THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Camp David, Maryland)
Immediate Release December 31, 2000
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
The United States is today signing the 1998 Rome Treaty on the
International Criminal Court. In taking this action, we join more than 130
other countries that have signed by the December 31, 2000 deadline
established in the Treaty. We do so to reaffirm our strong support for
international accountability and for bringing to justice perpetrators of
genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. We do so as well
because we wish to remain engaged in making the ICC an instrument of
impartial and effective justice in the years to come.
The United States has a long history of commitment to the principle of
accountability, from our involvement in the Nuremberg tribunals that
brought Nazi war criminals to justice, to our leadership in the effort to
establish the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia
and Rwanda. Our action today sustains that tradition of moral leadership.
Under the Rome Treaty, the International Criminal Court (ICC) will
come into being with the ratification of 60 governments, and will have
jurisdiction over the most heinous abuses that result from international
conflict, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. The
Treaty requires that the ICC not supercede or interfere with functioning
national judicial systems; that is, the ICC Prosecutor is authorized to
take action against a suspect only if the country of nationality is
unwilling or unable to investigate allegations of egregious crimes by their
national. The U.S. delegation to the Rome Conference worked hard to
achieve these limitations, which we believe are essential to the
international credibility and success of the ICC.
In signing, however, we are not abandoning our concerns about
significant flaws in the Treaty. In particular, we are concerned that when
the Court comes into existence, it will not only exercise authority over
personnel of states that have ratified the Treaty, but also claim
jurisdiction over personnel of states that have not. With signature,
however, we will be in a position to influence the evolution of the Court.
Without signature, we will not.
Signature will enhance our ability to further protect U.S. officials
from unfounded charges and to achieve the human rights and accountability
objectives of the ICC. In fact, in negotiations following the Rome
Conference, we have worked effectively to develop procedures that limit the
likelihood of politicized prosecutions. For example, U.S. civilian and
military negotiators helped to ensure greater precision in the definitions
of crimes within the Court?s jurisdiction.
But more must be done. Court jurisdiction over U.S. personnel should
come only with U.S. ratification of the Treaty. The United States should
have the chance to observe and assess the functioning of the Court, over
time, before choosing to become subject to its jurisdiction. Given these
concerns, I will not, and do not recommend that my successor submit the
Treaty to the Senate for advice and consent until our fundamental concerns
Nonetheless, signature is the right action to take at this point. I
believe that a properly constituted and structured International Criminal
Court would make a profound contribution in deterring egregious human
rights abuses worldwide, and that signature increases the chances for
productive discussions with other governments to advance these goals in the
months and years ahead.