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No Right Turn: The Axis of Impunity

No Right Turn

The Axis of Impunity

-One of the positive steps in international law in recent years has been the establishment of the International Criminal Court, a permanant standing court to try cases of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Unfortunately, since its inception, the court has been virulently opposed by the United States, which fears that its soldiers (and more importantly, its political leaders) might be held accountable for any atrocities they commit or order to be committed (such as, say, the razing of Fallujah, the use of indiscriminate weapons in civilian areas, or a policy of torture approved at the highest levels). The chief mechanism used by the US to undermine the court has been a series of "Article 98 agreements" - bilateral agreements exploiting a loophole in the ICC's statute to exempt American citizens from the court's jurisdiction. The US has used strong-arm tactics to extract these agreements from weaker nations, including the passage of the American Servicemembers' Protection Act (AKA the "Invasion of the Hague Act"), which requires the US government to cut off military aid to countries which refuse to sign such an agreement. So far, payments have been withheld from 35 countries (mostly in Eastern Europe and South America) in an effort to get them to toe the American line.

So, who has signed these agreements? Below is a map of 96 of the reported hundred countries who have signed an impunity agreement with the US. The primary source is a list [DOC] compiled by Citizens for Global Solutions:

Click for big version

This is the axis of impunity. And its remarkable how well it tracks both poverty (meaning exposure to American economic threats) and shitty human rights records. What's also remarkable is that the US has been signing reciprocal agreements with the shittiest of the shitty, in effect promising to protect their rulers from international justice. One of those agreements is with Rwanda; if it and the ICC had been in place when the Rwandan genocide occurred, the US would today be providing a safe haven for genocidaires.

One other point in passing: Citizens for Global Solutions' list includes notes on which countries have firmly rejected any such agreement. And there's a striking absence from that section: New Zealand. I had expected my own government, with its stated commitment to human rights and international law, to behave far better than that...


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