- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2001

NEW YORK Legal experts converging on the United Nations this week to hammer out details of a global criminal court said yesterday that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks demonstrate the need for a tribunal to prosecute the worst humanitarian crimes.

"We emerge more convinced than ever of the need to strengthen the international legal order and the fight against universal crimes," said Dutch Foreign Minister Jozias van Aartsen, referring to the destruction of the World Trade Center's twin towers.

"Where better to begin our renewed effort than in that, the same city of New York?" he said.

Legal experts attending a long-scheduled meeting about the proposed International Criminal Court (ICC), which would hear charges of atrocities committed around the world, said the attacks on New York and Washington would fit the definition of "crimes against humanity."

The proposed ICC would not be created until at least 2002, and its jurisdiction will not be retroactive. Nonetheless, Mr. van Aartsen said, "Universal crimes deserve a universal answer."

On Monday, the participants in the preparatory commission meeting stood for a moment of silence, and individual speakers offered their condolences from the podium.

The United States opposes the court, fearing it would be used to target American soldiers who participate in international peacekeeping missions and other operations.

Prospects of U.S. military strikes in the war on terrorism, sparked by the attacks on New York and the Pentagon, appear likely to stiffen U.S. opposition to the court.

Nevertheless, lawyers at yesterday's conference spoke enthusiastically of the court as a potential weapon against the spread of global terrorism.

"The bombing, and subsequent calls for a global alliance against terrorism, has shaken Washington off its anti-multilateral course," said David Donalcattin, a lawyer with Parliamentarians for Global Action.

"The great news for us [is] that American isolationism is finished," Mr. Donalcattin said. "This attack has shown, and the White House seems to hear, that no nation can do it alone."

President Bush has rejected the treaty, and proposals in Congress would prevent the United States from cooperating with it.

Various U.N. bodies are grappling with terrorism this week, with the Security Council beginning to discuss a separate U.S. anti-terror initiative, and the General Assembly preparing for a public debate on terrorism Monday.

In addition, the secretariat is weighing the value of helping states draft an umbrella anti-terrorism treaty combining elements of the 12 existing conventions and treaties.

Legal experts say there is a widespread recognition that whoever planned and executed the Sept. 11 attack has committed a crime against humanity, as defined under the Rome Statute creating the ICC. More than 139 nations have accepted that definition, which includes in part:

"Murder and other inhumane acts intentionally causing great suffering or serious injury, when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against any civilian population in furtherance of a state or organizational policy."

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