War Crimes Office May Be Shuttered As Tillerson Reorganizes State Dept.


WASHINGTON — The State Department office charged with combating war crimes may become the latest casualty of Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson’s plans to restructure his department, former American officials said on Tuesday.

Human rights advocates seized on the proposal as another example of what they assert is the Trump administration’s indifference to human rights outside North Korea, Iran and Cuba.

They also say that shutting the Office of Global Criminal Justice, as the war crimes bureau is officially known, would hamper efforts to publicize atrocities and bring war criminals to justice.

“The promise of ‘never again’ has proven hard to keep,” said Stephen J. Rapp, who led the office during the Obama administration. “If this Office of Global Criminal Justice closes, it will become even more difficult.”

Mr. Tillerson has not made final decisions on how to restructure the agency, a State Department spokeswoman said, adding that the goal is not to play down war crimes but to make the department’s efforts more effective, including in combating atrocities.

“There are no predetermined outcomes,” the spokeswoman, who under State Department rules would not be identified, said in a statement. “We want to make sure that the responsibility for an issue is appropriately placed and aligned with the resources it needs to meet its mission.”

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