An Analysis of the U.S. Position with regard to the International Criminal Court: The Clinton Administration
At the United Nations Diplomatic Conference on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court on July 17, 1998, 120 nations adopted and opened for signature the Rome Statute, calling for an a permanent means to bring individuals to justice for massive human rights violations. The new International Criminal Court, which is commonly referred to as the ICC, has jurisdiction over acts of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The United States was one of only seven who voted against the statute, which later entered into force on July 1, 2002, with ratification by 60 nations. As of May 1, 2004, 93 countries are full members of the ICC (CICC), which is located in The Hague in the Netherlands. However, even though the United States was one of the leading actors in the creation and structuring of the ICC, the U.S. government has refused to ratify the treaty. Although it is arguably not a surprising position to be taken by the Republican Bush Administration, it is more puzzling to consider why the Democratic Clinton Administration failed to fully support this Court. It was the Clinton Administration that was in power in the United States during the formative years of the ICC. The United States has been in the vanguard of international justice since creating the Nuremberg trials after World War II to try Nazi officials and sympathizers. Certainly, the basic principle of ending impunity for those who commit the most heinous of human atrocities reflects the values of American democracy. In a speech to the U.N. General Assembly on September 22, 1997, President Clinton stated, "Before the century ends, we should establish a permanent international criminal court to prosecute the most serious violations of humanitarian law"(Scheffer 1997, 1). Thus, the Clinton Administration's failure to fully support the International Criminal Court presents a paradoxical position. As arguably the most powerful actor in the international system and a leading vindicator of human rights and justice, the United States refused to assume both responsibility and accountability by supporting the first permanent judicial institution of international humanitarian law.