U.S. Not Part of International Criminal Court Is ‘a Great Regret,' Clinton Says

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrapped up her 11-day tour of Africa with a brief stop in Cape Verde. The seven-nation trip was aimed at emphasizing the Obama administration's interest in Africa, and Clinton pressed for good government and democratic reforms.
Friday, August 7, 2009

NAIROBI, Aug. 6 -- At a spirited town hall meeting at the University of Nairobi on Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called it "a great regret" that the United States is not a member of the International Criminal Court, an institution that has long been treated warily by the Pentagon.

A student asked the secretary how the United States could support having the court intervene in Kenya's problems when the U.S. government has not subjected itself to its procedures.

Clinton said it is "a great regret, but it is a fact" that the U.S. government is not a member of the court. "But we have supported the court and continue to do so," she added.

"I think we could have worked out some of the challenges that are raised concerning our membership by our own government, but that has not yet come to pass," she said.

In December 2000, Clinton's husband, then-President Bill Clinton, signed the treaty that set up the International Criminal Court, despite what he called "concerns about significant flaws." But he did not submit it to Congress for ratification. Months later, the Bush administration in effect withdrew that signature. The Obama administration has not made any move to join the court.

The Pentagon has long worried that the international war crimes court could unfairly target U.S. military personnel around the world. Some legal experts, however, say the U.S. government had won important concessions to ensure protection of American service members.

The Kenyan government and opposition have agreed to allow the court to prosecute people accused of participating in violence after a disputed election in December 2007, although the cases could also be referred to a special Kenyan tribunal.

-- Mary Beth Sheridan

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