Congress Reverses Bush-era Policy on the International Criminal Court

Don Kraus of Citizens for Global Solutions brings to my attention news that the so-called “Nethercutt Amendment” was excluded from the recently passed Omnibus appropriations bill.

What is the Nethercutt Amendment and why should we care?

In 2004 George Nethercutt (left), a Republican member of congress from Washington State, inserted a provision into the State Department/Foreign Operations appropriations bill stating that countries that cooperate with the International Criminal Court but do not sign so-called bi-lateral immunity agreements with the United States would not be eligible for U.S. foreign assistance funds. So, for example, if an ICC member like Peru declined to enter into one of these bi-lateral immunity agreements with the United States, then Peru would lose money earmarked for, say, efforts to reduce coca production and fight drug trafficking.

A number of America’s allies declined to enter into these side agreements because they believed their obligations to the ICC prevented them from doing so. They were punished accordingly. Meanwhile, the administration, too, had chose between its opposition to the court and other — arguably more important — diplomatic and foreign policy priorities.

I wrote about the Nethercutt Amendment a full five years ago in the American Prospect. I argued then that this was pretty dumb public policy. And now, via Don, I’m glad to report that it has ended. From Don Kraus:

Thanks in large part to the work of House Foreign Operations and State Sub-committee chair Nita Lowey (D-NY) and her staff, the language has been removed from appropriations bill. Although her counterpart in the Senate, Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has successfully kept this language off of the Senate bill for many years, House Republican opposition ensured it remained in the final bill that went to President Bush. With the removal of the Nethercutt language, the [bi-lateral immunity campaign] is now officially over.