Response to Senator Craig's Washington Post Op-Ed

Larry F. Craig, Republican Senator from Idaho, has used the Washington PostEditorial pages on August 22, 2001 to launch a vitriolic attack against the United Nations and the proposed new international criminal court. His arguments are demonstrably false and misleading and should not go unanswered.

The Senator maintains that the United Nations has "turned the principle of national sovereignty on its head." He claims that it intrudes into America's constitutional rights in many areas. He ignores the fact that the United Nations has no legislative powers whatsoever and is completely dependent upon agreements reached voluntarily by its member states. He denounces the international criminal court as a "mechanism of global government” that "will wield judicial power over every individual human being" and defendants will "have none of the due process rights afforded by the U.S. Constitution.” He disregards the fact that the court's jurisdiction is severely limited to a few carefully defined crimes of concern to the international community as a whole, its fair trial standards exceed those in the US, and every nation has priority to try its own citizens in a fair trial that will preclude any action by the new criminal court.

Senator Craig asks whether the United Nations should have authority to decide that national political leaders should be put in the dock "and then commit the United States to bring them there?" No nation has made such a suggestion. The Court has no independent enforcement powers and it must rely on cooperation and support from the world community. The United Nations Charter guarantees that only the United States can decide when its troops are used for enforcement.

Craig waives other red herrings: he refers to a possible United Nations trial of "Russia's Vladimir Putin for Chechnya" or "Israel' s Ariel Sharon." He asks whether an American governor could be charged with crimes against humanity for signing a death warrant. He fails to note that it was the United States that took the lead in creating the two existing ad hoc tribunals to deal retroactively with crimes committed in former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The new criminal tribunal seeks only to deter or punish future acts. It will have no retroactive jurisdiction.

The misguided Senator refers to "the danger to U.S. military personnel deployed abroad" and suggests that a U.S. soldier responsible for one death could be indicted "just for doing his duty." This canard is what inspired the legislation pushed by conservative Senator Jesse Helms in the so-called "Servicemember's Protection Act" designed to abort the criminal court before it was born. A more appropriate title might have been "The Servicemembers' Endangerment Act" since it would leave the U.S. military at the mercy of their captors rather than under the protective mantle of new international laws. The provisions calling for the military rescue of any American held by the new tribunal in The Hague induced some to mock the proposal as The Hague Invasion Act.

The distinguished Senator from Idaho has made arguments that have been repudiated by leading international legal and military scholars. A comprehensive study under the auspices of the venerated American Academy of Arts and Sciences concluded in 2000 that the United States should be taking the lead in shaping the international criminal court. Ten former Presidents of the American Society of International Law concluded that it was in the interests of the United States and its military to do so and "the sooner the better." The American Bar Association, after detailed study, reached the same conclusion. The European Community is unanimous in its support for the court and such leading allies as Canada, the United Kingdom, France and many others have been urging the United States to join nations that are now moving inexorably toward the creation of the new legal institution.

The promise held forth by the United States at the Nuremberg trials over half a century ago, that genocide and similar crimes against humanity world "never again" be allowed to go unpunished must not now be repudiated. Senator Craig, and those for whom he speaks, are, of course, entitled to their opinion. But it is to be hoped that others will not be misled by false arguments and that a careful study of the facts will lead to increased support fore the new court upon which may depend the future peace and security of humankind.