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April 04, 2013

Expanded Rewards for Justice Program Makes Atrocity Prevention National Priority

Washington D.C. - In a briefing yesterday, Stephen Rapp, U.S. Ambassador at large for Global Criminal Justice, announced the names of individuals wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity under the newly expanded mandate of the Rewards for Justice Program that President Obama signed into law in January. Human Rights First notes that the implementation of this expansion through the State Department’s Global Criminal Justice Office marks real progress toward fulfilling the commitment made by President Obama in Presidential Directive 10 (PSD-10) to make prevention of atrocities a priority.

“To see the names of war criminals and perpetrators of gross human rights abuses listed alongside wanted international terrorists really is significant progress in making atrocity prevention a core national security priority,” said Human Rights First’s Sadia Hameed.  “It shows us that the administration is serious about implementing PSD-10 and not just paying lip service”.

Along with creating an Atrocities Prevention Board, PSD-10 places emphasizes global cooperation, noting that atrocity prevention is a “responsibility that all nations share” and not something the United States can do alone. Human Rights First agrees and welcomes the heightened cooperation between the U.S. government and International Criminal Court (ICC) signaled through the inclusion of ICC fugitives within the expanded Rewards for Justice Program.

“It is significant that the U.S. government is cooperating more actively with the ICC through the expanded Rewards for Justice Program. It signals an overdue recognition that accountability for the world’s worst crimes really is a common objective shared by the United States and the international community – that the United States has a key role to play in facilitating the important work of the Court,” observed Hameed.

Just last month, the U.S. government demonstrated its commitment to the ICC’s efforts, when wanted fugitive and notorious warlord Bosco Ntaganda surrendered himself to the U.S embassy in Rwanda and was subsequently transferred to the ICC in The Hague by U.S authorities. Charges heard against Ntaganda in a preliminary hearing at The Hague include rape, murder and the conscription of child soldiers in Democratic Republic of Congo.

The United States was instrumental in the creation of the ICC, but has declined to become a member, largely due to fears that its servicemen and women could be subject to unjust ICC prosecution. “In the 15 years since the Rome Statute creating the ICC came into being, the Court has proved its reliability, sticking to its mandate of prosecuting only those most responsible for the most serious international crimes. It has not strayed into to situations where domestic accountability mechanisms are functioning. What’s more, the United States has negotiated agreements with many States to which it sends armed forces to preclude transfer of Americans to the ICC.  With PSD-10 now in place it only makes sense that the U.S government seriously considers becoming a full partner in this system,” said Hameed.

For more information, or to speak with Hameed, contact Corinne Duffy atDuffyC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3319.