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The DC Voter
League of Women Voters of the District of Columbia
Vol. 78, No. 4, April 2002

Making Our Voices Heard — Making Our Votes Count

733 15th Street, N.W., Suite 432, Washington, DC 20005
202/347-3020,  fax: 202/347-2522
Website:, E-mail:

President's Corner
DC Budget Clarified at Brown Bag Meeting
Healthcare Committee Plans General Meeting, May 15
CareFirst Conversion
International Relations Committee
Opportunity Knocks
Affordable Housing Committee
Highlights of March 6, 2002 Board Meeting
Columbia and Drug Trafficking: 4th Great Decisions Discussion
National Capital Area LWV News
Congressional Representation
Member News

News from the Units
Mail Delivery Update — DC Voter
82nd Annual Dinner
Calendar — April 2002
The International Criminal Court: Achieving Justice for All
The UN and You: A Report of the General Meeting Held on March 15, 2002
Reservation Form for 82nd Annual Dinner


On March 15, the LWVDC testified in favor of the Youth Poll Workers Act of 2002 before the DC Council Committee on Government Operations hearings chaired by Councilman Vincent Orange. The Act will allow youth age 16 and above to work at polls to supplement the number of workers. In the same hearings, we opposed the District of Columbia Election Code Amendment Act of 2002, which would "eliminate the nominating petition requirement in the case of certain primary election candidates who are endorsed by the executive committees of political parties."

In keeping with the anniversary of the 9-11 tragedy, Mrs. Barbara Childs Perry, a Deputy of the DC Office of
Emu Management Assistance, informed us that a Domestic Preparedness Task Force has been established by Mayor Williams. The District has received over $156 in federal funds to develop safety plans, purchase equipment, and contract for any other necessary programs to ensure safety. DC has joined the National Capital Area and COG to develop mutual aid plans, and has established a protocol with the federal government for future emergencies. A neighborhood-to-neighborhood awareness plan is underway, through the ANCs and the Neighborhood Watch.

Jeanette Senecal, a LWVUS staff member, gave DC members a hands-on overview of the D-net (Democracy-Intemet) system in our office. We were made aware of the extent to which information on candidates and election data can be installed on the Internet. This system can be utilized from our homes on various occasions. Jeanette provided a training session at the National Office for some members that proved very stimulating, and will be useful in the coming election. This system will supplement the Voters Guide, but will NOT replace it.

Four student interns from the University of the District of Columbia are involved in updating KNOW THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA. They are attending DC Council meetings and hearings as observers.

Our Shadow representative Ray Browne received a letter of support from us for State Governors and Legislators as he travels obtaining endorsements for Full Voting Representation in Congress for DC residents. He also received a letter of recommendation from Councilwoman Carol Schwartz, and a letter signed by Mayor Williams, Council Chair Linda Cropp, and Delegate Norton. 

We will need volunteers to be downtown beginning around noon to pass out flyers about the rally and encourage residents to attend. We will also need volunteers to help throughout the coming month to organize participants, create signs to use at the event; make phone calls to volunteers and other activities. Cad Kathy Schmidt if you can help. — Kathy Schmidt, DC VOTE Liaison (237-5550

We wish to thank the Northwest Evening Unit for the wine and cheese fundraiser party they gave recently. Geri Albers was a gracious hostess. Thanks also to Liz Martin for the card party fundraiser, and to Elaine Melmed who donated the delicious luncheon. E. Patricia Hallman, President

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Be Sure to Attend the
82nd Annual Dinner Meeting
Thursday, April 15, 2002
5:30 pm — 9:00 pm
See below for more information

Attention League Members Who Work Downtown!
An evening unit meeting on the United Nations will be held at 6:00 p.m., at the Summer School; on Wed., April 17.

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Ed. Lazere, Executive Director of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, provided some much needed and valued information on the DC Government Budget at our February Brown Bag Dialogue (lunch). The timing could not have been better, since the Mayor's 2003 budget proposal was scheduled to be delivered, to the DC Council, the week of March 18, Council hearings will follow.

It became clear during the course of Mr. Lazere's presentation that the interests of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute often parallel our own. We look forward to close and useful cooperation with, them as we address shared concerns.

A League participant commented that the League and other community groups should make an effort to communicate concerns to the members of the executive branch, or the schools, who prepare their budget proposals to go to the DC Council: Often, by the Council hearing stage in the budget process, much has already been decided. Thus, the League might examine budgets for the schools, for health, or for housing, and comment on them before the budget goes to the Council.

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On Tuesday, April 30 at 10:30 a.m., .the Healthcare committee will meet to prepare for the May 15th General Meeting. Problems of access to healthcare in the. District of Columbia will be the topic of the program. Health coverage for the uninsured, managed care and patients' rights, and long term .care are among the concerns which are expected to arise in this meeting.

A panel including Robert A. Malson, President of the D.C. Hospital Association; Lawrence Mirel, Commissioner, Department of Insurance Regulation, DC government; and Gerald Kasunic, Ombudsman, long term care for the DC Office of Aging, will respond to questions and concerns raised by League members. The purposes of this meeting are to educate and inform League members, to determine access to healthcare in DC, to assess the need for new positions for League action, and to broaden knowledge of the structure and function of the DC healthcare system.

The meeting will take place from 10 am to 1 pm. The location has not yet been determined. See the May DC Voter for further details. — Natalie Howard (882-8762), Chair

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There has been much in the daily newspapers lately about CareFirst's application to convert from not-for-profit to for-profit status. CareFirst, as most of you know, is the Blue Cross/Blue Shield affiliate for Maryland, Delaware, DC, and some parts of Northern Virginia. Thus far, the action has been primarily in Maryland, but it's only a question of time before DC officials begin their process for consideration of the application.

CareFirst Watch , the coalition of which the DC League is a member, carefully reviewed CareFirst's filing and concluded that the filing does not supply enough information for proper consideration of the proposal. In an extensive letter to Lawrence H. Mirel, Commissioner, Department of Insurance and Securities Regulation, and Robert R. Rigsby, Corporation Counsel, the coalition asserted that the filing did NOT establish that:

"(1) CareFirst needs to convert in order to remain a viable provider of healthcare services;

(2) the proposed merger will, in fact, benefit citizens of the National' Capital Anew by improving accessibility, affordability, and quality of their healthcare; and

(3) the terms of the proposed merger and the amount of the proposed purchase price fully protect

the public's ownership interest in CareFirst."

The letter proceeded to describe some of the major deficiencies in the, filing, and. added a detailed list of questions and reqests for additional information that would be needed before a decision could be reached. Copies of this letter were also sent to Council members, along with draft legislation clarifying "what factors District regulators must consider in determining whether a proposed conversion and acquisition of a non-for-profit insurance company is in the public interest" and other matters.

The Coalition is planning a public forum to provide up-to-date information bout this issue. and encourage people to participate in the process. The forum will be held on April 8, 2002, from 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. at the Martin Luther King Library, 901 G Street NW (Gallery Place Metro Station). It is impossible to overstate the importance of this issue, so join us if you can. — Naomi Glass (686-0124) 2nd Vice President

Public Forum on CareFirst 
April 8, 2002 from 6:30 - 8:30 P.M. 
Martin Luther King Library
901 G Street, NW

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Unit meetings in April will turn to the challenge of updating the League's current position on the United Nations, adopted back in 1977 in a very different world. The position remains basically strong and has allowed the League over the years to work with other concerned organizations to urge Congress to meet its financial obligations to the UN. It does not, however, address the range of new UN strategies related to peacekeeping, nor does it speak to other recent developments, such as the proposed establishment of the International Criminal Court, or proposals to enlarge the Security Council.

Following the Convention 2000 agreement to update the UN position, a Task Force of state and local League representatives has been working with LWVUS Board and staff to guide the update process. The LWVDC sponsored a General Meeting on the UN at the Sumner School on March 15, attended by over fifty League members from DC, Maryland and Virginia and their guests, when we heard from distinguished officers of the United Nations Association and from the Better World Campaign (see. insert for a fuller report of this meeting). 

Our Unit Meetings in April will offer members the opportunity to discuss what they have learned and what they still may question. At the same time, we will review a proposed statement of an updated LWV position developed by the Task Force and LWVUS Board, with which we are asked to concur. The proposed position appears in the March April National Voter, together with a concurrence response form.

As with the recent Trade concurrence, members will be given time, at the conclusion of our Unit discussions, to fill out the concurrence response form, which will be collected and returned to LWVUS by the Committee (be sure to bring the National Voter with you to the meetings). Those who cannot attend the Unit meetings should fill out the concurrence response form and return it individually to LWVUS by May 21 (FAX online deadline is May 24).

To prepare for our discussion, re-read the December-January 2002 National Voter article on the UN by NY Times correspondent Barbara Crossette, and read the enclosed Q&A paper on the International Criminal Court, which is sure to be controversial. Or call Sheila Keeny for information available on the web or in back issues of the DC Voter, which carried material on the UN as used in Unit or General meetings in 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, and 1999: Our interest in a UN update is longstanding.

Report on trade Concurrence: Twenty-two League members filled out concurrence forms on the proposed LWV position on Trade at a General Meeting held on February 12. One member was strongly opposed; seven strongly supported, and fourteen simply accepted the new position. Four members were concerned that this method of obtaining member agreement was not appropriate for issues of such complexity, a position consistent with earlier LWVDC matrons about the concurrence process.

Great Decisions: The title of the April 5 meeting is Aids in Africa: is the World Concerned Enough? Again at this meeting we will have a resource person, Dr. George Gill, who was involved in the development of AIDS drugs and later in research in AIDS complications. The April 19 meeting will discuss Russia Reexamined: New Politics and Economy. Both meetings will take place from 10 am to noon in the Lounge at the Ingleside Community, 3050 Military Road, NW. Guests are welcome; call our Great Decisions facilitator Hope Marindin (966-6367) for information. — Sheila Keeny (966-1692) Co-Chair

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The very small advocacy staff at LWVUS must focus on top priorities, and often do not have time to attend coalition meetings and other events related to second tier priorities, such as Reproductive Choice and Environmental Issues. Linda McDaniel of the LWVUS Board thinks staff would welcome help from reliable, League-knowledgeable members in covering the Waterfront on those two issues. If you are an experienced Leaguer and interested in either of those issues, you could email Linda McDaniel at, or call the LWVDC office at 347-3020 and leave a message.

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The next big push in the housing initiative is to ensure funding for the Housing Production Trust Fund. The financial forecasts for the District are not encouraging; but without funding in this year's budget, we will not see the results of our hard work until at least 2004. This fund has existed' for more than ten years without funding. Every year there is a more pressing need. However, with our crisis in affordable housing, we cannot wait any.longer.

In February, the Affordable Housing Committee met with Eric Price, Deputy Mayor, Economic Development, and his staff to discuss implementation of the Fund as well as Inclusionary Development, which was promised for implementation this spring. Both initiatives are moving slowly, with the latter now targeted for the fall. This discouraging scenario has spurred the housing organizations to move rapidly in the policy and budget arenas. It is important to let the Mayor and Council members know that we want the Housing Production Trust Fund (HTPF) funded this year, FY 2003. Critical questions include:

  • Have the regulations and specifications for allocation of funds in the HPTF been developed? 
  • If not, when will they be? Who is responsible for doing. this?
  • When will the Advisory. Board be appointed? 
  • What is the schedule for these items?

As part of the League's effort to extend its reach and become more effective, the League Board agreed to support the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development. Its mission is to strengthen and support the ability of nonprofit housing and economic organizations with the goal to improve the quality of life in District neighborhoods. Just what the League is working for, too. — Liz Martin (537-3043) & Julia Cuniberti (387-0122), Co-Chairs

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Proposed Budget, 2002-2003. After discussion, the Board approved with some changes the budget as presented by Joan Domike for the Budget Committee.

After the vote to approve, Liz Martin suggested that a committee be appointed to develop a long-range fiscal policy to balance future budgets, and her suggestion was approved. Pat Hallman emphasized that LWVDC needs a major fund raising event.

Pat Hallman reported plans for LWVUS National Convention, which will take place in Miami, Florida June 15-18. The NCA League plans a pre-convention meeting of its member Leagues to discuss issues. (Discussion was limited at the last convention because floor time was used by a number of outside speakers.) It was noted that the National Capital Area League plans to present a wares table (at a shared cost of $100) at the convention for Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. 

Reggae Yancey, Private Elections, said we have been asked by the Department of Corrections to oversee an election of officers of the Fraternal Order of Police Union, with some 800 members in, the DC Jail; Corrections Headquarters, and a Halfway House. The election will take place in mid-May, and ten Leaguers will be needed to assist. The Board accepted Yancey's recommendation that we agree to oversee the election. 

Joan Wilson announced plans for a bus tour of Anacostia to take place on April 4. Cost per person will be $15, and pick-up points can be arranged for members on request.

Elinor Hart reported that 48 new voters were registered by students at a basketball tournament.

Natalie Howard said the theme of the May 15th general meeting on Health Care will be "Access to Health Care in D.C." (See article p. 2.)

Kathy Schmidt said DC VOTE is planning a Lobby Day during the first half of May, to urge a hearing in the Senate. A letter from the D.C. League Board as well as the NCA League Board will be helpful. In response to the question whether LWVUS should also be a sponsor of this Lobby Day, it was decided that LWVDC should send a letter to LWVUS urging them to support and participate in Lobby Day. It was suggested that our delegates arrange to play the "Sweet Honey & the Rock" CD, supporting DC VOTE, at the LWVUS Convention.

Housing co-chair Liz Martin said the committee's meeting with Eric Price of the Mayor's office revealed no stated city policy on housing, and the LWVDC Housing Committee will. prepare and offer a draft policy to the city for consideration. Martin described the Coalition for Non-Profit Development (CNHED), and moved that LWVDC join the Coalition. Dues are $100. Her motion was seconded and approved by the Board. — Frances Gemmill

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COLOMBIA AND DRUG TRAFFICKING (4th Great Decisions Discussion)

The fourth meeting in the Great Decisions series, "Colombia and Drug Trafficking," was fortunate to attract an expert in the field, William Olson, Republican Staff Director of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control. Mr. Olson said he has a special interest in "small wars," typically engaged in by "weak states with strong problems." Colombia is a perfect example, exhibiting the largest drug production and processing industry in the hemisphere, a weak government, and a historically violent, dysfunctional society.

Seventy percent of the populace is urban, living in the low lands near the Pacific and Caribbean coasts; cocaine is grown in the mountainous and jungle areas. Large planes fly into settlements so small that they land on the main street to pick up bales of coca leaf, to be processed elsewhere in the country for sale to eager users in the U.S. and Europe. Facing an apparently ineffective police force are large rebel forces, paramilitary groups, guerillas, and private armies for self-defense, all extremely well armed. The violence they, use and their wealth from drug proceeds translates into dominance of the country.

"Plan Colombia," drafted by the Colombia government and the United States, calls for Colombia to man the attack on the drug operations, while the US contributes logistical support in the form of helicopters, equipment, and training programs to reform the police and the judiciary.

One way to curtail the drug industry is by reducing U.S. and European demand. According to Mr. Olson, a person who reaches the age of 21 without using drugs is unlikely to become addicted. Toward this end, the U.S. government's budget of $19 billion is aimed at prevention and treatment, as well as interdiction of dealers. Mr. Olson mentioned programs such as the Drug Free Communities Act (DFCA) and noted that state and local governments also budget monies for drug programs. He stated throughout the session that there needs to be more discussion and debate about drug trafficking in order to develop a more cohesive strategy. —Hope Marindin and Liz Martin

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NCA ANNUAL MEETING: Saturday, May 18, 9:30 a.m., at the Marriott at Metro Center registration at 9:30 a.m., breakfast at 10:00. The program will be presented by the Alliance for Better Campaigns. Registration fee, $25 (which is less than cost!) Make sure it's on your calendar.

NATIONAL CONVENTION (JUNE 14-18): LWVUS Convention: Speakers - At its February meeting the NCA Board decided to ask LWVUS to limit the number of convention speakers, to avoid the last-day time crunch that marred Convention 2000. Citing the concurrence of all NCA member-League presidents, President Barbara Sherrill sent the letter to each National Director. A copy to each of the related listserves invited Leaguers nationwide to endorse our request. Pre-Convention Dialogue - NCA will conduct a meeting (date to be determined) for delegates and other interested Leaguers to discuss the Convention program and administrative matters that will come up at the Miami Convention. Details will be coming to member-League presidents. 

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Income Tax Return Day, April 15, DC Vote is sponsoring the second annual protest event. It will be at Farragut Square from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. 

Join in the 2nd Annual Tax Protest Day
April 15, 2002 5:00-7:00 P.M.
Farragut Square

Bring COPIES of your income tax return. 

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New Members: We welcome the following new National members who live in the District of Columbia: Tent' Baker, Alice A. Bishop, Mary Cooper, Edgar D. Hunting, Myles M. Johnson, Ralph Krause, Grace M. Littlejohn, Toni Linowitz, Joan M. Nelson, Mary Jane Patterson, and Betty Y. Taira.

New Member Social: In anticipation of increasing member involvement in League activities, members who joined June 2001 through this month were invited to a New Member Social at the home of Jeanette Miller at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 6 to acquaint them with the various activities that are available to them.

Do we have your email address? (Have you changed or just obtained a email address? Please send a quick email message to stating "Put me on the LWVDC Member Email List." We will add your email address to our list so you won't miss out on activities that you might want to attend. Because of the delayed receipt of the DC VOTER by so many, we emailed our members the activities so they would not miss out. We received reports that some email addresses were no longer active. Please keep us informed of any email changes. Thank you.

Contributions: The League appreciates the generous contributions from its members: Dorothy Armstrong, Barbara Kemp, Dr. Billie K. Press, Ellyn Swanson, and Anne Meredith Smoke

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Unit Meetings in April will offer the opportunity to discuss the proposed new position on the U. N. Note that Leaguers working downtown are particularly invited to their own Unit Meeting at the Sumner School on Wednesday, April 17th from 6:00 to 8:00 P.M. The next Unit Council meeting will be on Monday, April 8 from 12:30 to 2:00 P.M. at the League office, 733 15th St., NW, Suite 432. — Sheila Keeny, Unit Director (966-1692)

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Concurrence on the UN position

9:45 a.m. Southwest Unit, Hostess: Yvonne Marshall (488-4760), 510 N St. SW #N333
12:45 p.m. Northwest Day, Unit Hostess: June Bashkin (337-0949) Iona Senior Services, 4129 Albemarle St. NW Metro Station: Tenleytown

9:45 a.m. Upper Sixteenth Street, Unit Unit Chair; Paula McKann (829-0656), 4709 16th Street, NW
6:00 p.m. Downtown Evening, Hostess: Joan Domike (966-3865), The Sumner School 1201 17th' St. NW

9:45 a.m. Chevy Chase-Ingleside, Hostess/Unit Chair: Joan Wilson (237-6264), The Lounge, Ingleside Community 3050 Military Road NW
7:30 p.m. The Northwest Evening Unit, Hostess/Unit Chair: Joan Domike (936-3865), 4200 Massachusetts Ave. NW Parking on premises, on street; N busses

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Mail Delivery Update -- DC VOTER

The VOTER mailing committee continues to work on problems of delivery to our members. We have been in contact with the Post Office Consumer Affairs and Claims Office Manager who spoke to us at length about the Anthrax problem and the closing of the Brentwood facility that necessitated the transfer of bulk mail to three separate out-of-District facilities in Northern Virginia. Baltimore and Calvert County. They have had a meeting during the first week in March with all postal staff workers involved and report that significant distribution changes are being made that will improve the situation within a month.

If you have not received your DC VOTER by the seventh day of the month it is dated, please leave a message for me at the League Office [347-3020], with your name and zip code. — Barbara Luchs 363-0853

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82nd Annual Dinner Meeting

When: Thursday, April 25, 2002, 5:30-9:00 pm
Where: Kellogg Convention Center
Gallaudet University

Members attending the 82nd Annual Meeting will elect three officers and three board members as well as approve the 2002-2003 budget. In preparation for the meeting, League members were sent a separate mailing on March 13th that included a flyer/reservation form, the nominating committee report, the proposed 2002-2003 Budget, and the eleventh month Treasurer's Report. If you have not received this mailing, please call the League office at 347-3020.

A buffet dinner will follow the annual meeting. The cost is $28 (members and guests) $30 (non-members). Reservations for the dinner must be received in the League office by Monday, April 22, 2002. Chairs will be available to members who wish to attend the annual meeting and not stay for the dinner.

We are pleased to have two dinner speakers: 

Walter A. Smith, Executive Director, DC Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, Inc.
The quest to obtain parity in tax payments from the commuters who are employed in the District, the status of Full Congressional Representation, and the status of the Blue Cross/Blue Shield CareFirst Coalition endeavors.


Lois G. Williams, Senior Counsel for Litigation and Communications, Washington Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights and Affairs
The pending lawsuit challenging the prohibition against the District taxing non residents.

Print and send return reservation form with check by Monday, April 22, 2002. No late reservations will be accepted.

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CALENDAR — April 2002

  1 2 3 10:00 am, LWVDC Board Meeting 4 5 6
7 8 12:30 pm, Unit Council Mtg.
6:30-8:30 pm, Public Forum on CareFirst
9 Deadline for May DC Voter 10 10am, Education Committee Mtg. 11 12 13
14 15 5:00-7:00 pm, 2nd Annual Tax Protest Day 16 9:45 am, Southwest Unit
12:45 pm, Northwest Day Unit
17 9:45 am, Upper 16th Unit
6:00 pm, Downtown Evening Unit
18 9:45 am, Chevy Chase/Ingleside Unit
9:30 pm, Northwest Evening Unit
19 May DC Voter mailed 20
21 22 23 24 25 82nd Annual Meeting 5:30-9:00 pm 26 27
28 29 30 10:30 am, HealthCare Comm. Mtg.        

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From LWVUS Concurrence Kit, March 2002


The proposed new LWVUS position on the United Nations includes a statement of support for the creation of a permanent international tribunal (e.g., the International Criminal Court) to try individuals charged with crimes of genocide, war crimes, and other crimes against humanity. The new position would allow the League to advocate for U.S. participation in the ICC.

Q. What is the International Criminal Court?

A. The ICC will be a permanent court that will prosecute individuals charged with the most heinous of crimes, such as genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The statute calling for the creation of the ICC was endorsed by 120 countries attending the UN-convened conference in Rome in 1998. The Court will enter into force once 60 countries have ratified this Rome Statute. Fifty-two countries had ratified the treaty as of mid-February 2002.

The ICC will not be a part of the UN but will be accountable to the countries that ratify the statute, the Assembly of State Parties. The Court will be located in The Hague, although it can be convened in another venue when appropriate. It will consist of 18 internationally respected judges elected for nine-year terms by the Assembly of State Parties, who will also elect the Court's prosecutors. Cases can be referred to the Court by the member states or by the UN Security Council or they can be initiated by the Court's Prosecutor.

Q. Why can't these crimes be handled by ad hoc tribunals or domestic courts?

A. The idea of a permanent international court of this kind was first considered at the UN in 1948. More recently, the atrocities in Yugoslavia and in Rwanda for which ad hoc tribunals were established by the UN Security Council-have heightened interest in a permanent mechanism to prosecute mass murderers and war criminals. The delays inherent in setting up an ad hoc tribunal can mean that crucial evidence is destroyed and perpetrators escape or disappear. Since World War II, there have been many instances of crimes against humanity for which no individuals have been held accountable. A permanent court will be able to act more consistently and serve as a deterrent by making it clear that the international community will not allow such crimes to go unpunished.

National courts will always have jurisdiction; the ICC is intended to "complement" national judicial systems and will act only when the national courts are unable or unwilling to do so. In times of conflict or political or social upheaval, domestic courts may not be capable of dealing with these types of crimes or providing a fair trial. Or the government in power may be unwilling to prosecute its own citizens, especially if they are of high rank.

Q. What assurances are there that the Court will not be used for political purposes?

A. The Rome Statute establishes the highest of qualifications for the Court's judges and prosecutors, provides for their selection by the Assembly of State Parties, and makes them subject to sanction or removal by the Assembly in cases of serious misconduct. Checks and balances have also been built into the system. The Prosecutor cannot initiate a case., for example, without permission from a three-judge panel. The Prosecutor is > obliged to defer to states that are willing and able to pursue their own investigations. And the Security Council Call ICI 1.0 suspend a case for renewable oneyear periods.

Q: Can the Court try Americans and will the Court's trials he fair by U.S. standards?

A. Americans could only be tried by the ICC for a crime of the most serious nature, one that involves widespread and systematic violations of humanitarian law. If an American were to be accused of such a crime, the U.S. would have jurisdiction over the case. Only if the U.S. was unwilling or unable to conduct a genuine investigation or prosecution could the ICC intervene.

Every due process protection provided for in the U.S. Constitution is guaranteed by the Rome Statute, with the exception of a trial by jury. Indeed, it provides many more due process protections than are currently guaranteed to American citizens accused of crimes abroad. Moreover, even in the U.S., American service personnel are not guaranteed a jury trial under the courts martial system.

Q. What is the current position of the United States towards the ICC?

A. The U.S. joined six other nations (including Iraq and China) in voting against the creation of the ICC at the Rome conference in 1998. President Clinton, however, did sign the treaty by the December 31, 2000 deadline, enabling U.S. negotiators to continue to help shape the evolution of the Court. In signing the treaty, Clinton noted its "significant flaws" and indicated that he would not recommend that his successor submit the treaty to the Senate for ratification until those concerns were satisfied.

The primary concern is that U.S. leaders and military personnel could be the target of politicized prosecutions. Alternatives proposed by the U.S. included requiring that the accused's country of nationality consent to the prosecution and requiring that all proceedings be initiated by the Security Council (where the U.S. has a veto). Most other countries felt such restrictions would fatally weaken the Court, however, and rejected this approach.

The Bush Administration is considering several options. These range from maintaining the status quo (i.e., no treaty ratification but continued participation in ICC negotiations) to withdrawing the U.S. signature from the Rome Statute (which would close the door to U.S. participation in ICC talks) to mounting a global anti-ratification campaign. Congressional critics of the ICC have introduced the American Servicemembers Protection Act, which would prohibit any U.S. cooperation with the ICC and authorize the U.S. to use "all means necessary and appropriate" to free U.S. military personnel being held by or for the ICC. An alternative proposal would encourage active U.S. diplomatic efforts to address continuing concerns while authorizing support and assistance to the ICC.

Q. How will the U.S. benefit by participating fin the ICC?

A. At a practical level, since the Court can assert jurisdiction over Americans and U.S. allies, it would be advantageous to be in a position to help nominate, select and dismiss the judges and prosecutors who will be conducting the Court's business. As a State Party, the U. S. would also be able to participate in defining potential new crimes to come under ICC jurisdiction, such as the crime of aggression which is now the subject of negotiation. More broadly, participation in the ICC is in keeping with the country's historic commitment to international law and human rights, long seen as important to advancing U.S. values and interests. By working to strengthen this new institution, the U.S. can help make it an effective and impartial instrument for international justice.

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THE UN AND YOU: A Report of the General Meeting Held on March 15, 2002

The League of Women Voters of the District of Columbia (LWVDC) hosted a meeting about the United Nations (UN) on March 15 from noon until 2:00 pm at the Sumner School. Over 50 people listened to three distinguished panelists provide information for members to use in discussing the proposed new League position on the UN. Panelists were: Dr. Andy Rice, President of the United Nations Association-National Capital Area; Ms. Susan Myers, Legislative Director of the Better World Campaign; and Mr. Steve Dimoff, Vice President of the UNA-USA. Highlights of the meeting follow:

Overview (Dr. Rice)

The UN system has a global role. It deals with every human problem in the world (e.g., health, education, development, and environment) and works to maintains a peaceful world. The UN system provides a forum for negotiation, sets international standards (e.g., mail service, air routes), and, through its operational agencies, handles everything from malaria to refugees.

Where is the UN heading? It is moving gradually toward greater influence in the world and its Secretary General, Kofi Annan, is increasingly playing a credible advisory role to nations of the world. In addition, the UN is developing working relationships with the business community and with many non-governmental organizations (more than 2,000 NGOs are affiliated with the UN and over 4,000 have been involved in international conferences sponsored by the UN).

The UN Secretariat and Peacekeeping (Ms. Myers)

The U.S. is bound by treaty obligations to the UN. The UN regular budget is roughly $1.25 billion per year, about 50% of the South Dakota State budget.1 The regular budget pays for the Secretariat and UN offices around the world. Under the Helms-Biden agreement permitting payment of U.S. arrears under certain conditions, the US portion of the regular budget is now about 22%, down from 25% a few years ago and 40% in 1945.2 For the peacekeeping budget (the UN is currently involved in 15 Peacekeeping Missions), the US is paying 25% even though the current UN assessment is 27%. The U.S. is "officially" phasing down to 26%.

The UN and American Policymakers (Mr. Dimoff)

A primary focus of the UNA-USA and the League of Women Voters is to bring into alignment the views of American policymakers and the American public on the U.S. role in the UN. According to recent polls on terrorism, a majority of Americans support the UN as follows:

  • Program on International Policy Attitudes, University of Maryland - a near unanimous majority believes the U.S. should work multilaterally with other nation states.
  • Harris Poll (9/19-24/2001) - 84% believe a supportive vote by UN Security Counsel should occur before the U.S. executes anti-terrorist action even if this means exercising more restraint than we would like.
  • Foreign Policy Council in Chicago Survey (1998) -- 84% believe a trial of suspected terrorists should be held in an international criminal court.

Other polls indicate that a majority of Americans would like to see greater U.S. involvement with other countries by working through the UN since the the Cold War has ended.

Recent debate in Congress has focused on management and budget issues. Improvement in these areas has occurred, but policy issues remain. Education of American policymakers is critical.

The question is whether or not the U.S. will become a leader at the UN. Prior to 9-11, the U.S. was being considered unilateral in its decision-making on such issues as the International Criminal Court (ICC), global warming and nuclear treaties. The U.S. has lost credibility within the UN community because of its cautious approach. American policymakers have many concerns, primarily potential loss of sovereignty, increasing financial contributions, involvement in activities with which it does not agree - the majority rules in UN General Assembly - and the UN is not receptive to U.S. values. The U.S. needs to put greater emphasis on sending talented people to work with the UN and to strengthen the role of those within federal agencies who work with the UN.

Participation in the UN is in the U.S. national interest. It provides an opportunity to work with other nations on drug trafficking, health, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, sustainable development and more. It is an association of member states that come together to solve problems of the world.


1. From the State Department website on the UN: "The UN system is financed in two ways: assessed and voluntary contributions from member states. The regular two-year budgets of the UN and its specialized agencies are funded by assessments. In the case of the UN, the General Assembly approves the regular budget and determines the assessment for each member .... Special UN programs not included in the regular budget - such as UNICEF, UNDP, UNHCR, and WFP - are financed by voluntary contributions from member governments." UN peacekeeping operations are assessed from member states.

2. From the Better World Campaign fact sheet: "The bi-partisan Helms-Biden agreement, which set the U.S. on a course to pay nearly $1 billion in debt to the UN in three years, providing the UN met certain benchmarks or conditions, was signed into law in 1999. "Year 1" conditions were met in late 1999, and the U.S. paid $100 million toward its UN arrears. In December 2000, the UN agreed to new assessment rates for member-states for the UN regular and peacekeeping budgets, a key requirement of the "Year 2" conditions. As a result, the US released the "Year 2" payment, $582 million, in September 2001. In addition, the Administration is currently working to ensure the UN and its specialized agencies meet the "Year 3" conditions to win release of the final payment, $244 million."

Anne Porowski, Co-Chair, IR Committee, DC Voter, April 2002

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