A permanent International Criminal Court was endorsed by UN member nations
following a July 1998 meeting in Rome.The new Court will be a forum
for prosecuting the most heinous international crimes such as genocide
and crimes against humanity, when national systems are unable or unwilling to do so.
There's a debate, however, over whether it will be an effective, fair and
credible Court. While the U.S. endorsed the Court in principle, it was one of seven
nations which in the end voted against it. U.S. opposition centered
on a few key objections--such as the fear that the Court could become a tool
for politically-motivated prosecutions of Americans, especially military personnel.
Here are two key issues that were debated in the weeks leading up to the final vote--
The U.S. has insisted only the UN Security Council and individual states
should be able to trigger the Court's jurisdiction. Critics of this position say unless the
ICC prosecutor can initate proceedings, politics, not justice might control
what cases get to the Court
The U.S. has reserved its position on various proposals that cases be allowed
to go forward only if certain states - including the state of a suspect's
nationality - give their consent. Critics say such a consent process would
often give a veto over prosecutions to governments actually controlled by the
suspect or his allies, thus rendering the Court ineffective.
A speech by David J. Scheffer, U.S. Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues.
A primer on the issue prepared by Human Rights Watch.
by Jerry Fowler, Lawyer's Committee on Human Rights.
Arbour is the Chief Prosecutor, The Hague
International War Crimes Tribunal on Yugoslavia.
Explore this site to find an up-to-date and broad selection of
information on the ICC initiative.