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An Open Letter to the Human Rights Watch Family

Today marks a milestone in human history, the launching of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Following on the legacy of Nuremberg, it is the culmination of 10 years of work by thousands of people around the world -- people who are committed to the concept that only justice can help heal the wounds of victims, that justice is an essential and effective deterrent to future abuse, and that an international system of justice is a critical backstop for national efforts to hold the worst human rights offenders accountable.

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For years the activists at Human Rights Watch have led efforts to create the International Criminal Court, a standing tribunal with potentially global reach available to try those responsible for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. We were deeply involved in the 1998 negotiations for the Rome treaty to establish the ICC, helping to ensure the highest standards of due process were applied and to defend the independence of the court from governments such as the United States who opposed it. We partnered with many on this venture, and we were supported by many more.

We, and our colleagues around the world, faced great challenges to reach this moment. Yet perhaps our greatest challenge still lies ahead. While the rules for a model tribunal are in place, the task now is to ensure that these rules are conscientiously applied -- that the court, in its implementation, adheres to the values and the moral authority that inspired it. That is our challenge for tomorrow. But for today, let us celebrate.

Yours sincerely,

Kenneth Roth
Executive Director
Human Rights Watch