First Judges at New Global Court;
U.S. Opposition has Limited Effect
HAGUE - March 11 - The inauguration of the first eighteen judges
at the new International Criminal Court (ICC) will help to thwart
U.S. efforts to undermine the court, Human Rights Watch said today.
are the first officers of the court to take up their duties. The
court's 89 members, known as States Parties, will select a prosecutor
at the end of April.
inauguration makes this court more unstoppable than ever," said
Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch's international
The U.S. State
Department is increasing pressure on many governments to obtain
what are known as "bilateral immunity agreements," exempting all
U.S. citizens from the authority of the court. The fifteen member
states of the European Union and the overwhelming majority of
other States Parties have refused to sign agreements invalidating
their obligations to the court.
More than twenty
states have signed immunity agreements with Washington, but only
eight of them are parties to the treaty. Many of these agreements
have not yet been enacted into law. A number of states that initially
signed are now considering whether the agreements unlawfully amend
the jurisdiction of the ICC and are hesitant to formally ratify
"We urge all
States Parties to resist pressure to enter into these illegal
contracts," said Dicker. "The U.S. government should not be allowed
to undermine the legitimacy of the court."
are claiming the American Servicemembers' Protection Act (ASPA)
will cut off military assistance to states that have not signed
an agreement by July 1, 2003. The same law, however, allows the
Bush Administration to waive this prohibition on grounds of "national
interest," said Dicker.
are double dealing," said Dicker. "They are pointing to the part
of the ASPA that makes withdrawal of military assistance look
threatening and real. But they conveniently ignore the law's provisions
empowering the administration to continue giving assistance."
the United States was unlikely to want to alienate allies at a
time when it was seeking to build international alliances against
al-Qaeda: "States should ask: How likely is it that the United
States will discontinue military aid at a time when it is looking
to buttress allies in the fight against terrorism? None too likely."
In 1998, 120
states approved the treaty to establish the ICC. The treaty came
into force on July 1, 2002, after 60 countries had ratified it.
As of March
11, 2003, 89 countries have joined the ICC. Once a prosecutor
is selected, the court will be able to investigate and prosecute
those individuals accused of crimes against humanity, genocide,
and war crimes. The ICC complements existing national judicial
systems and will step in only if national courts are unwilling
or unable to investigate or prosecute such crimes. The ICC provides
a remedy to those victimized by these crimes, very often women
information on the International Criminal Court, please visit
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