The United States should support the establishment of the International Criminal Court
Stabroek News
September 18, 2001

Dear Editor

On September ll, 2001 the world witnessed an atrocity - a crime against humanity when over 5,000 civilians including approximately 15 Guyanese resident overseas were killed. President George W Bush has declared a war against terrorism and has named Osama bin Laden as the primary suspect. Should the United States of America succeed in its military action, it will certainly be a turning point in history but will it be justice for the families of those killed?

In July 1998 in Rome, 120 nations voted to adopt a statute creating an International Criminal Court (ICC). The rationale for the court's creation is found in the belief that crimes that deeply shock the conscience of humanity threaten world peace, or at least threaten the well-being of the world. The latter criteria accept that our psychological well-being suffers from the sight of atrocities by fellow humans. Murder as part of a widespread or systemic attack directed against any civilian population is categorised as a crime against humanity.

The ICC will not be established until the Rome Statute has been ratified, i.e. accepted as law by sixty states. In March 2000, it had gathered ninety-three signatures but only seven states had ratified it. The ICC is therefore a long way from becoming a reality. In the meantime, international justice is being administered by way of ad hoc tribunals such as the one in the Hague in the Netherlands. This tribunal was established under UN Security Council Resolution 808 for 'the prosecution of persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia since 1991.' Slobodan Milosevic is at present on trial there.

The power to investigate and try international crimes is provided by under Article 13(b) of the Rome Treaty. This was the method under which the Hague Tribunal was established. Although the USA was one of the seven countries that opposed the concept of the ICC, as a member of the UN Security Council it should have no difficulties getting the Security Council to refer the September ll, atrocity to the ICC prosecutor. Should he be arrested, the primary suspect can then be brought to trial.

The Sunday Times editorial of Sunday, September l6, stated "America's superpower status depends as much on the confidence the world has in its judgment as its unrivalled military power. It cannot merely blast its enemies with cruise missiles and carpet-bombs and then withdraw behind its borders. Fortress America was already moribund before it was shattered for ever last Tuesday. Isolationism is not an option. For its own security and prosperity the United States must engage fully with the outside world." America can do so by supporting diplomatically, politically and financially the establishment of a permanent International Criminal Court.

Yours faithfully,

Robert S. Drepaul, Solicitor
The Association of Guyanese Overseas (AGOS)