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U.S. rejects International Criminal Court treaty

From Patty Davis
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration announced Monday it was rejecting the International Criminal Court treaty. The United States worries the court would try to assert improper jurisdiction over American citizens.

Text of U.S. letter to the United Nations
U.S. to back out of international court treaty - May 5, 2002

The U.S. State Department sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan notifying him of the decision to not be a party to the treaty. (Read the letter)

Officials said the department would send cables to its embassies informing them of the decision and instructing the ambassadors to go to their host governments to explain the U.S. position.

The Bush administration objected to the court on the grounds it would not give American citizens and U.S. military personnel the same protections afforded to them under the U.S. Constitution.

President Clinton signed the treaty in December 2000, but amid concerns it might infringe on the rights of U.S. citizens and federal employees abroad, including members of the armed forces, it was never sent to the Senate for ratification.

The International Criminal Court would create a permanent forum to try cases involving charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression.

Current war crime tribunals have been set up from scratch to handle individual situations such as the atrocities in Bosnia and Rwanda.

U.S. officials said the treaty would not entitle Americans to the same defense allowed to them under the U.S. legal system.

Another U.S. objection was that it "goes beyond the operation of legal institutions and can determine what is a crime of aggression," a senior administration official said.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in a statement the United States would reject any such claims by the court.

Rumsfeld said the United States believes the treaty's flaws include a lack of adequate checks and balances on the court's powers.

He said the United States also believes the court weakens the U.N. Security Council's authority over international criminal prosecutions and is concerned prosecutions would become politicized.

"These flaws would be of concern at any time," Rumsfeld said, "but they are particularly troubling in the midst of a difficult, dangerous war on terrorism.

"There's the risk the ICC could attempt to assert jurisdiction over U.S. servicemembers, as well as civilians, involved in counterterrorist and other military operations -- something we cannot allow."

Despite the fact the United States was renouncing the treaty, Rumsfeld said the ICC still claims the authority to detain and try American citizens.

Rumsfeld said that "could well create a powerful disincentive for U.S. military engagement in the world."




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