Republicans Take Initiative Against ICC
WASHINGTON, D.C., Jul 19 (OneWorld) - In a new effort to
exempt the United States from international law, the Republican leadership of
the House of Representatives has approved a measure that would ban certain
kinds of economic aid U.S. allies if they fail to sign a bilateral accord
forbidding them from transferring U.S. citizens or foreign nationals working
for the United States to the jurisdiction of the one-year-old International
Criminal Court (ICC).
The so-called Nethercutt Amendment, named after its chief sponsor, Washington
State Rep. George Nethercutt, the provision was attached to the fiscal year
2005 foreign aid bill Thursday by a vote of 241-166 despite the fact that the
Bush administration and the chairman of the House Foreign Operations
Subcommittee, Rep. Jim Kolbe, opposed it.
The right-wing Republican House leadership, however, urged its passage, with
House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay, describing the ICC, which is backed by nearly
100 countries, including Canada, and all of Washington's traditional European
allies except Turkey, as "UN Secretary General) Kofi Annan's Kangaroo
Court" whose legitimacy was "laughable."
"The ICC presents a clear and present danger to the war on terror and to
Americans that are fighting it all over the world," said DeLay, one of
Congress' staunchest foes of the United Nations and other multilateral
Backers of the ICC, which claims jurisdiction over cases involving war crimes,
crimes against humanity, and genocide in countries that have signed the 1998
Rome Statute, denounced the measure in strong terms noting, in particular that
it could cut aid, in some cases counter-terrorism assistance, to more than 50
countries, some of which are considered key partners in the "war on
"We would have to cut off all the economic assistance to Jordan,"
said Kolbe. "I don't see how that will help us in the war against
"This measure targets democracies that uphold the rule of law and work
alongside the U.S. to further our foreign-policy priorities, said Don Kraus,
executive vice president of Citizens for Global Solutions (CGS). "We
should not be punishing them over agreements that are not necessary do not
provide any additional protection for our troops than they already have through
existing (bilateral) Status of Forces Agreements (SOFAs) and Status of Mission
Agreements (SOMAs)" for U.S. soldiers and diplomats."
Although the measure must still be approved in the Senate and signed by Bush to
become law, the Nethercutt Amendment is virtually certain to renew criticism by
U.S. allies of Washington's unilateralism. The House move coincided with the
administration's announcement that, for the third year running, it would not
contribute any of the 34 million dollars approved by Congress earlier this year
for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), another multilateral program strongly
backed by Washington's traditional allies.
It also follows the administration's decision two months ago to cut off
military aid to about three dozen countries that have ratified the Rome Statute
and refused to sign a bilateral immunity agreement (BIT) with the U.S. that
would guarantee that they would not turn over to the ICC U.S. citizens or
foreign nationals working for the U.S. to the ICC.
Some 95 countries, including virtually all of Europe, and most of the
Caribbean, Latin America, and a substantial number of African states have
ratified the statute which took formal effect in 2002 but formally opened for
business in The Hague, the Netherlands, just over a year ago. The ICC
prosecutor has since agreed to investigate alleged war crimes in the Democratic
Republic (DRC) and Uganda.
In one of his last acts as president, Bill Clinton signed the Rome Statute in
late 2000. In May, 2002, however, the Bush administration formally renounced
his signature and launched a campaign to persuade as many countries as possible
- about 90 to date, according to the State Department, to sign BITs.
It also demanded that the UN Security Council grant an across-the-board
exemption to U.S. troops and officials participating in UN peacekeeping
missions from the ICC's jurisdiction, a demand that was granted despite growing
resentment and anger in both 2002 and 2003. In the wake of the prison scandals
touched by photos of abuses committed by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and a strong
public statement against renewing the exemption by Annan himself, the U.S.
withdrew its bid for extending the exemption for a third year.
In a symbolic move, however, it withdrew nine soldiers and observers from
UN-backed missions in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Kosovo. "The real problem
would be if the United States decides to go beyond the rhetorical point of
withdrawing a few soldiers and starts targeting funding or other support for UN
peacekeeping missions," Heather Hamilton, CGS' vice president for
programs, told OneWorld.
The administration argues that the ICC lacks adequate safeguards to protect
against "politically motivated" prosecutions, and, given Washington's
unique responsibility to maintain global security and the vast number of
countries where U.S. forces operate, its soldiers and officials will be
particularly tempting targets for ambitious prosecutors. Backers of the ICC,
including Britain, Washington's staunchest ally, have insisted that the U.S.
has nothing to fear since the ICC may act only when the responsible country is
unable or unwilling to do so.
While the administration's campaign against the ICC and its efforts to win
exemptions have clearly alienated many of its friends and allies, especially in
Europe, Latin America, and Africa, they have not gone as far as the House is
The military-aid cuts implemented earlier this year, for example, did not apply
to Washington's NATO partners or other close allies. But, under the Nethercutt
Amendment, NATO members, as well as some three dozen other countries, including
Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Costa Rica, virtually all of the
English-speaking Caribbean countries, South Africa, Poland, Cyprus, among
others, would be ineligible to receive Economic Support Funds (ESF), a
particular category of economic assistance available to strategic U.S.
Among the most affected would be Jordan, a key Middle East ally that receives
$250 million in ESF each year; four of five Andean countries; the Caribbean
states that receive $9 million in part to bolster immigration and border
security; and South Africa which will lose million of dollars in anti-terrorism
training on top of the $7.6 million it has already forfeited in military aid
due to its strong support for the ICC; Ireland, which will lose $8.5 million to
promote the peace process in Northern Ireland; and Cyprus, which will lose
$13.5 million to support peace between its Greek and Turkish communities.
The target countries have maintained that signing a BIT with the U.S. would
violate their own undertakings in the Rome Statute.
Hamilton pointed out that cutting aid to South Africa makes little sense in
light of Washington's plans to rely heavily on Pretoria in providing troops for
new U.S.-backed peace-keeping training and operations in Africa.
"The House's action is particularly ludicrous," she said, "given
the fact that the Court has been in existence for two full years now, and not
only has the prosecutor taken up some of the most appalling crimes against
humanity in the Congo and Uganda, but he's also publicly rejected allegations
against the U.S. and Britain in Iraq."
"This latest sanction stands to re-ignite trans-Atlantic tensions that are
only just healing after the Iraq war, undermines the effectiveness of U.S.
counter-terrorism measures, and serves no real purpose."