This week you will learn about the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the often vexed relationship it has with sovereign states. The United States, in particular, has taken a very hostile stance towards the ICC which is currently investigating the possibility of atrocities in Afghanistan. The US argues that because it did not ratify the Treaty of Rome (which established the ICC), the ICC should not be allowed to exercise its authority over US soldiers, even if they are found to have committed a war crime, and has imposed sanctions on members of the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor.
This controversy speaks to a larger question about what the proper relationship should be between international organizations (IOs) and their member states. Should IOs always be subordinate to the interests of their member states? When, if ever, should we invest independent, supranational authority in IOs, especially those dealing with atrocities like genocide and crimes against humanity? What are the risks and rewards that delegating independent authority to an IO creates for governments and for individuals? In light of these questions (and your answers to them), do you think the US should become a full member of the ICC?
International organizations that specifically deal with atrocities should not be subordinate to the interests of their member states. That causes them to lack authority and prevents them from taking action that would go against the interests of their most powerful member states. Genocides and crimes against humanity need to be addressed by a supranational authority/IO as that is the only option to ensure justice for the people or minorities affected. Otherwise, member states could interfere with the process to either protect themselves or cover for their allies, who might be engaging in criminal behavior. When genocides and atrocities are concerned, I believe it should be the global community’s responsibility to intervene and help, regardless of the state sovereignty concept. Rewards include universal justice and the upholding of human rights, regardless of the state and political regime. Recent developments in international politics are showing a shift from states to individuals. Therefore, I would argue that when a state is mistreating (genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity) its citizens, a supranational body should be able to step in.
Apart from atrocities, the risks of independent, supranational authority in IOs outweigh the benefits. Powerful states, like the USA and China, will be unwilling to delegate such jurisdiction. When it comes to IOs that deal with trade, finance, diplomatic relations, they naturally are subordinate to their member states. Risks include a tyrannical supranational structure that makes decisions for the member states and their citizens. Individuals can suffer from imposed decisions with no state to protect their interests. I support that framework in relation to human rights violations; however, I do not see states delegating such authority to an IO regarding all aspects. The EU, UN, WTO all have some sort of supranational degree and states are already hostile to them. The USA is critical of the UN. European countries are questioning the power of the EU. I do not feel that a completely independent and supranational IO can exist peacefully. The only exception would be to address atrocities.
Whether the USA should become a full member of the ICC is a complex question. I would personally support the decision; however, I have encountered many convincing arguments against it, as well. These include a violation of the Constitution as the trial of American citizens, committed on American soil, is a judicial power of the USA. Furthermore, leaving American soldiers open to global standards of justice, as well as American politicians. With the Biden Administration, a change could be possible.