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US Renunciation of War Crimes Court Denounced - 2002-05-06

The United States has informed the United Nations it is renouncing the treaty that established the International Criminal Court. The decision to repudiate the document is based on U.S. concerns that such a court could be used to lodge politically-motivated charges against Americans overseas.

It was long known that the United States did not support the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court, but formal notification that the Bush administration was renouncing it came Monday in a letter to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.

About 60 countries, including most U.S. allies, have already signed the document creating the court, agreed to in Rome in 1998. The Clinton administration signed it at the time, but made clear amid much criticism from its allies that it had no intention of submitting it for Senate ratification, out of the same concerns now being voiced by the Bush White House.

The ICC would try defendants indicted for war crimes, genocide and other crimes against humanity, a process that until now has been handled by special courts like the war crimes tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

The move to formally renounce the treaty means the United States now considers itself no longer subject to the court's jurisdiction and will not abide by its orders.

On the ABC television program This Week Secretary of State Colin Powell made clear he believes the International Criminal Court could jeopardize the safety of Americans overseas by putting them at risk of unsubstantiated or politically-motivated indictments. He said, "Where prosecutors and a court beholden to no higher authority, and which would have the authority to second-guess the United States after we have tried somebody and take it before the ICC, we found that this was not a situation that we believe was appropriate for our men and women in the armed forces or our diplomats and political leaders."

The U.S. move has drawn strong criticism from a variety of groups including Human Rights Watch where Director Kenneth Roth thinks the decision puts the United States on the wrong side of history. "The United States has complained that because it has many enemies in the world that someone might use the International Criminal Court to launch a frivolous or unwarranted prosecution of an American. In fact," he said, "there are many, many safeguards in place in the International Criminal Court treaty to guard against frivolous prosecutions.

This decision by Washington to renounce the treaty comes just weeks before the Bush administration plans to do something else that has drawn strong protests from its allies, formally pull out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Moscow.