Posted by: Tony Carson | 18 September, 2007

The ICC and the superpower who leads by might, not example

The US is NOT among the 100 members of the International Criminal Court, the world’s first permanent international criminal tribunal. It serves as a court of last resort to prosecute genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity when national authorities are unable or unwilling to do so.

Why?  Because in 2002, according to this op-ed in The Christian Science Monitor A way for America to assert its moral strength, “Bush ‘unsigned’ the treaty that created the court, and US diplomats have openly sought to discredit it. Critics assert that the ICC is open to manipulation by America’s enemies. They cultivate a foreboding sound-bite: that an anti-American prosecutor might charge a member of the US armed forces with war crimes.”

But times have changed says essayist Alex Little who served as a consultant to the International Criminal Court and worked in its Prosecution Division.

But, paradoxically, it is exactly the vehemence of this administration’s opposition to the ICC that makes joining the court viable.

Call it diplomatic jujitsu. The force of the administration’s previous contempt for the court, if reversed, would send a dramatic message to a world skeptical of America’s human rights record: If you don’t trust America’s word, watch the US in action.

This message, sent at a time when America’s reputation is under attack, would instantly reframe the debate about the government’s commitment to human rights, generate positive press internationally, and begin to restore America’s moral standing in the eyes of the world.

By joining the ICC, America can demonstrate its moral strength, commitment to the rule of law, and leadership in the fight for freedom and dignity – in sum, that the US is committed to exercising a positive influence in world affairs.

He might have added that to continue to ignore the ICC also sends a message to the world about the US moral strength. A very clear message of double standards: we are above being held to account; we are a superpower who leads by might, not example.

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