[JURIST] US State Department [official website] spokesman Ian Kelley confirmed [transcript] Monday that the US will send an observer to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website; JURIST news archive] for the first time this year. The announcement was made earlier in the day by US Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues Stephen Rapp [official profile], who said the country was still concerned [AP report] about the court exercising jurisdiction over US soldiers and officials. Kelley said sending an observer to the ICC would allow the US to start a dialogue with the court:
We will participate in these meetings as an observer and there will be an interagency delegation comprising of State Department and Defense Department officials, which will allow us to advance, use and engage all the delegations in various matters of interest to the U.S., specifically, our concerns about the definition of a crime of aggression, which is one of the main topics for discussion at this conference. This in no way suggests that we… no longer have concerns about the ICC. We do have concerns about it. We have specific concerns about assertion of jurisdiction over nationals of a nonparty state and the ability to exercise that jurisdiction without authorizations by the Security Council.
US commentators on the ICC have both supported and criticized the prospect of the country cooperating with the court. Legal scholars David Crane and Leila Sadat have called on the US to support the ICC [JURIST op-ed], writing that doing so would show the country's commitment to the international rule of law. The Heritage Foundation [advocacy website] has urged against support for the ICC [JURIST report], arguing that it is a threat to national sovereignty. Lending credibility to concerns that the court may try to bring US officials before the court, ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] warned in 2007 that President George W. Bush may one day face war crimes charges [JURIST report] before the ICC.