Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (left) sits in the ICC courtroom in the Hague. (Courtesy Reuters)
Earlier this month, the Brookings Institution hosted what would have been unthinkable a decade ago: a fulsome discussion, at times an outright lovefest, between officials from the U.S. government and the International Criminal Court (ICC). Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the ICC, lauded Washington for bolstering the court’s efforts to bring war criminals to justice. In turn, Stephen Rapp, the U.S. war crimes ambassador, declared, “Every one of the situations in which arrest warrants have been issued [by the ICC] merit the support of the United States.”
For the first time, the United States is not only cooperating with the ICC but encouraging cooperation and information-sharing with the court, which is based in The Hague. In March, Bosco Ntaganda, a rebel leader in the Democratic Republic of the Congo wanted by the ICC since 2006 for war crimes and crimes against humanity, surrendered to the U.S. embassy in Kigali, Rwanda. Despite the Rwandan government’s opposition to the ICC, U.S. officials quickly transferred Ntaganda into ICC custody. Less than two weeks later, Washington announced an expansion of the Rewards for Justice program, offering up to five million dollars for information that leads to the arrest, transfer, and conviction of Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and others wanted for arrest by the ICC. Moreover, the expansion of the program had the support of congressional Democrats and Republicans, including the prominent Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.
In short, although the United States is not a party to the ICC’s charter, the Rome Statute, it is arguably doing as much as, if not more than, member states are doing to bolster the work of the court. The Obama administration’s support stands in stark contrast to the high-profile assault that the George W. Bush administration waged against the ICC from 2001 to 2005. At the prodding of John Bolton, who