(Rome) - Human Rights Watch expressed disappointment at the speech of Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer at the opening day of a conference to establish an International Criminal Court (ICC). 
 
In a speech before 156 delegates at the ICC conference in Rome, Downer called for a "workable relationship between the Court and the Security Council which recognizes the Council's primacy in matters of international peace and security."  
 
"That's much too vague a position," said Richard Dicker, who is directing the ICC campaign for "Australia needs to clarify whether it will accept political interference from the five permanent members of the Security Council."  
 
Australia's position seemed to contradict the position of the "like-minded" group, which it now chairs. The "like-minded group" of more than 50 states seeks to form an ICC with strong and independent powers to investigate and punish genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.  
 
The like-minded group has rejected allowing permanent members of the Security Council to control the court's docket. Four of the five permanent members of the Security Council (all except the United Kingdom, a member of the like- minded group) are seeking to maintain a Security Council veto over the court's docket.  
 
Dicker also noted that Downer failed to enunciate a position on state consent, which would extend veto power to any country that has ratified the treaty. It would allow states to prevent prosecutions that might embarrass them.  
 
"Having to obtain consent from states would doom this court," said Dicker. "We hope that Australia explain its position better and express strong support for an independent and effective court as this conference continues." The Rome conference is scheduled to conclude on July 17.