Ecuador and Portugal became the 51st and 52nd countries to ratify the International Criminal Court (ICC) this week, joining the international community in its commitment to prosecuting the most heinous crimes against humanity. The ICC, if established, would be a permanent court designed to prosecute war criminals, genocide in addition to crimes against humanity, which include gender crimes. Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the ICC also presents clear language defining gender crimes to include rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity. Only eight countries are now needed for the ICC to be established. According to the World Federalist Association, the court is expected to become effective by next year.
The United States, however, remains one of the few Western countries not to ratify the ICC. Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) has been leading the opposition to the ICC in the U.S. Helms re-introduced the American Servicemembers Protection Act, which would block U.S. cooperation in the formation of the ICC, penalize countries that ratified the ICC treaty, and allow the use of military force to prevent U.S. soldiers from being tried by the ICC. Helms is not seeking re-election in 2002.