International justice

In May, the Bush administration said it would not abide by the U.S. signature of the treaty that established the International Criminal Court. The ICC went into effect July 1, despite the determination of the United States to undermine its effectiveness.

Last week the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to extend the police-training mission in Bosnia, after the United States threatened to veto the mission, which involves 46 Americans.

Additionally, though, the United States threatened to veto all four peacekeeping operations due for renewal this month – one of which is the operation along the southern border of Lebanon – as well as all operations that are scheduled for renewal in the near future. The United States threatened to veto these missions because it is demanding that all Americans involved in peacekeeping be exempt from prosecution by the ICC The United States is concerned that the same resentment of the United States that the precipitated Sept. 11 could also inspire politically motivated prosecutions.

However, as Kofi Annan wrote to Secretary of State Colin Powell, no U.N. peacekeeper has been “anywhere near the kind of crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the I.C.C.,” which was created to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. These categories included the most egregious types of crimes, such as rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution and forced sterilization.

The result of the recent Bosnia fiasco is that the Bush administration failed twice: Not only did it fail to secure immunity for U.S. peacekeepers, but it angered the United Nations, the European Union, and the ICC itself with constant, inappropriate veto threats. Although the United States does have some legitimate concerns about the court, only ratifying nations can nominate and elect judges and prosecutors. The administration must understand that it could more effectively influence its development as a prominent participant, and not a vindictive outside party.