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U.N. court a threat to U.S.

Bill Clinton agreed to sign the U.N.'s International Criminal Court (ICC) treaty just a few hours before the U.N.'s deadline. (The actual honor, such as it was, of signing the document was given to David Scheffer, the Clinton administration's ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues.) The treaty will go into effect once it is ratified by 60 national governments (a development that is expected by mid-2002), providing the U.N. with a standing tribunal that will claim universal jurisdiction — including the authority to arrest, detain and try citizens of nations not party to the treaty.

The ICC treaty has been opposed by the Pentagon, which is justifiably concerned that the U.N.'s court would have the means to arrest and try U.S. military personnel. In announcing his decision to sign the treaty, Clinton acknowledged such concerns and stated that he would "not recommend that my successor . . . submit the treaty to the Senate for advice and consent until our fundamental concerns are satisfied." By signing the treaty, continued Clinton, "we will be in a position to influence the evolution of the court. Without signature, we will not."

George W. Bush transition team spokesman Ari Fleischer was on the same page. Speaking just hours after the Clinton administration signed the treaty, Fleischer declared: "We will review it when we come into office. But we are concerned it is a flawed treaty." For this reason, he specified, George W. Bush would not send the treaty to the Senate for ratification "in its current form." Thus both Bill Clinton and his Republican successor have expressed acceptance of the ICC in concept, with the details to be worked out in due time.

But, in concept, the ICC represents a revocation of U.S. independence. It recreates the circumstances described in the Declaration of Independence by making Americans "subject . . . to jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws . . . " This is why it is not enough to defeat ratification of the ICC treaty by the Senate (which could be accomplished by an unrecorded voice vote, as happened with ratification of the previous two U.N. treaties); the United States must extricate itself from the U.N., and then the world body itself must be de-funded and abolished.

The United Nations' International Criminal Court (ICC) would deny Americans the right to a trial by a jury of their peers. An ICC "trial" would be decided by a panel of six or more judges, no more than one of which could be an American. In addition, the 1998 Rome Statute of the ICC contains no right to habeas corpus and no right to confront accusers. ICC prosecutors could even provide secret evidence to judges. The United States has not ratified the ICC treaty yet, but lobbying for American submission to this accord is intensifying.

James F. Rinehart