First day of justice

Radio Netherlands, June 17, 2003
by Lauren Comiteau

Even as the first prosecutor of the new International Criminal Court got down to work on Tuesday, Washington continued its push to exempt US citizens from the court’s scope. Wire news services reported that up to six nations had agreed to exemption deals, in addition to the 39 countries already openly cooperating with the US in side-stepping ICC jurisdiction. Despite the US evasion, however, morale at the new Hague court is high after the inauguration of Argentinean litigator Luis Moreno Ocampo.

Information about U.S. human rights violations and related issues is included in Religion News Blog for the following reasons:

Apologetics Index deals with cults, sects, and related issues – including religious freedom and other human rights.

America’s goverment frequently accuses countries (including, for example, France and Germany) that protect their citizens against destructive and/or fraudulent cults of violating ‘human rights.’ In addition, the USA even threathens those countries with economic boycotts should they not accept America’s views on these issues.

This makes the USA the only country in the world that attempts to strong-arm other countries into accepting its views on the cults it supports – a primary reason why this issue is addressed by the publishers of Apologetics Index.

Ironically, while America chides other countries for alleged human righs violations, Washington consistently and deliberately refuses to address America’s dismal record of human rights violations. The Bible condemns the use of such differing measures.

As Christians, the publishers of Apologetic Index believe that they (and other Christians) should address human rights issues.

The publishers of Apologetics Index agree with those who believe that America’s attitude toward international law – including its fight against the International Criminal Court, its use of torture, and its inconsistent application of the Geneva Conventions – presents a serious threat to the international community.

As members of Amnesty International, the publishers of Apologetics Index are outspoken critics of America’s manifold human rights violations. They encourage their fellow Christians to address these issues, keeping in mind the Bible’s two great commandments.

At Luis Moreno Ocampo’s swearing-in on Monday, the 50-year-old lawyer promised to do his unprecedented job honourably, faithfully and impartially. As the first prosecutor of the new International Criminal Court (ICC), Mr Moreno Ocampo’s powers are those feared most by opponents of the court, such as the US.

The experienced Argentinean prosecutor, who made a name for himself pursuing leaders of Argentina’s former military dictatorship, will have the power to investigate and prosecute the world’s most serious crimes, from crimes against humanity to genocide.

Last resort

But his jurisdiction is only over the 90 countries that have so far ratified the court’s treaty, and Mr Moreno Ocampo can only investigate crimes committed after the court’s establishment in July of last year. He stressed before the audience of prominent jurists that the new court is a court of last resort, meaning it will only deal with cases when national jurisdictions are unwilling or unable to proceed.

“The number of cases that reach the court should not be a measure of its efficiency. On the contrary, the absence of trials before this court as a consequence of the regular functioning of national institutions could be a measure of success.”

To that end, Mr Moreno Ocampo, who says he sees himself as a broker of information, has pledged to help national jurisdictions do their jobs better and protect their sovereignty.

But even such assurances haven’t quelled the fears of ICC opponents, like the US, which is worried its citizens will be unfairly targeted. The Bush Administration has gone out of its way to oppose the court: from getting a Security Council exemption for its peacekeepers from the court’s authority, to securing agreements with dozens of countries not to turn US citizens over to the court.


Richard Dicker of Human Rights Watch says the US is threatening countries with everything from the loss of NATO membership to the end of hurricane disaster relief if they don’t sign agreements exempting Americans from the court.

“The picture is the world’s superpower bringing itself to bear on small and vulnerable governments. Our point is: leadership requires more than a big stick and a big wallet. It requires a positive vision that’s shared by other states.”

But despite the controversy, the mood inside The Hague’s Peace Palace is one of celebration, that after decades of impunity, those who commit the worst crimes will finally have a permanent court to try them. Most here, from former Nuremberg prosecutors to representatives of victim’s rights, believe that time is on their side, that the best way to convince opponents of the court to accept it is to get down to the job of fair and impartial investigations and trials.

For Luis Moreno Ocampo, that job began in earnest on Tuesday as he started sifting through the some 300 referrals already sent to the court for possible action

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