December 23, 1998
The British arrest of General Augusto Pinochet provides stunning proof of why the
United States should never join the International Criminal Court (ICC). Traveling to London on
a diplomatic passport to have surgery, the 83-year-old Chilean Senator Pinochet was grabbed by
the British because of an extradition request by a maverick judge in Spain, Baltazar Garzon, who
has a penchant for high-profile cases.
The Pinochet case is the precursor of the assaults on national sovereignty and the flouting
of due process that will take place if the United States ever signs and ratifies the ICC. It would
mean that Americans could be tried in a foreign country by a court of non-American judges
applying laws that are not yet written.
The Clinton Administration has been promoting the ICC for five years, but after a stormy
final five-week session in Rome last July, Clinton directed his representative to vote No. On
July 17, 20 countries voted to adopt the ICC "Statute," 21 abstained, and Israel and five other
nations joined the U.S. in voting No.
The ICC will enter into force when ratified by 60 governments, and UN chief Kofi
Annan is lobbying for speedy ratification. The ICC creates an 18-member court to sit in the
The ICC will be fundamentally different from the International Court of Justice, known as
the World Court, which adjudicates disputes among nations. The United States has repeatedly
refused to recognize its many anti-American decisions.
The ICC, on the other hand, will try individuals for "crimes against humanity," whose
definition is still evolving. The danger this poses to American troops stationed overseas is why
Clinton, reluctantly, at the end refused to sign.
The Pinochet case proves that international trials of individuals are political, not legal,
proceedings, and certainly a far cry from what we in America understand as constitutional due
process. The same week that Spain's headline-grabbing judge demanded that the British arrest
Pinochet, Spain's Prime Minister was hosting Fidel Castro with full diplomatic honors.
Pinochet is a bete noire of the left because he overthrew the Communist regime of
Salvador Allende in Chile. There's a big difference between Pinochet and Communist dictators:
Pinochet voluntarily held a free election in 1990 and gave up power to a democratic government,
after which the Chileans made him Senator for Life; and Chile has remained free and
Political double standards, not equal protection of the laws, would be the rule under any
international tribunal such as the ICC. Call the roll of the murderous thugs and current and
former Communist dictators who stay in power by force or retire in luxury without fear of being
arrested, extradited, or tried.
Uganda's Idi Amin, who is estimated to have killed 300,000 of his political opponents, is
living in Saudi Arabia. Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier of Haiti lives in a chateau in southern
Mikhail Gorbachev, who presided over the Gulag and the bloody invasion of
Afghanistan, heads a prestigious think-tank in San Francisco and enjoys top-dollar honoraria for
speeches promoting world government. Poland's last Communist boss, Wojciech Jaruzelski,
who murdered anti-Communist activists, was given a lifetime pension by his country.
Yasser Arafat, Nelson Mandela, and former dictators from India, Cambodia, the Congo,
and elsewhere travel freely around the world. For the United States to acquiesce in the Pinochet
arrest, and/or to join the ICC, will make the world too dangerous for Western heads of state to
On his next trip to London or Paris, will George Bush be arrested on an extradition
request from Iraq and charged with the war crime of killing civilians during the Gulf War? Will
Henry Kissinger be grabbed and tried for bombing Cambodia during the Vietnam War?
Can Argentina demand the extradition of Margaret Thatcher for sinking its ships during
her war over the Falklands? How about arresting Queen Elizabeth II for past British crimes
against the Irish?
Will Bill Clinton be arrested and charged with "intentionally launching an attack in the
knowledge that such attack will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians . . . clearly
excessive in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated"? That's a
fair description of his attack on Sudan's pharmaceutical factory last summer, and it's one of the
"war crimes" listed in the ICC Statute.
All Americans are entitled to our Bill of Rights due process guarantees, such as a speedy
and public trial by an impartial jury in the state and district where the crime is alleged to have
been committed, the privileges against self-incrimination, double jeopardy, and ex post facto
laws, and the writ of habeas corpus.
The ICC should be soundly rejected because it would dangerously interfere with the
constitutional rights guaranteed to every American, and it would threaten the ability of the
United States to defend our national security by military action. Meanwhile, President Clinton
should denounce the outrageous action of the British in kidnapping a friendly former head of
state and threatening to turn him over to an activist judge in Spain who is doing the bidding of