- June 17 - Human Rights Watch today
expressed disappointment in the speech of U.N. ambassador Bill Richardson at the
conference to establish an International Criminal Court (ICC).
In a speech to more than 150 delegates meeting
in Rome, Richardson made no reference to the most contentious and important issue to be
decided at the conference: the question of "state consent," or whether
individual governments will have to give their permission before an investigation
can go forward. Unlike previous U.S. statements, which reserved Washington's position on
state consent, Richardson's made no mention of it whatsoever.
"It's a shame that Washington continues to
leave open the possibility that any tyrant can block his own prosecution," said
Richard Dicker, who leads the ICC campaign for Human Rights Watch, an international
monitoring organization based in New York. "It's incredible that at this late date,
the US has not announced its position. That makes the work of this conference more
The proposed ICC would have the power to
investigate and prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
In his speech, Richardson also argued that an
independent prosecutor, who could begin investigations on his or her own initiative, would
"overload the limits of the Court's design, leading to greater confusion and
Human Rights Watch believes an independent
prosecutor is essential to the proper functioning of the court. "A lot of crimes will
go unpunished if the prosecutor is limited to what the Security Council refers to her, and
to complaints from member states." said Dicker. "If that's the case, this court
won't be able to dispense real justice. States are notoriously reluctant to register
complaints against other states."
Dicker strongly took issue with Richardson's
statement that "the court cannot be the creation of only a single group of
Richardson was evidently referring to the "like-minded
group" of more than 50 nations, who seek to establish an ICC with strong and
independent powers. "A coalition with members from South Korea to South
Africa, from Senegal to Germany, from Canada to Malawi, can hardly be called a single
bloc," said Dicker. "This is a coalition with the broadest imaginable
Dicker also noted that Richardson did not
insist that the United Nations Security Council permanent members have a veto over the
court's docket. "We can live with the U.S. position on that," said
The ICC conference will run until July 17 and
is expected to produce a treaty to establish the ICC.