Clinton says she regrets U.S. is not a member of ICC

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday it was a “great regret” the United States was not yet a signatory to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo (C) and his team are seated for the court appearance of Darfur rebel leader Bahr Idriss Abu Garda, at the International Criminal Court in The Hague May 18, 2009. REUTERS/Phil Nijhuis/Pool

The United States 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.

“This is a great regret that we are not a signatory,” she said at a public meeting in Nairobi.

“I think we could have worked out some of the challenges that are raised concerning our membership,” Clinton said. “But that has not yet come to pass.”

ICC officials were not immediately available for comment.

The ICC is the world’s first permanent war crimes court, 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.

Reporting by Sue Pleming, additional reporting by Reed Stevenson in Amsterdam; Editing by Andrew Roche