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Jewish World Review May 14, 2002 / 3 Sivan, 5762

Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow
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The war crimes fantasy | Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger recently visited Europe and almost ended up in the dock for alleged war crimes committed three decades ago. This preview of the operation of the International Criminal Court, a U.N. body ready to go into effect after receiving the necessary 60 ratifications, helps explain the Bush administration's renunciation of the tribunal.

The desire for international justice is understandable, but foreign relations has never had much to do with justice. Throughout history, winners have murdered and oppressed losers, with no pretense of fairness. The Allies tried to do better at the end of World War II, most famously with the Nuremberg trials. Those in the dock were evil, yet sitting in judgment was also the Soviet Union, an early partner of Hitler.

German and Japanese officers were tried for using aerial and naval tactics later adopted by the Allies. Moreover, the Nazi leaders were charged for ex post facto international crimes that existed only in the minds of the victors.

In recent years, the United Nations created tribunals for the Balkans and Rwanda. Their greatest "success" is the ongoing trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Alas, his arrest was arranged only by bribing the government of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic with foreign aid. And Milosevic has proved to be a formidable courtroom opponent, embarrassing the overconfident prosecutors.

Nevertheless, the International Criminal Court will begin work on July 1. Michael Posner, executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, exults: "Nuremberg was a baby step. This is a major evolution. It is a global court. It has all the world's great legal traditions. It is permanent. It will change the way the world deals with human rights violators." If only the ICC would forestall future aggression and murder. But no politician goes to war assuming that he or she will lose.

And the improbable prospect of future punishment by some international body would not likely have forestalled past conflicts. Indeed, the threat of trial is likely to make tyrants fight harder to stay in power.

There is little in past experience to suggest that the ICC will operate efficiently or evenhandedly. Washington has called for closing down the existing tribunals, given the high expense -- more than $100 million a year -- and lack of professionalism. Moreover, the West's entire policy in the Balkans has been biased, excusing crimes by Albanians, Bosnians and Croats while targeting Serbs.

The ICC will also create the temptation to promiscuously charge people with faux war crimes. Spanish High Court Judge Balthazar Garzon asked the international police organization Interpol to question the visiting Kissinger about his knowledge of human rights abuses by Latin American dictatorships while he was U.S. secretary of state more than two decades ago. British political activist Peter Tatchell applied, unsuccessfully, to a London court for an arrest warrant against Kissinger for having "commissioned, aided and abetted and procured war crimes in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia."

Earlier Tatchell attempted to make a citizen's arrest of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe for ongoing human rights violations. Belgium, one of Europe's most inconsequential countries, has even greater pretensions. It now asserts universal jurisdiction over all cases of genocide and crimes against humanity. Last year, four Rwandans were convicted of participating in genocide in 1995.

Complaints are pending against Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani, Cuban President Fidel Castro, Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Chad's former President Hisene Habre, and a host of other current and former officials around the world.

The World Court blocked Belgium from issuing an arrest warrant against a former Congolese foreign minister because he enjoyed diplomatic immunity at the time of his alleged crimes -- speeches inciting violence against the Tutsi people. Otherwise, the court ruled, international relations would grind to a halt.

But the ruling would not apply to the ICC.

Unfortunately, the United States, with a global military, political and economic presence, will always present the greatest potential target for ICC action. Yet decisions by the unaccountable international bureaucracy, in which the United States would have only a single vote, will always be politically driven.

Moreover, the organization's mandate is expansive, including "outrages upon personal dignity" and "serious injury to mental health." In the future, the ICC's charter could be amended to cover, say, drug trafficking and environmental crime. Thugs stained with the blood of the innocent deserve to be punished. But the International Criminal Court is utopianism run amok.

It will not deter aggression, murder or crime. It will pose a constant threat to Americans. Washington must make clear its intention to protect its citizens at whatever cost.

JWR contributor Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Comment by clicking here.


05/07/02: Paying a high price for befriending Saudi princes
04/30/02: The price of postal monopoly
04/23/02: The war on charity
04/16/02: The forgotten human right
03/27/02: Cuba's struggle to be free
03/20/02: How to defeat Cuban communism
03/12/02: Junk science, redux
03/06/02: Axis of hubris
02/27/02: Washington-style campaign reform: incumbent protection
02/20/02: The grand Enron morality play
02/12/02: Rebuilding what?
02/05/02: Succumbing to the terrorist temptation
01/29/02: Democrats for what?
01/22/02: The Iraqi question
01/14/02: Profiling frequent flyers
01/08/02: Trade, not aid
01/02/02: Treason by any other name
12/26/01: Preserving freedom in an unfree world
12/17/01: Dealing with terrorism's aftermath
12/10/01: Emerging friendships?
12/04/01: Uncle Sam: Insurer of last resort
11/28/01: Expanding the circle of trade
11/20/01: Free to be stupid
11/13/01: The meaning of compassion
11/07/01: Patriotic scoundrels
10/30/01: The coming postal raid
10/16/01: First, do no harm
10/12/01: Good news from a suffering land
10/04/01: Defending whom?
09/25/01: The wrong solution to the wrong problem
09/21/01: The price of terrorism
08/28/01: Uncle Sam's retirement scam
08/21/01: Canberra's quaint naivete
08/14/01: Uncle Sam's false fuel economy
08/08/01: The Clinton administration in drag
07/31/01: The high cost of government
07/24/01: Kill the campaign reform illusion
07/17/01: Do as I say, not as I do
07/11/01: Lawyers at play
07/05/01: Western blundering, Macedonian disaster
06/26/01: How best to honor Bill Clinton?
06/19/01: A maturing Europe?
06/15/01: Tell Beijing to mind its own business
06/06/01: Ukraine's boiling cauldron
05/31/01: Protecting privacy from Uncle Sam
05/22/01: America's Balkan quagmire
05/09/01: The Taiwanese flash point
05/01/01: Globalization serves the world's poor
04/24/01: Who's cheating whom?
04/10/01: The NCAA scam
04/03/01: Balkan stupidities
03/27/01: McCain doesn't want a 'risk for our country'
03/20/01: Dubious Korean alliances
03/06/01: Coercive patriotism
02/27/01: Bombing without end
02/20/01: A dose of misplaced outrage
02/13/01: Psst: Tax cuts for taxpayers. Pass-it-on
02/06/01: Bridging the unbridgeable gap
01/23/01: Left-wing demagoguery
01/16/01: The drug war problem
01/10/01: Politics and trade
01/03/01: Hope for liberty?
12/27/00: The debris of war
12/19/00: What's the rule of law for?
12/15/00: Ending silicone breast implant saga
12/05/00: Election may yield victor, but there are no winners
11/21/00: A Bush presidential mandate?
11/07/00: Exprienced Gore? Yeah, right
11/01/00: Interventionist follies
10/17/00: America's brightening prospects in Ukraine
10/11/00: GOP budget scandals
10/03/00: How a pharmaceutical 'crisis' was created
09/27/00: Clinton's empathy has helped nobody
09/13/00: AlGore's risky budget policies
09/05/00: Military readiness and Korean commitments
08/29/00: Let sleeping hypocrites lie
08/21/00: Targeting a journalistic pariah
08/15/00: European garrison for Kosovo?
08/08/00: Journalistic cleansing at the Boston Globe
08/04/00: Junk science on trial
06/22/00: Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty
06/15/00: The end of U.N. peacekeeping
06/07/00: The Clinton regulatory miasma
06/01/00: Administration stupidity, congressional cowardice
05/25/00: The silence of the international community
05/18/00: Protecting the next generation

05/11/00: Freer trade with China will advance human rights

05/04/00: How not to save the Constitution

04/28/00: American tripwire in Korea long ago disappeared: Why are we still involved?

04/18/00: Clinton administration believes the IRS is too gentle, wants more auditors

© 2002, Copley News Service