As diplomats meet in Uganda to consider adding the crime of aggression to the jurisdiction of the ICC, it is time to remember historic American principles.
David Kaye warns in his June 1 Op-Ed article that bringing the crime of aggression within its ambit may erode support for the International Criminal Court. It is true that the ICC has done an admirable job in the years since its founding in holding trials for those accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Without the ICC, these individuals, accused of the most heinous mass crimes, might not ever face justice and punishment.
The ICC is an institution that our nation's founders would have recognized. The ICC springs from the same European Enlightenment principles that informed America's founding, including the idea that there are certain basic rights afforded to all people. Although the United States has not joined the ICC, the treaty that created the court relies on principles and ideas long promoted by American thinkers and lawyers. Adding the crime of aggression to the ICC's jurisdiction follows in the tradition of the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials after World War II. The U.S. actively participated in the formation and successful operation of the more recent special purpose international tribunals for Sierra Leone, Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.
Of course, many of the current objections to expanding the jurisdiction of the ICC to include aggression were also raised in the 1990s against the founding of the court. Aren't there always practical difficulties in asserting an important principle?