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Ambassador: U.S. moving to support international court (CNN)

The United States is “prepared to listen and to work with” the International Criminal Court even though the Obama administration is not prepared to sign on to the treaty that established the court, a U.S. diplomat said Wednesday.

The U.S. government announced Tuesday it would support key war crimes prosecutions being pursued by the ICC. They included alleged crimes in four African nations, most notably the indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

“The United States is prepared to listen and to work with the ICC and go through requests that the prosecutor has. And we’re not going to prejudge what those requests are,” Stephen Rapp, U. S. Ambassador-At-Large For War Crimes, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “There may be obstacles under our law. But we’re prepared to do what we can to bring justice to the victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Uganda, and Sudan, and in the Central African Republic.”

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Arabs urged to support war crimes tribunal (The National – UAE)

NEW YORK // Ahead of a review conference on the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal, campaigners are calling on more Arab governments to stand up for human rights by throwing their weight behind the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Supporters of the ICC complain that only three members of the 22-nation Arab League – Jordan, Djibouti and Comoros – have ratified the treaty underpinning the court, the Rome Statute, representing the lowest membership rate of any region.

They describe Arab officials as torn between supporting a court that could be empowered to try Israelis for war crimes in Gaza, but is also prosecuting a sitting Arab head of state, Sudanese President Omar al Bashir, for atrocities.

“The prosecution of al Bashir caused a lot of hesitance among Arab states – especially as this arrest warrant was issued just after the Israeli invasion of Gaza,” said Abeer al Khraisha, the Amman-based co-ordinator for the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, which advocates for the court.

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March.23.09, AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) — President Barack Obama’s administration has dropped outright US hostility toward the world’s first permanent war crimes court, but it is still a far cry from joining it, experts say.

US officials say the new team is reviewing its policy on the International Criminal Court (ICC) after former president George W. Bush’s administration snubbed it and drew fire that it was showing contempt for international law.

But the Obama administration faces several obstacles if it wants to join.

Experts say it could meet resistance from the armed forces and Congress, and any support could vanish if the ICC warrant for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir leads to more, rather than less, bloodshed in Darfur.

John Washburn, who leads a coalition of groups promoting the court’s cause in the United States, said the new team is still wary about joining the world’s first permanent tribunal for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

But it is not for ideological reasons.

“It has a different view of international law (than the Bush administration). It has a commitment to mulitalateral approaches wherever those are going to be effective,” Washburn told AFP.

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The AP and Reuters are reporting that President Obama has tapped retired Air Force General Scott Gration as the U.S. envoy to Sudan. According to reports, the president will likely make an official announcement tomorrow.

A Newsweek profile of Gen. Gration from earlier this year looks at his close ties to the president, forged during a 15-day tour of Africa last August. The son of missionary parents, Gen. Gration grew up in the Congo and speaks fluent Swahili.
Gration spoke at the DNC Convention in Denver last summer. His official Air Force Bio is here.
Also see this article from the New York Times.

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