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Kampala Conference: Opening Remarks Provoke Controversy

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Kampala Conference: Opening Remarks Provoke Controversy

Posted by Enough Team on June 3, 2010

Kampala Conference: Opening Remarks Provoke Controversy

Under an overcast sky with intermittent tropical downpours, the ICC Review Conference wound its ways through a set of “interventions” (read: speeches) by heads of delegations on Tuesday.

Among them, the Brits mentioned that the conference could not ignore the economic downturn (translation: don’t expect new money). U.S. Ambassador Stephen Rapp pointed to the recently enacted LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recover Act and the sections focused on international justice in the Obama administration’s recently released national security strategy as demonstrations of America’s commitment to ending mass atrocities and promoting international justice. (His full statement is here.) Rapp spent at least half of his time at the podium expressing concern about the conference adopting a new crime of aggression, going over well known U.S. objections—insufficient consensus on the definition of the crime, ICC still too young, etc. Nothing new here, leaving the U.S. looking like it does not have any fresh thinking on this critical issue for the conference (although that will become more clear next week when the crime of aggression takes center stage).

Additionally, Rapp seemed to have stirred up some drama by using quotes from U.S. NGO statements that expressed caution on adoption of a crime of aggression as part of his argument. Some NGOs took offense at being quoted. They also did not care for Rapp’s reference to “leading civil society organizations,” with some NGOs hearing the word “the” before “leading” in his oral statement. Nor were they pleased with his specific reference to certain parts of Human Rights Watch’s pre-conference report, while excluding other relevant parts of the report.

The only other excitement of the day came when, following the speech by the Palestinian delegation criticizing Israel’s Monday attack on the so-called “freedom flotilla,” the conference got into a procedural wrangle as to whether Israel would be allowed to respond immediately. It didn’t happen.

The “general debate” concluded with a series of statements by NGOs around 10 p.m., when, unfortunately, very few government delegations were left standing.


David Abramowitz is the director of policy and government relations at Humanity United. Previously, he served as chief counsel to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where he was responsible for advising the committee on issues such as international law, international justice, and global human rights, and democracy.