Last week the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously “in swift and decisive action” to refer Muammar Qadhafi’s violent suppression of Libyan protests to the International Criminal Court. As the French delegate put it, the Council’s action will ensure that crimes against humanity won’t go unpunished. It’s a hopeful day for the future of international human rights, and a hopeful day for the people of Libya. There’s just one problem: Libya has never signed on to the ICC.
This is where it gets awkward. The delegate from India had to point out that there are five members of the 15-member Security Council who, like Libya, are not parties to the Rome Statute that created the ICC. India, China and Lebanon are not parties. Russia has signed, but has not ratified. The United States initially signed the Rome Statute, but then Pres. George W. Bush officially revoked in May of 2002.
For nations that are not parties to the ICC, it was a delicate (and perhaps hypocritical) matter to assert international jurisdiction over a non-party country. That’s why the resolution included this caveat:
“[N]ationals, current or former officials or personnel from a State outside the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya which is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of that State …”
This of course makes sure that no one from the U.S. will have to answer questions from the ICC about waterboarding. It also means that Qadhafi-hired mercenaries from countries like Tunisa could potentially avoid all accountability for their participation in the suppression of peaceful protests.