An International Criminal Court

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.

    The U.S. Position

    A speech by David J. Scheffer, U.S. Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues.

    Common Misperceptions

    A primer on the issue prepared by Human Rights Watch.

    An Analysis and Critique of the U.S. position

    by Jerry Fowler, Lawyer's Committee on Human Rights.

    Comments on the ICC by Louise Arbour

    Arbour is the Chief Prosecutor, The Hague International War Crimes Tribunal on Yugoslavia.

    NGO Coalition for an International Criminal Court

    Explore this site to find an up-to-date and broad selection of information on the ICC initiative.


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