Republicans in the United States House of Representatives and Senate, led by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Jesse Helms, have announced their plans to not ratify the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court, making it a “top legislative priority” for next year. (For a treaty to become law in the U.S., it must be approved by 2/3 of the Senate.) The ICC would serve as a breakthrough for the ongoing protection of women’s rights by providing a mechanism for bringing to justice perpetrators of inhumane crimes against women and girls. It would be the first international legal court to include in its mandate the prosecution of gender crimes as crimes against humanity.
The 1998 “Rome Treaty” strengthens the Nuremberg principle of personal responsibility for atrocities regardless of rank or status to include crimes against women. Article 7 of the Rome Statute presents clear language defining gender crimes including rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity; and crime of apartheid as crimes against humanity. Under Article 7, women living under the Taliban’s system of gender apartheid, women who suffered in rape camps during the Kosovo conflict and women who served as “comfort” to Japanese soldiers during World War II would have for the first time in international law a Court that would bring to justice these criminals.
The U.S. has spearheaded a series of proposals that seeks a 100 percent exemption for U.S. military personnel and nationals from the ICC’s jurisdiction. However, the U.S. position is not necessary since the Rome Statute already includes safety provisions that would protect U.S. military personnel and nationals from so called politically charged suits filed before the ICC. Under the Rome Statute for the ICC, the Court would only have jurisdiction to hear cases when national courts are unable to provide a fair trial or when national judicial courts systems do not exist. Nearly every U.S. NATO ally has signed the Rome Statute for the ICC. Republican leaders who opposed the ICC and have pledged to block its ratification have also served to block the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).