Stephen Rapp and two fellow Former U.S. Ambassadors-at-Large for War Crimes Issues commented on the U.S. government’s signalled intention to eliminate the State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice. In an op-ed contribution to The Hill, a news website that covers policy and politics in Washington, D.C., the ambassadors write that this decision “can only be good news for the leaders of the Islamic State and other perpetrators of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity who should be brought to justice.”
The Office of Global Criminal Justice, established in the 1990s as the Office of War Crimes Issues, was a response to atrocities such as mass displacement and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans and the genocide in Rwanda. It embodied the United States’ commitment to holding accountable those responsible for these crimes.
“At a time when atrocity crimes still run rampant – in places like Syria and South Sudan – it is mind boggling that the administration would wish to convey a decreased emphasis on this issue.”
The authors David Scheffer, Clint Williamson, and Stephen Rapp add that specifically the position of an Ambassador-at-Large enabled the U.S. to coordinate efforts with other countries and encourage international political support for accountability processes.
“In effectively closing this office and eliminating the ambassadorial position, this administration removes the most potent diplomatic weapon in its arsenal and sends an unequivocal signal these are no longer priorities for the United States.”