John Washburn and Matthew Heaphy [Convener and Deputy Convener, The American NGO Coalition for the ICC (AMICC)]: "According to the JURIST report about Ambassador Stephen Rapp's January 28 speech at the University of Pittsburgh Law School, he made it clear that the US would not ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in the foreseeable future. This is not surprising since the Obama administration is still struggling to determine its ICC policy. Indeed, given the years of US hostility to the Court under the Bush administration and the lack of understanding of the ICC and its work in Congress and among the American people, it will take quite a while for a US president to decide to seek advice and consent to ratify the Rome Statute.
Ratification of treaties in the United States is extraordinarily challenging in comparison to other countries because it requires the advice and consent of two-thirds of the US Senate. Once a president submits a treaty to the Senate, it is referred to the Foreign Relations Committee for consideration and joins a long queue of other treaties. If the FRC or the full Senate votes that treaty down, it goes back to the end of the line and it's very difficult to move it to the top of the Senate's agenda. That is why it is best to build support for the Court in the US before seeking ratification.
In polls about 65% of Americans consistently respond that the US should join the ICC, though they know little about what the Court does or the crimes it is investigating. Knowledge about the ICC in the US Government is also lacking, in part because the US stayed away from meetings of the ICC's governing body, the Assembly of States Parties (ASP), for eight years. That changed in November 2009 when President Obama authorized a US delegation to the Assembly's session in The Hague. The US now also plans to participate as an observer in the ICC Review Conference to be held in Kampala, Uganda in May and June, 2010. Hopefully the US will have a policy in place by that time.
The Review Conference could have a profound impact on the US relationship with the Court, and help determine whether the US can build a transparent, productive and cooperative relationship with the ICC. The conference will decide on questions such as amendments to war crimes and activating the Court's jurisdiction over the crime of aggression. There is also much for the US to learn about how the ICC operates, and that will take time. It will also take time for the US to implement its new ICC policy once it is completed. Ambassador Rapp is right to anticipate that US ratification is not foreseeable in the near future. This should not be taken as meaning that the Obama administration is hostile to the Court. The US presence at the ASP dramatically illustrated that the reverse is true. We can expect that this positive attitude toward the Court will be reflected in the new policy."