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Mitt Romney
As clueless on international law as he is on Middle East geography.
The cognitive dissonance in the Mitt Romney camp must be in the parsec range by now. Romney's ultra-hawkish foreign policy adviser John Bolton served as George W. Bush's ambassador to the United Nations. Bolton despised the U.N. with his every waking breath, considered international law something to be followed when Washington damn well felt like it, and called Bush's unsigning the treaty that established the International Criminal Court “The happiest moment of my government service.”

During Monday night's foreign policy debate, he was either pulling big gray swatches out of his mustache or he was soothed by knowing Romney didn't mean at least half of what he was saying.

When Romney wasn't dissing President Obama's economic stewardship by citing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's assessment of U.S. debt, the candidate was pledging he would get the Iranian leader indicted under the Genocide Convention for incendiary remarks relating to Israel. One key remark of Ahmadinejad has been much reiterated despite its being inflammatorily translated. After the debate, a senior Romney aide said the "World Court" would be the legal authority that could arrest Ahmadinejad:

According to Romney senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom, successfully indicting Ahmadinejad would be more than just a symbolic victory.

“I think it would remove probably one of the most anti-Jewish, anti-Israel, pro-genocide members of that regime in Tehran,” he told TPM after the debate. As to whether he would actually be arrested: “I’m hoping that he would be indicted and that action would unfold following that indictment. Absolutely.”

Strike another blow for profound ignorance on the part of folks who had presumably been preparing for the final debate for at least the six days since the GOP candidate stumblebummed his way into a losing verbal confrontation with Obama over Libya.

No. 1: The Genocide Convention does consider incitement to genocide a crime. It states:

Persons charged with genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III shall be tried by a competent tribunal of the State in the territory of which the act was committed, or by such international penal tribunal as may have jurisdiction with respect to those Contracting Parties which shall have accepted its jurisdiction.
Since Iran won't be setting up any such tribunal unless a wholly new government is established in Tehran, any trial would fall to an international body.

No. 2: That could not, however, be the World Court, that is, the International Court of Justice, which was established in 1945. Its jurisdiction:

The Court’s role is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies.
It has no authority to indict or arrest anyone.

No. 3: To do that would require intervention by the International Criminal Court, which came into being in 2002:

The jurisdiction of the Court shall be limited to the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole. The Court has jurisdiction in accordance with this Statute with respect to the following crimes: (a) The crime of genocide; (b) Crimes against humanity; (c) War crimes; (d) The crime of aggression.
Clearly, that is the court with the proper jurisdiction for trying Ahmadinejad if his alleged crime of incitement could be made to stick absent a physical act.

Just two big problems. The United States is not a signatory to the Treaty of Rome establishing the ICC. Although Bill Clinton signed the treaty the last day of 2000, George W. Bush "unsigned" it in 2006. Under the Obama administration, the United States has moved away from hostility to the court, but it has not re-signed the treaty. It cannot directly obtain an ICC indictment of anyone, including Ahmadinejad, because it does not accept the jurisdiction of the court over its own territory.

The second big problem: Iran has signed the treaty, but it is one of the 32 signers that have not ratified it. Therefore, the ICC has no more direct jurisdiction in Iran than it has in the United States.

One way around this might be to get the U.N. Security Council to refer the matter to the ICC. But given Russia's and China's unwillingness to tighten sanctions more than they already have against Iran, that referral seems less than likely. Romney is the guy who couldn't manage to pull off a simple diplomatic handshake in Great Britain without tracking mud on the palace carpet. But maybe I'm underrating him. Perhaps, once seated in the Oval Office, he could summon up those deep reserves as a deal closer and sweet-talk Vladimir Putin and Hu Jintao into okaying an ICC indictment. Surely Russia, which has signed but not ratified the treaty and China, which has openly opposed the existence of the ICC, would be an easy sell for the old Bain Buccaneer.


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