As mentioned last week by Jane Stromseth in her terrific post “Why the U.S. needs the Office of Global Criminal Justice Led by a Senate-Confirmed Ambassador-at-Large,” the intrepid Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) has been circulating a petition among members of Congress in defense of the State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice. (The fate of the office is also mentioned in this distressing account of the climate and mood in the State Department). Key excerpts:
Collectively, this office houses much of the most technical legal expertise on transitional and international justice mechanisms available to the U.S. Government. … Closing this office would unilaterally degrade the U.S. Government’s knowledge base on criminal accountability at a time when we are witnessing some of the worst war crimes and crimes against humanity in a generation. …
Closing GCJ would also leave the U.S. legally vulnerable. In its role as the liaison to international tribunals with jurisdiction over war crimes and other serious crimes of concern to the international community, GCJ is also responsible for interfacing with the International Criminal Court [which is considering crimes committed in Afghanistan by U.S. forces and personnel]. … Lacking an ambassadorial-level official and staff with the necessary expertise to represent the United States in talks with the ICC during this legally and politically fraught time would only harm our interests.
Abolishing the Office of Global Criminal Justice would be a self-inflicted wound. It would diminish the United States’ standing as a nation committed to holding accountable those responsible for genocide and other forms of crimes against the human race. It could also harm our ability to successfully resolve a matter that will establish a significant precedent concerning international criminal scrutiny of American military and intelligence personnel.
Signed by an honor roll of 30 members of Congress, the full text of the letter can be found here. NGOs are also circulating letters of support and conducting other outreach, and the ABA will consider a draft resolution at its next annual meeting urging the Trump Administration and Congress to preserve the office and the Ambassador-at-Large position.
As Representative Lieu’s letter notes, the timing of this potential restructuring of the State Department could not be worse. According to one study, the global economy loses $14.3 trillion a year due to violence (13% of global GNP) of which $89.6 billion is due to terrorism (as opposed to other forms of armed conflict and state repression). Violence is now on the rise worldwide for the first time since the 1990s and over 50 countries, and nearly half of the world’s population have experienced, or are experiencing, political violence. As a result of these levels of violence, upwards of 65 million people are uprootedaccording to the office of the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Refugees in what has become the worst refugee crisis since World War II. At the moment, 80% of all humanitarian aid is going to people fleeing violence, conflict, and repression. In the past, these funds went to people suffering as a result of natural disasters. These data are all set out in harrowing detail in a range of authoritative sources, including the Institute for Economics & Peace’s 2016 Global Terrorism Index; Mercy Corps’ Ounce of Prevention Report; and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) States of Fragility Report. This violence underpins national security threats, such as terrorism, and requires a holistic response.
Read the full post at Just Security.