Cherie Booth attacks US on International Criminal Court

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Cherie Booth brushed aside diplomatic protocol on the eve of George Bush's visit to launch an attack on the White House's opposition to an International Criminal Court.

Speaking in Washington during a panel discussion on human rights and international law at Georgetown University, the Prime Minister's wife said it was "inconceivable" that the United States would not allow prosecution of its own nationals accused of war crimes abroad. She said that the court would put "tyrants and torturers in the dock" and was a "shining example" of how human rights could be enacted.

President Bush pulled out of the treaty establishing the court, which is designed to deal with war crimes and genocide, even though it had been signed by President Bill Clinton.

The White House has argued that American military personnel on peace-keeping missions around the world would be subject to the whims of an unaccountable prosecutor. Ms Booth said that America was unwilling to accept that the ICC had safeguards against this.

Ms Booth said: "It seems inconceivable that a state committed to the rule of law, such as the US, would refuse to investigate and prosecute its nationals should there be reliable evidence that they had been involved in international crimes."