Human Rights Watch today strongly criticized legislation being introduced in the U.S. Congress to punish countries that support the international criminal court.
 
The legislation, presented today by Senators Jesse Helms and John Warner and by Representatives Tom Delay and Floyd Spence, would deny American military aid to any country ratifying the treaty for the court, except for some U.S. allies, and would require that American personnel be granted immunity from the court before participating in any United Nations peacekeeping efforts.  
 
The U.S. Congress should not be engaging in scare tactics," said Richard Dicker, counsel to Human Rights Watch and the leader of its campaign for the international criminal court. "This legislation will not stop the international criminal court. But it does put a very ugly face on U.S. diplomacy. It shows that the United States is the biggest obstacle in this important advance in the protection of human rights."  
 
The international criminal court will prosecute cases of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. So far, 97 countries have signed the treaty, and 12 have ratified, including France.  
 
In negotiations, Washington has already obtained numerous safeguards to ensure that the court will not be used for politically-motivated prosecutions. "The U.S. has all the legal protections it could possibly need," said Dicker.   
 
When the international criminal court treaty was completed in July 1998, the United States was one of only seven states, including China and Iraq, to vote against it.