World Tribunal a Done Deal; the International Criminal Court Is Four Signatories Short of Ratification, Which Could Happen This April. (Law)

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The International Criminal Court (ICC) is on track to become a reality by mid-April, claiming a mandate to indict and try anyone in the world, including Americans. With just four more countries needed to ratify the 1998 Rome Statute that creates the court, "it is very close," says U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq.

The Bush administration strongly opposes the court, which claims jurisdiction even over citizens of countries that do not ratify the treaty. The Clinton administration signed the treaty shortly before leaving office, but President George W. Bush said he would not submit it to the Senate for ratification.

Haq agrees that a U.S. citizen theoretically could be prosecuted, but says safeguards in the document make that unlikely. He and other legal analysts claim the court could act only if the national courts of a suspect's home country proved unwilling or unable to act." We are hoping that once the court is in operation, the United States will see that it is working in a way that is responsible and complementary to national efforts to deal with criminal matters" he says.

Others are less sanguine. "If a U.S. citizen committed an alleged war crime on the soil of a member of the treaty, or a member of the armed forces committed an alleged crime on the soil of a member of the treaty, they could be brought before the ICC" says Mark Lagon, a staff member in the office of Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.).

Four countries -- Cyprus, Mauritius, Macedonia and Panama -- ratified the Rome Statute in March 7, bringing the total to 56. …