On New Year’s Eve, just in time to meet the year-end deadline, President Clinton signed the International Criminal Court (ICC) Treaty—a major victory for women’s rights and human rights groups. Had Clinton not signed the Treaty, the US could not have indicated its support of the ICC through signature alone and would have needed ratification by the Senate. Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Jesse Helms (R-NC) staunchly opposes the ICC.
In July 1998, 120 countries, excluding the United States, voted to adopt the Rome Statute establishing the ICC—a permanent court designed to prosecute war criminals, provide a mechanism for bringing to justice perpetrators of inhumane crimes against humanity, and for the first time in international law, recognize crimes of sexual and gender violence. Clinton’s signature was an essential step and encourages eventual ratification by the US and preserves US participation in the continuing discussion in establishing the court.
Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the ICC Treaty presents clear language defining gender crimes including rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity; and crime of apartheid as crimes against humanity. Once the court is established, atrocities such as the Taliban regime’s brutal laws of gender apartheid against women and girls in Afghanistan would qualify as crimes against humanity and therefore eligible to be tried before the International Criminal Court.
The ICC is set to become a working international body in the year 2002 with the ratification of the Rome Statute by 60 countries.