U.S. finds unusual allies in opposing court
By David R. Sands
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The Bush administration has plenty of allies in its case against the
International Criminal Court.
Although often portrayed as a fight between Washington and the world over
the new global court, the deep U.S. skepticism over the ICC is shared by
some powerful and unlikely countries, including:
China, the world's most populous country; India, the world's most
populous democracy; and Indonesia, the world's most populous
majority-Muslim nation, which together account for more than a third of
the globe's population.
Russia, the world's second-biggest nuclear power, and Japan, its
Turkey, the new head of the international peacekeeping force in
Afghanistan; Pakistan, a critical ally in the U.S.-led war on terrorism;
and Israel, the most reliable U.S. ally in the Middle East.
Iran, Iraq and North Korea, the charter members of President Bush's
"axis of evil."
"You're definitely not alone in this," said Mark Regev, spokesman for
the Israeli Embassy. "Israel has definitively decided not to be a part of
this effort because our concerns about the potential politicization of the
court have never been addressed."
To date, 76 countries have ratified the treaty that created the
court, and another 63 including the United States have signed the treaty
but not ratified it. Countries that never signed the 1998 Rome treaty
include China, India and Turkey, while a number of states that did sign,
including Egypt and Thailand, have moved slowly at best on ratification.
The United States has borne the brunt of the international criticism,
especially in Western European capitals, with the issue of U.S. military
participation in peacekeeping missions fueling the debate. ICC-watchers
suggested this week that many of the court's other critics are happy to
let the United States take the heat.
"Historically, there has always been a real eagerness by some to let
the United States do their dirty work for them," said William Pace,
executive director of the World Federalist Society and founder of a
coalition of about 1,000 private organizations supporting the ICC.
But Swedish diplomat Phillippe Kirsch, who chaired the recent ICC
preparatory commission meeting, said the United States has been by far the
most aggressive in its opposition to the court.
"The United States is the only country in the world that has taken an
actively adversarial attitude to the court," he said in a recent interview
with the Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty service.
"Other states that may not have signed or ratified yet are taking a
much more cooperative approach, including China and Russia," he said.
Reasons for opposing the ICC vary from country to country.
India has refused to sign the Rome treaty because, it argues, the
drafters gave the U.N Security Council too much power in deciding which
case to pursue and rejected a proposal to include the use of weapons of
mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, under the court's
India and its South Asian rival, Pakistan, both tested nuclear
weapons just as the treaty was being completed.
China has objected, as the United States has, to the idea that the
court could target individuals for acts of aggression, and also to the
notion that the ICC could directly prosecute Chinese citizens.
Russian officials have been highly critical of the U.N. international
tribunal now trying former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in The
Hague, and there is further concern in Moscow that the military campaign
in Chechnya could face scrutiny in the ICC.
Israeli officials at the United Nations say a treaty provision on the
transfer of civilian populations could drag the question of Israeli
settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip before the global court.
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch International,
said many Asian regimes have traditionally been hostile to Western notions
of universal justice.
"In Asia, you have everything from highly repressive regimes Burma
and China to more moderate governments that are nevertheless hostile to
the human rights environment," he said.
No Middle Eastern Arab government has ratified the treaty, while
virtually all of the economic "tigers" in the Association of Southeast
Asian Nations have yet to join the ICC.
Staff writer Betsy Pisik contributed to this story from New York.
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