Clinton Signs Treaty on War Crimes Court

Dear Friends,

Happy New Year!  Here is a report on the International Criminal Court.  As 
you may know, PsySR urged Clinton to sign last month.

All the best, Anne

<< Monday January 1 6:25 AM ET
 Praise, Criticism Greet U.S. Signing of Court Treaty
 By Evelyn Leopold
 UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Hailed by human rights experts and denounced
 by conservatives, the United States endorsed a treaty that would create
 the world's first permanent criminal court to try people for genocide
 and war crimes.
 President Clinton (news - web sites) made the decision to sign the
 treaty Sunday, just weeks before leaving office. It would need
 ratification by the U.S. Senate, a step the president has acknowledged
 will be impossible for some time to come.
 Nevertheless Clinton's act signalled powerful American backing for the
 court, based on the principles of Nazi war crimes trials at the end of
 World War Two. Clinton once supported the court but backed off after the
 Pentagon (news - web sites) warned that it might lead to frivolous
 prosecutions against U.S. soldiers abroad.
 Human rights organization were quick to applaud the move as a historic
 ``By signing this treaty, President Clinton offers the hope of justice
 to millions and millions of people worldwide,'' said Richard Dicker,
 associate counsel of the New York-based Human Rights Watch.
 Williams Pace, head of the Coalition for an International Criminal
 Court, comprising more than 1,000 groups, said he expected some
 short-term repercussions.
 ``But history will show this decision was correct,'' he said after the
 signing ceremony at U.N. headquarters. ``Even important members of the
 Pentagon have understood that this treaty does not represent the kind of
 risk or threat extremists portray it.'' Israel Follows Clinton The
 International Criminal Court would prosecute individuals accused of the
 world's most heinous crimes: genocide, war crimes and other gross human
 rights violations. It is to be set up in the Netherlands in about two
 Israel, which early Sunday, had decided against signing the treaty,
 reversed itself after Clinton announced the U.S. decision, only hours
 before a New Year's eve midnight deadline. Now nations may only go
 through the laborious process of ratifying it through their
 Signing the treaty gives countries a greater voice in negotiating the
 tribunal's procedures. The court, strongly supported by the European
 Union (news - web sites) and Canada, can be set up after 60 countries
 have ratified it.
 Some 27 nations have done so.
 Clinton announced the surprise decision to sign the treaty after
 Washington had battled one of the court's statutes that would allow U.S.
 soldiers abroad to be tried -- but only in the unlikely case that the
 United States did not take action in its own courts against mass
 criminal acts.
 Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms vowed to reverse
 the decision as soon as possible. Calling the action ``outrageous,'' he
 said: ``This decision will not stand.'' Uphill Battle Expected Helms and
 leading Republicans have drafted legislation forbidding the United
 States to have anything to do with the court and seeking to punish those
 countries that have ratified treaty. Among those endorsing the
 legislation was Donald Rumsfeld, nominated as President-elect George W.
 Bush (news - web sites)'s defense secretary.
 Pace and others, however, doubt the measure will be passed. Bush, once
 in office, could renounce the treaty and even submit it to the Senate,
 recommending its rejection.
 Helms' spokesman, Marc Thiessen, said recently that the entire concept
 of the court was illegitimate and flawed, even if exceptions were made
 for U.S.
 servicemen. And he said Israel would be the first target of frivolous
 But Israeli ambassador Yehuda Lancry maintained that despite concerns,
 Israel had been active in conceiving the court since the 1950s because
 of ``of the Holocaust, the greatest and most heinous crime against
 mankind.'' Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize
 laureate, said the U.S. endorsement was ``an important move for the
 president. It shows we do believe in morality and justice.'' Signature
 Means Influence Clinton said he was authorizing the U.S. signature to
 ''reaffirm our strong support for international accountability and for
 bringing to justice perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, and crimes
 against humanity.'' But he said the treaty should not be submitted to
 the Senate for ratification until the United States received more
 assurances that U.S. personnel would not be subject to politically
 motivated prosecutions.
 ``With signature, however, we will be in a position to influence the
 evolution of the court. Without signature, we will not,'' Clinton said.
 At the United Nations (news - web sites), David Scheffer, the ambassador
 at large for war crimes, signed documents before Sylvie Jacques, the
 deputy chief of the U.N. treaty section. Scheffer has spent several
 years arguing the Pentagon's case as well as helping to formulate key
 definitions of crimes in the treaty.
 ``I do so today in honor of the victims of these crimes and also in
 honor of the United States armed services, who uphold these laws of war
 and have been so responsible for the foundations of the principles
 underlying this treaty,'' Scheffer said as he affixed his signature.
 ``I think the treaty has a large number of safeguards, and by signing
 the treaty today, we remain in the game,'' he said.
 Scheffer, in an earlier interview, said that war crimes, crimes against
 humanity and genocide had never before been defined with such precision.
 He said the definitions would serve as a guide for prosecutors and
 defense lawyers in national and military courts ``for decades to come.''
 Graham Daniell
 Perth, Western Australia

Anne Anderson
National Coordinator
Psychologists for Social Responsibility
2604 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20008
(202) 745-7084
(202) 745-0051 fax

[Reply to this message] [Start a new topic] [Date Index] [Thread Index] [Author Index] [Subject Index] [List Home Page] [HREA Home Page]