The United States rejects the rule of international law, refusing to subject itself to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, while claiming oral authority to pronounce unilateral judgment on the behavior of other nations and world leaders. According to the National Conference of Black Lawyers, the state crimes committed against African Americans in the aftermath of Katrina, alone, are ample ground for prosecution of a host of officials in an international court of law. These criminals will be in the dock, August 29, at the International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, in New Orleans. Hang ‘em high.
"Support the International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in New Orleans from August 29 through September 2."
When the International Criminal Court (ICC) was established in 1998, it gave hope to literally millions of desperate, oppressed people around the world who otherwise believed that state-sponsored tyrants, soldiers and thugs who were responsible for mass murder, torture and other atrocities would never be held accountable for their crimes. The ICC, which is governed by the provisions of a treaty known as the "Rome Statute" is unprecedented in that in countries that submit to the court’s jurisdiction, nobody - even heads of state - can be immune from criminal prosecution and punishment for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The creation of the ICC, which was inspired in significant part by incidents where governments used their domestic courts to absolve those guilty of heinous crimes was widely celebrated as a significant step forward for humanity. Even in the United States where there was concern about potential abuse of the court, former President Bill Clinton signed on to the Rome Statute with reservations.
Technically, there was the potential for ratification until Clinton’s successor, George W. Bush, directed that Clinton’s signature be removed from the Rome Statute. While the subsequent U.S. attacks on Iraq, and the tortures that have been carried out in Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, have likely made the withdrawal from the Rome Statute a pretty good idea from the Bush regime’s perspective, the National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL) regards it as a tragic, monumental step backwards in the ongoing movement for the universal protection of human rights.
"The need for the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction over the U.S. is crystal clear."
As we approach the second anniversary of the Katrina disaster, and reflect on the countless crimes that were committed by government officials and employees, the need for the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction over the U.S. is crystal clear. NCBL had the opportunity to not only tour the ruins of New Orleans but to also speak with survivors. They described National Guard troops who allegedly aimed rifles at civilians and their small children while screaming obscenities and forcing them to remain in emergency shelters that contained no food or water and that were filled with human waste and countless dead bodies.
During separate interviews the survivors made almost identical allegations that National Guard troops entered the Super Dome and the convention center and effected with surgical precision the evacuation of white survivors while leaving the throngs of Africans behind to suffer and possibly die. These white-only rescue operations are alleged to have occurred daily and according to a schedule. NCBL also heard the story of one of many survivors who was arrested for a very minor offense and placed in a maximum security penitentiary and held there for months amidst violent criminals without ever appearing before a judge.
"National Guard troops entered the Super Dome and the convention center and effected with surgical precision the evacuation of white survivors while leaving the throngs of Africans behind."
Yet another survivor claimed that he was pepper sprayed and beaten Rodney King style by several New Orleans police officers because he dared to inquire politely whether an officer knew when evacuation buses would arrive. NCBL heard several separate accounts of survivors who allege that they attempted to cross bridges from New Orleans into neighboring parishes, and who encountered police in formation with upraised rifles. The police allegedly shouted racial epithets and profanity as they ordered survivors to retreat.
Perhaps the most alarming allegations concerned several cold-blooded murders that were carried out by National Guard troops. These allegations included: a point-blank gangland style execution by a superior officer; the shooting of a deranged survivor by a Guardsman in a passing vehicle; and the seizure of an irate survivor who was taken to flying altitude in a military helicopter and then dropped overboard to her death.
"NCBL is calling for a people’s campaign to bring the U.S. under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court."
NCBL believes that, at minimum, these allegations should be investigated by independent authorities who are capable of obtaining internal government documents and official information that might provide the basis for prosecutions that can land government criminals in jail. The ICC prosecutor generally has that capacity, but the Bush regime has effectively insulated itself from prosecution by rejecting ICC jurisdiction. There is however a new opportunity to overcome Bush recalcitrance during the ongoing race for the presidency. NCBL is calling for a people’s campaign - not to elect a particular candidate - but to obtain commitments from all candidates that if elected, they will re-sign the Rome Statute, and lead the effort to bring the U.S. under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.
As a first and significant step in this campaign, NCBL hasjoined with the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund, the Mississippi Disaster Relief Coalition, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, the U.S. Human Rights Network, and many others to conduct an International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in New Orleans from August 29 through September 2. (For details visit www.internationaltribunal.org) At the tribunal NCBL will make the case for ICC jurisdiction while others will present testimony and evidence of the most serious international criminal and human rights violations. (See NCBL’s memorandum at www.ncbl.org)
Never again must government officials be allowed the perception that they can flagrantly ignore the most fundamental human rights and commit crimes against humanity. For its own sake, the United States needs to protect itself from tyranny by submitting to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. NCBL calls upon all people of good will to demand that presidential candidates commit to re-signing the Rome Statute, and leading the effort to bring the U.S. under ICC jurisdiction.