Presumed guilty

Oliver North
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Posted: Aug 08, 2003 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- "Sentence first, verdict afterwards!" the Queen decrees in Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland," a miscarriage of justice to which poor Alice attempts to object. "Hold your tongue!" the queen retorts, before adding, "Off with her head!"

That may be amusing in a children's book. It is far less so when it describes the judicial philosophy of the United Nation's misbegotten International Criminal Court (ICC).

Created by the so-called Statute of Rome in 1998, the ICC was ratified by fewer than one-third of the world's nations, representing only 17 percent of the world's population. In the closing moments of his ill-fated regime, Bill Clinton made the United States a signatory. But in May 2002, President George W. Bush formally withdrew U.S. recognition from the court and dispatched Undersecretary of State John Bolton to inform United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan of the decision. Bolton describes that act as "the happiest moment of my government service." He ought to be happy.

The noble-sounding ICC presumes to punish four offenses: war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and crimes of aggression, although it has yet to define what that is. But since the court opened its doors for business in March this year, just as coalition forces were closing in on Baghdad, all the anxieties about the ICC being used for politically motivated prosecutions and as a global emergency room for international ambulance chasers have proven to be right. Contrary to Anglo-American judicial tradition, the ICC recognizes no statute of limitations on its jurisdiction. And in typical U.N. overreach and pretension, the court claims jurisdiction over countries that are not even signatories.

The ICC is not yet six months old, and it is already being used as a forum for interfering in, and impeding, the legitimate actions of sovereign states. The Athens Bar Association has filed a 47-page criminal complaint with the court against British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon, alleging Britain's military actions against Iraq constitute "crimes against humanity and war crimes." It is the latest of more than 500 complaints filed with the court thus far.

Athens may be the birthplace of democracy, but these days it's a hotbed of anti-Western sentiment that deems Prime Minister Tony Blair to be a greater world menace than Saddam Hussein (the Mother of All Dictators); Muammar Ghadaffi (the U.N.-appointed Human Rights Czar); Yassir Arafat (the Nobel Committee's choice for Terrorist of the Year in 1994) or Kim Jung Il (the real "Human Scum"). Even Lewis Carroll couldn't conceive of such abject absurdity.

The Greek lawyers say they wanted to name U.S. officials in their complaint but reconsidered because the United States has not ratified the treaty. But that hasn't stopped others from filing dozens of complaints with the court against U.S. officials -- both military and civilian.

In Brussels, twice liberated by U.S. arms and home to both NATO and the European Union, America-haters got around the ICC ratification issue by claiming that Belgium's 1993 law against war crimes had "universal jurisdiction." When charges were brought against President George W. Bush, Prime Minister Blair, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Attorney General John Ashcroft and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice on June 18, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld branded the Belgian law "absurd" and threatened to boycott NATO meetings. The Belgian government relented and offered diplomatic immunity for world leaders and government officials in the country.

The flood of anti-American legal activity inspired by the ICC is complicating an already difficult diplomatic environment as the United States tries to respond to challenges in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans, Liberia -- and fight a global war on terrorism. At a recent press conference, Rumsfeld observed: "It seems not to have any endpoint. It seems not to have any focus. A politicized or a loose-cannon prosecutor in a court like that can impose enormous difficulties and disadvantages on people, individuals, governments."

In order to protect U.S. military commanders from the ICC, the Bush administration has been forced to negotiate bilateral accords with 53 countries (and counting) in which U.S. forces are stationed or deployed, in order to guarantee their immunity from the very things about which Rumsfeld warned. The Bush administration has suspended over $70 million in aid to 35 countries for refusing to grant ICC immunity to U.S. citizens. And, as a pre-condition of U.S. participation in the current Liberian peacekeeping mission, the United States required that the United Nations "immunize" American military personnel from prosecution by the ICC.

All of these measures to protect American citizens have been met with extraordinary hostility at the United Nations, where criticism of the United States is unabated. Instead of America-bashing, Kofi and his cronies need to wake up to reality. For example, U.N. Resolution 1455, requires all United Nations member nations to report by August 1 on what actions they're taking to identify Al Qaeda and Taliban members and to freeze associated financial assets. Yet, two-thirds of the members -- including Iran, North Korea and Libya -- failed to do so.

No wonder Saddam Hussein flagrantly flouted over a dozen Security Council resolutions. He knew that the United Nations was more interested in reigning in the United States than it was in pulling the plug on his reign of terror.