Human Rights Groups Say Washington Blocking World Criminal Court

July 11, 1998
UNITED NATIONS Human rights groups accused the United States on Thursday of blocking creation of a permanent world criminal court to try war crimes such as genocide. Washington is taking a dangerously obstructionist position, said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch at a press conference. A total of 156 countries sent representatives to Rome on June 15 in hopes of getting agreement on a permanent world criminal court.

The meeting will stretch to July 17. David Scheffer, head of the U.S. delegation, warned Thursday in Rome that Washington could not support the principle of universal jurisdiction. Washington, which wants to keep Americans from being tried abroad, is pressing for a requirement that nations be required to consent to the trial of their nationals. But rights groups say that this would prevent even the notorious Pol Pot from being tried.

It (the United States) is more and more isolated, said Roth. Even Britain and France have moved to join the like-minded group. Michael Posner, the executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, said that the us and a full range of countries ... have no intention right now to be part of it. These include a number of Middle East states, he said.

(The U.S. position) is setting the tone for the debate, which is very divisive and could tear apart this negotiation, he said. (AFP)