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Letter to President Clinton
December 13, 2000

President William Clinton
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Clinton,

I am writing to encourage you to sign the Rome Treaty for the International Criminal Court (ICC) before the December 31, 2000 deadline. The court represents one of the most important advancements in human rights protection since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As a strong proponent of justice for the victims of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, you would leave an important legacy by signing the court's treaty.

We believe that the court will be an effective mechanism for bringing to justice those responsible for the most serious human rights crimes: genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. While Human Rights Watch fully supports the work of the ad hoc tribunals set up to investigate and prosecute those responsible for atrocities in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, this system of ad hoc justice is too slow, inefficient, and limited in scope to be adequate. The United States should support a permanent court to bring the most egregious human rights violators to justice regardless of where they commit their heinous crimes.

One-hundred-and-twenty governments have already signed the Rome Treaty and twenty-five have ratified it. Among the court's supporters are virtually all of America's closest allies. The pace of signature and ratification has greatly increased over the last six months, and Human Rights Watch anticipates that the treaty will enter into force by mid-2002, once the sixty ratifications needed to establish the court have been secured. The issue is no longer whether the court will be established - that moment will soon be upon us - but whether the United States will join in endorsing this historic institution.

We appreciate the concern expressed by some U.S. government officials that the court could become a vehicle for politically motivated prosecutions. However, U.S. negotiators have obtained multiple safeguards that make the likelihood of unwarranted prosecutions small - a risk that is far outweighed by the court's enormous benefits. The court is set up to be a fair and impartial judicial body with provisions to protect the rights of the accused and guarantee the highest standard of due process. Most important, under the court's "complementarity" provision, the U.S. government can ensure that no American is ever brought before the court by pursuing long standing U.S. policy to conduct a good-faith investigation and, if appropriate, prosecution of any servicemember who might commit such terrible crimes.

At this stage, the most important thing the U.S. government can do to ensure that the court lives up to its potential as a fair and objective institution is to embrace the court and play a major role in shaping its culture and practice in this formative early period. I understand that ratification is not politically possible. Your signature would be the next best thing in giving the United States an important role in setting the court's direction.


Kenneth Roth
Executive Director, Human Rights Watch

cc: Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State
cc: Samuel R. Berger, National Security Advisor
cc: David Scheffer, Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues