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Please note: On New Year's Eve, President Clinton signed the Rome Treaty. Click here  for more info.


ETAN Urges U.S. to Support Int'l Criminal Court

December 19, 2000

President William Clinton 
The White House 
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue 
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Clinton,

On behalf of the East Timor Action Network, I urge you to sign the Rome Treaty for the International Criminal Court (ICC) before the December 31, 2000 deadline. The court significantly advances human rights protection by providing a mechanism to hold accountable those responsible for the worst human rights violations: genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. By signing the treaty, you can make clear that the U.S. supports justice for the victims of these crimes.

While an ad hoc international tribunal should be established to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the pervasive crimes against humanity which took place from 1975 in East Timor, the existence of an international criminal court in 1975 might have served as a deterrent to Indonesia's illegal invasion of East Timor. Following the invasion, the Indonesian military killed at least 200,000 East Timorese, proportionally one of the worst genocides since World War II. Had the court been in operation in 1999, the prosecution of those responsible for the mass destruction before and after East Timor's August 30 pro-independence vote would have been much easier than the current legal and political morass and may have even prevented much of the violence in the first place. Instead, the people of East Timor now face the likelihood that many of those who ordered and carried out crimes against humanity will go unpunished unless an ad-hoc international tribunal is created. The Indonesian military officers responsible for death and destruction in East Timor retain positions of power and prestige in Indonesia's armed forces and continue to violate the human rights of residents throughout the archipelago.

One-hundred-and-twenty governments have already signed the Rome Treaty and 25 of those have ratified it. The pace of signature and ratification has greatly increased over the last six months. The treaty will likely enter into force by mid-2002, once the 60 ratifications needed to establish the court have been secured. The issue is no longer whether the court will be established; that moment will soon be upon us. Rather, the issue is whether the United States will join in endorsing this important institution.

By not signing, the U.S. government is sending the worst possible signal that while others can be held responsible for human rights violations, the same rules need not apply to the U.S.


John M. Miller 
East Timor Action Network/U.S.

cc: Samuel R. Berger, National Security Advisor Madeleine K. Albright, Secretary of State


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