The International Criminal Court and the Clinton Administration

During the Clinton Administration, the United States supported the idea of creating an international criminal court and was a major participant at the Rome Conference that produced the Rome Statute. At the conclusion of that Conference in July 1998, the Rome Statute was approved by a vote of 120 to 7. The seven negative votes were cast by the United States, Iraq, Israel, Libya, People’s Republic of China, Qatar and Yemen.[1]  These were the reasons advanced for the U.S. negative vote:

  • The U.S. wanted an ICC that was controlled by the U.N. Security Council where the U.S. as a permanent member had a veto. Although the U.S. was able to get some provisions in the Statute that gave the Security Council certain rights vis-à-vis the ICC, the Statute allowed the Court to proceed with investigations and prosecutions based upon referrals by member states and upon the prosecutor’s own initiative.
  • The Statute left open the possible assertion of the Court’s jurisdiction over nationals of a non-State Party such as the U.S.[2]

On December 31, 2000 (two and a half years after the Rome Conference and in the last month of his Presidency), however, President Clinton signed the treaty on behalf of the U.S. His formal statement on this action said that he did so “to reaffirm our strong support for international accountability and for bringing to justice perpetrators of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity” and for the U.S. “to remain engaged in making the ICC an instrument of impartial and effective justice.”  On the other hand, President Clinton stated that the U.S. was not “abandoning our concerns about serious flaws in the treaty.” Foremost was the Court’s ability to “claim jurisdiction over personnel of states that have not [ratified the treaty].” Therefore, he said, he “will not, and do not recommend that my successor submit the treaty to the Senate for advice and consent until our fundamental concerns are satisfied.” Therefore, in the last month of his Presidency, President Clinton did not submit the Rome Statute to the Senate.[3]


[1] There also were 21 countries that abstained on the final vote on the Rome Statute. (Wikipedia, Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rome_Statute_of_the_International_Criminal_Court.

[2] Scharf, Results of the Rome Conference for an International Criminal Court, ASIL Insights  (Aug. 1998), http://www.asil.org/insigh23.cfm; Wedgwood, Fiddling in Rome: America and the International Criminal Court, Foreign Affairs (Nov/Dec. 1998).

[3] President Clinton, Statement on Signature of the International Criminal Court Treaty  (12/31/00), http://www.amicc.org/docs/Clinton_sign.pdf; Congressional Research Service, U.S. Policy Regarding the International Criminal Court (29/08/96),  http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/73990.pdf. Under Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, the President has the “Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.”

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As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

4 thoughts on “The International Criminal Court and the Clinton Administration”

  1. Thanks for the comment. The blog also has summaries of the relationship with the ICC for the George W. Bush and Obama Administrations along with summaries of some of the ICC cases and its operative framework.

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