Saturday, December 10, 2005

Rogue State? US Spurns Treaty After Treaty

Isaac Baker

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 8 (IPS) - In 1989, the United Nations put forth
the Convention on the Rights of the Child -- a treaty that protects
the civil and economic rights of children around the world.

To date, 192 nations have ratified the treaty. Only two have not.

A decade later, just seven countries voted against the Rome Statute
of the International Criminal Court (ICC), an independent body
created to prosecute genocide and crimes against humanity.

And in October of this year, members of the U.N. Educational,
Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) voted overwhelmingly
to pass a new treaty aimed at protecting cultural diversity
worldwide. Only two states voted against it.

The United States is the only nation to oppose all three. And the
list of U.N. treaties and conventions that Washington has not signed
or has actively opposed goes on and on.

While the vast majority of the world's governments support these
treaties, as well as other U.N. diplomatic efforts and conventions,
the U.S. government can almost be expected to stand in opposition
each time such treaty proceedings arise.

Indeed, the United States, especially in recent years, is
increasingly being seen in the world as a lone state, thumbing its
diplomatic nose at international pacts on everything from banning the
use and production of landmines to curbing global warming.

This staunch refusal to join with other nations on such a wide range
of treaties, experts say, is hurting the already tarnished image of
the world's sole superpower in the eyes of the international

"It sends the message that the United States has been the biggest
violator and thrasher of international law in the post-war period,"
Richard Du Boff, a professor emeritus of economic history at Bryn
Mawr College in the state of Pennsylvania, told IPS.

Du Boff added that while the U.S. has often opposed U.N. conventions
since the end of the Second World War, its isolationist posture "has
escalated dramatically and reached a level never before challenged"
during the presidency of George W. Bush.

This, Du Boff said, makes the U.S. a "rogue" in the realm of
international law.

"The term is inspired by U.S. officials themselves," he said. "This
is a term that they constantly apply to any country that does
something we may not like: 'rogue state'."

However, it is the record of the U.S. and its stance on international
legislation, he said, that stands in such stark contrast to that of
the rest of the world.

The U.S. stands alone with the East African state of Somalia in its
refusal to ratify the 1989 Convention on the Rights of a Child. The
treaty, which the U.N. calls "the most powerful legal instrument that
not only recognises but protects [children's] human rights", is one
of the most widely supported international agreements in the U.N.'s

While the U.S. government has publicly stated its support for the
treaty, it has not taken the necessary steps to ratify it.

Others that Washington has rejected include the Comprehensive Test
Ban Treaty, the Treaty Banning Antipersonnel Mines, a protocol to
create a compliance regime for the Biological Weapons Convention, the
Kyoto Protocol on global warming, and the Anti-Ballistic Missile

The U.S. is also not complying with the nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Commission, and the U.N. framework
Convention on Climate Change.

One of the touchiest areas in the rocky relationship between the U.S.
and the international community is Washington's overt hostility
toward the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague.

The U.S. was one of seven states to vote against the formation of the
ICC in 1998. In taking this stance, the U.S. defied the rest of the
democratic world's support for the court and aligned itself with
notorious human rights abusers like China, Iraq, Libya and Yemen.

The U.S. continues to stand alone among even its closest allies in
its refusal to recognise the authority of the ICC.

The Bush administration maintains that U.S. personnel must be exempt
from prosecution by the court, and has pressured ICC member states to
sign bilateral deals promising not to hand over any U.S. nationals to
the court's jurisdiction.

Human rights advocates and non-governmental organisations say the
U.S. government's stance toward ICC creates a two-tiered system of
international law: one for U.S. nationals and one for everyone else.

Organisations such as the New-York based Human Rights Watch (HRW)
have blasted the U.S. for its refusal to recognise the legitimacy of
the court, saying such a stance hurts the image of the U.S. in the

"U.S. ambassadors have been acting like schoolyard bullies," Richard
Dicker, director of HRW's International Justice Programme, said in a
statement. "The U.S. campaign has not succeeded in undermining global
support for the court. But it has succeeded in making the U.S.
government look foolish and mean-spirited."

The U.S. continues to reject the ICC, leaving no room for argument.

In the most recent example of the U.S.'s rejection of U.N.-backed
treaties, the U.S. and Israel voted against UNESCO's Convention on
the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions
in mid-October.

While the treaty is largely symbolic -- it doesn't carry any real
means of enforcement -- supporters say it is an important declaration
of the importance of cultural diversity and national aspirations.

Among other provisions, the treaty gives nations more leeway to
support local culture through subsidies of domestic films and
publications to help them stand up to foreign competition.

The U.S. government has called the treaty protectionist and says it
could be a barrier to international trade.

During the treaty negotiations, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice, in a letter to other governments, called for changes in the
text, saying the treaty would "sow conflict rather than cooperation".

The U.S. State Department has also said the treaty could be used by
governments to censor or block foreign films or other goods in the
name of preserving cultural diversity, a claim that supporters of the
treaty deny.

"The United States is a culturally diverse country and a vigorous
proponent of cultural diversity, which is based on individuals'
freedom to choose how to express themselves and how to interact with
others," the State Department says. "Governments deciding what
citizens can read, hear, or see denies individuals the opportunity to
make independent choices about what they value."

At the UNESCO meeting, Timothy Craddock, the ambassador from Britain,
one of Washington's staunchest allies, called the treaty, "clear,
carefully balanced, and consistent with the principles of
international law and fundamental human rights".

However, he added that Britain and the European Union had "agreed to
disagree" with "one country". (END/2005)

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