Event Summary: Association Hosts Stephen J. Rapp

On the evening of December 3, 2012, Ambassador-at-Large Stephen J. Rapp, who heads the United States Office of Global Criminal Justice, made a presentation about US policy and its relationship to international criminal tribunals to an overflow crowd of Association members and their guests. The event was organized by the African Affairs Committee and co-sponsored by the Council on International Affairs, the United Nations Committee, and the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice.

Ambassador Rapp began the presentation by describing the histories of the international criminal tribunals in Rwanda and Sierra Leone, the most notable trials prosecuted by each of the tribunals, and the relative effect that the prosecutions had upon the countries involved. The Ambassador described both tribunals as successful, noting the importance of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda’s prosecution of media figures and high level leaders responsible for the 1994 genocide and the Special Court for Sierra Leone’s prosecution, which he led, of the former president of Liberia, Charles Taylor.  He noted that since the Taylor prosecution, Sierra Leone has had three peaceful elections and a transfer of power without incident or violence.

Ambassador Rapp also discussed recent prosecutions by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in various countries. In one example, he reiterated the importance of accountability for the post-election violence in Kenya. Rapp discussed the contours of U.S. engagement with the ICC on a case-by-case basis, as consistent with its laws and values (the United States is not a party to the Rome Statute of the ICC).

Following the presentation, Ambassador Rapp accepted questions from members of the audience. Among other things, he further discussed U.S. policy toward international justice and the ICC and, in regard to a question about the optimal role of the ICC in Africa, Rapp encouraged the ICC to target prosecutions wherever they happen based upon the existing referral processes.