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PHILADELPHIA — Stating boldly that the United Nations can exercise “no veto
over principled American leadership” and that “American troops must never
serve under United Nations command,” the GOP platform unveiled in
Philadelphia this week describes a very different view of the relationship
between the United States and the United Nations than that of the
While acknowledging that the United Nations can organize humanitarian aid
efforts and serve as a “forum for nations to peacefully resolve their
differences,” the Republican platform stipulates that the U.N. was “not
designed to summon or lead armies.”
Other specific issues addressed by the platform include the jurisdiction of
the International Criminal Court, U.S. dues payments to the U.N.,
environmental treaties and U.S. funding of international programs providing
abortion as part of health care.
Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., an outspoken critic of the International Criminal
Court, and Sen. Ashcroft, R-Mo., have raised concerns about the
incompatibility of the ICC’s jurisdiction and the constitutional rights of
Americans, particularly military personnel. The statute for the creation of
the International Criminal Court was established July 17,1998, in Rome to
form a permanent world tribunal to try individuals for international crimes.
The ICC becomes operative once 60 nations have ratified the treaty. And
more than a hundred nations have already signed the treaty in anticipation
of having their national governments begin the ratification process that
incorporates ICC provisions into domestic law.
Though international pressure for the U.S. to agree to the Court is
intensifying – several allies have recently ratified the treaty, including
Canada, which did so in July — the U.S. has neither signed nor ratified the
Helms, who views the treaty as a danger to U.S. sovereignty and promised the
treaty would be “dead on arrival” unless the United States held veto power,
introduced the American Service Member Protection Act to the Senate last
week, a measure designed to preempt international efforts to try U.S.
soldiers. In June, Helms introduced legislation that prohibits U.S.
cooperation with the Court and forbids ICC investigations in any territory
under the jurisdiction of the United States.
According to John L.Washburn, co-chairman of the Washington Working Group on
the International Criminal Court, the Republican platform provision on the
ICC is “based on a misconception.”
A coalition of 15 non-governmental organizations, the Washington Working
Group is an educational and advocacy body whose efforts are aimed at U.S.
congressmen. Washburn, a graduate of Harvard Law School, has served in the
United States Foreign Service and in the office of the Secretary General of
the United Nations under Javier Perez de Cuellar. He points out that the
assumption “implicit in the GOP platform is that the ICC would have
jurisdiction over the U.S. government or military personnel as a group.”
Another misconception, he said, is that nations that are not a party to the
treaty would fall under the venue of the ICC. Instead, he said, the ICC
incorporates the Nuremberg Principle that prosecutes individuals.
“At issue is not the nationality,” he said, “but the person’s individual
responsibility for the very worst of international crimes.”
Others, however, disagree, claiming non-party nations would not be beyond
the reach of the ICC.
Kenneth Gallant, professor of Law at the University of Arkansas School of
Law, explains, “If a non-signatory nation refuses to cooperate, a case can
be brought to the Court by the U.N. Security Council under Chapter VII of
the U.N. Charter. By virtue of their membership in the U.N. — and nearly
every nation is a member — states and their citizens are subject to a case
brought to the ICC by the Security Council.”
The U.S. veto power on the Security Council is also considered an
insufficient safeguard in light of current discussions about ending the veto
Although most Americans believe International Criminal Court prosecutions
will be reserved for war crimes, an official U.N. information brochure says
otherwise: “A decision has yet to be made as to whether the definition of
crimes against humanity contained in the Statute will also include such acts
when committed in peacetime. In this regard, the Yugoslavia Tribunal stated,
‘It is by now a settled rule of customary international law that crimes
against humanity do not require a connection to international armed
Those concerned with American sovereignty issues point to a concern for how
terms are defined. The crimes under the International Criminal Court’s
domain include genocide and “crimes against humanity,” “aggression,” “sexual
slavery” and “enforced pregnancy.” The ICC treaty, which will have the power
to enforce U.N.-mandated social policies worldwide, was greeted by United
Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan as “a giant step forward in the march
towards universal human rights and the rule of law.”
But Richard G. Wilkins, professor of law at Brigham Young University, warns
that “malleable definitions” and disagreements about what constitutes “human
rights” are areas of significant dispute.
The GOP platform acknowledges some of those areas in its pledge to “protect
the rights of families in international programs and [we] will not fund
organizations involved in abortions.” Pamela Shifman serves as co-executive
director of the New York-based Equality Now, an advocacy group that
“supports the United Nations international human rights efforts for women,
such as the Beijing [conference] and Beijing+5 process.”
Shifman’s organization, an NGO at the United Nations, is “strongly
supportive of the establishment of an International Criminal Court” and sees
the U.N. as a “mechanism important to the advocacy of the human rights
agenda.” While Equality Now was “very glad to see the GOP specifically
mention sex trafficking [as a crime], we were very disappointed that they
[GOP platform] will not fund abortions, because that hurts millions of women
around the world.”
Other issues in the platform that draw a new Republican vision of the
U.S.-U.N. relationship include the prickly matter of dues owed by the United
States to the U.N., as well as matters of stewardship over the environment.
On the dues question, the platform calls for a “fair, not disproportionate
share of the dues,” to be paid to the U.N., “once it has reformed its
management and taken steps to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse.” The monies
the U.S. has contributed toward peacekeeping missions would also be credited
toward U.S. dues.
The GOP opposition to U.N. control of the global environment is a strongly
worded provision: “We reject the extremist call for the United Nations to
create a ‘Stewardship Council’ modeled on the Security Council, to oversee
the global environment.” The platform cites attempts of “international
bureaucrats” to “by-pass” the “processes of national governments.”
Gregory Gronbacher of the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Acton Institute cites
international accords on environmental issues, such as the Kyoto protocols,
as an example of U.N. attempts to control how nations use their resources.
An educational foundation, the Institute advises religious leaders on the
moral importance of limited government and a free market economy.
Gronbacher, Acton’s director of academic research, observes, “The Clinton
administration has signed treaties that many Americans are not comfortable
with. Some of the U.N. conference and treaty requirements are morally
problematical with the founding principles of our nation.”
Gronbacher added, “It appears Bush will take issues of national sovereignty
and the will of the American people into consideration before signing
treaties which place U.S. resources at the disposal of international