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Us abandon treaty

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Monday May 6, 11:54 AM
US to abandon treaty on International Criminal Court

The United States is disassociating itself from a treaty that created the International Criminal Court because the tribunal is not accountable to any authority and could second-guess US courts, Secretary of State Colin Powell announced.

He said the decision to "unsign" the treaty would be formally announced as early as Monday.

"Within the next day or so, the United States will notify the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, that we will not ratify it, no intention of ratifying the international criminal court treaty," Powell said Sunday on ABC's "This Week" television program.

"Since we have no intention of ratifying it, it is appropriate for us, because we have such serious problems with the ICC, to notify the depository, secretary general, that we do not intend to ratify it, and therefore we are no longer bound in any way to its purpose and objective," he added.

The court is being created under a 1998 Rome agreement signed by countries eager to set up an international body to prosecute genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Many legal experts argue an international criminal court is the missing link in the international legal system because the existing International Court of Justice at The Hague handles only litigation between states, not individuals.

Its absence has allowed many crimes against humanity like the killing of an estimated two million people in Cambodia in the 1970s to go unpunished, these experts say.

Former US president Bill Clinton signed the accord on behalf of the United States on December 31, 2000, but, due to overwhelming opposition in Congress, he never submitted it for ratification.

Members of the US Congress, where support for the treaty remains very low on both sides of the aisle, have insisted the court could be used by critics of the United States against American servicemen participating in military operations overseas.

To date, 66 nations have now ratified the international statute, six more than required to trigger its entry into force.

The court will come into being July 1, and is expected to be ready to start work in The Hague early next year.

Powell said the court was beholden to no higher authority, not even the UN Security Council, and would be able "to second-guess the United States after we have tried somebody."

"We found that this was not a situation that we believed was appropriate for our men and women in the armed forces or our diplomats and political leaders," he said.

"And it is for that reason we will be notifying the depository, secretary general ... that the United States does not intend to ratify the ICC."

At the same time, Powell pointed out that the United State had supported the international tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and is trying to set up a court to hear cases stemming from the conflict in Sierra Leone.

The US decision drew sharp criticism from 23 prominent human rights advocates, including Jesse Jackson and Amnesty International-USA Director Bill Shultz, who called it rash, arguing that the United States was "turning its back on decades of US leadership in prosecuting war criminals since the Nuremberg trials."

"Unsigning is an unprecedented act that has little practical effect, but is symbolically powerful because it undermines American leadership and credibility at the worst possible time," the group said in a statement.

An opinion poll conducted last month for the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights showed that 54 percent of Americans believed that the US government should change its current position on the court.

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