Human Rights Watch today welcomed South Africa's ratification of the Rome Treaty for the International Criminal Court (ICC). The rights group commended Pretoria for taking a leadership role in the establishment of the ICC by proceeding with early ratification of the treaty.  
  
In depositing its "instrument of ratification" at the United Nations today, South Africa took the formal step to become the twenty-third state to ratify the Rome Treaty. The ICC will prosecute future cases of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The court will come into being after sixty states have ratified the treaty.    

"South Africa's ratification is a major step forward on the path to establishing the court," said Brigitte Suhr, Counsel for the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch. "South Africa has provided consistent leadership on behalf of an independent and effective ICC, and its ratification sends a strong message that this Court has strong support in every region. We believe its action today will help to spur additional ratifications in southern Africa and around the world." During the treaty negotiations for the ICC in Rome in 1998, South Africa, along with other states from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), played a key role in thwarting the efforts of some major powers to weaken the court. The strong united support for the Court from SADC nations, which South Africa helped to forge, was critical to the successful adoption of the Rome Treaty in the face of strong opposition from major world powers, including the United States.