(New York) - European Union governments should quickly express their opposition to the new American Servicemembers Protection Act (ASPA), passed by the U.S. Senate on December 7, Human Rights Watch urged in a letter to E.U. foreign ministers today.   
 
The ASPA would empower the U.S. president to use "all means necessary and appropriate" to free any American detained by the International Criminal Court, which will prosecute individuals accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. It also prohibits cooperation of any kind with the court.  
 
The House passed its version of the ASPA in May. The House version would restrict foreign aid to other countries unless they prevent American troops within their borders from being delivered to the court. The Senate version does not include such a provision and also gives the U.S. president a broader power to waive the restrictions on cooperation with the court and its supporters.  
 
Human Rights Watch has strongly opposed the legislation in any form, but urged Congress at least to include the presidential waiver as found in the Senate version.  
 
All of the United States' allies in NATO strongly support the International Criminal Court, and most have ratified the ICC treaty already. Among the handful of states opposing the treaty are Iraq, Libya, and Yemen.  
 
"This is a terrible moment for the United States to side with nations like Iraq against its coalition partners," said Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch. "This legislation is a slap in the face of all the governments that the Bush administration urgently needs right now. The ASPA is a new low in human rights for the U.S. Senate."  
 
Key U.S. allies have strongly opposed the ASPA. In October, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer warned in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell that "adopting the ASPA would open a rift between the U.S. and the European Union on this important issue."  
 
Forty-seven nations have ratified the International Criminal Court treaty, out of sixty needed to begin the process of establishing the court. Enough states have expressed their intention to ratify that the goal of sixty is expected to be reached in the next year.  
 
"The U.S. will not be successful in stopping this court," said Dicker. "This kind of rearguard bullying achieves nothing but alienating key U.S. allies."  
 
Dicker said many of the same governments have criticized the U.S. proposal to set up military commissions to prosecute people accused of terrorism.  
 
"We are getting a disturbing picture of what the Bush administration sees as justice," Dicker said. "The standards of due process at the international criminal court are much higher than those permitted by President Bush's order on military commissions."