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Saturday, 8 February, 2003, 09:00 GMT
Judges chosen for war crimes court
Skulls of Khmer Rouge victims, Cambodia
The new court will try crimes against humanity
Eighteen judges have been chosen to preside over the world's first permanent international war crimes court.

The 11 men and seven women will serve on the new tribunal, which will come into being in the Netherlands later this year.

We think it sends a very strong message that there's wide support for this court

Fiona McKay, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights
The International Criminal Court (ICC) is being set up to try individuals accused of some of the world's worst atrocities, including mass murder, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Some 139 nations have signed the treaty setting up the court, with the notable exception of the United States.

War crimes

The court, which was initiated in 1998, follows the precedent set by the Nuremberg and Tokyo war crimes trials of German and Japanese leaders after World War II.

The ICC will be able to try crimes only committed after 1 July, 2002, and only when states are unwilling to take action against suspected individuals themselves.

Human rights campaigners praised the selection of the judges as an important step forward.

"We think it sends a very strong message that there's wide support for this court, that the court's really on it's way," said Fiona McKay, of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights.

'Strong bench'

The number of women judges chosen for the ICC is unprecedented for an international court.

US soldiers in Bosnia
The US fears hostile countries could use the ICC as a political tool

The president of the court's governing body, Jordan's UN Ambassador Prince Zeid al-Hussein, said member states had elected "a very strong bench".

The judges include Claude Jorda of France, president of the Yugoslav tribunal; Navanethem Pillay of South Africa, president of the Rwanda war crimes tribunal; and Hans-Peter Kaul of Germany, an expert on international humanitarian law.

The judges will be sworn in by Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands on 11 March, and is expected to become operational after the selection of a chief prosecutor in April.

US President George W Bush withdrew America's initial support for the court, fearing hostile states could pursue politically motivated prosecutions against America.

See also:

03 Feb 03 | In Depth
14 Aug 02 | Americas
13 Jul 02 | Europe
01 Jul 02 | Americas
26 Dec 02 | South Asia
01 Jul 02 | In Depth
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