CLINTON SUPPORT FOR WAR CRIMES COURT SPARKS BARRAGE OF CRITICISM
Washington, Jan 01, 2001 (EFE via COMTEX) -- President Bill Clinton's decision to sign a treaty creating the first International Criminal Court prompted applause from human rights advocates and sparked the ire of Republicans and a number of former high-ranking U.S. officials.
Sen. Jesse Helms (Rep.-NC), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, labeled the president's decision both "indignant and inexplicable."
The treaty, if ratified, would create the world's first institution to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The court would also have the authority to try U.S. soldiers and citizens for crimes committed abroad.
U.S. opposition to the treaty stems from fears the court could be used to unfairly target Americans for politically motivated reasons.
In addition, opponents fear U.S. soldiers and government officials could face unjustified prosecution for U.S. actions in international peacekeeping missions.
As of Sunday's deadline to sign the Treaty of Rome, which created the tribunal in 1998, the treaty had been signed by 136 countries and ratified by 25 of the 60 nations needed for it to go into effect.
Clinton's decision to sign the treaty "will not stand," the North Carolina senator pledged.
Helms also said he would lead a campaign to overturn the president's decision in the Senate and pass legislation preventing the United States from cooperating with such courts in the future.
Helms and Sen. John Warner (Rep.-VA), the chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, sent a letter to Defense Secretary William Cohen citing their adamant opposition to the international war crimes court.
Before U.S. participation can become final, the Senate must first ratify the treaty, which also faces opposition from President-elect George W. Bush and a handful of former secretaries of Defense and State, as well as former CIA chiefs.
Opposed to the court are former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger, Lawrence Eagleburger, George Schultz and James Baker, former Secretaries of Defense Caspar Weinberger and Donald Rumsfeld and past CIA chiefs James Woolsey and Robert Gates.
Rumsfeld, who will join Bush's cabinet as Defense secretary, signed a letter with the other former top-ranking officials urging Congress to pass a bill that would make U.S. military personnel immune from prosecution in any such international tribunal.
The court threatens U.S. sovereignty and international freedom and would paralyze U.S. responses to terrorist attacks and other threats to U.S. interests abroad, they argued.
However, human rights activists were quick to praise the president's decision.
Human Rights Watch counsel Richard Dicker labeled the decision "historic" and "a major step" toward achieving global justice.
In 1998, the United States joined China, India and Cuba, as well as several nations it considers sponsors of international terrorism, mainly Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Libya, in votes against the treaty.
Sudan and Syria, both of which Washington has accused of either tolerating or sponsoring terrorist acts, signed the treaty in recent days. EFE
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