AS THE US continues to pressure smaller countries to reduce the effectiveness of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Slovakia has found itself one of the latest victims.
From July 1 America withdrew military support from selected countries, including Slovakia, that refused to exempt American citizens on their territories from the jurisdiction of the ICC.
The original idea of having an international court was to provide a supra-national body to ensure that no members of any country can carry out war crimes without risking legal redress. America's refusal to show willing participation directly negates that aim. The lack of legal rights or even clear legal status given by the US to the non-prisoners of war on Guantanamo Bay points to the fact that America needs to be shown that it is not above the law. Instead the US continues to pressure countries into exempting it.
NATO countries have been excluded from the withdrawal of support, as have certain other "major allies of the US", including its most controversial and largest recipient of military aid, Israel.
Slovakia, on the other hand, does not find itself included as a "major ally". Does this mean that Slovakia has not shown itself to be a willing and active ally of the United States over the last few months?
If anything, Slovak politicians have bent over backwards for the American administration during the recent Iraqi war, providing troops and political support for little reward, while some NATO allies did nothing at all.
Once again, Slovakia finds itself caught between its European Union partners who are pushing for the 'universality' of the court, and the US, pushing for self-interest.
It will be interesting to see whether Slovak politicians have learnt from their experience of the last few months about the US's reliability as a partner. Perhaps they could look to the list of Slovak companies who have received contracts for the rebuilding of Iraq, if they can find any.
Presidential hopeful and current Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan has already indicated that he will continue to resist US pressure, even if that means missing out on aid until next year's entry to NATO.
He points out that this move is more about the US sending a message to other countries and is unlikely to lead to real restrictions.
Indeed the US action sends out two clear messages: If you do not play the game the way the biggest, richest boy in the playground wants it played. He'll just take his ball away. Secondly, the US will be quick to forget the support that other countries give it in times of crisis.
Three cheers for enlightened diplomacy in the twenty-first century.
14. Jul 2003 at 0:00