(Rome) -On the last day of a five-week conference to establish an International Criminal Court, Human Rights Watch vowed to fight to the finish on two major "escape clauses" in the draft treaty.  
 
The proposed ICC would prosecute future acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, but the two loopholes would significantly reduce its reach.The first loophole would prevent the court from taking a case unless one of two states had given its consent: the state where the crimes took place, or the state of nationality of the accused - which in most instances will be the same. Previous formulations, supported by a large majority of delegations at the ICC conference, were less restrictive. Human Rights Watch demanded that the "custodial state," or the country where the accused is found, should also be able to turn the suspect over to the court.  
 
"This court gives a passport to traveling tyrants," said Richard Dicker, who leads the ICC campaign for Human Rights Watch, an international monitoring organization based in New York. "We hope this court will prosecute and punish war criminals. But at the very least, it should keep the Pol Pots and Saddam Husseins locked up at home."  
 
The second major loophole would allow countries to "opt out" of the court's jurisdiction for war crimes for a period of seven years - even if they have ratified the treaty.  
 
"This sends a message to potential war criminals - you've got six-and-a-half years to do the job," said Dicker. "That's not justice. That's nonsense." He called on governments to give public pledges not to use the "opt out" protocol.  
 
Dicker noted that the draft treaty did contain several provisions that Human Rights Watch had strongly supported. They include: an independent prosecutor, automatic jurisdiction for genocide and crimes against humanity, broad authority over civil wars and gender-based persecution, and prohibitions against the use of child soldiers. "We'll do everything we can to make sure this flawed court does what it's supposed to do: bring justice to victims," said Dicker.  
 
Dicker called on delegations to resist ongoing U.S. pressure to further weaken the treaty. "The U.S. is still seeking an iron-clad guarantee that its citizens will never be brought before this court," said Dicker. "But the guarantees it wants would let most tyrants escape justice, too."