(New York) - Human Rights Watch today praised Germany's ratification of the Rome Treaty for the International Criminal Court (ICC), and said the move would help achieve the court's early establishment. 
Today, Germany took the formal step to become the twenty-fifth state to ratify the treaty, by depositing its "instrument of ratification" at the United Nations. The Marshall Islands became the twenty-fourth state to ratify on December 7, 2000. Once 60 countries have ratified the treaty, the ICC can begin operations. 
"Germany's ratification marks a major step toward the early establishment of the ICC," said Richard Dicker, Director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch. "Germany has provided strong, consistent leadership for an independent and effective court."  
Throughout the treaty negotiations for the ICC in Rome in 1998, Germany played a key role in thwarting the efforts of some major powers to weaken the court. In the face of strong opposition from major world powers, including the United States, Germany helped to forge strong united support for the court among European Union nations.  
Only seven countries, including the United States, Israel, Iraq, and China, voted against the treaty in Rome, while 120 countries voted in favor. The International Criminal Court will prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. It is one of the most important advances in human rights protection in decades.