The New York Times is today running an article on France’s attempt to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, via a U.N. Security Council Resolution.
The article reports that the Resolution has been tailored ‘to address American sensitivities, according to several people who have seen the text’.
What are those sensitivities? Well, according to the article:
In Syria, it faces another quandary: the Golan Heights, disputed territory that is claimed by both Syria and Israel. The United States has long worried that any referral to the court could implicate Israel, a close ally, and bring it before the tribunal.
The draft text, which could be circulated to all 15 members of the Council next week, gets around the problem by defining the conflict narrowly, as involving the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad, its allied militias, and armed opposition forces between March 2011 and the present. It proposes to refer that “situation” to the court in a carefully worded bid to save Israel from becoming ensnared.
So, one ‘sensitivity’ is that any referral to the ICC could open up Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights to legal review. This is obviously unacceptable to the U.S., and so France has worded the resolution in such a way that Israel will be immune from any kind investigation.
Here’s the second ‘sensitivity’:
The second way in which it addresses American concerns is that it exempts “current or former officials or personnel” of countries that have not ratified the Rome Statute — except Syria. That way, if American soldiers are ever involved in the Syrian conflict, they would be immune from prosecution.
So the Resolution will see to it that U.S. troops and political leaders would also be immune from prosecution if they are ‘ever involved’ – never mind that they are involved *now*.
There is a certain kind of liberal who places great faith in the ICC as a means of resolving conflicts and holding war criminals and human rights abusers to account. Personally, I think that faith is quite badly misplaced.
The ICC in it’s current incarnation is far too open to political manipulation and pressure from the stronger states of the world to be considered a neutral arbiter. This potential Resolution, which grants the U.S. and Israel immunity from prosecution, demonstrates that clearly.
(Incidentally, if it’s vetoed by Russia and or China, watch certain liberals scream about how Russia and China don’t care about accountability, while remaining totally silent about the fact that the Resolution would grant certain parties to the conflict total immunity)
You can look at Libya circa 2011-2014 as another example of this.
In February 2011, during the early stages of the civil war there, the situation was referred to the ICC by the U.N. Security Council, under pressure from the U.S., Britain and France. Many of us at the time suspected this referral was less about securing justice for victims than it was about further delegitimising the Gadaffi regime as a prelude to military ‘intervention’.
What has happened since has only reinforced that idea.
The only people indicted by the ICC so far have been former Gadaffi regime officials. This is despite the fact there is copious evidence from bodies like the U.N. that rebel forces also committed war crimes and Crimes against Humanity. In May 2012, the post-Gadaffi Libyan authorities even passed a law which essentially granted those accused of war crimes from within the rebel ranks immunity from prosecution.
You would think, then, that because the Libyan authorities can’t or won’t investigate rebel crimes themselves, that the ICC might issue indictments. But to date? Nothing.
The Libyan authorities have also refused to hand over former Gadaffi regime officials wanted by the court.
As Sarah Leah Whitson from Human Rights Watch put it in 2012, ‘it will be hard to avoid the conclusion that the NTC merely used the ICC as a political tool against Qaddafi, rather than as a tool of justice for the citizens of a nation long deprived of independent courts’.
The same is undoubtedly true of those in the ‘international community’ who pushed for the referral, in my opinion. It was simply a means to an end, the end being regime change. I see no reason to believe that their motivation in attempting to refer Syria is any different.
There could even be grounds for the ICC to investigate NATO over their conduct in Libya.
One of the worst rebel crimes in Libya was the attack on Tawergha in August 2011, in which people were systematically murdered, tortured and displaced on a mass scale. It was an attack that was heavily coordinated with NATO forces, according to Al Jazeera.
The ICC won’t be investigating these potential crimes any time soon, of course. Why? We return to today’s New York Times article for the answer:
Because Syria was also not a party to the statute, the International Criminal Court can open an investigation only with a Security Council referral. It did so with Libya in 2011. That resolution also had language that specifically protected American soldiers from potential prosecution.
It’s because the U.S. granted themselves immunity from prosecution in that conflict as well, as part of their ‘push for international justice’, Empire style.