Rex Tillerson considers closing the State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice
A recent report suggests that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson allegedly plans to close the State Department’s office that is responsible for prosecuting war criminals.
According to a retired official, Todd Buchwald, the coordinator at the Office of Global and Criminal Justice, has been told by Tillerson that he will be reassigned in the legal affairs office at the Department of State.
Moreover, Tillerson also plans to completely dismantle the rest of the office by reassigning its employees to various positions at the State Department.
On Monday, Columnist Beth Van Schaack stated that Buchwald “has apparently been told that his detail will terminate shortly.”
One spokesperson for the State Department refused to comment on this recent turn of events at the State Department.
“The State Department is currently undergoing an employee-led redesign initiative, and there are no predetermined outcomes,” the spokesperson told Foreign Policy. “We are not going to get ahead of any outcomes.”
The founding of the anti-war-criminal office dates back to 1997 when it was established by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. The Office of Global Criminal Justice was in part founded as a result of the carnages that occurred in Bosnia and Rwanda back in the 1990s. The genocide in Srebrenica, Bosnia in July 1995 was the largest mass murder in the post World War II era.
Once it was founded, the Department has worked with numerous global organizations and courts to pursue designated war criminals.
A lot of experts have expressed their concerns about the idea of closing down the Office of Global Criminal Justice.
“This is a very harsh signal to the rest of the world that the United States is essentially downgrading the importance of accountability for the commission of atrocity crimes,” said the first American ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, David Scheffer. “This sends a strong signal to perpetrators of mass atrocities that the United States is not watching you anymore.”
“There’s no mistaking it — this move will be a huge loss for accountability,” said Richard Dicker, the director of Human Rights Watch’s global justice operation.
Michael Posner, a former assistant secretary for the human rights bureau during Obama’s tenure, suggested that to overhaul the Office of Global Criminal Justice did not necessarily mean to shut it down.
In addition to this, Posner suggested it is likely that another branch of State Department will take the role of the war crimes office.
“The key is the appointment of strong people and the provision of adequate resources and political support to enable them to do their jobs effectively,” he added. “Treating human rights and global justice issues as foreign policy priorities advances U.S. interests and values. They are inseparable.”