NEW YORK - August 3 - A
new law supposedly protecting U.S. servicemembers from the International Criminal
Court shows that the Bush administration will stop at nothing in its campaign
against the court, Human Rights Watch warned today.
U.S. President George Bush
today signed into law the American Servicemembers Protection Act of 2002, which
is intended to intimidate countries that ratify the treaty for the International
Criminal Court (ICC). The new law authorizes the use of military force to liberate
any American or citizen of a U.S.-allied country being held by the court, which
is located in The Hague. This provision, dubbed the "Hague invasion clause," has
caused a strong reaction from U.S. allies around the world, particularly in the
In addition, the law provides
for the withdrawal of U.S. military assistance from countries ratifying the ICC
treaty, and restricts U.S. participation in United Nations peacekeeping unless
the United States obtains immunity from prosecution. At the same time, these provisions
can be waived by the president on "national interest" grounds.
"The states that have ratified
this treaty are trying to strengthen the rule of law," said Richard Dicker, director
of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch. "The Bush administration
is trying to punish them for that."
Dicker pointed out that
many of the ICC's biggest supporters are fragile democracies and countries emerging
from human rights crises, such as Sierra Leone, Argentina and Fiji.
The law is part of a multi-pronged
U.S. effort against the International Criminal Court. On May 6, in an unprecedented
move, the Bush administration announced it was "renouncing" U.S. signature on
the treaty. In June, the administration vetoed continuation of the U.N. peacekeeping
force in Bosnia in an effort to obtain permanent immunity for U.N. peacekeepers.
In July, U.S. officials launched a campaign around the world to obtain bilateral
agreements that would grant immunity for Americans from the court's authority.
Yesterday, Washington announced that it obtained such an agreement from Romania.
However, another provision
of the bill allows the United States to assist international efforts to bring
to justice those accused of genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity -
including efforts by the ICC.
"The administration never
misses an opportunity to gratuitously antagonize its allies on the ICC," said
Dicker. "But it's also true that the new law has more loopholes than a block of
Dicker said the law gives
the administration discretion to override ASPA's noxious effects on a case-by-case
basis. Washington may try to use this to strong-arm additional concessions from
the states that support the court, but Dicker urged states supporting the ICC
"not to fall into the U.S. trap: the law does not require any punitive measures."
Human Rights Watch believes
the International Criminal Court has the potential to be the most important human
rights institution created in 50 years, and urged regional groups of states, such
as the European Union, to condemn the new law and resist Washington's attempts
to obtain bilateral exemption arrangements.
The law formed part of the
2002 Supplemental Appropriations Act for Further Recovery from and Response to
Terrorist Attacks on the United States.