World News

Japan expected to join global criminal court

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Japan is expected to ratify the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court by depositing papers with the United Nations legal department on Tuesday, a leading advocacy group announced.

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, said the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, which released the news.

Tokyo’s action will give the fledgling court a financial boost as its highest payer, at 19 percent of the 90 million euro (60.9 million pounds) annual budget.

With Japan, a total of 105 nations 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.

It 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 the country’s accession to the court, after the cabinet in February submitted legislation to parliament.

“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 that represents more than 1,000 organizations supporting the tribunal.

Few Asian countries have joined the tribunal, with China and India showing little interest.

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

Japan also needed to join the court soon because it takes 90 days for Tokyo to be able to become state party to the tribunal. And Japan, Pace said, has nominated a candidate for a judgeship to the court for election in December.

The prosecutor for the court, which recruited a staff over four years ago, has issued seven arrest warrants: four in Uganda, one in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and two in Sudan. It recently opened an investigation into rape in the Central African Republic.

A Japanese senator, Tadashi Inuzuka of Nagasaki, who campaigned for the court for years, said in May he hoped nuclear warfare would eventually be included in the list of crimes against humanity.

Of the millions of pages of records of trials in the post-World War Two tribunal, Inuzuka said “there is not one single word” of the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 by the United States to end the war in the Pacific.