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US war crimes ambassador says US unlikely to join ICC in 'foreseeable future'

[JURIST] US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues Stephen Rapp [official profile; introduction by Professor Charles Jalloh, PDF] said Thursday that no US president is likely to present the Rome Statute [text] of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] to the US Senate for ratification in the "foreseeable future." Speaking at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Rapp said that while the US has an important role in international criminal justice, it is unlikely to join the ICC anytime soon. Rapp cited fears that US officials would be unfairly prosecuted and the US's strong national court system as reasons it would be difficult to overcome opposition to ratification. Rapp also said that the US has a role to play in a three-part system for ending international impunity. The US must work to strengthen national court systems, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the US must work with countries that exercise universal jurisdiction [JURIST news archive] when there is some relation between the country and the crime, and the US should continue to support the work of international criminal tribunals.

In August, the Obama administration was urged by the Heritage Foundation [advocacy website] not to re-sign and ratify [JURIST report] the Rome Statute. The study came in response to media reports that suggested the Obama administration might be considering joining the ICC. Earlier that month, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during a visit to Kenya that it is a "great regret" [Reuters report] that the US is not a signatory to the ICC. The Rome Statute was approved in 1998, and the ICC was established in 2002. The US signed, but never ratified the treaty. Then-president George W. Bush later "un-signed" the treaty by notifying the UN that the US did not intend to ratify it. As of August 2009, only 110 of the 192 UN member states have ratified the treaty. Other states that have refused to ratify it include China, India, and Russia.

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