The head of the International Criminal Court is expressing optimism that Japan's expected endorsement of the recently created independent body will prompt other Asian states to take similar action. The court has already begun proceedings, with three cases from Africa, but, as VOA's Steve Herman reports from Tokyo, it still lacks the support of key international players, such as the United States and China.

The head of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Wednesday said Japan's planned ratification of the treaty that created the ICC will strengthen the court's role in the international community.

The United States, China and Russia have not signed on to the Rome Treaty that created the ICC, partly due to fears the court could be used for political ends. Japan's decision to go ahead with ratification next year will make it the largest financial backer of the court, as contributions are based on the size of a member's economy.

Currently in Tokyo, ICC President Philippe Kirsch said initial skepticism about the court is fading.

"There's not a shred of evidence after three-and-a-half years that the court has done anything political. The court is operating purely judicially," he said. "And that, in turn, has had clearly an effect of relaxation on the part of states that were initially very opposed to the court and now are much more sympathetic and interested in the court."

The court is intended to be a permanent tribunal, primarily to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Some 134 states have signed the 1998 statute establishing the independent judicial body and 104 countries have ratified it.

Kirsch is in Tokyo for six days of meetings with senior justice and foreign ministry bureaucrats, some top judges and lawmakers, lobbying for their support.

The court's prosecutor has, so far, begun investigations in three cases, all in Africa. But

Kirsch, who is also an appellate justice of the court, says the continent has not been singled out.

"Congo, Africa and the Central Africa Republic were brought [to the court] by those very same states," he said. "The situation of Darfur and Sudan was brought by the [U.N.] Security Council. So the court has no policy regarding Africa. What the prosecutor would probably say is that he has taken those cases because his criteria is gravity."

One person has surrendered to the court in connection with the case in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo faces war crime charges of enlisting, conscripting and using children for combat.

Five leaders of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army, none of whom have been arrested, face similar charges, as well as allegations of sex crimes.

Kirsch said on Friday that the investigation is ongoing in the case in Darfur, where prosecutors have listed 51 individuals as suspects of "grave international crimes."

The ICC, while independent, enjoys administrative and technical support from the United Nations.