About 25 students from across the Stanford campus gathered in Encina Hall on May 14 to hear Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues Stephen Rapp reflect on his career in global criminal justice.
Prior to joining the State Department, Ambassador Rapp served as chief Prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, where he was responsible for leading the case against former Liberian President Charles Taylor. His office won the first groundbreaking convictions for recruitment and use of child soldiers and for sexual slavery and forced marriage as crimes under international law.
Ambassador Rapp focused much attention on the shift in policy and attitude that the Obama Administration has taken with regard to the International Criminal Court. The United States has signed, but not ratified the court’s founding statute, though the U.S. has been increasingly active in cooperating with the Court over the past several years.
“We joke that we have turned the car around inside the garage without opening the door,” Rapp said.
The government is most active in coordinating the apprehension of fugitives, said Rapp, as with the recent surrender of Lord’s Resistance Army commander Dominic Ongwen, who was flown on a U.S. plane following his capture and onward transfer to The Hague.
The Court’s limitations were also addressed. Trials at the ICC are inevitably lengthy and expensive – and limited to only the most culpable few individuals in any given situation. Yet Rapp noted a continuing demand for justice following mass atrocity all over the world.
“These are the worst situations imaginable – the intentional targeting of innocent civilians,” he said. “There is a core national security interest and a core moral obligation to prevent atrocities and hold people to account who commit these crimes.”
Audience members were eager to hear about the recently expanded War Crimes Rewards Program Rapp’s Office of Global Criminal Justice oversees, which offers cash payments up to five million dollars for information that leads to the arrest or conviction of individuals charged with committing international crimes. Rapp further addressed a range audience questions, from the case of Syria to the trade-offs one confronts between accountability and reconciliation.
This event was co-sponsored by the Stanford Human Rights Center at Stanford Law School.
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