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Thursday, 18 April, 2002, 11:39 GMT 12:39 UK
Will an International Criminal Court work?
The first permanent International Criminal Court will become a reality on Thursday when the treaty establishing it is ratified.

Click below to watch or listen to the discussion on this subject in Talking Point, the phone-in programme broadcast online, on radio and on digital television.

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The United Nations expects that the court will be up and running by 2003 and will be responsible for trying cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

It would take the place of the ad hoc UN tribunals such as those for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

However, some countries have been hesitant in offering their support.

The Bush administration, which is worried about the prospect of the court having the power to put Americans on trial, wants to remove its signature from the treaty signed by Bill Clinton in December 2000.

Should the US support the International Criminal Court? Or can the court work without the support of such a major global player?


This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


The ICC will be subject to the same pressures and double standards that have emasculated the UN

Ushi Guruk, London, UK
We live in a political world so why not simply concede that the ICC will be subject to the same pressures and double standards that have emasculated the UN? It's so sad, but now and for the foreseeable future, speaking softly comes a poor second to holding the biggest stick.
Ushi Guruk, London, UK

It must work. This is not an organization which will be Pro or Anti - America, Israel or Palestine but a court made up of International jurists, including some from those selfsame countries. If America or Israel want their citizens to be judged only by their own tribunals, it is because those tribunals will give them a more favourable verdict. Ashcroft has said that even if the suspected terrorists held in Cuba are innocent they will not be let free. Are there two justices, one for "US" and one for them?
Shaun, Divonne, France

A nation's legal system reflects the values and ideals of the entire country. The ICC is an attempt to create a world-wide legal system...in other words, to make the entire world function similarly to a single country. Unfortunately, there are too many hidden agendas, too much senseless nationalism (it is pure chance that I happened to be born in America), and too many religious differences for the world to agree on a single legal system. Since many countries in the world disagree with one another so vehemently that they wage war against each other, the ICC cannot control major world-wide crime.
Lydia, Washington D.C., USA

This World Court idea is nothing but the New World Order (and it's not even in disguise). The whole thing is rotten to the core and is a terrible idea!
Craig Furlong, Huntington Beach, CA USA


When the international criminal court comes into existence in 2003, I think that it is a new beginning for mankind

Joya Ganguly, USA
When the international criminal court comes into existence in 2003, I think that it is a new beginning for mankind. The reason for this sense of relief and gladness, is the stark reality of the fact of how few countries really care about the victims of human barbarity who, whether as innocent victims of war, racism, pogroms, jihad, rape, burning of innocents to name only the most heinous, get slaughtered. Governments have not been historically well equipped to deal with power. They have knowledge if properly applied, to deal with authority. Thus, any attempt by the world such as the world court in the form of the ICC, to devolve power and authority away from governments to the individual for the ultimate safekeeping of his or her rights -- rights that the state or the country either did not or could not fulfil-- is a wonderful, bright day for all of us.
Joya Ganguly, USA

As a proud citizen of the United States I am very happy that the Bush Administration is not going to go through with ratification and approval by the Senate. The ICC is simply unconstitutional on too many levels. The executive and legislative branches of government do not have the power to delegate judicial authority over Americans to an international body such as the UN or the ICC. There is also no guarantee of rights that are protected under the constitution. There is also no political support for it in this country and for good reason. The UN has also proven itself to be ridiculously biased by harassing the US and Israel in many cases. If the UN actually followed its own charter, most of the states involved would not be eligible for membership. Then the International Community wonders why the UN has no credibility in the US.
James Kirkpatrick Jr., Buffalo, NY, USA

Why should Americans give up the right to be tried in the American court system? We have the best and most fair courts in the world. The only countries this will help are the small countries that lack the capability to produce justice within their own borders. The better question would be how would you enforce the power of such a court? Is the UN ready to send troops into countries to arrest people? I don't know about many people, but I would like to see UN try to sends troops into the US to arrest some one and not receive permission from the US government. A very large percentage of the US will see it as violation of the constitution and their civil rights. I would bet to say that the US would probably pull out of the UN and then you will have nothing more than you did in the 1920's. People need to be reminded that the UN does not exist to rule over the world as a central government. The UN is in place so nations of the world can express their opinions before the rest of the world on different matters. All of these UN resolutions are nothing more than hallow dictates. How many of the people there are actually elected to their posts by citizens of their country? So wake up people. The UN is not a government. It is a diplomatic tool.
Tim Renfro, USA


The US will never allow any international tribunal to try our war criminals or those that are allied to us

Stephen B, USA
The US will never allow any international tribunal to try our war criminals or those that are allied to us. However, we do support trying war criminals of other nations which is the only way that Washington's 'New World Order' can succeed.
Stephen B, USA

I believe the impartiality question has been answered by all of the America bashing listed above. I am an American with certain "unalienable rights", of which I most certainly do not want in the hands of a small number of self-righteous Europeans and the rest of the world community that chooses to make America its scapegoat for its ills. How can this visionary world community provide impartial justice with the evident ill-will that this world community has towards America?
Josh, Tennessee, USA

I am happy that the USA will not be a part of the ICC. I wish the USA would not get involved in anything that the international community creates. The court is a farce and we Americans value our constitutional rights so why would we give them up so easily so that we can be prosecuted by a biased court system that according to some of these posts, already condemn America. The more isolationist America becomes, the happier I am. We should keep to ourselves and worry about America first before we go "policing" other nations, this way, the international community cannot blame us for everything that is wrong with the world. I am also happy that the Atlantic and Pacific oceans separate the USA from most of the world. There are too many "hands in the pot" so to speak, that is why this will not work. America has a right to disagree with the world. Just because the majority of the world wants this court does not make it right.
Tina, USA


It seems that most of you are already convinced of America's guilt

Josh, Atlanta, USA
I normally click over to the "talking points" area to get a smirk at the ridiculous and hysterical America bashing. This topic and its posts really make me chuckle. Many of you across the sea are angry that America will have no part in this court and therefore will not be brought to "justice." It seems that most of you are already convinced of America's guilt. The attitude of Europe towards America reminds of an old western movie I once saw. One cowboy (after capturing another) says "Tomorrow we're going to give you a fair trial and then we're going to hang you."
Josh, Atlanta, USA

I think the ICC can operate without the support of the USA. The US could be the most influential nation in the world but I believe if the international community put their effort together, they can ensure the smooth running of the ICC. The US should not be given the chance to always want to determine world affairs in a manner that suits its interest. Troops of other nations are involved in peace-keeping missions around the world, but have welcomed the ICC.
Takeh Sendze, London, united kingdom

This court needs to be established and the US needs to be a part. With the globalization of business and the shrinking of the world through technology, only a court of this type can combat the crimes that are now being and will be committed. I am ashamed that Mr. Bush is even considering removing the USA from the treaty.
George Allen, Seattle USA

The US is the last truly sovereign nation on the planet. Good for you, GW. Let's keep our independence.
Robert McCoy, USA


As an American living abroad, I can understand the frustratingly ad hoc reasoning the US applies to its foreign policy

Karen Dickinson, London, UK
As an American living abroad, I can understand the frustratingly ad hoc reasoning the US applies to its foreign policy. Why isolate ourselves further from the world community when we are so eager to dominate it? Perhaps it's because we host some of the worst war criminals in the world, Henry Kissinger to name one. If we sign on, we are risking a witch hunt that will call into practice decades of policy development engaged to keep America the leading capitalist power- a "hyper power" if you will. Bush doesn't want to undermine the confidence of an already heavily confused and politically ignorant public. But I say...wake up! It's time America answered some nagging questions and the populace took responsibility for electing its leadership. We are a global community now- it's not America and "the rest of the world".
Karen Dickinson, London, UK

Never ever would an American allow himself to be tried by any court outside of the USA. The Euro pinkos have to understand that we don't need an outside court to try Americans, because we do that ourselves. This court would apply to all the other countries that do not have a working legal system or they are just basket cases like most of Africa, Latin America and Asia.
Schwinn, Washington, DC

To Mika, Helsinki, Finland: How about admitting that America is clearly doing many things right? We didn't get to this position of power and success by always doing the wrong thing. You may call it arrogance, but I think it's mostly confidence. We will never be able to have an honest discussion about America until people can admit that.
Dean, Boston, USA

How is it, that the one and only nation in this world, who is giving out justice by its own means and is always telling other governments what to do doesn't want to join ICC? The US has some major conflicts within the values it promotes. It refuses to level with other countries of the world; and you still wonder why so many countries hate America? Sadly, the US government has proven itself proud and arrogant over and over again and is conflicting only in things that serve their own interest. Hello America-you are not the only one in this planet! How about some co-operation with the rest of the world.
Mika, Helsinki, Finland


The power of any institution, and most of all a court, depends on its perception as fair and impartial

Nikos Bonanos, Roskilde, Denmark
The power of any institution, and most of all a court, depends on its perception as fair and impartial. This principle applies to the International Criminal Court. If this court is to gain the respect of the International Community, it must be able to prosecute anyone who is suspected of committing a crime against humanity, wherever he or she lives. There can be no exceptions. The reason that the present system of ad-hoc courts has an image problem is just that, they are ad-hoc. The USA cannot be obliged to sign up to the International Criminal Court, but they should be aware that, unless they do so, this newly founded institution will be perceived as just another example of Western double standards, of which, unfortunately, there are many. Mr Bush, if you are reading this, sign up now!
Nikos Bonanos, Roskilde, Denmark

Correct me if I'm wrong but America will no doubt be exempt from ever standing in the dock, no matter how much misery it inflicts on other countries with sanctions, bombings etc. The same will no doubt apply to the UK, France, Israel etc.
Andy, UK

I find it funny that Americans complain about American-bashing while at the same time they are continually "world bashing", bashing anything not American. They assume from the start that the ICC will be against them they refuse to read what the ICC is about and instantly claim they will not allow other states to judge their citizens. They always claim they will not subject to non-democratic governments.

Do they realise what democracy means? The USA is not democratic, neither is any European country. They are particraties: all the power is in the hand of parties, it doesn't matter if you vote for either party, the choice you have is just too limited. As for all countries becoming democratic. Any idea what would happen if all the USA-loving Arab countries in the Middle East suddenly became democratic? If those corrupt governments were deposed and replaced by democracies the USA would have only one friend left in the Middle East. It doesn't matter if participating countries are democracies or monarchies or dictatorships. They will not be the judges. It will be independent judges (hopefully not those political judges you find in the American Supreme Court, that is just laughable and I wouldn't call that justice)
Stefan Castille, Belgium


The Bush administration should rethink its opposition

Brian, Canada.
In the past 50 years, laws and treaties have outlawed genocide, poison gas, chemical weapons and even landmines, but no mechanism has held individuals criminally responsible for more than 86 million civilians who are estimated to have died in approximately 250 conflicts around the world. American soldiers are unlikely to appear before the court. The prosecutor will only intervene in cases where the legal system in a country is judged suspect, either because its court system is incapable - as in Somalia or Haiti - or because its government was considered to be obstructing justice. These are hardly applicable to the U.S. justice system. The court would be strengthened by the adherence of the world's last superpower. The Bush administration should rethink its opposition.
Brian, Canada.

Many Americans still love their freedom and sovereignty. I do not believe a world government solves anything. If local governments cannot or will not handle issues, what makes a world body capable? It is the laziness of the local citizens that require a larger body to set up a babysitter for themselves.
Brian, US

As a soldier in the U.S. Army for about 11 years, I would not submit to a trial headed by countries that are hostile to American values. The idea is ridiculous. I know this sounds arrogant, but the ICC is working under the premise that all member nations are reasonable, rational lovers of individual liberty. What I see is a United Nations that voted the world's oldest surviving constitutional republic off of the Human Rights Commission to be replaced by Sudan. Sudan? Why would I ever want to be put on trial by people who make decisions like that?
Ashley, Columbus, Ohio, USA

Not until there is a democratic world, completely devoid of any form of dictatorship government where all people live and express themselves freely without fear of punishment from their government, should there be anything in the manner of an International Criminal Court. By then, an ICC will be unnecessary.
P, New Orleans, USA

The question of whether it should or it shouldn't, has one answer of course - yes it should. When will the Bush administration stop its arrogance and actually admit that several Americans have committed crimes of genocide and similar acts and they should be punished for what they've done.
Mostafa, Egypt

I find all the American bashing funny. If America allows another country to kill, the Europeans whine that America isn't doing anything. If we do something, they whine and say we're not the world's police. Of course we're going to govern in our own self-interest. If we allowed you to govern us, you would deliberately run us into the ground. Thanks, but no thanks for all your advice on how to run our country. I didn't realize your countries were so perfect.
Chris, Los Angeles

Here, at last, is a glimmer of hope for the future of humanity against the backdrop of many examples of human massacres, both historically and since World War II. What have been ad-hoc courts in the past is being formalised in the form of the ICC. The slow rate of ratification is a matter of surprise when all the time leaders are speaking of peace and peace agendas. If China and India which have nearly half the world's population sign at some time in the future it will be a tremendous boost for the human race. No one contested the composition of the judges or the legal process or the laws adopted in any of the special courts established to try war crimes and crimes against humanity so far starting with the Nuremberg Trials. One is at a loss to know why it is being questioned on these grounds now. There is always room for improvement in any man-made system but it seems unwise to ditch the ICC because of potential fears.
Saravan, UK

Despite the lack of US support for the ICC, many educated Americans understand that the ICC is an essential step to human rights for all. The ICC is a move towards world peace, a giant step for humanity. The US isolationist policy should be ignored by the rest of the world, and the ICC supporting nations should move forward with this important basis for international justice. US history of a nation of laws and our general regard for the rule of law, here in the states, should bring us around to embrace and support the ICC.
Sylvia, Seattle, USA

As an American it does not sit well with me that I may be tried by people from nations that refer to all Americans as infidels for what they decide is a crime. In other words, this court can easily be used as a political harpoon. As the most powerful nation in the world, the US would obviously be the prime target. Look at these postings! Despite the goings on in North Korea, China, Iran, Somalia, Iraq, and Chechnya everyone is lambasting Camp X-Ray which the International Red Cross has inspected and continues to inspect. Obviously, justice is not in the interest of many people posting. In short, objectivity in a world as diverse as ours, not only in culture but in power, is an illusion. Clearly, everyone will go after the big boy on the block which is why the US stands in opposition.
Charles, New York


I hope the world community moves forward with the ICC

Mike, Wisconsin, USA
It is encouraging to see a growing awareness of American isolationistic policies and "strong-arm" tactics. After 200 years the "Great Experiment" of the United States democracy has some serious flaws. Joining the international community to move into a new era of world government would go a long way towards improving the widening corruption among American politicians. Unfortunately, that would mean recognizing the flaws in the existing system and an honest desire to change that circumstance. I hope the world community moves forward with the ICC, despite the current administration in the US. With any luck, the deficient foreign policy and blatant religious fundamentalism espoused by Bush will bring about his failure in the presidential election. Then, America can get back to the business of growing up. When that happens, maybe, the country can take a real role in a global community based on human rights that will move us into the future with dignity and purpose.
Mike, Wisconsin, USA

The general concept of international justice mediated by a world court seems desirable. The problem comes, as in so many other cases, in the details of exactly how it is set up, and more importantly who, and which agenda will effectively control the this court. Merely assuming that all will be well is not good enough. The selection of the jurors will be a political process, and therefore will be subject to political interests.
Jack Stephens, Thule, Greenland

I will join the chorus of Americans who oppose this "Court". Aside from echoing points regarding the obvious anti-American bias of most of the rest of the world and the necessity that Americans would have to submit to an inferior legal system, who would enforce the will of this Court? Much as do-gooders would like to forget, the will of any given court is enforced by the threat of violence. While it's a relatively small matter to drag citizens of third-world nations to a Court, who plans to go to China to fetch their high officials? Russia? Or Israel? Any of these nations could easily be targeted by such allegations of wrong-doing. Who amongst you (the Europeans) plans on applying force to effect the arrest and punishment of the leadership of such nations? If you're not willing to do so, then what purpose does this Court serve other than to inflate the already elevated sense of European self-righteousness?
Chris, Des Moines, IA, USA

An International Criminal Court can only function if it has powers of arrest and detention unhindered by the nationality and location of the suspected criminal. Otherwise, the ICC would simply be another impotent talking shop, bleating about the injustices and atrocities in this world, but achieving nothing worthwhile. It is absolutely clear that the government of the USA will never allow such powers of arrest and detention to be levelled against members of the US government, military or security services, so the ICC will never be able to act effectively.
AK, London UK

It will work because simply it has to work, if only for the victims and their families. It is for the victims we have laws and we have a judiciary system in the first place and not for the perpetrators of crime.
Tamzin, France

I will never support ceding any portion of America's sovereignty to any international body that is composed in any small part by representatives of brutal dictatorships which scoff at the ideals of democracy and human rights. Let all the world's nations reach a credible democratization. Only then will I feel secure in partaking in an international government.
Jonathan Jones, Houston, Texas, USA


I see no reason why every member of the world should not have to live by the same key laws, regardless of their nationality

Peter Young, UK
Most of the messages here that are from Americans are strongly against the idea of an international court. Why is this? Are they afraid of a shift in the balance of power? I doubt that shift would be so significant that it would upset their happy lives. I see no reason why every member of the world should not have to live by the same key laws, regardless of their nationality. These laws will surely be founded on basic human rights, the protection of innocents during conflict and equality, that most Western countries aim to live by anyway. The establishment of an international court is a fantastic step forward for worldwide human rights, and deserves the support of all nations. Although, how the court ensures true equality and representation of every nation remains to be seen - that is the biggest obstacle.
Peter Young, UK

If Britain at the height of its colonial power had been asked its opinion on international criminal courts, the response would have been just as arrogant and self-righteous as the American response is today. Yet I think that if such a court had been set up at the time, with Britain's acquiescence, the result would have been a better world.
John Ormerod, Oslo Norway

To all Americans out there: What future are you dreaming of? Isn't it a world of justice that guarantees the human rights to every citizen of this world? The ICC is the first step to worldwide justice. A justice which is not American or European but guarantees basic rights to all human beings on earth. What is wrong in that dream? How do you imagine OUR future?
Thomas, UK

It is very important to fully establish an International Criminal Court, and I hope, against all odds, that it will succeed, however, if that fails to succeed, there is no doubt that it is the beginning of new phenomena of lawless in the world as this is a green light to those who continuously violate all norms.
Omar Dhollawa, Melbourne, Australia

Since January 2001: Kyoto protocol, ABM treaty, Geneva Convention, ICC. America apparently feels it has the economic - and military - power to act unilaterally... a dangerous tendency in an ever-shrinking world, breeding resentment and ultimately, anti-American sentiments.
Daniel, American in Amsterdam

Yes it would work if America can be kept out, other wise it would be controlled by America the same as the UN.
Steve, Dumfries Scotland

In the end the list of countries that will not ratify the ICC treaty is the same as the list of countries that did not ratify the landmine treaty, the treaty about not using child soldiers, and all those other treaties that would provide a safer, better world. Those countries include the USA, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Somalia - in short, the US and the countries that are labelled by the US as "Rogue States" or "An Axis of Evil". What does it say about the USA that whenever an international treaty is signed, they are on the same side as those countries?
Wim, Netherlands

It can, and it must if we are to live in a civilised world. It's long overdue, and a wonderful development in world history. If nothing else, it throws the profiles of the terrorist nations into sharp relief as they resist its implementation. Never have China, Russia, and the U.S. seemed as hapless and resistant of peace than they do now.
David Brown, Helsinki, Finland


If Osama Bin Laden was ever brought to court, an International Criminal Court would have more sway in the rest of the world than any U.S. verdict would

Michael Dawson, Newcastle, UK
Does the United States not recognise that by subjecting itself to the same standards, it could prove its case to those who doubt it. If Osama Bin Laden was ever brought to court, an International Criminal Court would have more sway in the rest of the world than any U.S. verdict would - unless the current administration would like to hide certain things. Perhaps they'd rather not have a judge decide what makes a POW, as they should under the Geneva Convention. A new era is derailed by right wing nutcases, again.
Michael Dawson, Newcastle, UK

We definitely need all countries to be represented on an equal scale otherwise one would be wasting their time. I would like to point out that we are more of a representative government than a democratic government. We vote for people we know very little about (only what we read) and they in turn vote. Very often they are influenced by our strong lobbyists and the interests they represent. Taking this into consideration we should have no greater or lesser say than any other country on this issue. Good sound justice is needed and fast!
M. Boehm, Florida, USA


Whatever its real shortcomings and practical problems may be, having an international criminal court is certainly workable and ultimately a historic achievement.

Em and Ray, Italy and UK
There a number of points of confusion that needs to be cleared up: 1. The court will not have jurisdiction over states, but over individuals. 2. The ICC will NOT have jurisdiction over any crimes committed by an individual before a State agrees to become a party to the Statute of the ICC. Therefore any crimes that have been committed up to this point will not be subject to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. (I.e. no retroactive power) 3. The ICC will only be able to try individuals where a State (who has become a party to the ICC) is UNWILLING or UNABLE to try the individual in their domestic courts. Therefore the ICC won't override or usurp the sovereignty of States to try their own citizens. 4. The Security Council will not be able to veto a case being brought by the Prosecutor. 5. The Court trial system will be adversarial, incorporating all the international fair trial guarantees. There is also an appeal chamber. Many of the criticisms and fears expressed about the Court are based on misleading propaganda and misinformation. Whatever its real shortcomings and practical problems may be, having an international criminal court is certainly workable and ultimately a historic achievement.
Em and Ray, Italy and UK


I'm very much in favour of prosecuting war crimes, but I am concerned that any standing international court would be coloured by politics and the potential for bias.

Paul, Houston, TX
I think the treaty is well intentioned, but likely faces practical problems. I am certainly not a proponent of war or armed struggle by any means, but should an armed conflict occur, the issue of war crimes could become pretty hazy. Would truly inadvertent civilian casualties committed by an eventual "losing" side be considered a war crime? Would the court have unbiased information to evaluate the case?

I'm very much in favour of prosecuting war crimes, but I am concerned that any standing international court would be coloured by politics and the potential for bias. I'm sure that both the Israelis and Palestinians both believe their methods are justified and that they are fighting for their very survival. I'm sure they each have a very different view of who is the war criminal. Not all war crimes will be as clear-cut as say, the Holocaust. Are we on a slippery slope?
Paul, Houston, TX

The Court will work fairly well. Of course, it would work a whole lot better if war criminals from non-ratifying nations were subject to immediate arrest upon arriving in a ratifying nation. Such criminals would think long and hard about taking trips abroad! The establishment of the Court, like the finalizing of the Kyoto Protocol, is a psychological triumph for people who would rather see countries working together than going it alone.
Lesley, UK/USA

As a professor of law at NYU and a practising attorney for more than 25 years, I know the various nations of the world have so many different legal systems, that it is impossible to create just one that will reflect the essential ingredients of all legal systems. I must say that for the US government to allow its citizens to fall under ICC jurisdiction without retaining the following rights which we enjoy (and have paid for with millions of our lives defending our system throughout history): a. presumption of innocent until proven guilty b. trial by a jury of the defendants peers c. right to counsel at all stages d. right to appeal and e. the protections of double jeopardy - that is, you can't be tried more than once for the same alleged crime, then the US government will have acted in an illegal and unconstitutional fashion.

Read most of the comments here (eg., What is the US worried about - you won't be subject to the ICC unless you've done something wrong; the trial of Charlie Company for the atrocities committed in VIetnam; Camp X-Ray; etc. and, if you are a fair minded individual, you will understand why the US will not participate in the ICC. Moreover, check the list of nations who have signed on (and not "removed their signatures") how many are democracies? How many are Monarchies? How many are Islamic Theocracies and how many are dictatorships? Why would any democratic nation allow itself or its citizens to be judged by judges appointed by the government of, say, Iran or Syria?

One last thought: If the ICC is going to work, then the crime of doing nothing in the face of inhumanity must be part of the ICC's jurisdiction. Then the US will not be the only nation to have created enemies by trying to do something about international genocide (as in, say, Kosovo) but those nations, particularly neighbouring states, will be triable for doing nothing at all.
Bob, USA

This court would assume the best of all countries concerned. When a country elects a new head of state who disagrees you will not have the funding or cooperation. I believe it will end up being a court that will be as useless as the Ice skating judges for the Olympics.
Lorelie, Eureka, CA


Crimes against humanity cannot be allowed to go unpunished.

Peter, Sarajevo, Bosnia
I think the ICC must come into existence. Crimes against humanity cannot be allowed to go unpunished. I might have been born in Britain but I am a member of humanity first. To paraphrase John Donne "do not ask for whom the bell tolls it tolls for the". The world must stand up for justice. If some countries wish not to ratify the agreement then I then ask myself what is their agenda? The Europeans are trying to prevent atrocities like those that happened in Bosnia, by setting up their own standing independent military force not part of NATO to be deployed to protect the innocents of the world. Who is the biggest objector to this - the USA. Going freelance militarily is not allowed, even in the pursuit of high ideals. On this page there are many criticisms of the USA, some are justified some are not. I for one pay little heed to the USA, it does have its own agenda, using its economic and military muscle in pursuits of its own goals. Look at all the major economic sanctions already being taken against its "allies" who fought in the Gulf war and the Afghan war - Steel tariffs for the majority of the world. Lumber tariffs for Canada. If the Canadians turned nasty they could cease selling water to California, or even stick a tariff on the amount of oil pumped across Canada from Alaska. What would the USA do then, invade Canada? We live in a global village now and all nations must begin to look at the situation globally. The days of being isolationist are over.
Peter, Sarajevo, Bosnia

I think it is clear for all outside the USA that a lot of the arguments on here are used for a smokescreen and no more. The simple truth is that the USA want to be allowed to break the rules whenever they want, and they don't like the ICC because it will stop them doing it. It's that simple. Take the recent X-ray situation as the most perfect example - openly torturing people fighting for the Taleban regime - many of whom have absolutely nothing to do with the September 11 bombings.

Under the current system, the USA is permitted to get away with this. Under the ICC, the American government will have to play by universal rules - the same rules which will be used to judge the conduct of Israel, Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan. If the American government expect other nations to "play by the rules", why is it so hard for them to do the same? This court represents a sensible forum for people to air grievances, and have issues settled. Or would the US government prefer that these grievances are bottled and build up until the horror of Sept 11 is repeated? When you think it through, there is no reason for the US not to sign up for the ICC, and many reasons for them to do so. Come on Mr. Bush - it's time to start playing by your own rules.
Gary, Leeds, UK

It seems that most people commenting have not taken the time to read the Staute of Rome that established the ICC. It also seems clear that the majority of writers, especially the Americans, have little or no familiarity with International Law. The types of crimes that the Court will try are crimes of jus cogens - crimes against all humanity that, EVEN TODAY, can be tried in any court in the world. So, if an American (or British, or French, or South African) army unit, commits genocide then, even before the Court is established, one could arrest and try the suspects. The ICC merely provides a permanent forum for such prosecutions. No-one is ceding any rights with the ICC and it is ludicrous to suggest that they are.

Secondly, the ICC only has jurisdiction over a case if the state in question agrees or is manifestly incapable of being honest. So, my American colleagues need not worry. The US could sign onto the ICC quite safely. If an allegation was made that an American soldier had committed a crime against humanity, then the duty falls on the US to investigate the issue thoroughly. This, of course, is what would happen at the moment. Only if the US investigation (and any subsequent criminal trial) is manifestly flawed (so as to amount to a show trial) would the ICC have the right to try the issue.
Justin, Toronto, Canada, (originally from England)

I'm against the US becoming part of the "world court". Half the world seems to resent the US for being the only remaining super power. The other half seems to want the US to be the world's policeman, telling us that we must remain in Bosnia and are obligated to help out here and there because we have made the investment in the military. If the US is to be the world's policeman, we should think about how the police are considered differently in the civil courts that already exist. Policemen have different limits on their use of force, for instance. Yet no one speaks about different rules for the US in the world court. If the US can be prosecuted in a world court as any other world citizen, why shouldn't we remain as bystanders, like the rest of the world does?
Mike, NYC, USA


That a citizen of the US would cede his or her rights to an international body is simply farcical

Caius, Atlanta, USA
Ludicrous; absolutely ludicrous. That a citizen of the US would cede his or her rights to an international body is simply farcical. I am finishing my final year of law school and I have had the opportunity to do comparative analysis of many different forms of jurisprudence; particularly European. The inquisitorial system is manifestly flawed and inherently susceptible to the tyranny of the law and judiciary. The surest way to tyranny is to let yobs and intellectually lazy radicals gain control of the public forum.
Caius, Atlanta, USA

The world would be such a safer place if people actually took the time to educate themselves on a subject before they put false accusations in print. The ICC will only have jurisdiction if a crime is committed by a state that ratified it, if the crime is committed in a ratified state or if referred by UN security council vote. What good is this court if nations totalling a population collectively of over 2 billion have not signed on and that does not include all the nations that signed on but did not ratify?
Lisa, USA

No country should be afraid of joining such a court unless it has something to hide. World needs a place where the criminals can be prosecuted for their crimes against humanity, regardless of which country they come from. USA have been given a free hand in the past to do what it wants to do, it is time USA shows the world that it is serious about human rights even if these are abused by its own citizens/officials.
Jahangir, Birmingham, UK


The International Court is a farce

Reginald E. Armstrong, Amarillo, USA
The International Court is a farce. It is an effort by the impotent immoral majority to exercise dominion over the weak and have-not nations. It fulfils the designs of nations and groups with a personal agenda and bias to prey on nations who are not capable of defending themselves. There will be no objectivity for such a court to make fair, unbiased judgements. Who believes leaders of rogue states who consistently commit crimes against humanity will ever appear before such a tribunal?
Reginald E. Armstrong, Amarillo, USA

Here's why he's against it. Bush tells all the world's sovereign countries "You are either with us or against us, there is no grey are" and says every nation must support his war on terrorism . Naturally, a government like the one he appointed - yes Keith New York - as leader would prefer arbitrating to sovereign nations and of course, arbitrators are not accountable to the rules they make.
Kong Lapia, Africa

The ICC is clearly a way forward, however America's typical isolationism will cause problems. They clearly did not learn from September 11 that you can't go around the world putting your head into other people's problems and then withdraw into a cocoon afterwards. If any Americans are put on trial it will only be because they did something wrong and they will be tried by a responsible authority. Those who complain about everything being turned into "America Bashing" should consider that it could be because America deserves a bashing.
Euan, Cardiff, Wales

The US and Israel are very nervous about this idea and have reason to be. In any of these international organizations few checks and balances exist. If you are a hated nation, something like the ICC becomes a weapon against you. Look what happened at the Durban racism conference. The ICC will only be successful if countries afraid of being persecuted (like the USA and Israel) join. That, in turn, will only happen if the ICC had some sort of checks-and-balances put in place so that a simple majority is not the deciding factor in prosecutions/appeals, etc.
Josh, USA / Canada


The Bush administration wishes to withdraw because it wishes to reserve the right to act unilaterally when necessary

Nathan Herman, Chicago, USA
The Bush administration wishes to withdraw because it wishes to reserve the right to act unilaterally when necessary (a sometimes honourable, long-standing American policy) to protect domestic conservative economic interests. This hardly ensures an unwavering American commitment to the UN charter, or even a universal application of our rightly-famous domestic values; our varying treatment of X-ray detainees demonstrates this well. An international judicial body should allow states to take much-needed initiatives toward the benefit of domestic culture and humanity. If it were our international policy that the discretion of a state's leadership - democratically-elected, notwithstanding - trumps the rule of law, should that be our domestic policy, as well? Could an American city refuse to send its citizen to a county court because of an apparent difference in values or concern for quality of judgment?
Nathan Herman, Chicago, USA

...From the only country in the world to have used weapons of mass destruction against civilian population...
Steve, UK

There is no justice on Earth. The ruling class gets what they want at the expense of everyone and everything, and this is just another way to make it easier for the worthless little parasites.
Morgan O'Conner, Hayward, USA

International Criminal Court may be the first step towards bringing the state criminals to justice. Unlike UN this court must have judges free from political influences. Privy Council of the United Kingdom has one of the highest reputations in delivering fair justice.
Siva, Canada

An International Criminal Court is necessary. This is the only tribunal that can legally prosecute international criminals for human rights violations, war atrocities and crimes against humanity in general. We cannot put that kind of responsibility in the hands of only one nation like the United States whose main interest is to serve their own policy. The Afghan so-called terrorists rotting in US military jails are a prime example of how one nation alone cannot be vested with such authority.
Vi Massart, Paris, France

As a graduate student, writing my Ph.D. thesis on the ICC, I would like to comment about the US's stance towards the court. Through the lengthy negotiations that led to the adoption of the Rome Statute, the supporters of the court made significant concessions to the often-unreasonable demands of the US, in order to ensure its active participation. As a result of these concessions, the current statute has inherited significant deficiencies such as its lack of universal jurisdiction. In other words, the international community has got the worst of both world, a deficient statute and a powerful opponent. However, the very existence of the court may help change the current power -based international system into a justice-leaned one.
Davood, St-Andrews Scotland


We do definitely need an international criminal court

Mahesh Chandra Somani, Oulu, Finland
After the recent spate of enhanced terrorist activities and war crimes all over the world, we do definitely need an international criminal court that will redress the problems of victimised societies. Those who are sceptical about the unbiased functioning of such a court must remember that millions of people never believed earlier that the UN could ever be effective in bringing the whole world together.
Mahesh Chandra Somani, Oulu, Finland

After the recent spate of enhanced terrorist activities and war crimes all over the world, we do definitely need an international criminal court that will redress the problems of victimised societies. Those who are sceptical about the unbiased functioning of such a court must remember that millions of people never believed earlier that the UN could ever be effective in bringing the whole world together.
Mahesh Chandra Somani, Oulu, Finland

There seems to be a huge burden of "nation state" emotional baggage to shift before this can ever really work. Some comments on the topic clearly indicate as much. In this respect the moves that the EU is making to create transnational regulation can be seen in a much more positive light, and indeed mark the transition (hopefully) to a more unified system which can be rolled out to other parts of the world when they're emotionally ready for it.
Richard Blake-Reed, Bath, UK

Critics of Bush's opposition to the international criminal court would do well to read the sense of justice expressed by their own words. They have already found the US guilty of being the major criminal actor in the world, before the court is even composed. Whose standards of justice and whose procedural guards will be employed by the Court?
James, France

The establishment of an International Criminal Court is more than welcome. It will help give real teeth to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Surely new efforts must be made to secure the support of the USA for this important organisation?
Kevin Hutchens, Stonehaven, Scotland


I don't believe there is much point in setting up this court

Maher Jabr, USA
I don't understand why Bush is so afraid of Americans being held accountable for their actions. With a number of countries such as Russia and the US not participating, I don't believe there is much point in setting up this court.
Maher Jabr, USA

International courts without international laws to administer, an international police force to enforce, in short, an international government, would be meaningless. A world which does not agree on which side of the street one drives is not in any hurry to have a world government.
Thiruvengadam Ramakrishnan, New Orleans, LA, USA

As a student in law, I believe that an international court of justice will only be effective if we have impartiality on the part of judges and recognition on the part of states as to the supremacy of this court. If it functions like the UN, however, with the power of veto, things will definitely not work. Everyone should be equal and have the same rights and power in an international court.
Nadia, Cambridge, UK


People who waste the whole of their lives groping around for bigger and harder sticks to beat the US or UK over the head with aren't seriously interested in justice

Henry Case, UK
Is there some kind of stubborn refusal to read or understand the question? It's "Will an International Court work?". People who waste the whole of their lives groping around for bigger and harder sticks to beat the US or UK over the head with aren't seriously interested in justice, only in lynch law that allows them to string up a few handy Yanks whenever they feel like a bit of fun. America, you're wise to stay out of it!
Henry Case, UK

Though it seems like a good idea, there are many unanswered questions remaining. Will the court be based on the American system, with a jury, a prosecutor and a defence attorney presenting evidence, and a judge to maintain order, or one where the evidence is presented simply to a judge? Will the defence have to prove innocence or simply reasonable doubt? On whom does the burden of proof rely? And do the courts of nations, such as the American Supreme Court, remain their sovereignty, or can their decisions be overridden, such as on capital punishment?
Matthew, USA

I hope it is not a false sense of security or taken as a great disillusionment in the generations to come.
Bj Pinkerton, USA

Practically speaking, what would we do with those convicted by the International Court? There is not enough room to incarcerate them all in the existing penal systems throughout the world, do we create a gulag in some remote corner of the planet (not in my backyard) or do we just eliminate them - perhaps those enterprising politicians in the USA would seize on the opportunity and offer the use of those facilities in states like Texas and Florida where the death sentence is still carried out. The Bush brother would buy into that notion.
Peter Hayward, Vancouver, Canada


It find it humorous that so many people can turn pretty much any topic into an America bashing session

JsnLuera, USA
It find it humorous that so many people can turn pretty much any topic into an America bashing session. I think most of you should take a closer look at your own countries before you spend so much time picking at the US and its policies. Perhaps you might be willing to look at the other side of the coin as well, to see all the good that America has done for the world. The US is by no means perfect, but neither are your own countries. Its sad to say, but there is way too much hypocritical posting in here.
JsnLuera, USA

As an American I am born with certain rights. The right to remain silent, to have free legal assistance. And the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. I can not be tried twice for the same offence and can appeal to a superior court. What guarantees do we have that under the ICC we will enjoy similar rights?
David, Texas USA

It would be a good idea because, if all countries supported it, it would reduce the number of hiding places for crooks and corrupt leaders. It's a pity the US won't support it (and I don't think they will). The world would be a very much better place if rich and powerful countries accepted the principle of a worldwide legal framework to control their actions. You never know - it might actually reduce terrorism, as it would represent a forum for those with grievances against powerful countries. If, in the UK, I have a grievance against someone rich and powerful, I would go to law rather than attempting to murder his children because I have a reasonable amount of faith in our legal system.
John D, Oxford, UK

This court will eventually be used as a political tool. It usurps the sovereignty of nations, and in the end it will not dispense any justice. It is wrong and should be resisted
Sidharth, New York

ICC is a big step towards international law and justice expanding eventually to have its own implementing force. A force that will make sure that the nations that retain membership in the UN, but refuse to abide by its resolutions will now, as Kofi Annan put it, "face the verdict of history". Finally, having learnt from the past mistakes of humanity, the humankind will be forced to show reverence and respect for all human lives.
Sanober, Chicago, US

'Boy, 12 Held For Heroin Smuggling'. An International Criminal Court could be used to bring to justice the parents of minors used to smuggle drugs inside their bodies. This is cruelty beyond comprehension. Such a court could enable a worldwide uniform response to such a crime against children.
Heda Kootz, Milton Keynes, UK


Might will always be right, and never will any of the powerful countries have their citizens tried in an international court

Anonymous, UK
Regardless of the US position on ICC, regardless of any treaties signed by anyone, might will always be right, and never will any of the powerful countries have their citizens tried in an international court. Any examples to the contrary?
Anonymous, UK

The creation of the ICC is a historical development for the Mankind. There has been an alarming spread of genocidal policies and massive crimes in the world during the last 60-70 years. The ICC will represent a fundamental element in the long-term struggle against such atrocities worldwide. The present US administration apparently does not like the idea. But administrations can be removed and replaced in democratic elections, and the USA is a democracy.
Gorazd Cvetic, Valparaiso, Chile

Only countries that have done things they are ashamed of will not sign this agreement. Are the US scared that the men of Charlie Company who in 1968 massacred over 300 unarmed civilians including women, children, and the elderly in My Lai, Vietnam will be brought to justice?
Phil, UK

I think the European court of human rights is a good example of what this court could achieve, bringing a strong voice to the meek. It is a wonderful solution to ensure a level playing field, and make nations wary of there foreign policy.
Kieron, Ireland


This is a noble ideal and one that should attract the full support of all peoples in all nations

Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK
Without a doubt, this is a noble ideal and one that should attract the full support of all peoples in all nations. Unfortunately, I do not think the world is ready for it ... it has bitten off far more than it can chew and will therefore be either ignored or humiliated. This court's writ should have started off covering, say, just common criminals; later, extend it to other "no brainer" types of crime; and, over time, let it prove its credentials and establish trust by how it conducts itself.
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

Yes, of course the US as the leading world power should actively participate in such a court. The US government is not only responsible to American citizens, but as a world-class interventionist, it also has global responsibilities. However, in cases where various powers have been involved in wars or conflicts on one side or the other their judges should be excluded form the tribunals. Further, a jury of citizens of various countries, again excluding countries that were involved in the conflict where the alleged crimes occurred, should be formed.
Paul Papadopoulos, Greece

I celebrate along with the Human Rights community for the pioneering establishment. Congratulations! Now it's a matter of remaining as neutral as possible and firm against political pressure on matter for justice. The crisis with Afghanistan had shown America's intention of exercising its freedom at the expense of everyone else, remains an obstacle. Likewise, China may find it difficult to redress massive reports of human rights abuse. Still, so long as International justice exists, we at least share a global interest that we have some representation in the international level against dictators and or tyrants. Cheers...
Pete

Court or no court the USA will continue to assert its overwhelming power with impunity in the belief that it is above the law.
John, London, UK


With a glorious history of war criminals from Curtis LeMay to Henry Kissinger, it is no wonder that our officials refuse to accept an international authority that might someday bring them to account

John D. Powers, Marietta, GA, USA
With a glorious history of war criminals from Curtis LeMay to Henry Kissinger, it is no wonder that our officials refuse to accept an international authority that might someday bring them to account. What I find less convincing is the paranoia that many Americans, and not just right-wing reactionaries, have about the ICC. If our European friends would seek understand why this view is prevalent among the people of the US, and not just the government, one must look beyond all reason and to the influence of religion (which has driven such nut-case organizations such as the John Birch Society for decades).
John D. Powers, Marietta, GA, USA

Europeans failed to stop Hitler. They failed to stop Milosevic. When they support an "International" court - alongside Syria and Iran, no less - one can reasonably conclude that the ICC will save Europeans from answering the most essential question: Why didn't you prevent the genocide in the first place?
Jessica, USA

This says it all really "The Bush administration, which is worried about the prospect of the court having the power to put Americans on trial, wants to remove its signature from the treaty signed by Bill Clinton in December 2000." Camp X-ray? The only way for us poor non-US citizens to find out the truth is with a trial (and not an American one!)
Olly, UK

BBC's online news quoted Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica as having said about the suicide attempt of a former minister under Slobodan Milosevic it was a "warning to the international community that constantly sets conditions, pressures us and dictates behaviour". My comment is that's exactly the whole point of an International Criminal Court! Some people aren't able to behave in an internationally acceptable humanitarian way, so they must be controlled! What part of this rather simple proposal didn't he get?! I suppose his statement is just more proof to the need for it!!
Kamel Darwish, Turku, Finland

The ICC will be far from efficient without USA, but it's existence is necessary. Even if it is only to show how USA then would be blocking justice in the world for everyone but their own citizens. What is more important? National interests or World interests? Bush has made his decision. In the long term he will hopefully understand the consequences. I just hope it wont have to mean more terrorist attacks. For those that believe the ICC will become corrupt. I am sure there are legal systems in some countries that are far more corrupt than the ICC will ever be. Try China.
Jacob Larson, NY, USA

Keith, New York: Your statement is one of those which give Americans, a generally delightful race of individuals in my experience, a bad name. Whilst your President is only answerable to the American people for civil acts committed within your territorial boundaries, once you choose to set foot on territories not your own, you are bound by international law and answerable for your actions in an international court. In addition, should you train terrorists who then return home to run death squads in their home countries of Central- and Southern America, you are also accountable globally for your actions.
Rhys Jaggar, England

The comment of Keith, US typifies the US position and their insecurities. The message to the US should be "if you don't like the image in the mirror-breaking the mirror won't help to resolve the problem!" You need to change that image to eradicate the world of the terrorism: charity begins at home!
Amy Shigheheru, Tokyo, Japan

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25 Aug 00 | World
Obstacles to world court
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