75th anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials (November 20)

Under Biden, the United States should strengthen international criminal justice (Press Release)

On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Nuremberg Trials on November 20, 1945, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) demands the United States to place more focus on international treaties and institutions again. "Under President Trump, the United States turned away from the Paris Climate Convention, the World Health Organization, and the UN Human Rights Council. We hope that Joe Biden will follow up his promises from the election campaign – in which he emphasized that the United States should become more internationally active again," stated Hanno Schedler, STP expert on genocide prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, in Göttingen today.

"If the new government wants to make a clear statement regarding its commitment to multilateralism, the United States should cooperate with the International Criminal Court again. This would also be an important statement regarding commitment to international criminal law," Schedler said – adding that only a common set of rules can help to contain international conflicts and prevent the most serious human rights violations. In September 2020, the incumbent US government under Donald Trump had imposed sanctions on Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, and on another ICC employee. Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo had described the institution as "corrupt". Half a year earlier, the ICC had followed a request by Fatou Bensouda regarding investigations into possible war crimes committed by the US military in Afghanistan.

The United States have never been a member of the ICC treaty (which 123 states have joined so far). In the Obama era, when Biden was Vice President, the US had observer status at the ICC. "We should not forget that even under Obama's predecessor George W. Bush, despite his aversion to the ICC, the US played an important role in the case of the long-time Sudanese ruler Omar al-Bashir," Schedler recalled. "In 2005, the United States, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, had contributed to the ICC's investigation of al-Bashir's crimes in Darfur and, in 2009, issued an international arrest warrant. The al-Bashir case had been referred to the ICC by the UN Security Council. After the fall of al-Bashir in April 2019, the interim government announced that it would cooperate with the ICC. "Thus, there are possibilities for the Biden government to support the ICC, even without actually joining – although an accession would be desirable," Schedler emphasized.

An accession of the United States to the ICC would only be possible if the US Senate agrees to it. On January 5, 2021, before the runoff elections for the two Senate seats in the US state of Georgia, the Republican Party, which is not exactly fond of multilateralism, will have 50 seats in the Senate, and the Democrats will have 48. "If the US want to live up to the legacy of the Nuremberg Trials and set an example against the most serious war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, it would be advisable to strengthen international jurisdiction instead of falling into isolationism.