International Criminal Court
will become operational when 60 countries ratify the Rome
Statute that set down the guidelines for the tribunal. This
week, Mauritius, Macedonia and Cyprus ratified the treaty,
becoming the 53rd, 54th and 55th countries to do so.
Europe has led the push for the
ICC, with nearly every EU country ratifying the Rome treaty.
After the requisite 60 countries
sign the treaty, the Rome Statute will officially come into
force two to three months later.
William Pace, head of the New
York-based Coalition for the International Criminal Court,
predicted that this could happen as early as July. He noted,
however, that it would take longer before the court becomes
"It will take many more months
before the elections of the prosecutor and judges are
finalized and the court can begin considering cases," Pace
The court will be headquartered in
The Hague, Netherlands, where the temporary International
Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia is sitting.
CNSNews.com reported last September
that the ICC will spend $15.7 million in its first year,
even if no defendants are charged and no trials are held. If
the court does begin work on a case, its first-year
expenditures will top $30 million, according to United
Foreigners Will Judge U.S.
Conservative senators, led by
retiring Jesse Helms, R-N.C., object to the possibility that
U.S. military personnel might be put on trial in front of
foreign judges under a system in which suspects would not
have U.S. constitutional protections.
An amendment to the 2002 defense
spending bill introduced by Helms would have cut off
military aid to any country cooperating with the ICC with
the exception of key NATO allies. The Senate voted down the
amendment in December, but passed a House version that will
ban the use of Defense Department money for ICC activities.
Clinton's Parting Insult
U.S. citizens will be subject to
the ICC due to then-President Bill Clinton's signing of the
Rome Statute in December 2000. Countries that do not ratify
the treaty, however, will not be obligated to financially
support the court. Non-ratifying countries will not be able
to nominate candidates for ICC judicial posts.
In testimony before the House
International Relations Committee last week, U.S. at-large
ambassador for war crimes Pierre-Richard Prosper said the
ICC "lacks the essential safeguard to avoid a politicization
Prosper made it clear that the Bush
administration prefers the strengthening of national justice
systems to an international court, and objects to the ICC's
jurisdiction over countries that have not ratified the Rome
"It does not and should not have
jurisdiction over a non-party state," he said.
Citizens of countries that have not
signed the Rome Statute can also be tried before the court,
but only if the alleged crimes occurred in a country that is
a party to the treaty or if the U.N. Security Council refers
the case to the ICC. Countries that have refused to sign the
treaty include Libya, Iraq and China.
The court will try cases of
genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity when
national courts are unable or unwilling to act. The
prosecution of such crimes is currently the responsibility
of ad hoc tribunals such as the courts used to try alleged
war criminals from the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.