- Editor’s Introduction
The editors of Genocide Studies International (GSI) welcome our readers to the fourth issue, a general issue covering a range of concerns, from the question of an international criminal court to a typology of rescuers. Given that this is the second issue for 2015, the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, it understandably contains two articles devoted to recent developments on this topic. And, it continues our innovative “Notes from the Field” feature with further coverage of the dire situation in the Nuba Mountain and Blue Nile regions of Sudan.
The issue opens with a discussion of the complex relationship of the United States to the International Criminal Court (ICC) examined through the prism of the US role in the development of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and subsequent tensions in the United States regarding the genocide convention. While the US refusal to join the ICC is well-known and widely discussed, Harry Rhea’s “US Foreign Policy and the International Penal Tribunal in the Genocide Convention: Article VI and Beyond” offers a novel approach. Rhea provides a nuanced analysis of the US relationship to both the actual ICC and to the theoretical concept of a permanent international criminal tribunal. In doing so, he shows the complexities of US attitudes through examination of elements of the historical record that bring into relief the internal tensions that have marked this relationship from the 1950s forward. Rhea’s article, in his appropriate words, “explains why the United States’ current position regarding the ICC is consistent with its position in 1948” regarding an international penal tribunal for the prosecution of the crime of genocide and suggests that the present position is neither inevitable nor absolutist with regard to international prosecution of genocide.
Rhea shows that the US membership on the UN General Assembly ad hoc committee charged with developing a draft convention on genocide argued committedly and forcefully for specific inclusion of a statement that cases of genocide would be referred to an international penal court, based on the sound line of reasoning that, in the absence of such a court and such a requirement in the convention, states would be left to try themselves and their citizens for genocide, which would result in widespread impunity for governments and individual perpetrators. Indeed, as Rhea points out, the US representation on the ad hoc committee
had proposed the inclusion of an international criminal court that would operate under the complementarity principle and would trigger its jurisdiction over the crime of genocide when national courts were unwilling or unable to prosecute the accused. The US position was more extreme than those of the other states in favor of an international criminal court, as its proposal gave the court discretion to determine if national courts had operated effectively. [End Page 179]
Interestingly, the most vigorous opposition to the United States came from the United Kingdom, based on the claim that states and governments committed genocide and were therefore already subject to the International Court of Justice. For the United States, this left individuals outside of international justice mechanisms and all genocide cases in the hands of a court without criminal prosecutorial powers.
Rhea’s analysis supports the view that the US leadership, in ensuring reference to a (future) international tribunal in the genocide convention, reflected the desire of its representatives and the Truman administration to see a permanent international criminal court enacted at least for cases of genocide; but, other political forces in the United States were opposed to this, and, over time, the US position gravitated toward opposition to such a court, in large part because it would have jurisdiction over not just genocide but crimes against humanity, war crimes, and other international criminal acts. Still, there continued to be indications of favor in the United States for a permanent tribunal focused on genocide alone. US leadership in developing the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, as well its backing of certain referrals to the ICC despite its refusal to join this court, suggests that the United States remains open to a permanent...