U.S. warms to global court

The Obama administration is likely to announce a change in policy toward the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the next few months, but it may be years before the United States joins an institution that the Bush administration at first disdained but later came to appreciate.

That change likely will be in the form of an affirmation of the U.S. signature, first offered by President Clinton in 2000, diplomats and experts say.

By Nicholas Kralev
The Washington Times

The signature was “withdrawn” by his successor, President George W. Bush, less than a year later because of concerns that U.S. soldiers and officials might be subject to ICC prosecution for political reasons.

“If they don’t announce a change of policy, there will be real questions about the administration’s support for the ICC” and its prosecution of war crimes in Sudan’s Darfur region and elsewhere, said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch’s International Justice Program.

The State Department has said that policy toward the court is, like many other issues, “under review.” When asked to elaborate, the department’s Office of the Legal Adviser, which is responsible for ICC-related matters, declined comment.

In private, officials say any announcement would only come after a serious consideration of the consequences of ICC membership.

“We want to be very careful and cautious and make sure that we’ve looked at all potential ways that joining the ICC could affect our troops around the world,” said a senior U.S. official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

Even if Mr. Obama restores the U.S. signature, membership in the court has to be approved by Congress, which could take years. Mr. Dicker noted that it took the Senate four decades to ratify the U.N. Convention on Genocide.

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