International Criminal Court: The U.S. and the ICC

International Criminal Court
International Criminal Court

We just reviewed the status of the investigative situations and cases of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and other ICC developments. Now we look at developments in U.S.-ICC relations.[1]

U.N. Security Council. On October 17, 2012, the U.N. Security Council had a general discussion on the promotion and strengthening of the rule of law in the maintenance of international peace and security with emphasis on the role of the ICC.

Susan Rice
Susan Rice

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, said at that meeting that “strengthening the global system of accountability for the worst atrocities remains an important priority for the [U.S.]. President Obama has emphasized that preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and core moral responsibility for our nation. We are committed to bringing pressure to bear against perpetrators of atrocities, ensuring accountability for crimes committed, and prioritizing the rule of law and transitional justice in our efforts to respond to conflict.”

Rice added that the U.S. “recognize[s] that the ICC can be an important tool for accountability. We have actively engaged with the ICC Prosecutor and Registrar to consider how we can support specific prosecutions already underway, and we’ve responded positively to informal requests for assistance. We will continue working with the ICC to identify practical ways to cooperate – particularly in areas such as information sharing and witness protection – on a case-by-case basis, as consistent with U.S. policy and law.”

Another important point for Rice was the need “to improve cooperation and communication between the Security Council and the Court. For example, the Council should monitor the developments in situations it refers to the Court, since the ICC may face dangers in conducting its work. However, we must also recognize that the ICC is an independent organization. This status raises concerns about proposals to cover its expenses with UN-assessed funding.” In addition, she said, the “interests of peace, security and international criminal justice are best served when the Security Council and the ICC operate within their own realms but work in ways that are mutually reinforcing. We should not accept the false choice between the interests of justice and the interests of peace.”

Assembly of States Parties. The U.S. continues to participate as an observer at meetings of the Court’s governing body, the Assembly of States Parties. At its November 2012 meeting, for example, major speeches were made by U.S. Ambassador-at-Large Stephen J. Rapp of the Department of State’s Office of Global Criminal Justice and Harold Koh, who then was U.S. Department of State Legal Advisor.

Stephen Rapp
Stephen Rapp

 

Ambassador Rapp said the U.S. had “worked diligently to promote an end to impunity” and had been “supporting the work of the ICC in each of its current cases.” He then outlined the following priorities for the Court and its supporters:

  • “First, it is essential that the fugitives who currently remain at large in the ICC’s cases are apprehended . . . and that the witnesses who testify and the victims who wish to participate in the proceedings are assured of their safety.” The U.S. uses “an array of tools to advance the causes of apprehension and witness protection.”
  • Second, “it is crucial that members of the international community continue to reinforce the legal norms and prohibitions that lead to the creation of institutions such as the ICC.” One example is the U.S. establishment of the Atrocities Prevention Board that was discussed in a prior post.
  • Third, “we must continue to strive to improve our system of international justice. . . . [The ICC needs] to build a solid jurisprudence, navigate challenges that arise in international cooperation, and establish legitimacy . . . as a fair and efficient criminal justice institution that makes prudent decisions in the cases it pursues, and those it declines to pursue.”
  • Fourth, “we all must continue to recognize that the ICC cannot and must not operate alone. States retain primacy, both legal and moral, in ensuring justice for grave crimes. Justice closer to the victims is always preferable, in a system that can account for local laws and custom, in a familiar language, and in an accessible setting. Even where the ICC does operate, tremendous work will remain to be done at the national level. . . . [The U.S.] looks forward to continuing to collaborate in promoting this crucial work.”[2]
Harold Koh
Harold Koh

Legal Advisor Koh said the Court was “an important forum” for advancing U.S. national security and humanitarian interests. It “can help increase stability and thus decrease the need for more costly military interventions in the future.”

Koh reviewed the five stages of the historical development of international criminal justice: (1) International Criminal Justice 1.0: The Nuremberg Trials that worked to establish the principles of legitimacy, professionalism, cooperation, and legality; (2) International Criminal Justice 2.0: The Ad Hoc Tribunals; (3) International Criminal Justice 3.0: The Hybrid Tribunals; (4) International Criminal Justice 4.0: The ICC; and (5) International Criminal Justice 5.0: The Future.

After reviewing the history of U.S. relations with the ICC, Koh discussed four important issues for the Court’s future. First, it needs to continue to develop the practice of positive complementarity so that the ICC is the court of last resort with fewer cases. Second, the ICC established important precedents with its first conviction (Lubanga of the DRC) and establishment of procedures and principles for reparations for victims in that case. Third, the ICC must build up its resources and capacities; it must function in a fair and transparent manner with able and unbiased prosecutors and judges; national judicial systems must be bolstered to reduce the ICC’s burdens; it must improve cooperation with states and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of its prosecutions; and it should be cautious about moving forward with the amendment on the crime of aggression that was adopted at the Kampala Review Conference.

Koh concluded with more general comments about the future. He said the challenge is “to build the accountability agenda of the past seventy years into a sustained ‘Smart Power Approach’  to international criminal justice that sees accountability as part of a broader approach to diplomacy, development, rule of law, and atrocities prevention.”

New U.S. Statute To Assist ICC. On January 15th, President Obama signed The Department of State Rewards Program Update and Technical Corrections Act of 2012 (S.2318). The President said the new law “will enhance the ability of the U.S. Government to offer monetary rewards for information that leads to the arrest or conviction of foreign nationals accused by international criminal tribunals of atrocity-related crimes, and of individuals involved in transnational organized crime.” The President added, “This powerful new tool can be used to help bring to justice perpetrators of the worst crimes known to human kind. . . . We have made unmistakably clear that the United States is committed to seeing war criminals and other perpetrators of atrocities held accountable for their crimes, and today’s legislation can help us achieve that goal.

The new law declares “the sense of Congress that the rewards program of the Department of State should be expanded in order to … target other individuals indicted by international, hybrid or mixed tribunals for genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity.” It then goes on to authorize the State Department to pay rewards for “the transfer to or conviction by an international criminal tribunal … of any foreign national accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide, as defined under the statute of such tribunal.”

Two provisions of the law show a continuing wariness about the ICC. One requires that 15 days before announcing a reward for the arrest of a particular foreign national accused of those crimes, the State Department must submit a report to Congress explaining why the arrest would be in the national security interest of the United States. The other declares that the law does not authorized activities precluded under the American Servicemembers’ Protection Act.

On April 3rd this new law was used when the U.S. offered to pay up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest, transfer or conviction of four ICC fugitives: Joseph Kony, Dominic Ongwen and Okot Odhiambo of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda and Sylvestre Mudacumura of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The names will be broadcast on radio and appear on reward posters printed in the languages of the fugitives’ countries, he said. “The offer of rewards for I.C.C. fugitives will be the biggest step we’ve taken toward engagement and support” for the court, Ambassador Rapp said.


[1] The website of the American Non-Governmental Coalition for the International Criminal Court (AMICC) has additional details about U.S. relations with the ICC, Congress and the ICC, U.S. law regarding the ICC, analysis and opinion about the U.S. and the ICC.

[2]  As a prior post reported, Ambassador Rapp also addressed the Assembly on the subject of complementarity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Supporting International Criminal Justice and the International Criminal Court

Another outgrowth of my eight years of teaching the international human rights law course at the University of Minnesota Law School was an expanding knowledge of, and interest in, international criminal justice, in general, and the International Criminal Court (ICC), in particular.[1]

The general topic of international criminal justice covers the efforts of national and international courts to impose criminal penalties on those who are convicted of committing the worst crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.[2] My interest in this topic is shown by the 14 posts on this topic to date.[3] Similarly my interest in the ICC is demonstrated by the 18 posts on this topic to date.[4]

I have put this interest into action in several ways.

I have served as the Provisional Organizer of the Minnesota Alliance for the ICC, which is a member of the American Non-Governmental Organizations Coalition for the ICC (AMICC). This Coalition is committed to achieving through education, information, promotion and an aroused public opinion full U.S. support for the ICC and the earliest possible U.S. ratification of the Court’s Rome Statute.[5] Some of my papers about the ICC and the Rome Statute are posted on the AMICC website.[6]

 

Professor Barbara Frey and I assisted the Human Rights Committee of the Minnesota State Bar Association (MSBA) in developing and presenting a resolution on the ICC that was adopted by the Association’s governing body in September 2010. That resolution stated that the MSBA “urges the [U.S.] Government to take steps towards ratification of the Rome Statute by expanding and broadening [U.S.] interaction with the [ICC], including cooperation with the Court’s investigations and proceedings. The MSBA also calls on the [U.S.] Government to participate in all future sessions of the [ICC’s] governing body, the Assembly of States Parties.”[7]

 

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, ICC Prosecutor
Duane W. Krohnke

In September 2010 I also presented a paper about the U.S.’ relationship with the ICC at a symposium at the University of Minnesota Law School.[8] The true highlight of the symposium was the appearance of the ICC’s Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo. He said that when he was chosen as the Prosecutor in 2003, he told its judges that the best situation for the Court would be to have no cases. That would mean that there were no serious crimes in the world or that national courts by themselves were addressing these crimes. At the symposium he reviewed the history of the Court and its current investigations and prosecutions.[9]

In March 2011 I participated in a debate at a meeting at the University of Minnesota Law School that was hosted by the Federalist Society, Law School Democrats and InternationalLaw Society. The issue was whether the U.S. should become a member of the ICC. [10] The key points of that debate were the following:

  • Professor Eugene Kontorovich of Northwestern University School of Law asserted that U.S. membership in the ICC would be unconstitutional.  U.S. membership would expose U.S. citizens to trials without the structures of an Article III court. In such trials defendants would not have certain procedural rights guaranteed by the Constitution, such as the right to a grand jury. He based his constitutional argument on the U.S. refusal in the early 19th century to join international slave-trading courts or commissions organized by Great Britain.[11]
  • Professor Kontorovich also argued that the ICC was a failure: the sluggishness of the trial process, the failure to convict any defendant, and the absence of empirical research demonstrating meaningful deterrent effects. The ICC, he said, could actually extend conflict by inhibiting peace deals when militants or regimes see international criminal prosecution as unavoidable in spite of ceasing or surrendering. He was also critical of the recent aggression amendment to the Rome Statute.
  • I responded that the U.S. Constitution does not bar U.S. membership in the ICC.  I referred to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Missouri v. Holland that endorsed a broad interpretation of the President’s constitutional treaty power subject to the U.S. Senate’s advice and consent. I said I had not had an opportunity to review Professor Kontorovich’s early 19th century sources for his constitutional argument, but in doing so anyone should have at least two overriding questions in mind: (a) was U.S. resistance to the slave-trading courts due to Southerners’ desire to preserve slavery and (b) was U.S. resistance to such courts due to a desire to avoid entanglement with Great Britain so soon after our Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.[12]
  • I then argued the U.S. should ratify the Rome Statute for the following additional reasons: (1) the Court will prosecute and punish those guilty of the most serious crime; (2) the Court provides deterrence from such crimes; (3) the Court promulgates the truth about these crimes; (4) the Court assists victims; and (5) the Court is active and appears to be permanent, making U.S. involvement pragmatic.

International criminal justice needs the support of all citizens of the world. Going forward, the ICC is the most important institution for holding violators of international rights accountable for their actions.


[1] See Post: Teaching the International Human Rights Law Course (July 1, 2011).

[2] See Post: International Criminal Justice: Introduction (April 26, 2011).

[3] These posts can be accessed by double-clicking on “International Criminal Justice” in the Tag Cloud (dwkcommentariestags) to the right of this post.

[4]  These posts can be accessed by double-clicking on “International Criminal Court” in the Tag Cloud (dwkcommentariestags) to the right of this post.

[5]  AMICC, Mission Statement, http://www.amicc.org/mission.html.

6] Krohnke, US FEDERAL COURTS RELY ON THE ROME STATUTE OF THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT IN CIVIL CASES (Nov. 9, 2009); Krohnke, U.S. Court of Appeals Relies Upon Rome Statute in Case Raising Issue of Corporate Liability under the Alien Tort Statute (Nov. 22, 2010), http://amicc.blogspot.com/2010/11/us-court-of-appeals-relies-upon-rome.html; Krohnke, U.N. Human Rights Council Recommends U.S. Join the International Criminal Court (Nov. 12, 2010), http://amicc.blogspot.com/2010/11/un-human-rights-council-session.html; Krohnke, Symposium on International Criminal Justice at the University of Minnesota Highlights the Importance of the International Criminal Court (Oct. 4, 2010), http://amicc.blogspot.com/2010/10/symposium-on-international-criminal.html.

[7] MSBA, Resolution regarding the ICC (Sept. 17, 2010), http://www.mnbar.org/committees/humanrights.

[8] Many of the points of the symposium paper have been set forth in other postings to this blog. Post: The International Criminal Court and the Clinton Administration (May 11, 2011); Post: The International Criminal Court and the G. W. Bush Administration (May 12, 2011); Post: The International Criminal Court and the Obama Administration (May 13, 2011); Post: The International Criminal Court: The Crime of Aggression (May 15, 2011).

[9]  Krohnke, Symposium on International Criminal Justice at the University of Minnesota Highlights the Importance of the International Criminal Court (Oct. 4, 2010), http://amicc.blogspot.com/2010/10/symposium-on-international-criminal.html; Univ. Minn. Journal of Law & Inequality, 2010 Symposium: “International Wrongs, International Rights: The Use of Criminal Law to Protect Human Rights” (Sept. 28, 2010), http://www.law.umn.edu/lawineq/symposiummain/september-2010-agenda.

[10]  Rau & Shepherd, AMICC  Representative Participates in University of Minnesota Law School Debate on the US Involvement in the ICC  (March 28, 2011), http://amicc.blogspot.com/2011/03/amicc-representative-in-minnesota.html.

[11] Kontorovich, The Constitutionality of International Courts: The Forgotten Precedent of Slave Trade Tribunals, 158 U. Penn. L. Rev. 39 (2009).

[12]  After the debate, I discovered that a Stanford University Law School professor had written a rebuttal to Professor Kontorovich’s interpretation of the U.S. refusal to join the British-led international courts or commissions with respect to slave trading. In essence, she argued that in the early 19th century slave trading was not against international law. Instead, only Great Britain and the U.S. had recently banned such activities. Thus, the proposed international courts or commissions potentially would be trying U.S. citizens under U.S. law. That was the source, and a legitimate one, for U.S. refusal to join such tribunals at that time. (Martinez, International Courts and the U.S. Constitution: Re-Examining the History (2011), http://www.pennumbra.com/issues/article.php?aid=306.