Envoy says US to attend war crimes court meeting

AP News
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Posted: Nov 16, 2009 11:17 AM

The United States will attend an annual meeting of the International Criminal Court, a body it has so far refused to participate in, the U.S. envoy for war crimes said Monday.

Stephen Rapp said the U.S. will for the first time be an observer at this year's meeting of countries that have ratified the treaty setting up the Hague-based court.

"Our government has now made the decision that Americans will return to engagement with the ICC," Rapp said. The U.S. is also considering how it will co-operate with the court in future, he said.

The ICC is the first permanent global court set up to try individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes when national courts are unable or unwilling to do so.

The U.S. had declined to participate in the court though it was involved in negotiations leading to its formation.

Rapp said Monday that it will be years before the U.S. will ratify the treaty setting up the war crimes court.

"There remain concerns about the possibility that the United States, upon whom a great deal of the world relies for security, and its service members might be subject to politically inspired prosecutions," he said.

William R. Pace, an official of a global network of organizations that tracks the work of the court, said his group welcomed the change in the U.S. position.

"With virtually all the international tribunals in closing-down mode; in a few years the ICC will be the only game in town," said Pace, the convener of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court. "It is thus very important that the Obama Administration returns to participate in the development of the court and the new system of international criminal justice."

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Associated Press writer Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands contributed to this report.