To the editors:
The Crimson staff published a very interesting editorial on the topic of extradition for former Serbian president and nefarious war criminal Slobodan Milosevic (“Extradite Milosevic,” April 10). The Crimson ought to be lauded for its commitment to the principles of international justice and human rights. Nevertheless, calls for American strong-arm tactics to coerce compliance with international law are misguided.
Let me first say that I believe that Milosevic ought to stand trial for all of the crimes with which he has been charged; I find nothing more offensive or objectionable than the bald fact that killing one person makes you a murderer and killing thousands makes you a world leader. Forcing Milosevic to stand trial for the crimes he has committed would be an important step toward the sanctification of human rights in the international realm. Yet is the United States really the country that ought to be taking the lead in this crusade? Can we honestly expect, nay, demand compliance from Yugoslavia when we have so thoroughly thumbed our nose at the very concept of international criminal law?
The International Criminal Court (ICC) will be a permanent court to replace the ad hoc tribunals established by the Security Council. The U.S. was one of seven nations that voted against the creation of an ICC, a move that alienated us from almost all of our allies and grouped us with nations such as China, Libya and Iraq—not exactly the bastions of liberal humanitarianism. An eleventh-hour signing of the Rome Statute to create such a court, authorized by former President Clinton, was a halfhearted and empty move. It was an utterly meaningless maneuver, and yet President George W. Bush and the Republican majority in Congress vigorously opposed even this hollow, symbolic gesture toward international law.
The U.S. has opposed the very idea of the ICC because—heaven forbid—it would have jurisdiction over Americans, just like everyone else. If we hold ourselves above international law, can we honestly claim to be acting on behalf of justice by using coercive tactics to force another nation to comply with a court system at which we would balk? The ICC would only try criminals when domestic courts did not. On the other hand, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia enjoys primacy of jurisdiction, superceding domestic legal structures. We cannot find adequate cause to support a court system that will work in concert with domestic courts, and yet, with righteous indignation, we demand that another nation must endure the flouting of its domestic court system and hand over an indicted criminal.
With our tepid reaction toward the ICC, the U.S. has shown that it will only support the idea of international law when it is in its interests. The U.S. is undeniably the most powerful nation in the world, and yet it is still holds international courts suspect. Can we reasonably expect a much smaller and weaker nation, one that has seen first hand the awesome power of international response in the form of the NATO military colossus, to trust the international community, if we ourselves will not do so?
The U.S. remains the world’s most stable democracy, as evidenced by our last election fiasco. We take politically stability for granted and thus fail to see the potential consequences of extraditing Milosevic for the nascent democratic movement in Serbia. Milosevic should be brought to justice and should pay the price for all the crimes he has committed, but it would be in the best interest of all involved for us to cooperate with the Serbian government. Regardless of the America’s status as the world’s only hegemonic power, it is wrong for us to hold other nations to legal standards to which we would not hold ourselves. I sincerely hope that the government of Serbia decides to cooperate with the Criminal Tribunal at The Hague, but out of respect for the principles of international law and human rights, and not due to coercion placed on it by the U.S.
Nahal L. Kazemi ’01
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