Diplomats throw their weight behind an international court

The former secretary-general of the United Nations, Boutros Boutros Ghali, joined other leading international figures last week at the launch of a campaign to press for the creation of an International Criminal Court by 1998.

The two-day meeting in Paris marked the official launch of the 1997-98 No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) campaign.

The campaign was set up despite formal commitments by the UN to set up the Statute of the Court by 1998, because of worries that weaknesses in a resolution by the UN General Assembly last December could mean the deadline is missed.

In a statement it said the lack of clarity “could lead to a delay, or hinder the adoption of the final Statute of the Court.”

Ghali was joined by Emma Bonino, the European commissioner in charge of humanitarian affairs, and the presidents of the ad hoc tribunals for the former former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

They discussed the campaign's plans to hold a series of conferences throughout the world to ensure that the momentum for the setting up of a court is not lost.

NPWJ is part of the Non-Governmental Organisation Coalition for an ICC, a grouping of over 100 bodies worldwide. It also includes the American Bar Association, the International Bar Association and Amnesty International, all of which share the wish to establish an ICC.

Earlier this month, Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, announced his personal support for an ICC at the IBA's 50th anniversary celebrations.

IBA president Desmond Fernando said: “The establishment of an ICC is a top priority for lawyers around the world but we must be careful not to underestimate the hurdles which still have to be overcome.”