by Jennifer Trahan
Center for Global Affairs at the NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies
Congress recently approved a bill expanding the U.S.’s “Rewards for Justice” program to include apprehension of individuals wanted by international tribunals such as the International Criminal Court. The bill, passed by the Senate on December 20 and House on January 3, and promoted by U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Stephen J. Rapp, covers rewards for information leading to the transfer to or conviction by an international criminal tribunal (including a hybrid or mixed tribunal), of any foreign national accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide ….
While the U.S. Government still clearly remains wary of the ICC and is not anticipated to ratify the ICC’s Rome Statue at any time in the near future, the legislation is a further positive step that strengthens U.S. constructive engagement with the Court. Other recent positive developments include U.S. deployment of 100 special operations forces as military advisers to Uganda to assist with the apprehension of members of the Lord’s Resistance Army led by Joseph Kony; statements by State Department Legal Advisor Harold H. Koh that the U.S. respects its obligations as signatory to the ICC’s Rome Statute (obligations the second Bush Administration attempted to revoke); and U.S. participation at ICC-related meetings, including meetings of the Assembly of States Parties to the ICC.
During the second term of the Obama Administration, the U.S. should further solidify the US-ICC relationship by formally reactivating U.S. signatory obligations and articulating a clear policy position of U.S. support for the Court, which is designed to prosecute the worst instances of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Congress should repeal the ban on direct U.S. financial support of the Court, to which the U.S. has supported referral of the situations in Libya and tacitly supported referral of the Darfur situation. The U.S. should also press for referral by the U.N. Security Council of the situation in Syria, which has now claimed an estimated 60,000 fatalities, to the Court for investigation and prosecution.