Rex Tillerson wants to curtail the State Department's ability to go after war criminals: report

Trump's secretary of state is reportedly scaling down the State Department's work to go after war criminals

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published July 18, 2017 11:44AM (EDT)

 (AP/Ivan Sekretarev)
(AP/Ivan Sekretarev)

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has just made it clear that, under his watch, the State Department is not going to prioritize going after war criminals.

Tillerson has informed employees at the State Department's Office of Global Criminal Justice that they are going to be reassigned, according to a report by Foreign Policy. The office is responsible for trying to apprehend war criminals and hold them legally accountable for their actions.

Todd Buchwald, the office's special coordinator, was told that he would be reassigned to the department's office of legal affairs, while other staffers will be moved to the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

The State Department denied these reports to Foreign Policy, stating that "the State Department is currently undergoing an employee-led redesign initiative, and there are no predetermined outcomes. We are not going to get ahead of any outcomes."

Another senior department official told Foreign Policy that these reports are "pure speculation on someone’s part," adding that the prospect of closing certain offices is often sent out as a trial balloon "just to see what comes back."

Either way, a closure of the Office of Global Criminal Justice would make sense given Tillerson's current conduct as Secretary of State. Last month he admitted that he did not plan on fully staffing the department until 2018, and in general he has maintained an unusually low-key presence for a Secretary of State. He has also supported President Donald Trump's proposed budget cuts to the department, which many diplomats and other former department officials believe would have a devastating effect on its ability to effectively function.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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