Is it possible for the US government to be sanctioned/punished for its acts

I know its hard to have a discussion like this because pro and anti americanism always hijacks the thread, but if other countries wanted to punish the US government for some of our acts would they be able to? For example, our rendition program violates the UN convention against torture, which the US government ratified. Our war in Iraq may have been a war of aggression, in violation of the ICC. Our attempts to legitimize torture is another step in the wrong direction (although congress overcame that one).

So what would the international community do if they wanted to punish the US? They couldn’t use the security council as we have a veto vote there. Economic sanctions wouldn’t work as many other countries depend on our economy. On a global scale the US is hardly evil compared to the truly evil regimes on the planet, but we have done a few regrettable things since the start of the war on terror.

What all methods are used when other countries get out of line? Does the WTO fine them, the security council and General assembly censure them and/or the international community put sanctions on their economy? What other methods are used to enforce compliance with international law?

What if several countries in the Middle East decided that they had another consumer for oil large enough to buy enough oil that they could just put a US oil embargo in place and make it work? :rolleyes:

The US engages in numerous illegal acts abroad, but is like the Mafia in some cities. It is too powerful to oppose. It pays off certain people and kills those who don’t go along with the program.

This explains why the Bushites will not ratify the International Criminal Court. Clearly, they are guilty of crimes under international law for the war against Iraq, and would find themselves in the dock.

There are three honest to god good reasons for not ratifying the ICC treaty:

  1. It would subject Americans to “universal jurisdiction” something that I think would be very questionable constitutionally.

  2. There is little to prevent politically motivated cases from getting to the court.

  3. Trial is not by jury. If an American soldier commits a war crime while serving the United States military, he is under U.S. jurisdiction. Meaning he must be tried by a jury of his peers. That’s a concrete constitutional right that would be violated by participation in the ICC.

It is also factually incorrect that the war against Iraq in and of itself would qualify as a crime before the ICC. The ICC exists to punish genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

The ICC also intends to punish “acts of aggression” but so far it has said that that term is not sufficiently clear, and at least until 2009 it will not accept any charges on that idea. So even if you view the U.S. invasion of Iraq as an unjustified aggressive war, the ICC’s hands are tied on matters like that until at least the year 2009.

Concerning treaties such as the International Criminal Court, what difference does the constitutionality have? I don’t believe the Supreme Court has any jurisdiction over treaties, so that no treaty could ever be found unconstitutional. Ratification of treaties is thus a debate over policy. Is this correct?

Yes, but for a treaty to be in effect in the United States, U.S. laws have to be written.

For example let’s say the United States signed an international treaty on firearms reduction, and that part of this treaty called for all member nations to do all in their power to prohibit ownership of firearms on an individual basis.

To effect that on the U.S. population the federal government would then have to pass laws and take actions to ban and seize firearms.

The Supreme Court could then get involved when a U.S. gun owner sued the government for what it was doing.

If the Supreme Court agreed with the gun owner, then the U.S. wouldn’t be able to ban or seize firearms. So while it could still technically have the treaty standing (as I don’t believe the SCOTUS can overturn treaties) the government wouldn’t have the legal authority to enforce the treaty.

Put it into the context here. If a U.S. soldier was charged in the ICC he could file various motions contesting extradition, asserting his right to trial by jury, et al.

Basically the U.S. government just does not have the legal authority to pack up its citizens and send them off to a foreign court to be tried without any review from the U.S. legal system.

Really? Let’s say I commit murder in Germany, and then flee back to the US. The US can’t extradite me to Germany to be tried there?

It is now, with the US, as it was with the Romans in the days of the Pax Romana, as with the British in the Pax Brittanica.

Basically, if the most powerful country on earth decides to do, or not do, something, there’s not a great deal other nations can do about it, other than vent their windy displeasure.

The WTO protects Free Trade - and that is all it concerns itself with. Having said that, it has ruled against the US several times and forced the US to change what it found to be unfair trade policies or face trade sanctions. E.G. (today) Google for more – it happens all the time and the US usually reaches a stettlement before sanctions - as all countries do.

John Mace I think in your example you would be arrested by U.S. local police and given an extradition hearing – IOW the key to making what Martin Hyde wrote correct is the phrase without any review from the U.S. legal system.

Yep, that is indeed what I was talking about.

And in general the U.S. is pretty lenient when it comes to extraditing. Some countries are very strict, and require extensive evidentiary reviews of the case before they will extradite someone. However, there is still a review there, so that a U.S. citizen won’t be extradited if 1) the crime the citizen is accused of is not a crime in the United States or 2) it appears there would be a gross miscarriage of justice if the person was extradited (this would basically apply to countries that don’t conduct trials in a manner that would be considered fair by U.S. standards.)

As for the WTO, that’s correct too. The WTO can levy pretty substantial penalties against states that break it’s rules. One time the U.S. was getting fined a few billion every year because of some tariff or some such, and for awhile we bit the bullet and accepted it but even the U.S. gets tired of paying that kind of fee eventually. Plus if the WTO says you aren’t behaving they can permit other states to enact tariffs against you, really the WTO is the one NGO out there with true teeth, if you refuse to pay your fines and obey, then you’ll have to deal with punitive tariffs that really screw you pretty bad.


I’m going to extradite this thread over to our good friends in Great Debates.



:rolleyes: :dubious:

The invasion of Iraq was legal under US law (sadly). It is of doubtful legality under various International treaties but so far no International Court or Governing body has ruled it so. Thus, the above statements are false. Unless- you’re a Judge at the Hague and there’s a new ruling I haven’t read about recently. :rolleyes:

There are International treaties under which the USA could be fined for it’s actions, or sanctioned. In fact, it has been so, on a number of occassions.

However, any soveriegn nation only allows itself to be so sanctioned/punished. Any could say “no”. Other nations could then attempt to use force or coercion of some sort. The USA, with the most powerful Military and Economy is better able to get away with saying “no”, than say Tonga.

The US Constitution does overrule any Treaty.


What would happen if the President signed and the Senate ratified a treaty that, to pick an unlikely example, mandated the housing of U.N. troops in private homes? Can then President then knock on your door and order you to house a few Marines wearing blue hats? Would you have any recourse to sue?

Hmm? Why not?

The US is heavily dependent on foreign trade ( as are our trading partners, of course ). If enough countries hated us enough that they were willing to hurt themselves economically in order to punish us, a boycott of the US by our major trading partners would hurt us bad, I think.

Leaving aside all the BS and wishful thinking (i.e. Bush et al being brought in chains to justice by the world court while mobs of Europeans throw rotten veggies at him…), the answer to this is: Yes. As others pointed out the US HAS been sanctioned in the past and undoubtedly will be in the future. I seriously doubt that we will be sanctioned or punished for our invasion of Iraq, for torturing prisoners, blah blah blah. And its not simply because we are so powerful…or why were we sanctioned on OTHER things in the past?


What’s the penalty for that crime?

Where can I look that up? In what book of international law statutes?

These two arguments don’t hold water, since :

  1. the USA already accept that its citizens can be tried by foreign courts (that don’t necessarily have a jury)

  2. The USA could always choose to try itself its prosecuted citizens, since the ICC will do so only if the criminal’s country fails to prosecute the crime.


That means that treaties have the same supremacy as the Constitution itself. Just as the Supreme Court can’t declare an Amendment unconstitutional, a treaty can’t be so declared.

This represents my understanding, I’m quite possibly incorrect.