House Republicans Take Initiative Against International
a new effort to exempt the United States from international law,
the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives has approved
a measure that would ban certain kinds of economic aid to U.S. allies
if they fail to sign a bilateral accord forbidding them from transferring
U.S. citizens or foreign nationals working for the United States
to the jurisdiction of the one-year-old International Criminal Court
so-called Nethercutt Amendment, named after its chief sponsor, Washington
State Rep. George Nethercutt, was attached to the fiscal year 2005
foreign aid bill Thursday by a vote of 241-166 despite the fact
that the Bush administration and the chairman of the House Foreign
Operations Subcommittee, Rep. Jim Kolbe, opposed it.
right-wing Republican House leadership, however, urged its passage,
with House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay, describing the ICC, which
is backed by nearly 100 countries, including Canada, and all of
Washington's traditional European allies except Turkey, as "(UN
Secretary General) Kofi Annan's Kangaroo Court" whose legitimacy
ICC presents a clear and present danger to the war on terror and
to Americans that are fighting it all over the world," said
DeLay, one of Congress' staunchest foes of the United Nations and
other multilateral institutions.
of the ICC, which claims jurisdiction over cases involving war crimes,
crimes against humanity, and genocide in countries that have signed
the 1998 Rome Statute, denounced the measure in strong terms noting,
in particular that it could cut aid, in some cases counter-terrorism
assistance, to more than 50 countries, some of which are considered
key partners in the "war on terror."
would have to cut off all the economic assistance to Jordan,"
said Kolbe. "I don't see how that will help us in the war against
measure targets democracies that uphold the rule of law and work
alongside the U.S. to further our foreign-policy priorities,"
said Don Kraus, executive vice president of Citizens for Global
Solutions (CGS). "We should not be punishing them over agreements
that are not necessary do not provide any additional protection
for our troops than they already have through existing (bilateral)
Status of Forces Agreements (SOFAs) and Status of Mission Agreements
(SOMAs) for U.S. soldiers and diplomats."
the measure must still be approved in the Senate and signed by Bush
to become law, the Nethercutt Amendment is virtually certain to
renew criticism by U.S. allies of Washington's unilateralism. The
House move coincided with the administration's announcement that,
for the third year running, it would not contribute any of the 34
million dollars approved by Congress earlier this year for the UN
Population Fund (UNFPA), another multilateral program strongly backed
by Washington's traditional allies.
also follows the administration's decision two months ago to cut
off military aid to about three dozen countries that have ratified
the Rome Statute and refused to sign a bilateral immunity agreement
(BIT) with the U.S. that would guarantee that they would not turn
over U.S. citizens or foreign nationals working for the U.S. to
95 countries, including virtually all of Europe, and most of the
Caribbean, Latin America, and a substantial number of African states
have ratified the statute which took formal effect in 2002 but formally
opened for business in The Hague, the Netherlands, just over a year
ago. The ICC prosecutor has since agreed to investigate alleged
war crimes in the Democratic Republic (DRC) and Uganda.
one of his last acts as president, Bill Clinton signed the Rome
Statute in late 2000. In May, 2002, however, the Bush administration
formally renounced his signature and launched a campaign to persuade
as many countries as possible about 90 to date, according
to the State Department to sign BITs.
also demanded that the UN Security Council grant an across-the-board
exemption to U.S. troops and officials participating in UN peacekeeping
missions from the ICC's jurisdiction, a demand that was granted
despite growing resentment and anger in both 2002 and 2003. In the
wake of the prison scandals touched by photos of abuses committed
by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and a strong public statement against renewing
the exemption by Annan himself, the U.S. withdrew its bid for extending
the exemption for a third year.
a symbolic move, however, it withdrew nine soldiers and observers
from UN-backed missions in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Kosovo. "The
real problem would be if the United States decides to go beyond
the rhetorical point of withdrawing a few soldiers and starts targeting
funding or other support for UN peacekeeping missions," Heather
Hamilton, CGS' vice president for programs, told OneWorld.
administration argues that the ICC lacks adequate safeguards to
protect against "politically motivated" prosecutions,
and, given Washington's unique responsibility to maintain global
security and the vast number of countries where U.S. forces operate,
its soldiers and officials will be particularly tempting targets
for ambitious prosecutors. Backers of the ICC, including Britain,
Washington's staunchest ally, have insisted that the U.S. has nothing
to fear since the ICC may act only when the responsible country
is unable or unwilling to do so.
the administration's campaign against the ICC and its efforts to
win exemptions have clearly alienated many of its friends and allies,
especially in Europe, Latin America, and Africa, they have not gone
as far as the House is now pushing.
military-aid cuts implemented earlier this year, for example, did
not apply to Washington's NATO partners or other close allies. But,
under the Nethercutt Amendment, NATO members, as well as some three
dozen other countries, including Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay, Bolivia,
Peru, Costa Rica, virtually all of the English-speaking Caribbean
countries, South Africa, Poland, and Cyprus, among others, would
be ineligible to receive Economic Support Funds (ESF), a particular
category of economic assistance available to strategic U.S. partners.
the most affected would be Jordan, a key Middle East ally that receives
$250 million in ESF each year; four of five Andean countries; the
Caribbean states that receive $9 million in part to bolster immigration
and border security; and South Africa which will lose millions of
dollars in anti-terrorism training on top of the $7.6 million it
has already forfeited in military aid due to its strong support
for the ICC; Ireland, which will lose $8.5 million to promote the
peace process in Northern Ireland; and Cyprus, which will lose $13.5
million to support peace between its Greek and Turkish communities.
target countries have maintained that signing a BIT with the U.S.
would violate their own undertakings in the Rome Statute.
pointed out that cutting aid to South Africa makes little sense
in light of Washington's plans to rely heavily on Pretoria in providing
troops for new U.S.-backed peace-keeping training and operations
House's action is particularly ludicrous," she said, "given
the fact that the Court has been in existence for two full years
now, and not only has the prosecutor taken up some of the most appalling
crimes against humanity in the Congo and Uganda, but he's also publicly
rejected allegations against the U.S. and Britain in Iraq."
latest sanction stands to re-ignite trans-Atlantic tensions that
are only just healing after the Iraq war, undermines the effectiveness
of U.S. counter-terrorism measures, and serves no real purpose."
Lobe is Inter Press Service's correspondent in Washington, DC.
© 2004 One World