Friday, January 30, 2009

Obama’s Envoy Voices Support for International Court

By Bill Varner

Jan. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Ambassador Susan Rice signaled a shift in U.S. policy toward support for the International Criminal Court, a tribunal the Bush administration opposed, in her first speech to the United Nations Security Council.

The International Criminal Court “looks to become an important and credible instrument for trying to hold accountable the senior leadership responsible for atrocities committed in the Congo, Uganda and Darfur,” Rice said in a closed council meeting, according to a text provided by the U.S. mission.

President George W. Bush opposed U.S. ratification of the treaty that created the court out of concern that it didn’t include adequate protections against politically motivated prosecutions. The U.S. sought and received UN immunity for its citizens from tribunal prosecution from 2002 to 2004.

Crimes against humanity in Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Cambodia gave impetus to creation of the Hague court, whose jurisdiction took effect on July 1, 2002. The court’s prosecutor last July sought the arrest of Sudanese President Umar Hasan al-Bashir for war crimes in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Rice’s remarks at the Security Council meeting on international humanitarian law won praise from envoys used to seeing the U.S. isolated on issues such as the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction.

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