America's Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says it is a "great regret" that the U.S. is not yet a signatory to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
NAIROBI, KENYA (AUGUST 06, 2009) REUTERS - The United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said in Nairobi on Thursday (August 6) it was a "great regret" that her country was not a signatory to the International Criminal Court - the world's first permanent war crimes court.
The U.S. signed the ICC treaty when Hillary's husband, Bill Clinton, was president, but it was never ratified by Congress. Clinton's successor George W. Bush later rejected the idea of joining the court.
"That is a great regret, but it is a fact that we are not yet a signatory," she said at a public meeting in the Kenyan capital.
"Well 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," Clinton said.
The ICC was set up in 2002 to try individuals for genocide, war crimes and other major human rights violations.
It has fought to fend off criticism that it has so far only investigated crimes in Africa -- in conflicts in Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Darfur. It has issued indictments against Uganda's rebel leader Joseph Kony and Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.
With the recent addition of the Czech Republic, 110 countries have ratified the Rome statute. Absent from the list are the United States, Russia, China and Israel.
Under the new administration of President Barack Obama, there have been hints of greater U.S. cooperation with the ICC, although no formal shift in policy.
The court only has jurisdiction over crimes committed after July 1, 2002, in countries that have ratified its treaty.
Clinton is due to meet Somalia's president later on Thursday, showing U.S. support for a fragile government that is battling militants including al Shabaab insurgents.
She said she would discuss with President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed how the world could help stabilise the Horn of Africa country, which Western security agencies say is a haven for militants plotting attacks in the region and beyond.
"The legitimacy of his election (Sheikh Sharif Ahmed's) is something we want to recognise and support him as he tries to assert governance over parts of Somalia that have been riven with conflict since 1992. It's a tragedy. There are many Somalis in Nairobi and in Kenya who would love to go home so that they can make a living and raise their families in peace and they cannot. So our goal is to try to help create conditions of stability." she said at a forum at Nairobi university.
Clinton took questions from participants at the meeting ranging from Kenya's governance to the environment.
Asked if the U.S. was ready to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2015, Clinton said President Barack Obama's administration was investing heavily to do so, even ahead of a landmark environmental meeting set for Copenhagen in December.
"The United states is now -- under president Obama's leadership -- accepting our responsibility of having been historically the largest greenhouse gas emitter. We are moving very aggressively. We put about 90 billion dollars into a fund in our own country to develop technology to make changes so we can actually begin to reduce our emissions regardless of what Copenhagen ends up with," said Clinton.
On another topic, the ongoing conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is a focus for Clinton's seven nation Africa visit. She will visit Goma where she plans to highlight the plight of women who are raped and subjected to other atrocities.
"It is the worst example of man's inhumanity to women... and women are being used in conflicts. Now what are the conflicts about? Yes there are tribal and other reasons why the conflicts are going on, but get below the surface. It is because there are mines in eastern Congo that produce the minerals that go into our cellphones and our other electronics. There is a lot of money being made by a lot of people but it sure isn't helping the people of the DRC," said Clinton.
Another subject on her DRC agenda with Congolese leaders will be the need to fight corruption.
The DRC is of huge strategic importance to the region and home to U.S. corporate interests in the mining industry.