Dan Gelfand/The Hoya Barrister Cherie Booth, wife of British Prime inister Tony Blair, said that the U.S. can affirm its commitment to international law by joining the Interntional Criminal Court in Gaston Hall yesterday

Barrister Cherie Booth, a prominent human rights lawyer and wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, called for the United States to join the International Criminal Court during a forum on international law and human rights yesterday afternoon in Gaston Hall.

Panelists disagreed on a course of action to establish democracies and bring basic human rights to all people in different countries. In addition to Booth, the panelists included London School of Economics Professor Conor Gearty, former ambassador to the United Nations’ Human Rights Commission Michael Novak, and SFS Professor and former United Nations Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick.

Panelists also expressed varied views on America’s role in promoting democracy and natural rights around the world.

Booth opened her speech by declaring international law inseparable from democracy. She focused on the Nazis as an example of a perversion of democracy that resulted from an absence of an international body to promote human rights.

“I am convinced that the International Criminal Court reflects post-war human rights aspirations come true,” Booth said. “But if it is to become a success, it needs the wholehearted support of the world’s only superpower.”

Booth questioned why a country like the United States that is so devoted to the rule of law would turn away from prosecuting its own criminals in an international court. She also emphasized the need for a concerted effort among all nations to support the ICC by calling international law’s greatest strength “its focus on a connected rather than individual rule of law.”

Ambassador Michael Novak responded to Booth’s remarks by agreeing that the United States should advocate democracies in all countries without regard to their financial or political troubles.

“If the road were long it may well be begun today,” Novak said. “Democracy grows from the ground up; only slowly do these local networks form into national republics.”

He characterized the American approach to law as inherently different from “secular Europeans.” Novak also distinguished between international law conceived through trial and error and that which is “discerned purely by experts and answerable to no one.”

Gearty agreed with Booth’s assessment of international law and called upon the United States to make a commitment not only to the forms of democracy but to the truth of it as expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“Human rights demands a pluralism which denies that the only functioning society is one in which everyone shares the same point of view,” Gearty said. “Once we see certain categories of people as second rate we will soon stop seeing them altogether.”

He said that the goals of human rights could be realized in part by giving people a sense that democracy can change their lives for the better. Gearty also criticized proponents of isolationism saying that they were “facing a tide of change that [is] inexorable.”

Kirkpatrick responded by saying that Americans have always been and will continue to be, devoted to the ideals of democracy.

“We will not engage in isolationism,” Kirkpatrick said. “Most Americans understand that we live in large complex worlds and they do enjoy that world.”

She also said that civil and political rights enrich the lives of everyone and that we as a global community should build a world in which everyone lives in some form of a democratic government.

“I agreed with Cherie Booth and Conor Gearty that the only way to promote human rights is on a global rather than national scale,” Jean Hosty (SFS ’07) said.

“Booth presented a convincing case,” Saad Abdali (COL ’07) said. “The U.S. involvement in the International Criminal Court would give it a lot more legitimacy.”

The panel discussion took place on the eve of President Bush’s State visit to Great Britain. The discussion, hosted in part by the GU Office of the President, was part of the yearlong Pacem in Terris lecture series on peace and justice issues.

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