(Rome) - Human Rights Watch strongly praised the speech of German Federal Minister of Justice Dr. Edzard Schmidt-Jortzig at a conference to establish an International Criminal Court (ICC).
 
Speaking to delegates from more than 150 countries, Dr. Schmidt-Jortzig outlined firm positions on the most controversial issues before the conference, which is drafting a treaty to establish an ICC to prosecute and punish future acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.  
 
Dr. Schmidt-Jortzig urged that the ICC prosecutor must be entitled to initiate investigation without having to wait for a state to register a complaint. He stated that the common interest of states in prosecuting and punishing the most heinous crimes "does not depend on whether a complaint by a certain state is considered to be diplomatically expedient at a given moment."  
 
"This is exactly the kind of leadership this ICC conference needs," said Richard Dicker, who is leading the ICC campaign of Human Rights Watch, an international monitoring organization based in New York. "We call on the other delegations here in Rome to follow Germany's example."  
 
In particular, Dicker praised the German minister's statement that "there can be no exceptions to the rule of law. It must be universally applicable, otherwise there is no rule of law at all."  
 
Germany is a core member of the "like-minded group" of more than 50 states, who seek to establish a strong and independent ICC.  
 
Dicker warned that Germany is likely to come under heavy pressure from allies such as the United States and France to dilute the court's powers. "Germany and other members of the like-minded group have to hold firm," he urged.  
 
The ICC conference will last until July 17, and is expected to produce a draft statute to establish an ICC.