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Context of 'May 6, 2002: US Withdraws from International Criminal Court Statute'

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PNAC logo.PNAC logo. [Source: Project for the New American Century]The Project for the New American Century (PNAC), an influential neoconservative think tank, publishes a letter to President Clinton urging war against Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein because he is a “hazard” to “a significant portion of the world’s supply of oil.” In a foretaste of what eventually happens, the letter calls for the US to go to war alone, attacks the United Nations, and says the US should not be “crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council.” The letter is signed by many who will later lead the 2003 Iraq war. 10 of the 18 signatories later join the Bush Administration, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Assistant Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretaries of State Richard Armitage and Robert Zoellick, Undersecretaries of State John Bolton and Paula Dobriansky, presidential adviser for the Middle East Elliott Abrams, Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle, and George W. Bush’s special Iraq envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. Other signatories include William Bennett, Jeffrey Bergner, Francis Fukuyama, Robert Kagan, William Kristol, Peter Rodman, William Schneider, Vin Weber, and James Woolsey. [Project for the New American Century, 1/26/1998; Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 3/16/2003; Unger, 2007, pp. 158] Clinton does heavily bomb Iraq in late 1998, but the bombing doesn’t last long and its long term effect is the break off of United Nations weapons inspections. [New York Times, 3/23/2003] The PNAC neoconservatives do not seriously expect Clinton to attack Iraq in any meaningful sense, author Craig Unger will observe in 2007. Instead, they are positioning themselves for the future. “This was a key moment,” one State Department official will recall. “The neocons were maneuvering to put this issue in play and box Clinton in. Now, they could draw a dichotomy. They could argue to their next candidate, ‘Clinton was weak. You must be strong.’” [Unger, 2007, pp. 158]

Entity Tags: Robert B. Zoellick, Vin Weber, William Kristol, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Zalmay M. Khalilzad, William Schneider Jr., Richard Perle, William J. Bennett, Richard Armitage, Robert Kagan, Paula J. Dobriansky, Donald Rumsfeld, Craig Unger, Peter Rodman, Elliott Abrams, John R. Bolton, James Woolsey, Francis Fukuyama, Jeffrey T. Bergner, Paul Wolfowitz

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Neoconservative Influence

The UN General Assembly adopts the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). One hundred twenty member-states vote in favor of the Statute with 21 abstaining and only seven voting against. The countries which oppose its creation are the United States (will sign Statute on December 31, 2000 but later withdraw (see May 6, 2002)), Israel (will sign Statute on December 31, 2000 but later withdraw (see August 28, 2002)), China, Iraq, Qatar, Libya, and Yemen. [Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, 7/17/1998; CNN, 7/8/2002; Anne E. Mahle, 1/15/2005] The Clinton administration’s vote against the ICC was made under pressure from the Pentagon which believes that US troops, military officers and officials will become subject to politically motivated or frivolous prosecutions. Additionally, the US says it does not want the court to supplant its own domestic and military court system. [Human Rights Watch, 4/14/1998; Anne E. Mahle, 1/15/2005] On April 11, 2002, the countries of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ireland, Jordan, Mongolia, Niger, Romania and Slovakia will submit their ratifications to the UN bringing the total number of countries to ratify the Rome Statute to 66, well beyond the 60 needed to make it a binding treaty. The Statute is entered into force on July 1, 2002. [Amnesty International, 4/11/2002; Coalition for the International Court, 4/11/2002 pdf file] The International Criminal Court (ICC) “is the first ever permanent, treaty based, international criminal court established to promote the rule of law and ensure that the gravest international crimes do not go unpunished.” [International Criminal Court, 3/27/2005] It has authority to try cases involving genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Significantly, Article 12 of the Rome Statute gives the court jurisdiction over the nationals of any state if the alleged crime takes place on the territory of a state that is a party to the Statute or that delegates jurisdiction for that case to the ICC—even in cases where the defendant’s state of nationality is not a party to the treaty. [Morris, 2001]

Entity Tags: UN General Assembly

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

In New York City, the United States—the world’s largest exporter of arms—informs delegates at the UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons that it opposes any effort to create broad worldwide controls on the sale of small arms. The US opposes the pact because, its government officials say, it would infringe on its citizens’ Second Amendment right to bear arms. “We do not support measures that would constrain legal trade and legal manufacturing of small arms and light weapons,” John Bolton, US undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs, tells the international body. “The vast majority of arms transfers in the world are routine and not problematic. Each member state of the United Nations has the right to manufacture and export arms for purposes of national defense.” But UN Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette notes that small arms have been the preferred weapons in 46 of 49 major conflicts since 1990, which have resulted in some 4 million deaths, 80 percent of which were women and children. The hundreds of diplomats, gun-control activists, and representatives attending the meeting hope to formulate a plan, that although not legally binding, will lead to the development of national systems to regulate arms brokers and exports. Many also support a plan that would require small arms manufacturers to mark the weapons they produce so their movements can be traced. The provisions are later removed from the proposal, leaving it virtually without effect. Bolton will celebrate the defeat of the program, saying, “From little acorns, bad treaties grow.” [US Department of State, 7/9/2001; CNN, 7/10/2001; Scoblic, 2008, pp. 187]

Entity Tags: John R. Bolton

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Referring to a 1978 US pledge not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states (see June 12, 1978), US Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton says in an interview with Arms Control Today, “We are just not into theoretical assertions that other administrations have made.” He explains: “We would do whatever is necessary to defend America’s innocent civilian population…. The idea that fine theories of deterrence work against everybody… has just been disproven by September 11.” [Washington Times, 2/22/2002; Los Angeles Times, 3/10/2002] Just five years earlier, the Clinton administration had reaffirmed its commitment to the pledge (see April 11, 1995).

Entity Tags: John R. Bolton

Timeline Tags: US Military

The Bush administration formally withdraws the United States from the International Criminal Court (ICC). In a letter to Secretary-General of the UN Kofi Annan, US Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton writes: “This is to inform you, in connection with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court adopted on July 17, 1998, that the United States does not intend to become a party to the treaty. Accordingly, the United States has no legal obligations arising from its signature on December 31, 2000. The United States requests that its intention not to become a party, as expressed in this letter, be reflected in the depositary’s status lists relating to this treaty.” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says, “The United States will regard as illegitimate any attempt by the court or state parties to the treaty to assert the ICC’s jurisdiction over American citizens.” The ICC dates back to the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, and serves as the world’s first and most influential war crimes tribunal. The US did not become a signatory until former President Bill Clinton’s last day in office. [US Department of State, 5/6/2002; New York Times, 5/7/2002; American Forces Press Service, 5/7/2002; Carter, 2004, pp. 278; Organizations Coalition for the International Criminal Court, 1/2/2006] Bolton’s letter serves to both withdraw the US from the Rome Statute, which established the ICC, and relieves the US of its obligations under the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. That agreement prohibits the signatories of international treaties from taking steps to undermine the treaties they sign, even if they have not ratified them. [New York Times, 5/7/2002]
US Will Not be 'Second-Guessed' - The Bush administration defends its action, contending that the treaty infringes on US sovereignty because, under its provisions, an international prosecutor answerable to no one could initiate politically motivated or frivolous suits against US troops, military officers or officials. [New York Times, 5/7/2002; BBC, 7/13/2002] “We do not want anything to do it,” an administration spokesman has said. The ICC is “unaccountable to the American people,” and “has no obligation to respect the constitutional rights of our citizens,” Rumsfeld says. Secretary of State Colin Powell says the ICC undermines US judicial sovereignty and the US could not be held accountable to a higher authority that might try “to second-guess the United States after we have tried somebody.… We are the leader in the world with respect to bringing people to justice.… We have supported a tribunal for Yugoslavia, the tribunal for Rwanda, we’re trying to get the tribunal for Sierra Leone set up.… We have the highest standards of accountability of any nation on the face of the Earth.” [American Forces Press Service, 5/7/2002; Carter, 2004, pp. 278]
'On the Wrong Side of History' - Others do not share the administration’s rationale. Amnesty International’s Alex Arriaga says: “It’s outrageous. The US should be championing justice. It shouldn’t be running it down.” Judge Richard Goldstone, the first chief ICC prosecutor at the war crimes trials surrounding the former Yugoslavia, adds, “The US have really isolated themselves and are putting themselves into bed with the likes of China, Yemen, and other undemocratic countries.” Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch says: “The administration is putting itself on the wrong side of history. Unsigning the treaty will not stop the court. It will only throw the United States into opposition against the most important new institution for enforcing human rights in fifty years. The timing… couldn’t be worse for Washington. It puts the Bush administration in the awkward position of seeking law-enforcement cooperation in tracking down terrorist suspects while opposing an historic new law-enforcement institution for comparably serious crimes.” [Carter, 2004, pp. 278]

Entity Tags: Richard Goldstone, John R. Bolton, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Alex Arriaga, Bush administration (43), Clinton administration, Kofi Annan, Kenneth Roth

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

The Bush administration submits a proposed resolution to the UN Security Council that would grant indefinite immunity from prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC) (see July 17, 1998) to all UN peacekeeping military personnel who are from nations that do not accept the court’s jurisdiction. The proposal appeals to Article 16 of the Rome Statute which stipulates that the UN Security Council can grant deferrals on a temporary, case-by-case basis for nationals accused of war crimes who are from countries not party to the treaty. The US recommends that this provision for conditional immunity be universally pre-applied to all cases involving US military personnel engaged in UN peacekeeping. Immunity would be granted for a period of 12 months—but automatically and unconditionally renewed every year. As such, US troops would effectively be exempt from the jurisdiction of the ICC since it would take a UN Security Council resolution to end the automatic renewals and since the US holds veto power in the council. [New York Times, 5/7/2002; Boston Globe, 5/23/2002; Boston Globe, 7/1/2002; Independent, 7/4/2002] The US proposal is backed by threats that the US will withdraw its troops from international peacekeeping missions, starting with Bosnia (see June 30, 2002), and block funds to those missions as well. [Boston Globe, 5/23/2002; Agence France-Presse, 7/9/2002]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Kofi Annan, John R. Bolton

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

The Bush administration vetoes a UN Security Council Resolution that would have extended the UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia for the next six months. The Council however agrees to extend the mission’s mandate for 72 hours, during which time it hopes members will be able to resolve a dispute with the US. [Boston Globe, 7/1/2002; BBC, 7/1/2002; BBC, 7/1/2002] The Bush administration vetoed the resolution because UN Security Council members did not accept a proposal (see June 2002) that would grant indefinite immunity from prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC) (see July 17, 1998) (which opens on this day) to all UN peacekeeping military personnel who are from nations that do not accept the court’s jurisdiction. Explaining Washington’s veto, US Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte explains, “With our global responsibilities, we are and will remain a special target, and cannot have our decisions second-guessed by a court whose jurisdiction we do not recognize.” [Boston Globe, 7/1/2002; BBC, 7/1/2002; BBC, 7/1/2002] If a compromise cannot be reached, UN peacekeeping forces will have to leave Bosnia. A failure to renew the UN mandated mission in Bosnia could also affect Nato’s 19,000-strong Stabilization Force in Bosnia, or S-For, which includes 3,100 Americans. “Although S-For does not legally require a Security Council mandate, some of the 19 countries contributing to it have indicated they will withdraw their troops without one,” the BBC reports. [BBC, 7/1/2002]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), John Negroponte

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

The UN Security Council extends the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia while its members continue to debate over a US proposal to grant all UN peacekeeping military personnel from countries not party to the Rome Statute (see July 17, 1998) immunity from prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC) (see July 17, 1998). The Bush administration has made it clear that it will not support the UN mandated mission in Bosnia if the Security Council does not accept its proposal. [Agence France-Presse, 7/9/2002]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

More than 50 countries sign “Article 98” agreements with the US under threat of losing US military aid. Article 98 agreements, so called because the US claims they have a legal basis in Article 98 of the Rome Statute (see July 17, 1998), are bilateral immunity agreements (BIA) that prohibit both parties from extraditing the other’s current or former government officials, military and other personnel to the International Criminal Court (ICC) . With the exception of a few close allies, countries that are party to the ICC (see July 17, 1998) and have not signed the agreements will become ineligible for US military aid when on July 1, 2003 (see July 1, 2003) Section 2007 of the American Servicemembers’ Protection Act (see August 2, 2002) goes into effect. The Bush administration hopes that the “Article 98” agreements will protect US troops and officials from being prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for any alleged war crimes committed in a country that is party to the court. Critics say the BIAs are inexcusable attempts to gain impunity from war crimes. Some countries sign the agreement despite popular opposition and ask the Bush administration not to make the agreements public. [CNS News, 8/5/2002; New York Times, 8/7/2002; New York Times, 8/10/2002; Coalition for the International Court, 9/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

US President George Bush signs the American Servicemembers’ Protection Act (HR 4775), making it Public Law 107-206. Section 2007, written by Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, prohibits the United States from providing military assistance to any nation that is party to the International Criminal Court (see July 17, 1998). Only countries that receive a special waiver from the president or that sign so-called “Article 98” agreements (see August 2002-July 1, 2003) will be exempt from the prohibition. The exemption is also extended to a select few other counties (Taiwan, NATO members, and “major non-NATO allies” like Australia, Egypt, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Argentina, the Republic of Korea, and New Zealand). Section 2007 will go into effect on July 1, 2003, one year after the Rome Statute entered into force. Section 2008 of HR 4775 gives the president authority to use “all means necessary and appropriate to bring about the release of any person… being detained or imprisoned by, on behalf of, or at the request of the International Criminal Court.” [US Congress, 7/24/2002; New York Times, 8/10/2002]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Tom DeLay

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Israel effectively withdraws its signature from the Rome Statute (see July 17, 1998). In a letter to the UN, the Israeli government writes, “[I]n connection with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court adopted on 17 July 1998,… Israel does not intend to become a party to the treaty. Accordingly, Israel has no legal obligations arising from its signature on 31 December 2000. Israel requests that its intention not to become a party, as expressed in this letter, be reflected in the depositary’s status lists relating to this treaty.” [Organizations Coalition for the International Criminal Court, 1/2/2006]

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

President Bush signs into law the 2005 Consolidated Appropriations Act 2005 setting a $338 billion budget for “Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs.” Section 574 of the Act (see August 2, 2002) blocks the distribution of economic aid to countries that are party to the Rome Statute (see July 17, 1998) and have not signed “Article 98” agreements (see August 2002-July 1, 2003) with the US. The provision states: “None of the funds made available in this Act in title II under the heading `Economic Support Fund’ may be used to provide assistance to the government of a country that is a party to the International Criminal Court and has not entered into an agreement with the United States pursuant to Article 98 of the Rome Statute preventing the International Criminal Court from proceeding against United States personnel present in such country.” [Washington Post, 11/26/2002; US Congress, 11/20/2004; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 12/3/2004]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

John Bolton.John Bolton. [Source: Publicity photo via American Enterprise Institute]President George Bush selects John Bolton, currently an official in the State Department, to be the US ambassador to the UN. Bolton is a staunch neoconservative with a long record of opposing multilateral efforts. As undersecretary of state for arms control, Bolton opposed a multilateral effort in July 2001 to create broad worldwide controls on the sale of small arms (see July 9, 2001). In February 2002, Bolton made it clear that the Bush administration did not feel bound to the 1978 pledge not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states (see February 2002). Bolton was also a strong advocate of taking unilateral action against Saddam Hussein (see January 26, 1998) and in May 2002, he effectively removed the US signature from the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court (ICC) (see May 6, 2002). [USA Today, 3/7/2005]

Entity Tags: John R. Bolton, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran

In 2009, reflecting on the Bush administration’s decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC—see May 6, 2002), ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo will say: “When I started at the ICC, in 2003, the Bush administration appeared hostile towards the court, as though we were radioactive. But what started with hostility over time became less so. All of a sudden the court was seen to be useful. On Darfur, for example, the administration could have vetoed the Security Council vote referring Darfur to my office. They didn’t. That was a big change. But I’ve kept a respectful distance. They don’t give me intelligence. They cannot control me.… Ironically, the hostility has helped in my dealings with countries that might otherwise perceive me to be in the pocket of the Americans. It has been one positive factor in the Arab and African worlds. The US distance from the court seems to have had the very opposite effect of that intended—of strengthening it.” [Vanity Fair, 2/2009]

Entity Tags: Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Bush administration (43), International Criminal Court

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

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