War crimes tribunal

Clinton: The president was right to keep U.S. options open by signing international treaty.

January 06, 2001

PRESIDENT CLINTON last week kept alive the option of U.S. participation in the establishment of a permanent international criminal court to try people suspected of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Although Mr. Clinton is said to share the concerns of some in the Pentagon and Senate about certain aspects of the treaty, White House aides said he allowed a U.S. diplomat to sign the treaty as a defensive strategy.

That was a good move. Had Mr. Clinton not acted by Dec. 31, the United States would have lost any chance of helping to shape the court's policies and procedures.

Mr. Clinton's action puts the United States, we believe, on the right side of the issue, firmly allied with the more than 130 signatories who believe that an international court should exist that holds violators of human rights accountable when their own countries don't act.

The devil, as they say, may be in the details. Ultimately, the specifics of how the international court would operate may be judged not in the United States' interest -- and the Senate could refuse to ratify it.

In the meantime, though, it makes sense to support the principle of such a court and to seek to influence how that court will function.

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