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Posts Tagged ‘US Government’

The Guardian, Afua Hirsch Dec 17 2010

The international criminal court has proved one of the most controversial international institutions since its creation in 2002, drawing fire from some for its exclusive focus on Africa, and accused by others of pursuing the policy objectives of America and Europe.

But America has also been hostile to the court, refusing to join it for fear its own citizens could be put on trial for war crimes. The cables reveal American preoccupation with the personalities in the court and an attempt to discern their views on Iraq from the outset.

One cable, sent in July 2003, three months after Luis Moreno-Ocampo was elected as chief prosecutor, offered an “early glimpse” into his stance and reveals American unease about the possibility that he could pursue cases over British actions in Iraq.

“Less clear are [Ocampo’s] views on Iraq,” the cable states. “Ocampo has said that he was looking at the actions of British forces in Iraq — which … led a British ICTY prosecutor nearly to fall off his chair.”

“Privately, Ocampo has said that he wishes to dispose of Iraq issues (ie. Not to investigate them.)”

The cables also attempt to cast off early remarks about Iraq by Ocampo – who is from Argentina – as a language issue.

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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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VOA News, Feb 11 2010 Alan Boswell

The United States says it plans to help protect those set to testify before the International Criminal Court against top Kenyan officials implicated in the country’s 2008 political violence. The Court’s chief prosecutor has expressed concern that key witnesses are coming under harassment.

The U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, Stephen Rapp, told reporters in Nairobi that the United States would offer assistance in shielding witnesses from harm if a panel of judges authorizes ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo to precede with pre-trial investigations.

The ruling from the international court could come in the next few weeks.

Ambassador Rapp issued grim words of warning about Kenya’s future if those most responsible for the organized killings were not brought to justice.

“If there is not accountability for the violence of 2007, 2008, when the election cycle returns in 2012 it could happen again, and it could be worse,” Rapp said. “The blood of Kenyans would be spilled, the hopes for the future would be dashed, and it would affect the entire region.”

The diplomat would not give any specifics about what type of assistance the United States planned to offer, but suggested that re-location of the witnesses was a possibility.

Kenya has already passed into law the Witness Protection Act, but local human rights groups say that at least 22 Kenyans who had previously testified behind closed-door inquiries have reported harassment. A number have been forced into hiding, fearing for their lives. Some say the police themselves were complicit in the intimidation.

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10.22.09-

The LA TimesBy Paul Richter.

Reporting from Washington – The White House on Monday unveiled a Sudan policy that seeks a middle ground between punishing the country for its actions in Darfur and appeasing it, a step away from the get-tough policy advocated by President Obama during his election campaign.

The announcement of the new policy came after seven months of debate within the administration. It was cautiously welcomed by advocates of stringent measures to end the violence in Darfur, who expressed relief that the White House did not adopt a more conciliatory approach.

The administration wants Khartoum to end the fighting between Darfur rebels and government-backed militias. But it also is trying to persuade President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir’s government to cooperate in fighting terrorism, and in implementing a 2005 agreement that ended a civil war between the country’s northern and southern regions.

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Reuters

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Harold Hongju Koh, nominated as the Legal Advisor at the U.S. Department of State, recently submitted answers to pre-hearing questions to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Below are excerpts focused on Darfur and the ICC. The entire document can be found here.

Question:

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2008, you stated that the next U.S. Administration “should reengage diplomatically with the Contracting Parties to the International Criminal Court to seek resolution of
outstanding U.S. concerns and pave the way for eventual U.S. ratification of the Rome Treaty.” Please indicate what specific concerns you believe would need to be addressed before it would be advisable for the United States to consider becoming a party to the Rome Statute.

Answer (Koh):

The recent bipartisan American Society of International Law Task Force on the International Criminal Court—which was co-chaired by former Legal Adviser William H. Taft IV and Judge Patricia Wald and included former Supreme Court
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor—recommended that the United States could announce a policy of “positive engagement” with the International Criminal Court. Such a policy would allow the United States to help shape the development of the
Court and could facilitate future consideration of whether the United States should join the Court.  See American Society of International Law Task Force, U.S. Policy Toward the International Criminal Court: Furthering Positive Engagement iii
(2009), http://www.asil.org/files/ASIL-08-DiscPaper2.pdf.

In considering such a recommendation, among the many questions would be:  whether to announce a new policy toward the Court; whether and how to respond to the 2002 “unsigning” of the Rome Statute; whether and how to support
the ICC’s Prosecutor in particular cases; whether to participate in some capacity in the 2010 conference that will address the definition of the crime of aggression; whether to propose amendment or waiver of particular provisions of the American
Servicemembers’ Protection Act; and whether ultimately to seek ratification of the Rome Treaty, a step that would require the Senate’s advice and consent.  All of these issues would require extensive interagency discussions, in which I would
hope to participate if confirmed.   In particular, the U. S. Government has long expressed concern about the
authority of the ICC Prosecutor to initiate investigations of U.S. soldiers and government officials stationed around the world.  Particularly because the United States has the largest foreign military presence in the world, this is an important
issue on which we would need further discussion and clarification within the government.  If confirmed, I would also wish to consult extensively with military commanders and other experts, and members of this Committee, before I would
deem it advisable to recommend to the Secretary of State and the President that the United States take any steps with regard to the Rome Statute.

Questions:

36. Do you believe that events currently taking place in Darfur meet the legal definition of genocide contained in Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide?  Please indicate the reasons for your
conclusion.

37. When then-Secretary of State Colin Powell announced the Bush Administration’s position in September 2004 that events then occurring in Darfur met the legal definition of genocide, he based his conclusion on a contemporaneous study conducted by the State Department documenting atrocities in Darfur, including field interviews with over 1,100 Darfur refugees.  Has the Obama Administration conducted a similar study of events currently taking place in Darfur?  If not, does the Administration intend to conduct such a study to inform future judgments it may make about the legal character of events in Darfur?

Answer:
As reflected in Secretary of State Colin Powell’s September 9, 2004 statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Department of State’s comprehensive review of the situation in Darfur provided the basis for the
conclusion that the events on the ground met the requirements for genocide under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.  That statement appeared to me to be well-reasoned, as Secretary Powell pointed to,
among other things, a consistent and widespread pattern of killings, rapes, burning of villages and other acts that indicated the specific intent to destroy in whole or in part non-Arab groups in Darfur.  I am not aware of what recent information may be available within the U.S. Government on this subject or what the Department’s plans might be for conducting a study on the subject.  However, if confirmed, I would work closely with Secretary Clinton, others at the State Department, and the
members of this Committee to determine how best to address the situation in Darfur.

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FoxBusiness, WASHINGTON, March 25, 2009–The American Society of International Law’s (ASIL) independent Task Force on U.S. Policy Toward the International Criminal Court (ICC) will issue its report at a press conference on Friday, March 27, 2009, 10:00-11:00 a.m., in the Lisagor Room of the National Press Club, 529 14th St, NW, Washington, DC.

The Task Force, created this past fall, is chaired by former Legal Advisor to the State Department and Deputy Secretary of Defense William H. Taft, IV, and former U.S. federal appellate and International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) Judge Patricia M. Wald. Other members of the Task Force are former Congressman Mickey Edwards, Vanderbilt Law School Professor Michael A. Newton, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, former International Court of Justice President Stephen M. Schwebel, former Deputy Prosecutor of the ICTY David Tolbert, and Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies Professor Ruth Wedgwood. (All members except O’Connor, Schwebel, and Wedgwood will be present at the press conference.) Copies of the report, which will recommend that President Obama announce a policy of positive engagement with the ICC, will be available at the news conference.

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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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