A Case Study in Declining American
Hegemony: Flawed Policy Concerning the
by Eric K. Leonard
n April 11, 2002, a group of state representatives, along with a coalition of non-
governmental organizations, International Criminal Court supporters, and media
personnel, gathered at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The purpose
of this gathering was to celebrate the establishment of a permanent International
Criminal Court (ICC). At this event, the Rome Statute for an International Criminal
Court received its 60th ratification, establishing it as a functioning organization.
many states, NGOs, and other human rights advocates, this marked a joyous
moment in the struggle to uphold international humanitarian law and the principles
of global justice. However, as a large portion of the international community
celebrated, the United States began action to “unsign” the Rome Statute.
words of US Ambassador for War Crimes Issues, Pierre-Richard Prosper:
Today, at the request of the President, our mission up in the United Nations deposited a
note with the UN Secretary-General as the depository of the Rome Treaty for the
International Criminal Court stating that the United States does not intend to become a
party to the ICC treaty and accordingly has no legal obligation as a result of our signature
on December 31st, 2000. The president decided that this step was appropriate, and an
important one in order make our position clear—our position that we will not support the
ICC, believing that the document is flawed in many regards.
Since that time, the Bush administration’s opposition to the Court continues.
the 2004 presidential debates, President Bush twice referred to the ICC. In both
instances, the President reiterated his opposition to the Court due to the fact that it
can prosecute American citizens, troops, and diplomats. His administration also
referenced the Court in its 2002 National Security Strategy:
We will take actions necessary to ensure that our efforts to meet our global security
commitments and protect Americans are not impaired by the potential for investigations,
inquiry, or prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC), whose jurisdiction does
not extend to Americans and which we do not accept.
Eric K. Leonard
holds the Henkel Family Chair in International Affairs at Shenandoah University.
He has published several articles on conceptualizations of sovereignty, global governance, and the
International Criminal Court. His recently published book is entitled,
The Onset of Global Governance:
International Relations Theory and the International Criminal Court
(2005).The author would like to thank
Dan Green, Kurt Burch, and his students at Shenandoah University for their helpful comments.