As part of keeping you apprised of activities and efforts related to the Wellington Declaration, I will occasionally mention visitors from the U.S. who might not be noted in the traditional media.  Over the past year the number of working visits by American academics, jurists, scientists, other experts, and officials has more than quadrupled.  Although they do not galvanize attention the way a Cabinet arrival does, such visits are the sinews of a strong bilateral relationship.  They are also often intensely interesting because of the special expertise that the visitors possess.

Stephen J. Rapp

Amb. Stephen J. Rapp.

This week we are very fortunate to have with us my colleague Ambassador Stephen J. Rapp, Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues.  The Ambassador is in town discussing with our Kiwi counterparts current global hot spots and certain joint international efforts.

Appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate, Ambassador Rapp assumed his duties on September 8, 2009.

Prior to his appointment, he served for more than two years as Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, leading the prosecutions of former Liberian President Charles Taylor and other persons implicated in the atrocities committed during the civil war in Sierra Leone.  During his tenure, his office achieved historic first convictions for sexual slavery and forced marriage as crimes against humanity.  He also successfully prosecuted attacks on peacekeepers and recruitment and use of child soldiers as violations of international humanitarian law.

From 2001 to 2007, Ambassador Rapp served as Senior Trial Attorney and Chief of Prosecutions at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, personally heading the trial team that won convictions of the principals of RTLM radio and Kangura newspaper.  Those were the first convictions in history against leaders of  mass media for the crime of direct and public incitement to commit genocide.

The Ambassador has a long history of winning difficult cases and setting precedent.  Prior to his international activities, he served as the United States Attorney in the Northern District of Iowa, where his office won historic convictions under the firearms provision of the Violence Against Women Act.  He spent time in private law practice, served in the Iowa legislature, received his BA degree from Harvard College, and earned his law degree from Drake.

The Ambassador is a smart, committed, compassionate man of action, and I’m delighted that he is with us this week.  If you see him on the street, please say hello.  He’s good value.