Thursday 06 August 2009
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives in
Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, signals shift by the
Washington - Hillary Clinton has signalled a significant shift by the US in favour of the international criminal court, the world body that pursues war criminals but was strenuously opposed by the Bush administration.
In the most public expression of support yet from Barack Obama's administration, the
The court, set up in 2002, has pursued dictators, mainly from
Clinton, speaking at a public meeting in Kenya, the first leg of an African tour, indicated she hoped this would come sooner rather than later: "This is a great regret that we are not a signatory. I think we could have worked out some of the challenges that are raised concerning our membership. But that has not yet come to pass."
There is a divide in the Obama administration over entry. Clinton and some other senior figures at the White House and state department are passionately in favour, while others advocate caution, saying the president can afford not to rush membership and should wait to see how the ICC evolves.
Supporters of the ICC, including the
But President George Bush blocked American membership, expressing fears that US officials could be open to arrest for alleged war crimes. The Pentagon was concerned that US soldiers might end up in court in
In December 2000, just before he left office, the former president Bill Clinton signed up to the ICC. But Bush two years later announced that the
Noah Weisbord, who teaches law at Duke University and who worked in The Hague with the ICC's chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, expressed scepticism about whether the US would sign up within the next four years, but he said the
"Hilary Clinton's comment that she regrets that the
Barack Obama backed the ICC's decision earlier this year to issue an arrest warrant for the Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir in connection with the mass killings in
The British government was coy yesterday about reacting to her comments. A Foreign Office spokesperson issued a short statement, without referring to the
During his election campaign, Obama's foreign policy advisers said he would on taking office consult with US military commanders and examine the track record of the court before reaching a decision.
But the advisers also said that membership would be difficult while the
Supporters of the ICC say the
So far 110 countries have ratified the
Although the Bush administration frequently cited Pentagon concerns, US lawyers report that there appears to be a shift there too, with some senior military figures now viewing the court as a useful tool rather than a threat.
One of the most prestigious international legal bodies in the
About the International Criminal Court
The ICC was set up in 2002 to ensure individuals engaged in genocide, war crimes and other atrocities would no longer escape with impunity.
Temporary ad hoc courts have been established in the past to deal with Nazi war crimes and more recently with ethnic cleansing in the Balkans and genocide in
The creation of the ICC had long been lobbied for by human rights campaigners after watching a host of atrocities created round the world without any action being taken. Its powers were not retrospective and it has only be able to tackle crimes alleged to have been committed after 1 July 2002.
So far the ICC has investigated or started the process of prosecution into crimes in
The prosecutor can decide when to intervene, or can react to complaints against a state or individual or a request
from the UN security council.
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs