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UN Assigns 18 Judges to International Criminal Court

The United Nations, after a week-long selection process, assigned 18 judges to the International Criminal Court, a permanent tribunal dedicated to trying war criminals.

Four of the 18 judges are from Latin America, three from Asia, seven from Western Europe, three from Africa, and one each from Canada and Eastern Europe. Seven of the 18 are women.

United Nations spokesman Farhan Haq says the gender diversity within the Court is notable.

"Six women were elected on the very first ballot, which was a welcome and unusual development in terms of elections to U.N. bodies. It is a step forward, although they are, of course, not a majority. But seven [out of 18] is, by any standard, fairly good."

The International Criminal Court was established in July 1998 to bring individuals charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and other war crimes to justice.

The United States has signed but not ratified the ICC treaty, and did not participate in the selection process. The Bush administration argues that U.S. citizens, especially American troops, could be subjected to politically motivated trials.

Russia and Israel are two other signatories who have not ratified the ICC's treaty, and China and India have neither signed nor ratified it.

Mr. Haq says U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is not giving up hope on U.S. participation.

"The Secretary General's hope is that, over time, when people see how the Court functions, see how effectively and fairly it can do its work, that those countries who have not chosen to participate in the court so far will decide that it's actually appropriate to do so," he said. "And we're hoping that would be the case for the United States, as well as all of the other countries that are currently outside the court."

Mr. Haq says that the latest country to join is Afghanistan, which ratified the treaty on Monday.

The 18 judges will be sworn in March 11 at a ceremony in The Hague, The Netherlands.