Open letter to President Bush on ICC

The ICJ sent the following letter to the American President.

Dear Mr. President,

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) is an international non-governmental organisation committed to upholding the rule of law and the legal protection of human rights throughout the world.

As you know, 56 States have ratified the Rome Statute setting up the International Criminal Court (ICC) and it is expected that the ICC will come into existence on 1 July 2002. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is expected to inaugurate the Court formally in September.

We understand that a government policy review on the International Criminal Court (ICC) may soon make recommendations to you on US policy toward this court. We believe it is important that in deciding upon your administration’s ultimate position, officials take note of the many safeguards in the ICC treaty regime that protect American interests. Firstly, the ICC will not replace national courts. ICC jurisdiction steps in only when all local remedies have been exhausted thereby providing a safety mechanism for US citizens who will be tried in US courts. Secondly, the ICC cannot rule on crimes that fall within its jurisdiction if those crimes occurred before 1 July 2002. Thirdly, the prosecutor will only be allowed to start an investigation with permission from a pre-trial chamber of three judges. This mechanism protects against the filing of frivolous claims.

Furthermore, the large numbers of ratifications of the ICC treaty show that the members of the court’s governing body will be overwhelmingly US allies in Europe, Latin America, and Africa. These US partners in the anti-terrorism coalition are the strongest supporters of the ICC. Indeed, the ICJ joins their voice in urging your government not to take extreme measures to withdraw the signature of the US from the 1998 Rome treaty as this will send the wrong message to the world that your government is undermining the efforts of its allies and partners to protect the rule of law. Unsigning the treaty – a very unusual procedure – will not only open the US to widespread criticism and condemnation, but will also have a detrimental effect on the war against terrorism. Furthermore, it will create a dangerous precedent whereby States may feel encouraged to withdraw their signatures from treaties whether they intend to ratify or not which do not fit the current mood of the day.

In light of these considerations, we urge that your government not bend to pressure from special interest groups and desist from undermining the ICC which will be prosecuting future terrorists committing war crimes or crimes against humanity.

AdvocacyOpen letters