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U.S 'Hague Invasion Act' Becomes Law

U.S.: 'Hague Invasion Act' Becomes Law
White House "Stops at Nothing" in Campaign Against War Crimes Court

(New York, August 3, 2002) - A new law supposedly protecting U.S. servicemembers from the International Criminal Court shows that the Bush administration will stop at nothing in its campaign against the court, Human Rights Watch warned today.

U.S. President George Bush today signed into law the American Servicemembers Protection Act of 2002, which is intended to intimidate countries that ratify the treaty for the International Criminal Court (ICC). The new law authorizes the use of military force to liberate any American or citizen of a U.S.-allied country being held by the court, which is located in The Hague. This provision, dubbed the "Hague invasion clause," has caused a strong reaction from U.S. allies around the world, particularly in the Netherlands.

In addition, the law provides for the withdrawal of U.S. military assistance from countries ratifying the ICC treaty, and restricts U.S. participation in United Nations peacekeeping unless the U.S. obtains immunity from prosecution. At the same time, these provisions can be waived by the President on "national interest" grounds.

"The states that have ratified this treaty are trying to strengthen the rule of law," said Richard Dicker, Director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch. "The Bush administration is trying to punish them for that."

Dicker pointed out that many of the ICC's biggest supporters are fragile democracies and countries emerging from human rights crises, such as Sierra Leone, Argentina, Fiji.

The law is part of a multi-pronged U.S. effort against the International Criminal Court. On May 6, in an unprecedented move, the Bush Administration announced it was "renouncing" U.S. signature on the treaty. In June, the administration vetoed continuation of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Bosnia in an effort to obtain permanent immunity for U.N. peacekeepers. In July, U.S. officials launched a campaign around with world to obtain bilateral agreements that would grant immunity for Americans from the Court's authority. Yesterday, Washington announced that it obtained such an agreement from Romania.

However, another provision of the bill allows the U.S. to assist international efforts to bring to justice those accused of genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity - including efforts by the ICC.

"The administration never misses an opportunity to gratuitously antagonize its allies on the ICC," said Dicker. "But it's also true that the new law has more loopholes than a block of Swiss cheese."

Dicker said the law gives the administration discretion to override ASPA's noxious effects on a case-by-case basis. Washington may try to use this to strong-arm additional concessions from the states that support the court, but Dicker urged states supporting the ICC "not to fall into the U.S. trap: the law does not require any punitive measures."

Human Rights Watch believes the International Criminal Court has the potential to be the most important human rights institution created in fifty years, and urged regional groups of states, such as the European Union, to condemn the new law and resist Washington's attempts to obtain bilateral exemption arrangements.

The law formed part of the 2002 Supplemental Appropriations Act for Further Recovery from and Response to Terrorist Attacks on the United States.

For more information on the International Criminal Court, please visit:

For more information, please contact:
In New York, Richard Dicker: +1-212-216-1248
Brigitte Suhr: +1-212-216-1249 (Spanish)
In Brussels, Jean-Paul Marthoz: +32-2-732-2009 (French, Spanish)
In London, Steve Crawshaw: +44-20-7713-2766


Press Advisory

For Immediate Release Contact: Val Schrock August 2, 2002 202-546-3956 or Laments Anti-ICC Legislation

Washington, DC - deplores continuation of the United States' multi-prong attack on the International Criminal Court (ICC) with the passage of the misnamed American Servicemembers Protection Act (ASPA). President Bush signed the bill into law today as part of a 2002 supplemental appropriations bill.

The passage of ASPA disregards the Administration's own pledge not to "wage war" against the ICC and to respect the decision of those who ratified the treaty. According to coordinator Don Kraus, this "unilateralist bill includes punitive measures against countries that wish to say 'Never Again' to the perpetrators of the world's most horrendous crimes - crimes that have affected millions of people - genocide, mass executions, murder, rape, gender apartheid, mass torture and mutilation."

The legislation includes provisions that: · Prohibit U.S. cooperation and intelligence sharing with the ICC, · Restrict U.S. participation in U.N. peacekeeping, · Prohibit military assistance to most countries that ratify the ICC Statute, and · Authorizes the President to use "all means necessary and appropriate" to free from captivity any U.S. or allied personnel held by or on behalf of the ICC.

Though the President may under certain circumstances waive many of the above prohibitions, Kraus notes, "this legislation leaves the glass less than half empty for ICC proponents and is not a brew the world wants to drink." The bill has already cost the U.S. untold diplomatic capital in Europe, where it is referred to as "The Hague Invasion Act", because it gives the President expansive authority to use force against the Netherlands, future home of the ICC.

With the signing this bill calls for the Bush Administration to rebuke further legislative attacks on the Court. The ICC is an international fait accompli. The United States should now closely monitor the Court as it develops and seek to cooperate with it to bring war criminals to justice.

# # # #

More information about the ICC and ASPA, including bill text and statements by members of Congress can be found at's Steering Committee consists of : Amnesty International, the Campaign for United Nations Reform, the Feminist Majority, Human Rights Watch, the Independent Student Coalition for the ICC, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, the Nuremberg Legacy Project , The United Methodist Church - General Board of Church and Society, United Nations Association of the USA, and the World Federalist Association.


Adele Waugaman, Media Liaison Coalition for the International Criminal Court

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