Stephen J. Rapp

Distinguished Fellow
Stephen Rapp has extensive knowledge of the US political landscape having run for public office and worked for the Obama administration. He also served as a delegate for five democratic national conventions. Rapp is an American diplomat and prosecutor with more than 30 years of legal experience in the US government and the United Nations working on issues of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. He is now a Distinguished Fellow in the Rule of Law program at The Hague Institute for Global Justice, and is working in The Hague until June 2016.

Stephen J. Rapp is a Sonia and Harry Blumenthal Distinguished Fellow for the Prevention of Genocide at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Simon-Skodt Center beginning in October 2015.  As part of the fellowship, he will be in residence at The Hague Institute for Global Justice for six months beginning in February 2016.

Rapp served as Ambassador-at-Large heading the Office of Global Criminal Justice in the U.S. State Department from September 2009 to August 2015.  In that position he coordinated US government support to international criminal tribunals, including the International Criminal Court, as well as to hybrid and national courts responsible for prosecuting persons charged with genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.  During his tenure, he traveled on more than 1,200 days to meet with the victims and survivors of mass atrocities and to engage with other governments, international institutions, and non-governmental organizations to assist in the development of judicial processes, investigative commissions, and documentation projects to further accountability across the globe.

From January 2007 to September 2009, Rapp was the Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) responsible for the prosecution of former Liberian President Charles Taylor and others bearing the greatest responsibility for serious violations during the Sierra Leone civil war.  During his tenure at the SCSL his office achieved the first convictions for the international crimes of Recruitment of Child Soldiers, Sexual Slavery, Forced Marriage, Acts of Terrorism in a Civil War, and Attacks on Peacekeepers.

From 2001 to 2007, Rapp served as Senior Trial Attorney and Chief of Prosecutions at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, personally heading the trial team that achieved convictions of the principals of RTLM radio and Kangura newspaper – the first in history for leaders of the mass media for the crime of direct and public incitement to commit genocide.

Rapp was the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa from 1993 to 2001, where his office won historic convictions under the firearms provision of the Violence Against Women Act and the serious violent offender provision of the 1994 Crime Act.   Prior to his tenure as U.S. Attorney, he worked as an attorney in private practice and served as Staff Director of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency and as an elected member of the Iowa Legislature.

He received his BA degree from Harvard College in 1971. He attended Columbia and Drake Law Schools and received his JD degree from Drake in 1974.

Recent Work

The Assad Files

In a recent New Yorker piece about crimes committed by the Assad regime in Syria, Hague Institute Distinguished Fellow Stephen J. Rapp provided insights about the Commission for…

Media Mention

Voices of the Tribunal

For over twenty years, the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda worked to apprehend and prosecute those most responsible for the 1994 genocide. As…

News Brief

Building a Case for a War Crimes Probe

Britain and France are calling for an investigation into possible war crimes after four hospitals in Syria were hit by missiles this week. Russia…

Media Mention