Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Major Party Political Platforms and the ICC

The two major US political parties have recently completed their national party platforms which either mention the ICC or its cases. Both of the platform documents, adopted by the national conventions in Tampa and Charlotte, reflect the official positions of the national political committees on major issues. They will not necessarily dictate the positions of the respective candidates. AMICC has analyzed and compared the Democratic and Republican platforms from 2008 and 2012 on the issues of the ICC and international justice.

As in the 2008 platform, the Democratic platform does not explicitly mention the ICC. It does, however, repeat the commitment expressed in 2008 about bringing to justice those who commit genocide and war crimes. In a subsection on Africa, in the section titled "Strengthening Alliances, Expanding Partnerships, and Reinvigorating International Institutions," the platform even mentions an ICC case by referring to bringing "to justice those who commit mass atrocities, like Joseph Kony." The decision to refer to the Kony case in particular, which both the administration and members of Congress believe should be tried before the ICC, is likely a result of the public outcry over his alleged crimes. The decision not to include the ICC by name reflects the cautious, case-by-case approach of the Obama administration which would likely prefer not to debate the issue of the ICC with the most vocal elements of the Republican party which negotiated the Republican platform and remain hostile to the Court.

The Republican platform repeats the party's hostility to the ICC by rejecting its jurisdiction. However, there are some noticeable differences. First, in the section on "Sovereign American Leadership in International Organizations," there is no longer a specific reference to the American Servicemembers' Protection Act (ASPA); it has been replaced with the phrase "statutory protection for U.S. personnel and officials." This may signal a willingness to make changes to anti-ICC legislation, as argued by former Bush official and current Romney adviser John B. Bellinger III, in ways that better promote US national security interests. The second major difference is that the platform refers to the party's opposition to the Court in another section, on "American Sovereignty in U.S. Courts." The text of this section seems to conflate US participation in the ICC with the use of the law of other nations, or perhaps international law, in domestic proceedings. It appears to overlook several relevant circumstances. After all, the ICC is intended to encourage the investigation and trial of individuals in domestic court systems using national laws. In fact, Congress has passed bipartisan legislation to ensure that serious atrocity crimes do not go unpunished. In addition, the platform seems to be at odds with the views of Republican members of Congress, several of whom have recently introduced or co-sponsored resolutions or bills recognizing the jurisdiction of the ICC and urging that specific persons suspected of atrocity crimes be tried by it.

The two party platforms do not necessarily reflect the views of the presidential candidates or predict how they will act if elected. President Obama, if reelected, would likely continue his administration's cautious but open and thoughtful approach of "principled engagement" with the Court. This involves case-by-case interaction with and support to the the ICC and vigorous participation as an observer in the Court's Assembly of States Parties. President Romney would likely recognize the value of the ICC, its permanence and its potential for bringing to justice those who commit atrocity crimes, while also acknowledging the concerns raised by his party's platform. A Romney administration would have a lower-profile relationship with the Court, but would not regress to hostility. It would more quietly work with the Court on issues it considered in the US national interest and/or had been identified by Congress or public opinion. The ICC as such is unlikely to be a campaign issue, but specific country situations involving the Court may be.


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