Tuesday, February 01, 2005

I bless the rains down in africa

The irony is just too much. Every sentient creature on the planet knows that the tragedy in the Darfur region of Sudan needs intervention, and that what's going in is virtual genocide. Amnesty International has this to say:

Over 70,000 people are believed to have lost their lives since the conflict in Darfur, Sudan erupted in February 2003. Systematic human rights abuses have occurred by all parties involved in the conflict, but primarily by the Sudanese government and government-backed Janjawid militia. Over 1.5 million civilians have been internally displaced by the conflict and 200,000 have sought refuge in neighboring Chad.

Bummer, dude. But we had that TV show that raised all that relief money...Oh wait, that was for something else. Well, the US government is sending...Oh yeah, that was for something else.

The UN appointed a commission to look at this whole picture, and they came back with this:

A United Nations commission investigating violence in the Darfur region of Sudan reported Monday that it had found a pattern of mass killings and forced displacement of civilians that did not constitute genocide but that represented crimes of similar gravity that should be sent to the International Criminal Court for prosecution.

In a 176-page report, the five-member panel said that its finding that genocide had not been committed "should not be taken in any way as detracting from the gravity of the crimes perpetrated in that region," and that "international offenses such as the crimes against humanity and war crimes that have been committed in Darfur may be no less serious and heinous than genocide."

Well, maybe not genocide, but still, I'm pretty sure that it's real bad. So we should really do something about this. I mean, if we can work up enough energy to care about the Tsunami in Indonesia, we ought to be really upset by man's deliberate inhumanity to man, as shown in Sudan.

But then again, no. Because:

The commission was appointed by Secretary General Kofi Annan in October to determine whether genocide had occurred in Darfur, in Western Sudan, where about 70,000 villagers have been killed and 1.8 million driven from their land.

It was also asked to determine how anyone convicted should be punished, and it answered by saying it "strongly" recommended that the Security Council refer the Darfur crimes to the international court in The Hague. It said the crimes in Darfur met the jurisdictional terms of the 1998 treaty creating the court.

That course of action is favored by most members of the 15-member Council, but the United States has said it will vigorously resist because it objects to the court.

So we really want to do something about this, because really bad people are behaving really badly against those poor, unfortunate folks. But, well, we can't because then we might be held accountable for some of the really really bad things our people do. Get this:

The administration proposed last week that the Darfur charges be sent to a new tribunal to be run jointly by the African Union and the United Nations and to be based at the war crimes court in Arusha, Tanzania, which is trying suspects in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Pierre-Richard Prosper, the United States ambassador at large for war crimes, briefed major countries at the United Nations on the American alternative, explaining afterward, "We don't want to be party to legitimizing the I.C.C."

So we don't want to legitimize the ICC, because it might find fault with US actions in foreign conflicts. And of course we can't allow the UN any legitimacy because it might find fault with US actions, etc. So we seem stuck, now, don't we.

Do we have any support for out position? Sure lots. We are joined in our objection to the ICC by such defenders of democracy as:

The United States of America was one of only 7 nations (joining China, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Qatar and Israel) to vote against the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in 1998.

That's good company we keep. Stalwart friends in the quest for, you know, freedom is on the march and stuff. Here's a bit more about our rush to comply with international standards of justice:

The Bush administration's hostility to the ICC has increased dramatically in 2002. The crux of the U.S. concern relates to the prospect that the ICC may exercise its jurisdiction to conduct politically motivated investigations and prosecutions of U.S. military and political officials and personnel. The U.S. opposition to the ICC is in stark contrast to the strong support for the Court by most of America's closest allies.

In an unprecedented diplomatic maneuver on 6 May, the Bush administration effectively withdrew the U.S. signature on the treaty. At the time, the Ambassador-at-large for War Crimes Issues Pierre-Richard Prosper stated that the administration was "not going to war" with the Court. This has proved false; the renunciation of the treaty has paved the way for a comprehensive U.S. campaign to undermine the ICC.

First, the Bush administration negotiated a Security Council resolution to provide an exemption for U.S. personnel operating in U.N. peacekeeping operations. The administration failed in May to obtain an exemption for peacekeepers in East Timor. In June the Bush administration vetoed an extension of the UN peacekeeping mission for Bosnia-Herzegovina unless the Security Council granted a complete exemption. Ultimately, the U.S. failed in its bid for an iron-clad exemption, although the Security Council approved a limited, one year exemption for U.S. personnel participating in UN peacekeeping missions or UN authorized operations. The Security Council has expressed its intention to renew this exemption on 30 June next year.

Second, the Bush administration is requesting states around the world to approve bilateral agreements requiring them not to surrender American nationals to the ICC. The goal of these agreements ("impunity agreements" or so-called "Article 98 agreements") is to exempt U.S. nationals from ICC jurisdiction. They also lead to a two-tiered rule of law for the most serious international crimes: one that applies to U.S. nationals; another that applies to the rest of the world's citizens. Human Rights Watch urges states not to sign impunity agreements with the United States.

Thirdly, the U.S Congress has assisted the Bush administration's effort to obtain bilateral impunity agreements. The Congress passed the American Servicemembers' Protection Act (ASPA), which was signed into law by President Bush on 3 August. The major anti-ICC provisions in ASPA are:

  • a prohibition on U.S. cooperation with the ICC;
  • an "invasion of the Hague" provision: authorizing the President to "use all means necessary and appropriate" to free U.S. personnel (and certain allied personnel) detained or imprisoned by the ICC;
  • punishment for States that join the ICC treaty: refusing military aid to States' Parties to the treaty (except major U.S. allies);
  • a prohibition on U.S. participation in peacekeeping activities unless immunity from the ICC is guaranteed for U.S. personnel.

However, all of these provisions are off-set by waiver provisions that allow the president to override the effects of ASPA when "in the national interest". The waiver provisions effectively render ASPA meaningless.

So clearly we don't give a crap about any accountability for us. Makes it a bit difficult to proclaim that we care about any kind of international justice if we don't join in the discussion. It's one thing to point the fickle finger of international blame elsewhere, but we simply can't allow it to besmirch the reputation of the US. We, after all, are clearly beacons of liberty:

In the era of Saddam Hussein, Abu Ghraib, twenty miles west of Baghdad, was one of the world’s most notorious prisons, with torture, weekly executions, and vile living conditions. As many as fifty thousand men and women—no accurate count is possible—were jammed into Abu Ghraib at one time, in twelve-by-twelve-foot cells that were little more than human holding pits.

. . .

Taguba’s report listed some of the wrongdoing: Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.

So clearly we should not support the ICC, because they would probably not support us. Makes me proud to be an American.