More than two decades have elapsed since the historic creation in 2002 of the UN’s International Criminal Court (ICC), headquartered in The Hague. The Court was intended to investigate allegations of the worst human rights crimes (including genocide and war crimes) and to be a forum where victims can tell their truths and obtain justice. After the closure of the World War II tribunals, which prosecuted Nazi and Japanese leaders, human rights advocates called for a permanent court. But the road to establishing it was long and winding. David Scheffer (now a law professor at Northwestern University), was designated by the State Department to represent the United States at those talks. In his recent memoir, All the Missing Souls, Ambassador Scheffer recalls his experiences in setting up this court—and reveals the behind-the-scenes struggle by the Pentagon to insulate Americans from legal liability.
One initial line of response is retribution, judicial retribution. You will be held to account in a court of law, for the commission of these [atrocity] crimes. And guess what? The most serious sentence is life imprisonment. So, you know, welcome to the halls of justice. I would like to see the United States on that side of the fence, obviously.”
—Fmr. U.S. Ambassador David J. Scheffer, lead U.S. representative to talks that created the International Criminal Court