U.S. Policy

U.S. Policy on the ICC

Until recently, the U.S. has had a history of involvement with the ICC. The U.S. delegation to the 1998 Rome Conference, which established the treaty creating the ICC, was the largest and most influential. In December 2000, before leaving office, President Clinton signed the Rome Treaty and expressed the importance of continued engagement with the ICC. He believed that cooperation with the Court was essential to addressing U.S. concerns and achieving U.S. objectives.

Since taking office in 2000 however, President Bush has adopted a stringent policy of isolation and opposition against the Court. In 2002, President Bush not only “unsigned” the Rome Statute—a legally ambiguous act—but has also pushed for legislation such as the American Servicemembers’ Protection Act (ASPA), which is dubbed the “Hague Invasion Act” by our less than amused European allies.

President Bush’s chief complaint against the ICC is that it will unfairly target US military personnel serving abroad. As Commander in Chief, he is worried that the thousands of US military forces currently deployed around the world will face trumped up charges of war crimes and the like by a politicized Court. Yet countless officials, both American and European, have assured President Bush that the Court is politically impartial, and furthermore, that even if US military personnel commit war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide, they are very unlikely to be hauled into the ICC. This is because the ICC is by definition a court of last resort, meaning that it will only try a national of a state that is unable or unwilling to prosecute that national. Because the US has a sound judicial system in place, in most cases the ICC will not have jurisdiction to try US military personnel.

Nevertheless, the Bush administration refuses these assurances and has made its animosity for the Court well known. Yet of all the drastic measures it has taken since the Court’s establishment in July 2002, none are as alarming as the administration’s recent push for Bilateral Immunity Agreements (BIAs) to be signed between the US and state parties to the ICC.

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