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Bush Administration Official Urges Firm Response to Terror

October 24, 2002|Kenneth Reich | Times Staff Writer

Humanity is being challenged by private organizations such as Al Qaeda -- illegal combatants who would spread genocide throughout the world -- and aggressive countermeasures are necessary, the Bush administration's ambassador at large for war crimes issues told a Pepperdine University student convocation Wednesday.

Pierre-Richard Prosper, who served as a war crimes prosecutor for the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal in Rwanda genocide trials before taking his present job last year, said that with the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in New York and at the Pentagon, the kind of mass killings that occurred abroad in the 20th century have "now touched America."

"It's important that justice be done," he said. "We must not let a culture of impunity prevail."

Prosper, whose parents emigrated from Haiti, travels the world in his State Department job. He was in central Africa last week and will go to Afghanistan next week to discuss war crimes issues and urge action by authorities there against wrongdoers.

After the convocation, he was approached by some who wondered why the U.S. has refused to participate in a new international war crimes tribunal and is seeking to exempt Americans from its prosecutions.

Prosper said that the administration believes there are not adequate safeguards in the treaty establishing the tribunal to prevent Americans performing peacekeeping duties around the world from being subjected to "politicized" prosecutions.

The ambassador said at the outset of his talk that the Holocaust in which Nazi Germany killed millions of Jews during World War II has not proved a one-of-a-kind tragedy, but has been followed by the murder of 1.7 million people in Cambodia, 250,000 deaths in strife in the former Yugoslavia, 800,000 to 1 million murders in Rwanda and 50,000 in Sierra Leone.

"These are more than sporadic acts of violence," he said. "All of us must stand up against them."

Prosper served as a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles County from 1989 to 1994, and from 1994 to 1996 was an assistant U.S. attorney for the Central District of California before going to work for the United Nations and then the federal government.

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