July 17, 2007 / 10:30 PM / 12 years ago

Japan becomes global criminal court's 105th member

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS, July 17 (Reuters) - Japan ratified the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court by depositing papers with the United Nations legal department on Tuesday, U.N. officials announced.

With Japan, 105 countries have ratified the Rome Treaty creating the first permanent global criminal court, set up to prosecute individuals for the world’s worst atrocities — genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The Hague-based tribunal evokes memories of the Nuremberg tribunal that tried Nazi leaders and the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal at the end of World War Two.

On April 27, the Japanese Diet’s upper house unanimously approved accession to the court after the cabinet submitted legislation to parliament in February.

The Japanese ratification was timed to coincide with World Day for International Justice, which commemorates the adoption of the founding treaty of the ICC, the Rome Statute, on July 17, 1998.

Tokyo’s action will give the fledgling court a financial boost as its highest payer, at 19 percent of the $124 million (90 million euro) annual budget.

"Japan is an important world power. We hope its decision will press other major powers and more Asian states to join the ICC," said William Pace, head of the Coalition for an International Criminal Court that represents more than 1,000 organizations supporting the tribunal.

Few Asian countries have joined the tribunal. China and India show little interest.

The Bush administration has vigorously opposed the tribunal, although it allowed the U.N. Security Council to refer Sudan to the ICC.

It takes 90 days — until October — for Japan to be able to become state party to the tribunal. Japan announced it had nominated a candidate for a judgeship to the court for election in December.

The prosecutor for the court has issued seven arrest warrants: four in Uganda, one in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and two in Sudan. It has opened an investigation in the Central African Republic.

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