American Essay: Ex-Prosecutor Warns Against New War Crimes Law
NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. - A misguided trap is being set by right-wing conservatives. It threatens our national security interests and endangers our military personnel.
The cleverly mislabeled "Servicemembers Protection Act" was recently passed by the House and is now pending in the Senate where it was appended as an amendment linked to the Foreign Relations Act authorizing payment of past-due membership fees to the United Nations.
In the guise of protecting our military, the amendment is clearly designed to abort the creation of an International Criminal Court (ICC) now being formed at the United Nations. The Act threatens to impose economic and military sanctions against any nation that dares to support the court.
Republican Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina leads the vigorous campaign that would repudiate the rule of law laid down at the Nuremberg trials after World War II—that aggression, genocide, crimes against humanity and major war crimes would never again go unpunished. Senator Helms and his supporters demand exemption and immunity for all U.S. personnel.
Conservative attempts to abort the ICC defy the clear wishes of the vast majority of nations, including our leading European allies. We are seen as a bully that wants the rule of law for everyone else but not for ourselves. Without such a court, our military personnel will remain completely at the mercy of their captors, rather than under the protective shield of a fair tribunal created and supervised by the international community.
The campaign to kill the court relies on unfounded allegations designed to frighten an uninformed public. Scholarly studies by outstanding legal experts agree that it would be in the U.S. national interest to support the International Criminal Court.
See for example, the publication last year by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the comprehensive speech by Senator Leahy of Vermont on Dec. 15, 2000; the recommendation of the American Bar Association in Feb. 2001, the conclusion sent to Congressman Henry Hyde on Feb. 13, 2001 by 10 former Presidents of the American Society of International Law, endorsing "U.S. acceptance of the Treaty without change..."
Or, read the January 2001 editorial in the American Journal of International Law by Monroe Leigh, former Counsel to both the State and Defense Departments, that says the United States can most effectively protect its national-security interests, as well as the individual interests of U.S. nationals, by accepting the International Criminal Court "better sooner than later." None of these persuasive opinions are ever mentioned by opponents of the ICC.
Those who believe in the rule of law that applies equally to everyone had better let their voices be heard very soon if we are to move toward a more humane and peaceful world.
Benjamin Ferencz was a prosecutor at the War Crimes Tribunal following World War II in Nuremberg, Germany.
Copyright 2001 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.