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The U.S. Should Not Join the International Criminal Court (ICC)

By Isabelle (Minjae) Kim, III Form

The U.S. Should Not Join the International Criminal Court (ICC) (winner of the Ely Speech Prize–description at bottom of the article)

For centuries, humans have suffered from the dictatorship of the most tyrant leaders in the world. Since then, the international community decided that they should do something. And that ‘something’ turned out to be the ratification of the Rome Statute on July 17, 1998, bringing the International Criminal Court into effect on July 1, 2002. The ICC has gained a favorable reputation by many people, as its main goal is to promote universal justice through prosecuting those who are alleged criminals of human rights. However, the ICC is veiled with an image of peace and security,
preventing people from looking into the flaws that exist within the Court. Regardless of its mission for a good-cause, I strongly believe that the United States should not join the ICC, because the ICC violates national sovereignty and leaves the nation vulnerable to the decisions made by politically motivated ICC judges and prosecutors.

Under Secretary for Political Affairs Marc Grossman, in his remarks to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on May 6, 2002, clearly stated that “the U.S. government forbids an international organization to try non-citizens who have committed brutalities against a legal citizen of the States or within the territory of the State, without the government’s consent or a United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC) mandate” (U.S. Department of State Archive, American Foreign Policy and the International Criminal Court).” However, the ICC has the authority to try non-citizens who have committed crimes against the U.S. and American citizens, which violates the Constitution and ultimately breaches the national sovereignty of the nation. This clear contradiction between the mandate of the ICC and the U.S Constitution proves unquestionably that the ICC infringes on the United States’ national sovereignty. It makes no sense that the ICC can promote justice when it prevents a nation from fully practicing its national sovereignty by utilizing its own courts to try criminals. Therefore, the U.S. should not join the ICC and exemplify that it protects the values mentioned in the Constitution and promotes justice in the long-run through effectively functioning a stable judicial system.

This is not the only problem that the ICC poses on the international community. Unlike the United Nations or the U.S. government, the ICC lacks a proper system to execute transparent checks on its authorities. It is true that the Assembly of State Parties may look over this problem; however, with the Assembly’s limited power, the judges can settle debate on ICC’s judicial functions, and prosecutors can start an investigation when the judges decide whether the investigation should continue. In support of this argument, the editors of The International Criminal Court: Global Politics and the Quest for Justice state that, “Under the UN Charter, the UN Security Council has primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. But the Rome Treaty removes this existing system of checks and balances, and places enormous unchecked power in the hands of the ICC prosecutor and judges. The treaty created a self-initiating prosecutor, answerable to no state or institution other than the Court itself” (Driscoll, P. Zompetti, and Zompetti 153). For this reason, it is difficult to determine whether the prosecutors or judges will make decisions impartially, without any political motivation. Take this incident for example. In 2005, the ICC initiated its investigation into the situation in Darfur, Sudan, after receiving a referral from the UNSC. At a glance, the referral makes sense, because Omar-al Bashir, the Sudanese president, have maintained his office by displacing and terrorizing millions of his citizens. So why am I even bringing this up if the ICC is actually doing the “right” thing? Well, here’s the catch, although Sudan is not a part of the Court, the prosecutor in charge decided that he would still continue with the investigation (ICC, Darfur, Sudan). However, when the ICC received 240 communications regarding the situation in Iraq, Luis Moreno Ocampo, the Chief Prosecutor, refused to start an investigation. When the international community raised eyebrows on his selective investigation on the situation in Iraq, he explained that, Iraq “is not a State Party to the Rome Statute and which has not lodged a declaration of acceptance under Article 12(3), thereby accepting the jurisdiction of the Court” (ICC, 2006). The irony is that both Sudan and Iraq have never ratified the Rome Statute, thus never allowed the jurisdiction of the ICC within their borders; however, the Prosecutor decided to proceed with an investigation in Sudan and not in Iraq. By observing these two contradictory incidences, do you believe that the decisions of the ICC were completely objective, without any influence of political motivation?

The founding of the ICC raised hopes within the hearts of human rights activists, the victims of human rights violations, and many others who strongly support international justice. However, as the ICC is a relatively new organization that runs on voluntary funds without a police force, it has been highly ineffective in fulfilling its mission (Understanding the International Criminal Court, I and IV(B)). As of now, the ICC is merely a court designed for those countries that do not have the economic and political stability to fully function their courts. As John Bolton, Under-Secretary of State and former Ambassador to the United Nations, mentioned, “The International Criminal Court uses a prosecution-only approach. And by putting their fate in the hands of outsiders, countries are really dodging responsibility for actions taken in the name of that country, in the name of the people in that country, by the people of that country themselves.” Simply relying on the ICC to take care of human rights issues that are happening in a country is a rather short-term approach to justice. I strongly suggest that the United States, with its global governance and globalization, should continue to inspire other nations to work towards funding, functioning, and utilizing their national courts and empowering nations to fight for justice in a long-term goal towards justice, rather than joining the ICC.

Isabelle (Minjae) Kim is a III Form boarding student from Seoul, South Korea.
She is a Global Ambassador, SAC member, and she loves Stitch and alpacas.

The Ely Speech competition in The Global Seminar begins as an essay and in-class speech / debate on the question: “Should the US become a member nation of the International Criminal Court (ICC)? Why or why not?” The goal is to have students think critically about the function and role of the ICC in the world today and then to analyze the role the US should/should not play in the ICC. The assignment is designed to help answer one of our three essential questions for The Global Seminar: “What role should the United States play in the global economy and global governance?” The winners of the in-class debate then competed against the winners of the other sections for The Global Seminar Ely Speech Prize. I’ve included a description of the assignment below:

1. Transform your essay into a written speech (2 – 3 pages double-spaced) responding to the question above. In your answer, you must clearly pick a side in the debate, directly address the question being asked, and use information we have read about the ICC, the Rome Statute, and the Syria conflict (as a present example of a conflict that the ICC could/should address in the future). Research from credible sources and proper MLA in-text and works cited citations are required.

2. Present your persuasive speech (3-5 minutes) in front of the class. No visuals should accompany your speech.

3. Attend (and maybe even present!) at the Ely Speech Prize Competition in the Center Presentation Room on Monday, April 13th @ 1:00 (Co-Curricular) to listen to & support your fellow classmates.

Works Cited

“About the Court.” International Criminal Court. International Criminal Court, n.d. Web. 7 Mar. 2015. <http%3A%2F%2Fwww.icc-cpi.int%2Fen_menus%2Ficc%2Fabout%2520the%2520court%2FPages%2Fabout%2520the%2520court.aspx>.
Calzonetti, Claire. “Frequently Asked Questions about the International Criminal Court.” Council on Foreign Relations. Council on Foreign Relations, 23 July 2012. Web. 8 Mar. 2015. <http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cfr.org%2Fcourts-and-tribunals%2Ffrequently-asked-questions-international-criminal-court%2Fp8981>.
“Darfur, Sudan.” International Criminal Court. International Criminal Court, n.d. Web. 9 Mar. 2015. <http://www.icc-cpi.int/en_menus/icc/situations%20and%20cases/situations/situation%20icc%200205/Pages/situation%20icc-0205.aspx&gt;.
Grossman, Marc. “American Foreign Policy and the International Criminal Court.” American Foreign Policy and the International Criminal Court. The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affairs, 6 May 2002. Web. 9 Mar. 2015. <http://2001-2009.state.gov/p/us/rm/9949.htm&gt;.
“Iraq.” International Criminal Court. International Criminal Court, n.d. Web. 9 Mar. 2015. <http://www.icc-cpi.int/en_menus/icc/structure%20of%20the%20court/office%20of%20the%20prosecutor/comm%20and%20ref/pe-ongoing/iraq/Pages/iraq.aspx&gt;.
Kanner, Elisabeth F. “The Reckoning: Understanding the International Criminal Cou.” (1996): n. pag. Facing History and Ourselves. Facing History And Ourselves, 2010. Web. 10 Mar. 2015. <https://www.facinghistory.org/sites/default/files/publications/Teaching_TheReckoning_0.pdf&gt;.
Law or War: The Creation of the International Criminal Court. Law or War: The Creation of the International Criminal Court. Facing History And Ourselves, 2010. Web. 12 Mar. 2015. <https://vimeo.com/7705689&gt;.
Moreno-Ocampo, Louis. (n.d.): n. pag. The Office of the Prosecutor. International Criminal Court, 9 Feb. 2006. Web. 9 Mar. 2015. <http://www.icc-cpi.int/NR/rdonlyres/04D143C8-19FB-466C-AB77-4CDB2FDEBEF7/143682/OTP_letter_to_senders_re_Iraq_9_February_2006.pdf&gt;.
“Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.” Rome Statute (n.d.): n. pag. International Criminal Court. International Criminal Court, 17 July 1998. Web. 7 Mar. 2015. <http://www.icc-cpi.int/nr/rdonlyres/ea9aeff7-5752-4f84-be94-0a655eb30e16/0/rome_statute_english.pdf&gt;.
The International Criminal Court: Global Politics and the Quest for Justice. Ed. William J. Driscoll, Joseph P. Zompetti, and Suzette Zompetti. New York: International Debate Education Association, 2004. 153. Print.
“UGANDA: Report on LRA.” Africa Research Bulletin: Political, Social and Cultural Series 47.11 (2008): 18629C-8631C. Global Policy Forum. Global Policy Forum, 11 Apr. 2008. Web. 8 Mar. 2015. <https://www.globalpolicy.org/images/pdfs/0411lrauganda.pdf&gt;.
“Understanding the International Criminal Court.” (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 9 Mar. 2015. <http://www.icc-cpi.int/iccdocs/PIDS/publications/UICCEng.pdf&gt;.

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