US makes another attack on the ICC

November 27th, 2004 | by aobaoill |

I haven’t seen any coverage of this in the US (not that that’s any surprise): a provision bundled into a budget bill to be voted on December 8th by the US congress would withhold development aid [subscriber only link] from countries which refuse to provide immunity from the ICC for US citizens. This may seem like old news – the US has already linked military aid to immunity – but this extends that approach to civil aid, including funds for HIV prevention, etc.
According to the Irish Times story, 70 countries have clashed with the US so far, with 30 having military aid withheld, and 40 others claiming such a deal woulg breach their legal obligations. What’s interesting though is this paragraph:

The US claims that 96 countries have signed immunity pacts, although some have been kept secret at the request of signatories concerned about the reaction at home. Meanwhile, 97 countries have ratified the ICC Treaty.

Secret diplomacy is illegal, and has no standing in international law, under the UN charter, article 102 of which provides in part that:

No party to any … treaty or international agreement which has not been registered [with the secretariat of the UN] may invoke that treaty or agreement before any organ of the United Nations.

Of course, the United States is unlikely to rely on the UN to enforce one of these agreements, but the principle stands. Of course it would be a rash country that would, for example, arrest Rumsfeld, Henry Kissinger, or a representative of any other powerful country during a visit – Ireland, for example, recently dodged attempts to have the Chinese vice-prime minister arrested during a visit – and these agreements are more gentlemen’s understandings that legally enforceable in any way.
Ireland stands to lose $8.5m (part of funds aimed at “bolstering the peace process”) which I think we can safely live without, or reallocate from elsewhere, but developing countries are going to be under far more pressure, with larger sums at stake, and less developed economies, to absorb the loss. For those interested the sh*t responsible for the provision is Rep. George Nethercutt of Washington (a Republican of course). It hasn’t attracted media attention, and is unlikely to be excised from the final budget. So this will join the recently enacted provision preventing local agencies from requiring that health providers either provide access to abortion, or point customers to those who will give information/services. Here’s to the next four years (remember – the newly elected Congress hasn’t even taken office yet…).

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