Attorney stresses importance of war crimes tribunal


Published: Saturday, October 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 1, 2005 at 12:00 a.m.
From a podium at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, a supporter of the International Criminal Court made his case for the tribunal Friday afternoon.
John Washburn, with the American Non-governmental Organizations Coalition for the International Criminal Court, spoke to about 20 people in Gainesville at the end of his three-day speaking tour throughout the South. Washburn, who is an attorney, served as a director in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1988 to 1993.
The coalition is made up of national organizations working to secure United States support for the International Criminal Court, based in The Hague, Netherlands.
Established in 2002, the International Criminal Court is a permanent tribunal set up to try individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
As of August, 99 countries have ratified a statute defining the court. The United States is not among them.
The court is involved in investigations of violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Darfur, Sudan, where the almost two-year conflicts between a government-supported militia and others has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands.
Washburn plowed through this and other details about the court's workings, before taking questions from the group mostly made up of students.
"It is up and running. It's affecting U.S. policy," Washburn said, referring to the court. "And it's quickly providing for the doubters and others a track record for its performance by which we hope that many of their reservations will be taken care of and the court's performance, particularly we hope on Darfur, will assist us to bring the court and the United States together and to bring an end to the hostility campaign of the United States."
Among complaints from U.S. critics of the court are warnings that it exposes American soldiers and political leaders to false claims of war crimes charges and that it has no power to enforce extradition.
Washburn said it's expected that the court will issue arrest warrants in the next few months in the Darfur investigation. Named will likely be senior officials in Sudanese government. Even if officials don't answer to the warrants or possible indictments, he said the investigation will make an impact.
"It is clear that when somebody gets indicted, they start to lose their political standing," and businesses and other governments don't want to deal with these individuals, Washburn said.
They also face arrest in countries that have dealings with the court.
Lise Fisher can be reached at (352) 374-5092 or fisherl@gvillesun.com.

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