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KOFI Annan, the United Nations secretary general, has used the International Bar Association's (IBA) 50th anniversary celebrations as a platform to pledge his personal support for the creation of an international criminal court.
Delivering the keynote speech at the celebrations in New York last week, Annan said he was confident a diplomatic conference in Italy next year, convened at the behest of the UN, would succeed in setting the rules for such a court.
Annan told the gathering of 700 lawyers that the meeting would coincide with the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Genocide Convention, which was designed to stamp out genocide, and that he could not "think of a more solemn, more significant occasion for the world to take the final step towards global justice".
He added: "The creation of an international criminal court would not only complete the vision of the Genocide Convention, it will bring that vision into reality.
"It is an essential part of an emerging system of international human rights protection. It will ensure that indicted criminals suspected of genocide in any country can be tried and convicted."
Annan said that there could be no global justice unless "the worst of crimes - crimes against humanity - are subject to the law."
He called upon human rights lawyers to do their "utmost in our struggle to ensure that no ruler, no state, no junta and no army anywhere can abuse human rights with impunity".
There have been calls for an international criminal court for the last 50 years, but the ending of the Cold War has witnessed renewed efforts.
Lawyers pushing for an international court have expressed surprise at the forcefulness of Annan's speech and believe it signifies a new determination by the UN to create the court.
During the opening ceremony, Annan was presented with a draft treaty drawn up by the IBA and designed to stop the misuse of genetic information.
Elsewhere at the conference, a session on the future of the global capital market called for more co-operation between regulatory authorities around the world. Toyoo Gyohton, senior advisor to the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, said a system should be set up to allow regulatory authorities to share information. Michael Patterson, vice-chairman of JP Morgan & Co, predicted the convergence of legal and regulatory structures.
In a closed session, members of the IBA discussed the burning issue of multidisciplinary practices. A spokeswoman said that the IBA was still concerned about the effect that they could have on consumers.