In last night’s foreign policy (where “foreign policy” now includes wrangling about U.S. standardized test scores) debate, Republican candidate Mitt Romney said something weird about Iran.
Actually, he said a number of weird things about Iran, including claiming (and not for the first time!) that Syria is Iran’s “route to the sea.” But for my money, the strangest thing he said was:
“I’d make sure that Ahmadinejad is indicted under the Genocide Convention. His words amount to genocide incitation. I would indict him for it.”
He’s said this one before as well, and I’ve wondered what he could possible mean by it. Well, last night, TPM asked Romney senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom to clarify, and my confusion only increased.
Apparently, the Romney campaign is under the impression that the “World Court” could arrest Ahmadinejad for allegedly saying that Israel should be “wiped off the map.” Here are some problems with that plan:
- The “World Court” is the International Court of Justice. It has no criminal jurisdiction, and therefore cannot indict or arrest anyone.
- The Genocide Convention is a treaty among states (including the U.S. and Iran) that says that the parties to the treaty must prevent and punish genocide crimes. It does establish that incitement to genocide is a crime under international law, but it is not a criminal statute under which individuals can be indicted.
- If Romney and his advisors perhaps meant to invoke the International Criminal Court, rather than the ICJ, well, that’s a problem too. Although incitement to genocide IS a crime under the Rome Statute, the U.S. isn’t a party to the ICC, which means it can’t refer cases to the Prosecutor.
- Romney is advised on foreign policy by John Bolton, who famously described the U.S.’s decision to pull out of the ICC as “[t]he happiest moment of [his] government service”, so it seems unlikely that a Romney administration would mean an about-face for U.S. policy on the ICC.
- Even if the U.S. did join, the ICC can only prosecute cases in which either the crime is committed on the territory of a state party, or the perpetrator is a national of a state party. (Unless the Security Council gets involved, but that’s not a possibility here.) Iran has not joined the ICC.