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Int'l Court: Guilty on All Counts

Our 6th Amendment guarantees "that in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed." In the waning days of his Administration, President Clinton signed that right away when he obligated the U.S. to the Rome Treaty, the charter document of an International Criminal Court with the power to prosecute American citizens.

This morning, the New York Times writes a matter-of-fact obituary for liberty lost: "The international criminal court is going to be a reality…The Bush Administration … should … not waste global influence in a futile attempt to prevent the court’s establishment." Not so fast. The Times forgets that the present occupant of 1600 Penn withdrew from the ill-conceived Kyoto protocol in a weekend. Under the Vienna Convention, he can redeem his predecessor’s folly by submitting a letter of declaration asking to be released, for though we have signed on, we have not ratified the Rome Treaty.

As things now stand, the treaty has been signed by 139 nations and ratified by 31. Once 60 countries ratify, the court will be empowered to subpoena anyone anywhere in the world, and signatory states will be obligated to apprehend the accused who will be tried and sentenced before UN judges.

Subjecting our citizens to this regime would be unconstitutional both in establishment and application. In 1866, the Supreme Court ruled that a court not authorized under Article III of our Constitution could have "no part of the judicial power of the country." Moreover, the traditional tenets of American justice – a speedy trial, the right to confront witnesses, innocent until proven guilty – are not likely to be projected by global dimensions as long as our fellow signatories include such anti-democratic exemplars as Algeria, Cambodia, Haiti, Iran, and Sudan.

We have no stake in a body that criminalizes acts we deem lawful, strips protections we hold dear, and renders irrelevant the borders and authority of our own country. President Bush should move swiftly to end this act of democratic disarmament by repudiating the Rome Convention, urging our allies to do the same, and informing the scribes at the Times that their reports of sovereignty’s demise were premature.

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