All roads lead to the Rome Statute.
Following years of negotiations aimed at establishing a permanent international tribunal to punish individuals who commit genocide and other serious international crimes, the United Nations General Assembly convened a five-week diplomatic conference in Rome in June 1998 “to finalize and adopt a convention on the establishment of an international criminal court”. On July 17, 1998, the Rome Statute was adopted by a vote of 120 to 7, with 21 countries abstaining. The seven countries that voted against the treaty were Iraq, Israel, Libya, the People’s Republic of China, Qatar, the United States, and Yemen.
Article 126 of the statute provided that it would enter into force shortly after the number of states that had ratified it reached sixty. This happened on April 11, 2002, when ten countries ratified the statute at the same time at a special ceremony held at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The treaty entered into force on July 1, 2002; the ICC can only prosecute crimes committed on or after that date.
McClatchy has a great article that is pretty much a must-read summary of the consensus of where we are now on the subject of “War Crimes“.
Emboldened by a Democratic win of the White House, civil libertarians and human rights groups want the incoming Obama administration to investigate whether the Bush administration committed war crimes. They don’t just want low-level CIA interrogators, either. They want President George W. Bush on down.
There’s a little problem here, though.
Without wider support, the campaign to haul top administration officials before an American court is likely to stall.
In the end, Bush administration critics might have more success by digging out the truth about what happened and who was responsible, rather than assigning criminal liability, and letting the court of public opinion issue the verdicts, many say.
I strongly recommend reading the entire McClatchy article. I posted recently on the subject of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I don’t like the Reconciliation part any more than anyone else does. Pat Leahy (D – VT) predicts that there will be no criminal punishments. He’s almost certainly right. Dick Cheney has just admitted his guilt to the entire world and nothing – absolutely nothing – is being done about it. And nothing will be done about it.
There is, however, one possibility: the United States of America joins the International Criminal Court.
Are we up to it? Are we willing to join the ICC and allow any potential war criminals in our population to be tried openly and fairly on the world stage? Bust ourselves and turn ourselves in and plead for mercy? I doubt it. But it would be nice.
Our biggest obstacle to making this happen is mentioned in the McClatchy article:
Also left unanswered is whether any top congressional Democrats consented directly or indirectly to the most controversial interrogation practices after the administration disclosed them in closed-door briefings.
I think one of them said something like “impeachment is off the table” after the 2006 elections. More and better. Right. Check the dates. Scrutinize the time-lines.
Our leaders don’t lead. They follow. Sometimes they need to get shoved out front. We may have a different one now. We’ll see. Joining the ICC would be an emphatic statement that the truth will be known.