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Defining 'aggression' for the International Criminal Court

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?

Edward Rawson: A Life Long Global Citizen Honored

On May 21st 2010, during' annual meeting, long-time member Edward Rawson was honored with the first recipient of an annual named in his honor, the "Edward Rawson Global Citizen Award." The boards of directors created this award "to honor the lifetime of energy, the outstanding service and the financial support that Edward Rawson has contributed to and its predecessor organizations, the World Federalist Association and the Campaign for U.N. Reform." This award shall each year "recognize an individual who has made an outstanding lifetime contribution to the mission and vision of An individual who has committed his or her life to education and advocacy for a world in which nations work together to abolish war, protect our rights and freedoms, and solve the problems facing humanity that no nation can solve alone."

Ed has been involved since the organization's beginning, attending the founding of World Federalists in Asheville, North Carolina, 1947. In his acceptence speech, he recalled his role in the founding conference and remarked if he had been told then he would be the first recipient of the award, "I would never have believed it." Ed then stated, "I am today privileged to accept this award on behalf of thousands who have labored with me since the founding of our movement for a peaceful and just world governed by law."

A Global National Security Strategy

Today the Obama administration releases its first National Security Strategy (NSS).  The NSS is a document prepared periodically by the executive branch for Congress which outlines the major U.S. national security concerns and how the administration plans to deal with them.  It's a strong improvement over the last NSS issued by the Bush administration in 2006. Much of the language in the NSS could have been taken from  This is a strategy of an administration on the right track. It's also a signal to civil society to both support the administration's efforts and to be willing to push the envelope of what is possible.

The NSS is a strategic document that sets direction at 30,000 feet. While it calls for "a just and sustainable international order that can foster collective action to confront common challenges" it doesn't recommend tactical steps such as better training for U.S. ambassadors or greater recognition for Foreign Service officers who work in multilateral institutions.  It doesn't discuss how the U.S. will improve its capacity to win votes in international bodies. However it does clear the way for these steps to happen.

Below are a number of relevant quotes from the NSS on nuclear weapons, a strengthened international order, the U.N, Peacekeeping, Genocide Prevention, and the International Criminal Court.  I've underlined particularly worthwhile passages.

In a perambulatory letter from President Obama he says:

The U.S.-Central and Eastern Europe Partnership: What's Next?

As the United States works to pursue a "reset" of relations with Russia, culminating in the recent signing of the New START treaty, what does this new bond mean for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (the CEEs) and their relationship with the U.S.?  This was among the questions addressed by Czech Republic Senator Alexandr Vondra during his presentation at the Atlantic Council on May 24th, as he discussed his county's view on the future of transatlantic cooperation.

Sen. Vondra described himself as "optimistic" about the relationship between the U.S. and Central and Eastern Europe.  However, he noted that several difficult test lie ahead:

  • U.S. world leadership is currently overstretched; 
  • Europe is going through financial and political hardship; 
  • NATO is redefining its region, while at the same time Russia is becoming more active and assertive; 
  • China, Brazil, and other rising powers are making their impact felt; 
  • fear of terrorism and nuclear proliferation continues; and 
  • human rights are being violated, in Vondra's words, even in NATO's own neighborhood.

Sen. Vondra said it was a good thing that, since throwing off the yoke of Communism and becoming members of NATO and the European Union (EU) in the past several years, Central and Eastern Europe is no longer in the spotlight of U.S. foreign policy as it once was.  However, the period of 2008-9 brought a number of geopolitical changes which impacted the transatlantic relationship.  Vondra asserted that the U.S. has recently been relying on traditional rivals, such as Russia, in its foreign policy, and while such "ad hoc" alliances can be helpful, the United States should not take staunch allies such as the CEE countries for granted while reaching out to other nations.

"arrest them quickly": A Request from Kenya's People

Earlier this month, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo, visited Kenya where he met with victims of Kenya's 2007-2008 postelection violence. Hundreds of thousands of Kenyans were displaced and more than 1,300 Kenyans lost their lives as a result of the postelection violence. While in Kenya, Ocampo not only met with victims of the postelection violence but also with senior government officials, civil society groups and the business community.

Powerful politicians and wealthy business men were accused of organizing and fueling attacks on civilian after the vote. Even though rival politicians signed a peace agreement and established that they would set up a local tribunal to investigate the election and prosecute the individuals responsible for the violence, the International Criminal Court believed that it was appropriate to become involved in the court proceedings because politicians were obstructing the investigations. Essentially, the International Criminal Court is fulfilling its duty to exercise its jurisdiction over perpetrators of the most serious crimes of international concern when national courts are unable to ensure the preservation of integrity, accountability and credibility while guaranteeing that justice is served.

All the Cool Kids do Model UN...

Good news! There is still time to sign up for...

Citizens for Global Solutions Annual Meeting
Global Solutions Model United Nations (GSMUN)
May 19-22, 2010
Washington Plaza Hotel, Thomas Circle N.W., Washington, D.C.

Registration - Travel and Hotel Info - Model United NationsSchedule of Events & Speakers

Join us activists, scholars and members for the Citizens for Global Solutions Annual Conference! This year's event will include a lobby day, as well as an groundbreaking simulation of the United Nations, developed in conjunction with the Model United Nations Development Organization (MUNDO).

Tell Me About the New START Treaty!

What is the New START treaty?

The New START treaty is a treaty that will, if ratified, "replace" the START treaty that was signed in 1991 and expired in 2009. Secretary Clinton stated today that the three goals of the START treaty are to promote stability, transparency and predictability between the U.S. and Russia on the topic of nuclear arms control.

Will the New START treaty cut the total number of nuclear weapons held by both the United States and Russia?

Yes. START will reduce the total number of nuclear weapons held both the United States and Russia. Essentially, START will place limits on the number of nuclear warheads and deployed nuclear delivery vehicles for both the United States and Russia. Each country will be permitted to have a maximum of 1,550 nuclear warheads and a maximum of 700 deployed nuclear delivery vehicles.

Will the New START treaty adversely affect our missile defense or compromise United States national security?

No. There is nothing in the treaty that will limit the United States ability to continue to cultivate the U.S. missile defense program. Additionally, the New START treaty will not compromise the United States ability to protect itself and does include a provision for a strong verification regime.

Will the New START treaty have any effect on Iran and North Korea?

Will Judge Garzon Join the ICC?

On May 12, 2010 the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court confirmed that that it has requested Judge Baltasar Garzon of Spain to assist the office in improving its investigation methods. Judge Garzon is a slightly controversial figure. Judge Garzon, in 2008, investigated the execution or disappearance of more than 100,000 Spanish civilians. These executions and disappearances are a reflection of the crimes committed during Spain's 1936-39 Civil War and under General Francisco Franco's rule. In 1977 the Spanish Parliament granted amnesty over these crimes in an effort to move the county towards reconciliation. But as a result of Judge Garzon investigating these crimes which are covered by an amnesty he has been charged with knowingly going beyond the limits of his jurisdiction.

Despite Judge Garzon's history, the Office of the Prosecutor has chosen to focus on the more positive aspects of Judge Garzon's career. Judge Garzon is respected for targeting international figures which include the late Chilean military ruler Augusto Pinochet and al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, among others.

Additionally, Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo stated "Judge Garzon's extensive experience in investigating massive crimes committed by States and non state organizations will be a great contribution to my office."

Will Judge Garzon join Prosector Moreno-Ocampo at the ICC? The answer is still up in the air. Judge Garzon asked Spain's Judicial Oversight Board if he could take a seven month leave of absence to join the ICC, but Spain's Judicial Oversight Board has yet to make a decision to either grant or deny Judge Garzon's request.

Q&A: The American Power Act

Is the idea of 'achieving energy security' an attainable reality or will it remain a mere proposal?

For those who deeply believe in the importance of energy security and want to see the United States take on a leadership role in the field of renewable energy, the American Power Act, the bill introduced yesterday, might represent a critical step towards making energy security a big priority and as leaders in this emerging field. The American Power Act addresses major topics which include: the expansion of the nuclear power industry, carbon capture and sequestration, and revenue sharing for states that want to conduct more offshore oil and gas production. The bill articulates the goals of reducing carbon emission by 17% by 2020 and by 80% by 2050. Furthermore, the bill offers multiple tax credits as incentives to encourage truck and heavy-duty fleets to use natural gas in addition to encouraging manufacturers of vehicles to create cleaner vehicles and adopt more energy efficient production methods.

What effect will the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico have on the American Power Act?

Due to what has happened in the Gulf, the American Power Act permits coastal governments to veto exploratory oil drilling up to 75 miles from their shores.

Will it encourage the Senate to pass the energy bill that was unveiled today by Senators Kerry and Lieberman?

President Obama responded to this question by essentially saying that the recent event in the Gulf highlights why this bill must be passed by the Senate and added to our portfolio of energy legislation which includes the American Clean Energy and Security Act passed by the House.

The Court of Last Resort

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is responsible for prosecuting individuals who have been charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes. Currently the crime of aggression is included in the Rome Statute of the ICC. However the Court can only prosecute aggression if the ICC's governing body, the Assembly of States Parties (ASP), amends the Statute to define the crime and sets out the conditions for the Court's exercise of jurisdiction.

One year ago, the ICC issued a global arrest warrant for the President of Sudan, Omar Hassan al-Bashir as a result of charges brought against him for crimes against humanity and war crimes. Bashir's warrant has also caused diplomats to refuse to attend meeting if he is there and to get up from lunch tables upon his arrival; in essence many of our nations leaders avoid him at all costs. The most recent manifestation of leaders wanting to avoid Bashir has come from Paris who made it very clear that Mr. Bashir would be on the guest list for the upcoming African-French summit meeting in Nice, France. Each and every time a President or Prime Minister refuses to be in the company of Bashir, that President or Prime Minister is making a profound statement, a statement which says "we will not tolerate war crimes or crimes against humanity." For more information, CLICK HERE.