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IN THE NEWS - April 13, 2002: International Criminal Court - 2002-04-12

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program In The News.

The world’s first permanent International Criminal Court was established this week. The governments of sixty-six countries have approved the treaty establishing the court. However, the governments of China, Russia and the United States have not approved the treaty. The United States strongly opposes the court.

The International Criminal Court will charge and try individuals for very serious human rights violations. These include crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. The court will try suspects only if their own governments are unwilling or unable to do so. The treaty is to go into effect July first. The International Criminal Court will be able to try crimes that are carried out after that date.

The two existing United Nations courts for Bosnia and Rwanda will continue to try war crimes suspects, independent of the new court.

The new International Criminal Court will be based in The Hague, the Netherlands. It is expected to begin operations next year. The nations that approved the treaty will elect eighteen judges to nine-year terms early next year.

Cases can be brought to the International Criminal Court in three ways. A nation that has approved the treaty can request that the court investigate a situation. The United Nations Security Council can also request such action. And, an International Criminal Court lawyer can start an investigation based on reports from victims and other people. The court will be able to investigate and try suspects from nations that are not part of the treaty if the nations permit it.

The International Criminal Court will not be part of the United Nations. The countries that are part of the treaty will pay the costs of the court.

A ceremony launching the International Criminal Court was held at U-N headquarters in New York City Thursday. U-N Secretary General Kofi Annan sent a message praising the court. He said countries with good judicial systems that carry out the rule of law do not need to fear the court.

Most democratic nations and human rights groups welcomed the action. European nations praised the creation of the court as the most important action against war criminals this century. They urged the United States, China and Russia to approve the treaty. The United States signed the International Criminal Court Treaty in Two-Thousand during the administration of former President Bill Clinton. But Mister Clinton did not seek legislative approval of the treaty.

However, the administration of President Bush strongly opposes the court. It says the court could lead to unfair legal action against American officials and soldiers in other countries. The administration says it is considering cancelling the United States signing of the treaty.

This VOA Special English program In The News was written by Caty Weaver. This is Steve Ember.