US envoy attends international court meeting

AP News
Posted: Nov 18, 2009 9:50 AM

The United States attended a meeting of the International Criminal Court's management board for the first time Wednesday in a sign it has stopped shunning the world's only permanent war crimes tribunal.

The United States has not ratified the court's founding treaty, the Rome Statute, partly because of fears the court could become a forum for politically motivated prosecutions of U.S. troops.

U.S. war crimes ambassador Stephen Rapp sat as an observer near the back of the hall during the opening session of Assembly of States Parties, which is made up of the 110 countries that recognize the court's jurisdiction, and oversees its activities.

Rapp, a former chief prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, is expected to make a statement to the assembly on Thursday. He did not say what he would discuss.

He told The Associated Press his presence is a sign the Obama administration wants to "re-engage with the court" but said Monday while visiting Kenya that possible ratification by Washington of the Rome Statute is likely still years away.

Assembly President Christian Wenaweser, a diplomat from Lichtenstein, said Rapp's presence was "the most concrete expression we have seen so far that the policies in place under the past administration are changing."