Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament 1999 - 2019

Crucial role of US in world affairs

Letter to the Times - July 8th 2002


In her excellent article (Foreign Editorís Briefing, July 2) Bronwen Maddox identifies some of the problems of the International Criminal Court (ICC) whilst correctly pointing out that not only the US but other countries such as China, India, Israel and Russia have refused to ratify it. I disagree, however, with the suggestion that the court would be unable to prosecute people having the support of those specific countries; indeed, one of Americaís primary concerns is that even very senior civilian and military leaders (although not the heads of state, government or foreign ministers) from those countries could be hauled before the ICC if crimes committed by their subordinates took place on the territory of signatory states.

This is significant because the predominantly liberal Western governments that drafted the treaty in Rome significantly expanded the list of war crimes and made the definition of command responsibility much looser than at Nuremberg. Louise Arbour, the former prosecutor for the UN Yugoslavia tribunal, decided that the daytime bombing of a civilian television station in Kosovo by Nato did not justify an indictment. A less sympathetic or an anti- American ICC prosecutor and tribunal, however, might well decide otherwise.

The ICC is independent from the Security Council, which, for all its faults, helps to guarantee a level of order and stability in world affairs. Any threats to that equilibrium should be a matter of concern not only to the United States but to all states with international responsibilities. The fact that the British Government felt able to accede to the ICC with so little public debate is as deeply to be regretted as it was predictable.

Europe should stop indulging in reflex anti-Americanism and recognise legitimate concerns, including the danger of America moving towards isolationism. It should also work towards a solution that will allow the amending of certain statutes to allow the UN Security Council to have a greater say in certain prosecutions, which may help the Americans to sign.

Anything less would be self indulgent.

Dr. Charles Tannock MEP (Con)
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