(New York) - Human Rights Watch today applauded the recent dramatic increase in signatures on the treaty establishing the international criminal court. "This sudden rush of signatures is fantastic, and it shows that support for the court is near universal," said Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice program at Human Rights Watch. "Against this backdrop, history will look harshly on President Clinton if he fails to sign." 
 
By December 29 at 10:00 am, 132 states had signed the treaty for the court, which will try cases of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Ten states have signed in the last week. Three more states have signaled that they will sign today.  
 
The new tally reflects even greater support for the court than when the treaty was finalized, in Rome in July 1998, when 120 states voted for the treaty and only seven voted against it. The United States was among those voting against.  
 
The option of signing the treaty without ratifying it expires on December 31, 2000. President Clinton is coming under increasing pressure from members of Congress, non-governmental organizations, and legal experts to sign the treaty in the next two days. A growing number of U.S. newspaper editorial boards have also urged him to sign.  
 
"This sudden rush of signatures is fantastic, and it shows that support for the court is near universal," said Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice program at Human Rights Watch. "Against this backdrop, history will look harshly on President Clinton if he fails to sign."  
 
The large number of signatures increases the likelihood of ratifications from states worldwide. The court will go into operation once 60 states have ratified, probably by mid-2002. Twenty-five states have already ratified the treaty, with twenty more expected within the next nine months.  
 
The wide range of support for the international criminal court, from countries all across the globe, also makes it impossible for the court to be mischaracterized as an institution driven by a few "northern" or "developed" countries.  
 
The court is the most significant international tribunal since the Nuremberg courts after World War II, and the most important advancement in human rights protection since the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  
 
President Clinton has supported more limited international criminal tribunals for Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Cambodia, Sierra Leone, and Iraq and has supported justice in specific countries.  
 
The court is designed with numerous safeguards to protect the rights of the accused and guarantee the highest standards of due process. Under the court's "complementarity" provisions, the U.S. government can ensure that no American ever be prosecuted before the court, by conducting good-faith investigations - and prosecutions, if necessary- of any U.S. citizens who might commit such terrible crimes.