Friday, February 17, 2017

Quote of the day--from American Progress

A Trump presidency means that U.S. commitment to international criminal justice—and to human rights in general—may soon be a thing of the past. Although President Trump has not spoken specifically on the question of international tribunals, a central theme of his campaign was a narrow vision of U.S. global engagement hostile to international law, multilateralism, respect for basic human dignity, and even the rule of law. He has been dismissive of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s alleged extrajudicial killings10 and has even reportedly spoken fawningly of death squads organized by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.11 The foreign policy views of his secretary of state nominee, Rex Tillerson, remain mostly unknown, but during his confirmation hearing earlier this month, Tillerson appeared skeptical of the value of criticizing foreign governments for human rights violations.12 Of particular concern, President Trump has flirted with appointing John Bolton to a senior diplomatic role—a man who has asserted that the ICC is “illegitimate,” that the ICTY “seems to be about score settling rather than a more disinterested search for justice,” and that the ICTR was so plagued with corruption and mismanagement that many were hoping that “it expires quietly before doing more damage.”13
That an individual with such views could play an influential role in U.S. foreign relations should be dispiriting to anyone who believes in the universal value of human life. Yet supporters of international justice should not despair for at least two reasons: First, the ICC continues to enjoy the support of a large segment of the international community, including the European Union and a strong majority of the U.N. General Assembly.14 A freeze on U.S. cooperation with the ICC, while a serious setback, would be unlikely to cripple the institution. Second, the broader principle of international accountability for heinous acts still has wide acceptance, even among the ICC’s most entrenched critics. Over the past three years, for example, the African Union has sponsored a number of international justice initiatives, including the creation of a special tribunal to try former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré on charges of crimes against humanity.15 Closer to home, Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives—along with Democrats—have expressed overwhelming support for the creation of a U.N. tribunal to try war crimes committed during the Syrian civil war.16 Proposals for similar tribunals focused on atrocities in South Sudan and the Central African Republic have also received strong support from the United States and other influential global actors.17