Trondheim, July 16, 2002
I love America, but ....
|At home I have a six-feet-wide American flag at home, and I love America. However, I don't think most Americans are aware of the consequences of their government's foreign policy.|
I'm a journalist and not a legal professional, but I have to express my views on these matters. I'm afraid most Americans don't understand the consequences of their government's policy dodging international treaties like the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The U.S. wants everyone else to abide by international law, as long as they don't have to answer to justice themselves. When the Americans give economic aid to the former Yugoslavia, this is dependent on cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), they view themselves superior to justice.
|This is the future headquarters of the ICC in the Hague. The court started working on July 1.|
The ICC will be a very good tool to prosecute future terrorists, but the Americans have not overcome their paranoia; they fear that the ICC would be used as a political court used to smear the American interests. They fear their own soldiers would be prosecuted.
This is an irrational fear. The ICC only has jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, in which ethnic cleansing would play a part. Moreover, the ICC would not come into effect if the countries harboring the war criminals are not genuinely willing or able to prosecute their own war criminals.
The ICC would not come into effect unless rape or killing were used as a part of a military strategy. A single rape, or even a group rape would be an ordinary criminal case, and not something the ICC would bother about. And warfare using overwhelming force is not a war crime. This corresponds with NATO's doctrines of how a war should be fought.
One of the Americans I have tremendous respect for is Benjamin Ferencz. He was one of the main prosecutors at the Nuremberg trials after World War II. Now he is 82 years old, but he is still fighting for International justice, and he is fighting to enlighten Americans, something that seems like an uphill battle at the moment.
A couple of weeks ago, he gave an interview with Dutch Netwerk TV.
|Benjamin Ferencz is 82 years old and a former prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials. He is still fighting to enlighten Americans about international justice. Picture from his website.|
I encourage you to visit Ferencz' website to learn more about the ICC. The Coalition for the International Criminal Court is also a very useful resource for the ICC, and Amnesty International have voiced strong critisicm of the Bush administration, and they have published a readable comment.
I'm very disappointed that the U.S. uses blackmail to stop international justice. The latest example we saw when the Americans vetoed the continuation of the United Nations mission in Bosnia. With the future democracy in Bosnia at stake, the Americans were willing to risk it all because they did not want to be equal to the law.
In the compromise deal in the United Nations Security Council, the U.S. got a one-year exemption for American peacekeepers from prosecution by the court. America's European allies were not happy with the deal, but that was what they had to accept after the American blackmail.
According to The Associated Press, German Justice Minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin said it was good that peacekeeping won't be blocked for now, especially in Bosnia which faced a July 15 cutoff. "But a sour aftertaste remains."
"Special rules for strong countries — particularly when the issue at stake is the global pursuit of the worst human rights violations — are inappropriate and not compatible with the principle of the rule of law," she said.
Many Americans are also upset with the Bush administration's attempt to dodge international justice. The respected Human Rights Watch (HRW) is one of the critical voices.
"The Bush Administration tried to breach the fundamental principle that no one is above the law," said Richard Dicker, Director of International Justice at HRW. "For all its arm- twisting, Washington got only a temporary reprieve of dubious legality and a strong taste of global outrage."
Unfortunately, I don't think we have seen the last terrorist attack against America. Stopping terrorists from entering the U.S. is not enough; Islamic fanatics will only be more bitter and ready for new suicide attacks when America has not formulated a proper legal response.
Sadly, the American Bar Association said correctly that most Americans have not yet figured out the difference between revenge and justice.
Kristian Kahrs, journalist, Southeastern Europe
Serbian mobile: +381 638 504 383
Kosovo mobile: +377 44 186 527
Norwegian mobile: +47 93 00 25 22
PS: Next Tuesday, I'll be back in Belgrade. There I'll buy a car with Bosnian plates, which enables me to travel freely in all over the region. A car with Serbian plates is not very popular in Kosovo, and it is not possible to drive on Kosovo plates outside Kosovo.
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