(New York) - Human Rights Watch today welcomed U.S. President Bill Clinton's signing the treaty for the international criminal court.
"In signing this treaty, President Clinton has made history," said Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice program at Human Rights Watch. "This is a great step forward for global justice."  
Signing the treaty places no obligations on the incoming Bush administration. But Dicker said he hoped the Bush administration would participate in ongoing negotiations on the court to help shape the practice of the court.  
The option of signing the treaty without ratifying it expired on December 31, 2000. One hundred and thirty-six governments have already signed the International Criminal Court treaty, and 25 have already ratified. The pace of signature and ratification of the treaty has picked up speed in the last six months, and Human Rights Watch anticipates that sixty states will have ratified by mid-2002. Sixty ratifications will bring the treaty into force and trigger the establishment of the court. The International Criminal Court will try future cases of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. 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 international tribunals for Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Cambodia, Sierra Leone, and Iraq," said Dicker. "But his record on international justice got a lot better today as a result of this important decision."  
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.