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ABA Urges US Congress and State Department to Preserve and Bolster the Office of Global Criminal Justice and Ambassador at-Large Post

Washington, D.C. - At the 2017 American Bar Association (ABA) Annual Meeting held in New York City, the ABA House of Delegates unanimously passed a policy resolution urging the United States Congress and the Department of State to continue American commitment and support for criminal accountability for mass atrocities. Specifically, this ABA policy position urged not only for the continuation of the US State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice and its Ambassador at-Large post, but an increase in support for its critically important work helping global efforts to end impunity for the atrocity crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

The ABA took this policy position in response to recent news that the Donald J. Trump Administration is currently exploring whether to reduce or eliminate this State Department office and Ambassador at-Large position, and doing so without an alternative plan on how the US would continue to promote its interests and leadership in holding criminally accountable individuals who participate in mass atrocities around the world.

Emphasizing the importance of showing the American legal community’s support for international criminal justice, former ABA President and Chair of the ABA’s International Criminal Court Project, Michael S. Greco, introduced this policy resolution before the ABA House of Delegates. Speaking in support of the resolution was former US Ambassador at-Large for War Crimes Issues, Stephen J. Rapp, and member of the ABA’s ICC Project Board of Advisors, and former senior legal advisor to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Colonel James S. Durant III


Acknowledging that “the promise of ‘never again’ has been hard to keep”, Ambassador Rapp stated that this unfortunate reality does not diminish the importance of the rule of law to deterring atrocity crimes. Ambassador Rapp further stressed that the State Department Office of Global Criminal Justice and its Ambassador at-Large are integral to ensuring that international criminal tribunals are appropriately resourced, receive US cooperation with atrocity crimes investigations and prosecutions, and are staffed by competent prosecutors, judges, and lawyers. He concluded by stating how important it is to the policy discussion in Washington, D.C. and to global efforts to investigate and prosecute atrocity crimes that the collective voice of American lawyers be heard.

Speaking after Ambassador Rapp was ABA Delegate Colonel Durant III who spoke intimately about how crucial the Office of Global Criminal Justice was to NATO missions to apprehend indicted atrocity criminals in the former Yugoslavia and transfer them to The Hague, The Netherlands. Noting the pride felt by him and his fellow servicemembers in supporting international criminal justice proceedings, Colonel Durant made clear that the Ambassador at-Large and Office of Global Criminal Justice was vital to the formation and implementation of strong US policy on atrocity crimes and, therefore, the office and Ambassador post must “of course” continue.

The approximately fifteen minute-long video of the remarks by Michael Greco, Ambassador Stephen Rapp, and Colonel James Durant III can be found at this link.

The ABA policy resolution and its accompany report discussing reasons to preserve and bolster the State Department Office of Global Criminal Justice and its Ambassador at-Large post (as well as the range of US national interests promoted by American support of global efforts to investigate and prosecute those who participate atrocity crimes) can be found at this link.

The American Bar Association’s (ABA) International Criminal Court Project is an independent initiative of the ABA Center for Human Rights that advances international criminal justice and US-ICC relations through advocacy, education and practical legal assistance. More information about the ABA’s ICC Project can be found at its website.