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Britain Moves to ratify War Crimes Court treaty

LONDON, Aug 25, 2000 -- (Reuters) Britain will publish draft legislation on Friday to become a party to a proposed International Criminal Court designed to bring to justice those accused of the worst crimes against humanity.

A Foreign Office official said the bill would go out for consultation up to mid-October to encourage maximum support from all sides of the British political spectrum.

Britain is a strong supporter of a permanent court, to be set up in The Hague, to try individuals for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, the official said.

Last month, Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain wrote to parliamentary select committees and the main opposition parties to invite their views.

Hain announced the government's intention to legislate in a written answer to parliament.

"As one of the leading countries behind establishing the (International Criminal Court), we want to ratify the treaty as soon as possible and be one of the first 60 countries ratifying needed to bring it into force," he said.

Human rights group Amnesty International said it welcomed Britain's publication of the draft bill.

"Without an International Criminal Court there can be no justice for the victims of many of the worst crimes imaginable and no hope of deterring those who would contemplate such crimes," Amnesty's British director Kate Allen said.

"Full support of the UK for the court is vital to its success. Enough parliamentary time must now be made for ratification in the next parliamentary session," she said.

International tribunals have been set up to deal with such crimes committed in specific circumstances - such as the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia and a similar tribunal for Rwanda.

The move to establish an International Criminal Court grew out of an agreement in July 1998 at a conference in Rome where 120 nations approved a treaty.

Britain signed the statute later that year. The bill will allow Britain to ratify the statute.

To date, 97 countries have signed the statute but only 15, including France, Italy and Canada, have ratified it.

The court can only come into existence when 60 countries have done so.

The United States has opposed the court since the Rome conference because Washington fears its soldiers abroad would be subject to politically motivated prosecutions.



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