Ban presses countries to join war crimes court

Mon May 31, 2010 11:11am EDT
 
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By Aaron Gray-Block and Frank Nyakairu

KAMPALA (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Monday urged all states to sign up to the International Criminal Court and rejected criticism the body was a court for only African crimes.

Delegates from member states are meeting in Uganda's capital Kampala over the next 10 days to discuss the ICC, set up in 2002 as the world's first permanent war crimes court, and seek to give it extra powers to prosecute crimes of state aggression.

"If the ICC is to have the reach it should possess ... we must have universal support, only then will perpetrators have no place to hide," Ban told delegates.

The ICC has mostly focused on African conflicts where governments referred cases, including Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army rebellion. Sudan's Darfur conflict was the first case to be referred to the court by the U.N. Security Council in 2005.

But Ban denied the court is selectively targeting Africa.

"Even if it saddens me to say this, the evidence will take the court beyond Africa sooner rather than later," he said.

Ban also welcomed the presence of the United States, which is not a member of the ICC but has started to re-engage with the court and is attending the conference as an observer.

"Under the leadership of President Obama, I understand the United States is very seriously reviewing all of its policies and I do hope the U.S. will join the ICC as soon as possible," Ban told reporters.   Continued...

 
<p>Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni addresses the ICC review conference in Kampala, May 31, 2010. U.N. A conference to review the International Criminal Court started in the Ugandan capital on Monday with calls for more states to sign up to the court. REUTERS/Stringer</p>