, NAIROBI, Aug 6 – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday voiced regret that the United States was not part of the International Criminal Court (ICC) as she promoted its usefulness in Africa.
The United States is in an awkward position on issues such as sending Sudan’s President to the ICC over Darfur war crimes and even how to deal with Kenya’s post poll violence suspects because the US itself has long rejected the ICC.
"It is a great regret that we are not yet a signatory," Clinton told a public forum at the University of Nairobi.
"But we have supported the work of the court and will continue to do so under the Obama administration," she said.
President Barack Obama’s administration has previously said only that it is reviewing the US position on the court, which is based in The Hague.
Former president George W. Bush was a passionate opponent of the court, fearing it could target Americans out of political bias considering US dominance around the world.
"I think we could have worked out some of the challenges that are raised concerning our membership by our own government," Clinton said.
But any shift in position by Obama would likely face strong opposition from key members of Congress and the military, which fears that foreign nations could haul US soldiers to the court.
A change in policy would also present logistical challenges, including figuring out what to do with a raft of bilateral deals the Bush administration reached with other nations pledging not to refer Americans to the court.
More than 100 countries — including most western democracies — have become a party to the ICC which was set up under the 1998 Rome Statute and is the first permanent tribunal for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The United States has also walked a tightrope after the ICC issued a warrant for Sudan’s President Omar al-Beshir for alleged war crimes in the violence-torn western region of Darfur.
The US — where some officials say Sudan is committing genocide in Darfur — has called for Beshir to be held accountable but said it is under no obligation to act on the ICC warrant and arrest him if he steps on US soil.