[JURIST] US President Barack Obama [official profile] announced Tuesday his intent to nominate [press release] war crimes prosecutor Stephen Rapp [official profile] as Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues. In this position, Rapp will head the Office of War Crimes Issues at the US Department of State [official website], coordinating US support for war crimes prosecutions in international and domestic tribunals. Rapp will advise Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official profile] and formulate government policy responses to war crimes. The office works with foreign governments, courts, and non-government organizations to deal with the accountability of such crimes in areas including the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Cambodia, and other regions that have experienced genocide and crimes against humanity. He will replace Clint Wilson [official profile], who has served in the post since June 2006.
Rapp currently serves as Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone [official website] and has led prosecutions against alleged perpetrators of war crimes during the civil war in Sierra Leone, including former Liberian president Charles Taylor [case materials; JURIST news archive]. In February, Rapp told the media that the court was considering releasing Taylor due to a lack of funds, but the trial continued, and prosecutors warned this week that the trial could last up to four years [JURIST reports]. Rapp had previously expressed concerns regarding court funding, prompting Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] to urge donors to contribute [JURIST report] to the court for the purposes of finishing Taylor's trial. Prior to this role, Rapp was chief of prosecutions for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website], serving as a senior trial attorney for a team that convicted mass media leaders for incitement to commit genocide. Rapp has also served as a US attorney for the Northern District of Iowa [official website], a staff director for a Senate Judiciary subcommittee, a member of the Iowa legislature, and as a private attorney.