UN Leader Calls For World
Criminal Court - All Nations
Must Comply
By Michael Levine <>

ROME (AP) -- UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called on the international community today to create a "bulwark against evil" by establishing a permanent world criminal court.
In opening the five-week UN conference to set up the tribunal, Annan appealed for a "court strong and independent enough to carry out its task" of bringing war criminals and perpetrators of crimes against humanity to justice.
"People all over the world want to know that humanity can strike back -- that wherever and whenever genocide, war crimes or other such violations are committed, there is a court before which the criminal can be held to account," Annan told the delegates. "We have an opportunity that can save lives and serve as a bulwark against evil."
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy told the conference that the court "is within our grasp."
"We live in a world where most of the conflict is civil and most of the victims are civilian," Axworthy said in notes to a speech to the conference. "The acts of war have become even more senseless, and too often these acts of atrocity go unpunished."
The United States, Russia, China, and France -- four of the five permanent Security Council members -- have been pushing for stronger council control over the proposed court's prosecutor.
Human rights advocates say that would cripple the court's independence.
He told reporters that it was more important to have a "credible, competent, independent" court that may have fewer signatories than a broadly supported weak one.
"Sooner or later (other nations) will come aboard. If it is ineffectual, no one gains and in fact this would be a waste of our time," Annan told a news conference.
Meanwhile, in another reminder of why a permanent court is necessary, NATO forces today arrested a Bosnian Serb war crimes suspect near Sarajevo, accused of atrocities committed at a prison during the war.
An ad hoc court has been set up in the Hague for Yugoslav war crimes. The world tribunal would supersede such courts.
The road to a world court is sure to be long and hard. Success is by no means certain.
Delegates from more than 180 nations must wrestle with basic issues, such as the powers granted the prosecutor, what will set a prosecution in motion, how much influence the UN Security Council and its members will have over the court's functioning and what crimes it will cover.
Britain, alone among the permanent council members, wants more independence for the court. "We hope the United States will get on board," said Tony Lloyd, the British minister of state for foreign affairs.
All parties basically agree that the court will target genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Defendants will be individuals, unlike at the existing International Court of Justice at The Hague, where nations lodge complaints against nations.
The negotiators have a 173-page draft statute two years in the making. Small working committees will attempt to reach agreement on wording.
Next, the statute goes before the UN General Assembly. Finally, individual nations must ratify the statute, and if need be, change their own laws to conform with it.
The idea of a global justice arena dates back to the period right after the Second World War, when the Nuremberg trials of Nazis and war crimes trials in Japan were carried out.
But little was done until a new round of horrors in the mid-1990s -- widely publicized mass killings and systematic rapes in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia -- gave fresh impetus to the effort to create the court.

Sightings HomePage