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unmitigated gall
May 22, 2004 6:58 AM   Subscribe

US demands war crimes immunity But human rights campaigners said the Iraq prison abuse scandal proves that the US needs to be held to account. "Given the recent revelations... the US has picked one hell of a moment to ask for special treatment," said Richard Dicker of Human Rights Watch. -- the annual renewal of US protection from international prosecution for war crimes when serving under UN auspices comes to a vote on Monday.
posted by amberglow (34 comments total)

 
Announcing the new American national brand ! -

Everyone else is wrong
posted by troutfishing at 9:18 AM on May 22, 2004


It's been clear for a while that the US doesn't want its soldiers tried for War Crimes internationally. After all, before the war, they made clear that they had plans to rescue any soldiers that would be sent to The Hague.
posted by drezdn at 9:26 AM on May 22, 2004


Interesting timing, this. Could there be even worse stuff than Abu Ghraib about to break open? Is this a preemptive ass-covering?
posted by Ty Webb at 9:40 AM on May 22, 2004


This is a watershed moment for the U.N. If it renews the U.S. immunity from international prosecution, that will only solidify the opinion that it is incapable of being an independant international governing body. If, however, the U.N. chooses not to renew the immunity, the U.N. might have a future afterall.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:51 AM on May 22, 2004


(Susan Sontag: Regarding the Torture of Others)
posted by muckster at 10:06 AM on May 22, 2004


Y'know one day the US might actually join up with the international community & a lot of the shit that happens in the world will actually calm down a notch or two.

Unfortunately the 'We're #1, if you don't like us we'll smash ya & if you do like us you do what we say, ya can't criticize cuz we're #1 you're not, tub-thumping, flag-wrapping, power of pride, we don't care 'bout nobody but U-S-A blah, blah, blah' attitude runs thru the country like a cancer.

So much potential but it's just another powerful country taking it's turn to repeat the mistakes of history. It makes me sad.
posted by i_cola at 10:11 AM on May 22, 2004


If, however, the U.N. chooses not to renew the immunity, the U.N. might have a future afterall.

The U.S. will probably claim immunity and act accordingly regardless of the U.N.'s decision. It certainly has the power to. The U.N. doesn't have a future if the U.S. doesn't want it to.
posted by oaf at 10:24 AM on May 22, 2004


I thought last time around the threat was that the US would withold it's troops from new UN missions and withdraw from the existing missions. This is hardly a tragedy, and something I would welcome. The US would be ostensibly accountable, and the world could pick up the slack.
posted by thirteen at 10:40 AM on May 22, 2004


just what the hell is war crime immunity? that has to be something we invented. wtf.
posted by Satapher at 11:11 AM on May 22, 2004


it totally is, Satapher--we made it up so we could do what we want, wherever we want, however we want. I can't see anyone except for Britain voting with us--we've thrown most of the world away, and the Security Council is probably still pissed at our lies re: Iraq/WMDs etc.
posted by amberglow at 11:15 AM on May 22, 2004


They don't give a shit about some grunt, except that it would set a precedent that would allow them to indict, oh say Kissinger, or our current President, Vice President, Secretary of State, and the entire political leadership at the Pentagon. Of course, the ICC only really kicks in if we fail to try anyone, so they'll happily sacrifice some hicks to courts-martial and go back to their brandy and cigars.
posted by trondant at 11:25 AM on May 22, 2004


You know it's bad when you get criticized by the Indonesian Special Forces...

amber: I think a few 'aid packages' could ease the way as per usual.
posted by i_cola at 11:26 AM on May 22, 2004


Hey, maybe that's what the world needs... an enemy to rally against. I wait with eager anticipation the new United Nations, comprised of every nation on the planet except the U.S.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:57 AM on May 22, 2004


...and N Korea.
posted by i_cola at 12:07 PM on May 22, 2004


Jesus doesn't believe in war crimes.
posted by skallas at 1:51 PM on May 22, 2004


The US secured the UN's agreement by threatening to veto all its peacekeeping operations

[BBC article]

This is why it passed before and why, despite recent events, there's considerable pressure for it to pass again.
posted by pots at 1:54 PM on May 22, 2004


I think a non-US United Nations would be a brilliant idea.

It could be hosted by FrankenReich(tm).

And they could pay for it in Euros.
posted by kablam at 2:19 PM on May 22, 2004


I wait with eager anticipation the new United Nations, comprised of every nation on the planet except the U.S.

Oh, that's silly. There would never be some kind of European union that could threaten the abilty of the U.S. to do anything it wants. Fuck the French and British, they can't tell us how to control our exports!

We're invincible! The black knights always triumph!
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:31 PM on May 22, 2004


*barf*

OK, now that that's out of the way, I think it's obvious that the structure of the UN security council is fundamentally broken. The 'countries that won World War II get to have a veto' idea is old and busted.
posted by Space Coyote at 3:05 PM on May 22, 2004


We're invincible! The black knights always triumph!

"Oh. Oh, I see. Running away, eh? You yellow bastards! Come back here and take what's coming to you. I'll bite your legs off!"

---

i didn't know that there was such a thing as war crimes immunity, and frankly, i wish there wasn't.
posted by knapah at 4:53 PM on May 22, 2004


we can't threaten anything this time--we need the UN now (at least Bush does, to cover his ass re: Iraq)
posted by amberglow at 4:58 PM on May 22, 2004


I'll bet Milosevic would have claimed war crimes immunity too, if he had the army to back it up.

So after all these years of ascending toward civilization, we're back to "might makes right." Sigh.
posted by rushmc at 6:49 PM on May 22, 2004


I beleive the original grounds for the immunity was that any country within the UN could sponsor specific persons to be tried for specific crimes. Out of fear that the US would piss off more then half the planet, and that the pissed off parties would seek some retrebution in the form of charging US military or political figures we had to make sure we were immune. The biggest fear of course being that we could somehow become accountable to just anyone in the world (instead of just to our main allies). But really, i seriously don't think we NEED the immunity as the idea that we could piss off half the world is just completely ludicrous...

sheesh, sarcasm people.
posted by NGnerd at 7:52 PM on May 22, 2004


Kablam, I'm not sure if this is fair, but I'm going to quote you cross-thread (blame it on tabbed browsing) :

Second, the prison scandal is "dead already, Jim." It won't go anywhere because there really is no political advantage to be gained by anyone in pursuing it.

This is a pretty troubling statement. It is because of exactly this sort of situation that the ICC exists. The thing about getting a warcrimes exemption is that you should really demonstrate that you deserve it.
posted by Ptrin at 8:38 PM on May 22, 2004


Ptrin: Actually, I think the prison scandal is an excellent example of trying to prosecute a "war crime".

First of all, who has "standing" at the ICC? That is, who can accuse? The prisoners? They can accuse the privates who abused them, and any supervisor they *witnessed* ordering a private to abuse them. But what about other people? Isn't the essence of the ICC that uninvolved parties have standing?

Let's take a real world example, a Belgian lawyer who decided not too long ago to sue US General Tommy Franks in a Belgian court, because Belgium had a law that permitted such lawsuits. One might assume that General Franks has more important things to do than attend to a lawsuit brought by a hack lawyer. But the ICC might give him, and any ambitious lawyer, the right to sue, reasonably or not.

Henry Kissinger is a popular target for lawsuits, and several countries wish to prosecute him for his involvement in the Vietnam War. BUT NOT VIETNAM. So, why should France, or Sweden, or private individuals be able to harass him simply because they object to what he once did, though they personally did not suffer because of it, except maybe psychically.

Since the Korean War, the US has been involved in a lot of disputes around the world, most for the USs interests, but a lot on behalf of the United Nations. Even stopping a genocide in progress requires the US to violate the "law", national or international, in some way. And while other nations may not appreciate the US as "world policeman", there are millions upon millions of people who are alive because the US "broke the law."

But saving the lives of millions of people is no defense before the ICC. There are some deep and abiding problems, here. Among them are judges on the ICC who are from, and support dictatorial regimes, which hate the US enough to ignore the concept of "justice" altogether.
posted by kablam at 9:59 PM on May 22, 2004


Ah yes. The USA-as-victim theory.
posted by i_cola at 10:20 PM on May 22, 2004


So, why should France, or Sweden, or private individuals be able to harass him simply because they object to what he once did, though they personally did not suffer because of it, except maybe psychically.

If I'm dead, how exactly do I file charges against someone?
posted by trondant at 1:06 AM on May 23, 2004


There are many issues here that will prevent the US from giving jurisdiction to the ICC, including the vagueness of the ICC's list of Elements of Crimes which is ripe for abuse in one form or another. kablam is correct in saying that there is nothing to prevent overzealous judges and prosecutors from applying vengeance over reason while trying and sentencing Americans in what could easily become a kangaroo court. There is absolutely no system of checks/balances over the ICC to prevent abuse of authority. That's really only bad news for Americans, but only if we ever became moronic enough to sign on. However, it's clear that we won't, and not for these reasons or any other reasons I've yet read here.

The only reason of consequence is that submitting to the authority of the ICC would violate the US Constitution. In reality, the American government doesn't even have the authority to attempt that course of action.

Article. III.

Section. 2.
Clause 1: The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;--to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;--to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;--to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;--to Controversies between two or more States;--between a State and Citizens of another State; (See Note 10)--between Citizens of different States, --between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.

Clause 2: In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.


What you're seeing isn't the new American national brand or a demand with curious timing, it's not something that was recently "made up" (ha!), and it has nothing to do with Abu Ghraib or Iraq. America won't submit to the ICC because it can't.

Congress would have to pass a Constitutional Amendment which would effectively usurp the power of the Supreme Court and, thereby, the entire Judicial Branch of the United States, an act that would fundamentally undermine our entire governmental system. Congress won't take such drastic measures, especially since such a gesture would in effect only be done for the sole purpose of attempting to appease the governments of other nations. "Getting them to like us" shouldn't be a consideration our government needs to take under advisement when contemplating our most sacred of documents, the amending of which isn't something that our government takes lightly. The very magnitude of this hypothetical amendment ensures that it will never come to fruition. The UN will continue to renew immunity for the US because, for all intensive purposes, it has to; if and when it doesn't, the US will absolutely pull all of its troops out of UN peacekeeping missions. There wouldn't be another option under those circumstances.
posted by David Dark at 3:10 AM on May 23, 2004


Also if I'm not mistaken the ICC is specifically designed to prosecute criminals who otherwise would not be prosecuted either because of a lack of facilities (Rwanda) or laws in place to prosecute them (Milosevic?). The US on the other hand already has in place military courts and the US Code for Military Justice which work perfectly fine (although I'm sure plenty people here believe they don't) which has sucessfully prosecuted in the past, and is currently prosecuting at the moment, all manner of crimes done by US soldiers.

A country like France might have signed the treaty but there is no way in hell they'll let a French soldier stand in front of the ICC. They'll just say they have military courts in France and he will be prosecuted there.

To me it seems all the US has done is say this upfront and that there is no need for them to submit to the ICC.
posted by PenDevil at 4:10 AM on May 23, 2004


Iraqis lose right to sue troops over war crimes: Military win immunity pledge in deal on UN vote -- British and American troops are to be granted immunity from prosecution in Iraq after the crucial 30 June handover, undermining claims that the new Iraqi government will have 'full sovereignty' over the state.

Despite widespread ill-feeling about the abuse of prisoners by American forces and allegations of mistreatment by British troops, coalition forces will be protected from any legal action.

posted by amberglow at 6:06 AM on May 23, 2004


Other countries have legal systems, and constitutions, yet they've signed the ICC treaty.

Isn't it for just the type of international actions and misdeeds we're committing in Iraq that the ICC was formed? A citizen of one country will never be able to get redress from another without something like the ICC.
posted by amberglow at 6:11 AM on May 23, 2004


ICC's website: This is the first ever permanent, treaty based, international criminal court established to promote the rule of law and ensure that the gravest international crimes do not go unpunished.

The UK signed up, although we didn't. They may well be open to prosecution.
posted by amberglow at 6:28 AM on May 23, 2004


more on this from Globelaw: ‘Preventive War’ and International Law After Iraq
posted by amberglow at 6:33 AM on May 23, 2004


Other countries have legal systems, and constitutions, yet they've signed the ICC treaty.
Plenty countries signed the Kyoto Agreement but had no actual intention of ever abiding by it either.

As I said before, France might've signed the ICC but I seriously doubt they will ever let a French soldier be prosecuted by it. Rather they will claim that their military courts are available and adequate and they would rather use those.

Isn't it for just the type of international actions and misdeeds we're committing in Iraq that the ICC was formed?
No, it wasn't. The ICC was founded to prosecute people who otherwise would go unpunished for some reason be it due to lack of facilities or the reluctance of a government to prosecute. The US and the US military already have shown that they have no problems in punishing their own citizens and servicemen who break the law in foreign countries.

As you quote in that link from the ICC website "...ensure that the gravest international crimes do not go unpunished." (emphasis mine). When the US refuses to prosecute the soldiers accused of abuses in Iraq then maybe the ICC has a case, until then there is no need for them.

A citizen of one country will never be able to get redress from another without something like the ICC.
I'm not sure why you say this because I'm sure there are plenty of cases where foreign citizens been able to use another countries legal system successfully.
posted by PenDevil at 8:02 AM on May 23, 2004


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