Human rights group critical of US opposition to ICC in Darfur

Tuesday, February 1, 2005

US based NGO Human Rights Watch has criticised the United States attempts to block the UN Security Council from referring atrocities in the Darfur conflict region to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The US favours setting up an ad hoc tribunal instead. HRW claims that the resulting delay will lead to the loss of more innocent lives.

The US has long opposed the ICC, because of concerns over politically motivated prosecutions of it's citizens.

A report prepared by a five member UN commission noted "killing of civilians, enforced disappearances, destruction of villages, rape and other forms of sexual violence, pillaging and forced displacement, throughout Darfur", and secretly named alleged war criminals that should go before the ICC.

Pierre-Richard Prosper, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes, said "We don't want to be party to legitimizing the ICC."

In the last two years in the Darfur region more than 70,000 people have been killed, and over 2 million displaced.

US opposition to ICC

The United States, which signed but did not ratify the statute during the Bill Clinton administration, withdrew its support soon after George W. Bush assumed the presidency. It signed the ICC Statute at the last minute, primarily so that it could continue to take part in negotiations on the rules of procedure for the new court, in an attempt to obtain an exemption for U.S. nationals taking part in UN-sponsored peacekeeping missions--as several other countries were able to do. The U.S. fears that American soldiers and political leaders may be subject to frivolous or politically motivated prosecutions.

U.S. opponents of the ICC maintain that in cases where the U.S. failed to act quickly enough to prevent disaster the U.S. has been criticized for allowing genocide to occur (e.g. Rwanda:"Rwanda: U.S., France blamed for genocide","Rwanda-US: Intelligence Warned Early of Genocide, New Papers Show"); in cases where the U.S. has acted quickly they have been criticized and even accused of war crimes (e.g. Yugoslavia, Somalia:"Yugoslavia: US Terrorism", "American Slaughter of People in Somalia").

Furthermore, opponents contend that the neither the ICC nor the United Nations has any real power to enforce the extradition of war criminals from signatory states. Therefore, any kind of military action to force compliance would have to be undertaken (in large part) by the U.S., action which would expose U.S. officials to spurious charges of war crimes.