Truth to Power

Obama and the International Criminal Court

A Court for a New America

Of the many issues that have soured relations between Europe and the United States under the Bush administration, few have been as poisonous as America’s refusal to join the world’s first permanent war crimes court here. The snub has been seen as a symbol of U.S. contempt for the rule of law.

In one of his last acts as president, Bill Clinton signed the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court, but the signature never led to U.S. ratification. On the contrary, President Bush withdrew the signature.

As a result, I can think of no better place for President-elect Barack Obama to start in signaling a changed American approach to the world, and particularly its European allies, than the International Criminal Court. Even short of American membership, which would involve a tough battle in Congress, there is much he can do. But “re-signing” followed by ratification should be Obama’s aim.</em>


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