ICC prosecutor says Bush, Blair could face war crimes investigation

ICC prosecutor says Bush, Blair could face war crimes investigation

Posted By Greg McNeal On March 22, 2007 @ 3:34 pm In Law Blog | 3 Comments

UPDATE:

Writing in the comments, GoochE320 says: “You should elaborate on what you mean by ’sovereignty issues.’…”

First off, thanks to GoochE320 who is our first commenter!  Welcome aboard, tell your friends about us, etc. 

Indeed, let me clarify.  The sovereignty issues I refer to are U.S. notions of sovereignty.  The very American idea that foreign governments/institutions will not tell the U.S. how to conduct its affairs–including who we prosecute or don’t prosecute.  I’m not taking a position on this notion here, other than to say that it is a real one which could pose an obstacle to the U.S. handing over a former President.  Some representative concerns voiced by U.S. ICC opponents are best summed up [1] here:

Given the importance of the United States in promoting world security and keeping in mind our national security interests, the United States has been and should continue to be concerned with the adverse effects that the ICC, as currently proposed, might have on our foreign policy decisions and the threat of ICC prosecution facing everyone in our military chain of command, from the President as Commander-in-Chief to our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who carry out American military operations. In addition to these compelling foreign policy and national security concerns, the ICC poses a serious concern under the U.S. Constitution.

I use the term “sovereignty issues” to sum up the concerns of opponents. 

According to a Jurist report:

US President George Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair may one day face war crimes charges before the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, according to ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo.  Moreno-Ocampo said Sunday that the ICC could investigate allegations of war crimes stemming from the conduct of coalition forces in Iraq, so long as Iraq agrees to ratify the Rome Statute and accede to ICC jurisdiction.

A related Telegraph [2] report states: “Luis Moreno-Ocampo urged Arab countries, particularly Iraq, to sign up to the court to enable allegations against the West to be pursued.” 

Back in 2002, Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch [3] predicted such a possibility, although he was speaking more about British troops than Tony Blair himself:

 The ICC thus could prosecute British forces for war crimes committed in Iraq, even though American forces would be exempt. The ICC would act only if British authorities were unwilling or unable to seek justice, but even this limited oversight is significant.    

The Pentagon detests the ICC and wants to deny it any operational impact. But that is no longer an option for Britain. The criminal liability of its troops is now on the line. 

The scenario seems overblown to me.  I can’t imagine a circumstance where the United States would allow the ICC to prosecute a former president.  There are far too many sovereignty issues.  Moreover, with only [4] 60% of Americans supporting referral of Darfur to the ICC— a case which does not implicate sensitive issues of American sovereignty – I think it unlikely there would ever be support for allowing a former president to be prosecuted in the ICC. 

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URLs in this post:
[1] here: http://www.fed-soc.org/Publications/Terrorism/ICC.pdf
[2] report: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/03/18/nirq118.xml
[3] predicted : http://hrw.org/english/docs/2002/10/22/uk12904.htm
[4] 60% of Americans supporting referral of Darfur to the ICC: http://www.pipa.org/OnlineReports/Africa/sudan/030105/html/more_03_01_05.html