "Congress Sets Sights On Assassination Bill," Fox News reveals that a bill to restore the president's authority to order the assassination of foreign leaders is before Congress. Supporters of the bill maintain that it is necessary to counter the "growing terrorist threat" against the United States. Detractors call it "state-sponsored murder written into law." The Republican Congressman who introduced the bill, Representative Bob Barr (R-GA), is on record as saying, "The president of the United States, whichever president it is, Republican or Democrat, ought always to have available to him the whole range of options." I would hazard a guess that a similar decree by any other government on this planet would have raised a hue and cry in America, and that any actual attempt to assassinate the US president which could be traced to a foreign power would invite massive retaliation against the country in question, civilians and all - not to mention the clarion calls for the president of that country to be immediately handed over for "international justice." But the American president who orders such an assassination is answerable to nobody. No ICC, no responsibility. And the US can "push its agenda" to its heart's content. Granted, the Assassination Bill faces a tough battle - it must pass both Congress and Senate in order to be signed into law by the president - and one hopes that cooler heads will prevail. One recalls with some trepidation, however, that assassination of Fidel Castro was attempted, allegedly more than once, during the Kennedy era.
On what grounds should an International Court of any sort operate?
Take a look at these procedures:
- Procedure #1: Investigation of facts can be halted on the grounds: "... that an investigation would not serve the interests of justice" (art.53)
- Procedure #2: Arrest is allowed for any reason "to ensure that the person does not obstruct or endanger the investigation or the court proceedings." (Art. 59)
- Procedure #3: Secret trials (Article 64,sec.7)
- Procedure #4: Evidence may be withheld from the Defence (Article 68, sec. 1-6)
- Procedure #5: The accused may be held in detention even when acquitted (Art 81,sec.3c)
- Procedure #6: "Provisional arrest" (Articles 92, 59)...
Where would you look for these? The annals of the Inquisition? Your friendly local Star Chamber? No. These are procedures which are commonplace in the workings of the so-called Hague Tribunal, set up through the agency and the financial aid of the United States to sit in judgement over Yugoslavia. These procedures are completely antithetical to any system of justice currently practised anywhere in the "civilized" world - yet the fact that they exist without a hue and cry being raised against them implies that they are condoned by the great powers such as the USA. Perhaps some vague idea that an International Court with teeth, where such procedures may be felt on Americans' own tender skins should they transgress, is behind the USA's fear of such an institution. And, oh yes, don't let's forget that they make the pushing of an agenda somewhat difficult.
The Hague Tribunal is ruled by Carla Del Ponte, whose sometimes vicious partiality, and her insistence that no other war crimes are worthy of the name except those that can be hung around the neck of the Serbs, would seem to make her a very poor judge indeed.
Up until recently Ms. Del Ponte seemed to have reserved most of her vitriol for Slobodan Milosevic. When he was supplanted as Serbian President by Vojislav Kostunica, Del Ponte hastened to Belgrade in the hopes that this would be clay more malleable to her manipulations. But Kostunica first refused to see her at all, and then, when he did, his reception was far from what she had expected. "Dialogue [with him] was impossible," Del Ponte said. "I absolutely did not like him. He just fired off a volley of unjustified accusations," she said in the Italian daily newspaper La Stampa. "I don't think he wanted to see me." In a development only to be expected where a Serb leader failed to answer "how high?" to the command "jump!", Del Ponte used the trump card available to her - Mr. Kostunica's criticism of the tribunal was dubbed "similar to what Milosevic said in his interview," knowing that the very invocation of that name is enough to cause a knee-jerk reflex of villain recognition in anybody reading her statement.
In a piece under her own byline, carried by The International Herald Tribune on February 1, 2001, Del Ponte had more to say. I quote:
I received new information from Serbia that NATO advised Mr. Milosevic ahead of time that the television station would be bombed. He then only told some of the directors, but he did not inform the working technicians so they could leave. So, Mr. Milosevic himself obliged people to stay in the building knowing that it would be bombed so he could manipulate the situation against NATO. Our preliminary review of that bombing incident [on April 23, 1999,] has come to the conclusion that there is insufficient cause so far to open an inquiry. We have asked the Serbian authorities for more evidence, and if there is cause to open an inquiry, we will do it.
I have to say that I am surprised that this issue of NATO bombing arises all the time. How can this be a priority when each time I visit Bosnia-Herzegovina or Kosovo and observe the exhumation of thousands of bodies from mass graves? Our priority is prosecuting genocide and crimes against humanity. Karadzic, Milosevic and Mladic must be put on trial. That is our goal now. Of course the 16 dead [at the bombed TV headquarters] are not unimportant, but they cannot be my priority.
There is, as always, the repeated and never substantiated allegation of "thousands of bodies" being exhumed in Kosovo (and dismissing doubts about their origin and possible ethnicity). Del Ponte has said that the Tribunal has "evidence" against Milosevic, although she refuses to elaborate on this. Given the circumstances - the nature of the allegations and the absence of any real proof that would hold up in any Western court of law - Del Ponte and her team must be, or have at their disposal, extraordinary detectives. And yet, it is too hard to find "evidence" of a bombing that cost the lives of sixteen people working at an inconvenient TV station in Belgrade; Del Ponte asks the Serbian authorities for "more evidence," and goes on to imply that the lives of those sixteen people were the price paid to "smear" NATO during the war of 1999. The goals of the Tribunal appear to be chillingly clear here. Bombing be damned. It is the crimes of the SERBS that we are concerned here, none other, not ever. Certainly not any American crimes. Not ever. Well, not until a real International Court with real teeth and really independent provenance comes into being - and that will be over the Americans' dead bodies, it would seem. There's that wretched agenda again, needing to be pushed. "National sovereignty is still a strong factor - it has not changed. Narrow state interests still dominate, and collective action is a problem," says Del Ponte. Once again, the definition of "sovereignty" is flexible. America's is inviolate. Everyone else's, especially if it stands in the way of America's agenda, is unimportant in the light of the shining light of "enlightened" global causes. "As we look at the statutes of the proposed International Criminal Court, I am concerned that states, in their own narrow interests, are beginning to recoil from the idea of international justice," says Del Ponte, completely oblivious to her own role in such recoil.
James Bissett, former Canadian ambassador to Yugoslavia, has raised more questions about the Hague Tribunal in The Ottawa Citizen (January 30, 2001). He writes:
"From its inception, there have been doubts about the legitimacy of the Tribunal. It was not established by treaty or by the General Assembly of the United Nations as would normally be required for such a court. The Security Council alone established the Tribunal and only after heavy lobbying by the government of the United States. Whatever the legitimacy of the Tribunal, there is strong evidence to believe the Tribunal was established more to satisfy political goals than to bring war criminals to justice. Certainly the performance of the Tribunal so far has displayed more of the characteristics of a medieval Star Chamber than an independent judicial body. A number of those who have been secretly indicted by the Tribunal have been kidnapped by armed thugs and transported against their will to The Hague to wait in detention for months or years for trial without benefit of bail. They are then required to face unknown and often hidden accusers before a Tribunal that acts as both prosecutor and judge. There is no jury. If the prisoner confesses while in custody, the confession is presumed to be voluntary. The trial may even be held in secret. The Tribunal had a firm policy not to reveal the names of those on its indictment list. Yet Louise Arbour, the former Chief Prosecutor violated this policy when she publicly announced the indictment of Milosevic during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. There seems little doubt the announcement was timed to bolster sagging public support for the bombing. After all, who would dare oppose the bombing of a country whose leader had been indicted as a war criminal? That Louise Arbour would violate the Tribunal's policy is not surprising. Her appointment to the Tribunal was conditional upon receiving the approval of Madeline Albright."
At the centre of Milosevic's indictment especially with this particular timing, was the infamous "Racak Massacre" - subsequently discredited by an independent Finnish forensic report. Milosevic's indictment pointedly did not touch on any activity connected to Bosnia, where he acted as the agent of the Western powers. With its key piece of evidence in ashes, and without any real evidence for the alleged "genocide" which inspired NATO's annihilation of Yugoslavia, Del Ponte's tribunal has resorted to simply smirking about "having evidence" against Milosevic but not elaborating at all on that cryptic statement.
There is plenty of other evidence, however - evidence of the Tribunal's unstated principles and goals. A man against whom plenty of evidence is to be had - some of it from his own mouth - is the leader of the Muslim paramilitary forces using Srebrenica, the UN-declared safe haven, as the base from which raids on neighbouring Serb villages could be carried out with impunity. Naser Oric's current whereabouts are well known - he manages a café in Tuzla, often with UN peacekeepers as patrons. His activities are well documented, and he has, indeed, boasted of his deeds. But he remains both unindicted and unarrested. Quite simply, he is not a Serb and therefore no war crime exists in the eyes of the Tribunal. To provide a Kosovo connection, there is Agim Ceku, a Kosovo Albanian who led the Croatian forces against Serbian villages in Bosnia; two years later he led Croatian forces again in an operation that can only be described as blatant ethnic cleansing, "Operation Storm," which had as its goal the cleansing of the entire Serbian population of Croatia. Unindicted, unarrested, Ceku was appointed as commander of the Albanian "security forces" in Kosovo by NATO. "There is no question," Bissett concludes, "that former Yugoslav President Milosevic should face trial. Nevertheless it is unfortunate that should he go to The Hague it will be seen as an endorsement of a Tribunal that represents everything an independent international court should not be. It has been a Tribunal dominated and paid for by its political masters. It has been a Tribunal that by any standard of measurement has been a travesty of justice. It has been a Tribunal that has sacrificed basic principles of law and due process to act as a willing tool for the achievement of US political goals and as an apologist for NATO's political blunders in the Balkans. Let us hope that the new International Criminal Court that may soon come into existence can do better."
The new International Criminal Court which won't allow poor America to push its agenda.
Dr. David Chandler, Research Fellow at Leeds Metropolitan University and author of at least one book on the Balkans, writes in his article 'International Justice and the End of International Law' (New Left Review, No.6, Nov/Dec 2000):
The principle of national self-determination was proclaimed by Woodrow Wilson at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference - for the newly created states of Central Europe. The extension of such a right to the rest of the world-ringingly affirmed by the Bolsheviks' Declaration of the Rights of Toiling and Exploited Peoples in January 1918 - was held at bay. The expansion of the concept of territorial sovereignty beyond the principle of 'might is right' remained highly controversial within policy-making circles.
Central to this new mechanism of international regulation was the conception of sovereign equality. The UN Charter, the first attempt to construct a law-bound 'international community' of states, recognized all its members as equal. Article 2(1) explicitly stressed 'the principle of sovereign equality', while both Article 1(2) and Article 55 emphasized 'respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples'. New nations-which would have failed Westphalian tests of 'empirical statehood', and hence been dismissed as 'quasi-states' - were granted sovereign rights, while the sovereignty of the great powers was now, on paper at least, to be restricted. The UN system did not, of course, realize full sovereign equality. In practice, the Security Council overwhelmingly predominated, with each of its self-appointed permanent members - the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China-retaining rights of veto. Still, sovereign equality was given technical recognition in parity of representation in the General Assembly and lip-service to principle of non-interventionism, setting legal restrictions on the right to wage war.
Even so mild a form of international regulation is now coming under ferocious attack. The case for the special treatment of some states, and demotion of others, has been put in a variety of registers. British barrister and newspaper pundit Geoffrey Robertson offers a rabid rogue-list: 'The reality is that states are not equal. There can be no "dignity" or "respect" when statehood is an attribute of the governments which presently rule Iraq and Cuba and Libya and North Korea and Somalia and Serbia and the Sudan'. Max Boot, features editor of the Wall Street Journal, prefers a swaggering cynicism: 'There is no compelling reason, other than an unthinking respect for the status quo, why the West should feel bound to the boundaries it created in the past.' Brian Urquhart, a former UN undersecretary-general, sees sovereign equality as the 'central barrier' to peace and justice, providing a 'cloak of impunity' for every kind of abuse.
For Martin Shaw, erstwhile International Socialist, the 'crucial issue' is to face up to the necessity which enforcing these principles would impose to breach systematically the principles of sovereignty and non-intervention The global society perspective, therefore, has an ideological significance which is ultimately opposed to that of international society. For Robertson, too, 'the movement for global justice' is 'a struggle against sovereignty'. International law is merely an 'anachronism', a historical hangover, while 'some of its classic doctrines-sovereign and diplomatic immunity, non-intervention in internal affairs, non-compulsory submission to the ICJ, equality of voting in the General Assembly-continue to damage the human rights cause.'
As US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott explained at the fiftieth anniversary summit in Washington in late April 1999, at the height of the Balkan War, "We must be careful not to subordinate NATO to any other international body or compromise the integrity of its command structure. We will try to act in concert with other organizations, and with respect for their principles and purposes. But the Alliance must reserve the right and freedom to act when its members, by consensus, deem it necessary."
Yet the modern system of law (whether international or domestic) depends, both at the basic level of its derivation and in the vital question of its application, on the concept of formal equality between its subjects. All international institutions-whether the UN, OSCE or even NATO itself-derive their authority from inter-state agreements. International law derives its legitimacy from the voluntary assent of nation-states. Without such consent, the distinction between law (based on formal equality) and repression (based on material force) disappears. The equal application of the law entails parity between its subjects, without which it ceases to have meaning. In today's climate, the rights of weaker states can be infringed on the grounds that the law does not fully apply to them, while more powerful states can claim immunity from the law on the grounds that it is they who ultimately enforce it. The extension of 'international justice' is, in short, the abolition of international law. For there can be no international law without equal sovereignty, no system of rights without state-subjects capable of being its bearers. In a world composed of nation-states, rather than a single global power, universal law can only derive from national governments. What the jettisoning of the principle of non-interventionism means is the re-legitimisation of the right of the Great Powers to practice what violence they please. Their apologists declare that war is now the 'lesser evil', compared to the new moral crimes of 'indifference' or 'appeasement'.
Is the pursuance of this "lesser evil," complete with immunity from responsibility which is inevitable when the applicable international laws are dismissed as not applicable, the "agenda" that the United States is so bent on pursuing in the New World Order?
Aleksandra Priestfield is a writer and an editor. She contributes her regular columns to Swans.
Please, DO NOT steal, scavenge or repost this work without the expressed written authorization of Swans, which will seek permission from the author. This material is copyrighted, © Aleksandra Priestfield 2001. All rights reserved.
Related External Links
Counterpoint: ICC deal doesn't serve American interests
Rep. Bob Barr's Assassination Bill
International Justice and the End of International Law
This Week's Internal Links
YEAR TWO, P.K. - by Alma Hromic
Two Years and Counting - by Gilles d'Aymery
Personal Journey: A Flight Against The Iraqi Blockade - by Gregory Elich
Palestine and Israel - by Michael W. Stowell
Children Shooting Children - by Jan Baughman
SOMEWHERE - A poem by Sandy Lulay
Resources on the War in Yugoslavia and its Aftermath
Articles Published on Swans Regarding the War in Yugoslavia and its Aftermath