I remember watching Colin Powell at the UN Security Counsel on C-SPAN. Powell was producing photographs the United States claimed was proof that Saddam Housein had weapons of mass destruction. Shortly after he finished, Hans Blix of the UN Security Counsel accused the United States of producing counterfeited evidence. He pointed out time/date stamps that were erased, close-up examinations of the photos revealed disturbed and unordered pixels on the photographs.
I was stunned. Why would the Bush Administration lie to the United Nations Security Counsel in an effort to go to war? I know, I know, I can be naive sometimes. But, this was before we marched into Iraq and, hindsight is 20/20 vision.
But now, it would appear that this story has come full circle: George W Bush is now very close to be under the scrutiny of the same UN Security Counsel via the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The International Criminal Court
Officially, the ICC is headquartered in The Hague. It is the spin-off organization from the “Rome Statute” which was signed in 1998 under the Clinton Administration. The ICC came into being in July 2002 where Bush (as President of the United States), along with China, Russia and India refused to sign it.
The Heritage Foundation objected to the Court by issuing this statement:
“Americans who appear before the court would be denied such basic constitutional rights as trial by a jury of one’s peers, protection from double jeopardy, and the right to confront one’s accusers.”
Conversely, Human Rights Watch argues:
the ICC has one of the most extensive lists of due process guarantees ever written”, including “presumption of innocence; right to counsel; right to present evidence and to confront witnesses; right to remain silent; right to be present at trial; right to have charges proved beyond a reasonable doubt; and protection against double jeopardy”
The Court has jurisdiction over four groups: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression.
“The Court can generally exercise jurisdiction only in cases where the accused is a national of a state party, the alleged crime took place on the territory of a state party, or a situation is referred to the Court by the United Nations Security Council.The Court is designed to complement existing national judicial systems: it can exercise its jurisdiction only when national courts are unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute such crimes. Primary responsibility to investigate and punish crimes is therefore left to individual states”
The International Criminal Court is structured with four organs: The Presidency, the Judicial Divisions, the Office of the Prosecuter and the Registry. The Presidency is made up of three judges, the President and the First and Second President. The Judicial Division is made up of 18 judges sub-grouped into three divisions. The Prosecutor is assisted by two Deputy Prosecutors and (again Wiki):
The Prosecutor may open an investigation under three circumstances:
- when a situation is referred to him by a state party;
- when a situation is referred to him by the United Nations Security Council, acting to address a threat to international peace and security; or
- when the Pre-Trial Chamber authorises him to open an investigation on the basis of information received from other sources, such as individuals or non-governmental organisations.
Finally, the Registry is the body that manages the court’s financing, personnel, defense counsel, detention units, and translations (as necessary). The Registrar is elected by the judges and serves a five year term.
Most Recent Case
The International Criminal Court has just issued an arrest warrant for Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir for war-crimes committed in Darfur. Sudan is not a member-state of the ICC, or the United Nations.
This raises the stakes in noting that President George W. Bush just very well might be next on the list. The New Zealand Harald said(via Think Progress):
David Crane, an international law professor at Syracuse University, said the principle of law used to issue an arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir could extend to former US President Bush over claims officials from his Administration may have engaged in torture by using coercive interrogation techniques on terror suspects.
Crane is a former prosecutor of the Sierra Leone tribunal that indicted Liberian President Charles Taylor and put him on trial in The Hague.
Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice Programme at Human Rights Watch, said the al-Bashir ruling was likely to fuel discussion about investigations of possible crimes by Bush Administration officials.
Mr. Dicker is correct. Since Sudan isn’t part of the ICC, the UN Security Counsel, the Hague and the ICC doesn’t see membership as a requirement for jurisdiction over a crime. In that vein, there very well could be pressure put on the ICC from Europe and countries who’ve had citizens tortured in Bush’s Guantanamo Gulag.
From Raw Story today:
…on January 26, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak insisted that the pursuit of Bush and members of his administration for the torture of terror war prisoners is crucial if justice is to be served.
Nowak added that he believes enough evidence exists currently to proceed with the prosecution of Donald Rumsfeld, the former Secretary of Defense who was credited as being highly influential in the crafting and push for America’s invasion of Iraq and the prior administration’s abusive interrogation tactics.
In October 2007, human rights groups from American and European filed a legal complaint against Donald Rumsfeld for torture and war crimes in Guantanamo and Iraq.
Rumsfeld fled French soil fearing arrest after protesters filed complaints with local authorities that Donald Rumsfeld was a war criminal.
US embassy officials whisked Rumsfeld away yesterday from a breakfast meeting in Paris organized by the Foreign Policy magazine after human rights groups filed a criminal complaint against the man who spearheaded President George W. Bush’s “war on terror” for six years.
Under international law, authorities in France are obliged to open an investigation when a complaint is made while the alleged torturer is on French soil.
…Anti-torture protesters in France believe that the defense secretary fled over the open border to Germany, where a war crimes case against Rumsfeld was dismissed by a federal court. But activist point out that under the Schengen agreement that ended border checkpoints across a large part of the European Union, French law enforcement agents are allowed to cross the border into Germany in pursuit of a fleeing fugitive.
To quote Maxwell Smart: “…Missed him, by that much!”
While a Senator, President Barack Obama was asked if the United States should join the ICC. He responded with:
Yes[.] The United States should cooperate with ICC investigations in a way that reflects American sovereignty and promotes our national security interests
Obama is thrown into a very tight political pickle if Bush is indeed arrested and tried. Realistically, Bush wouldn’t be taken into custody and brought to trial for a very long time. However, if he was arrested and his trial began while Obama is still president, it makes his presidency very messy. The GOP would be screaming about revenge and the Democrats would be screaming at the Oval Office and the Attorney General for not doing something earlier to avoid the mess. No matter what – it would be a mess.
United States Congress
Congress also acknowledged the ICC’s authority to prosecute war crimes committed in Darfur. (PDF File!)
Since Congress has gone along with the ICC’s investigation and prosecution, it only paves an easier route to prosecute Bush and Rumsfeld with very little deterrents.
One of the biggest problems with a Bush and Rumsfeld arrest is a really sagging moral for the American people. Face it; seeing an American President standing trial for war crimes son’t make the American people feeling good about themselves. Especially since we were stupid enough to elect him for an additional four years. But, the precedents are all in place and there’s very little left to do but wait and see.
I personally don’t understand why the President of the United States would even go down that messy slope in the first place. Did he simply think nobody would care if he was torturing people? What kind of bubble did he live in while he was in that Oval Office?