The two controversial
There have been muted rumbling within the human rights community about the prosecutor for a couple of years. He was unanimously elected to the job in 2003 by the 70-plus signatories to the Rome Treaty, which set up the court in the face of fierce opposition from the Bush administration.
The prosecutor to prominence at the height of the “dirty war” by the Argentinian junta against its opponents between 1976 and 1983. from being a clerk in the solicitor general’s office, he was thrust into the spotlight at the age of 31 in 1984. A year after the military regime collapsed he became junior prosecutor in the historic trail of senior figures responsible for gross human rights abuses including the “disappearance” of 30.000 people. He was then appointed public prosecutor in the 1982
Falklands war and those who fomented military uprisings in the 1980s. Moreno-Ocampo has been praised by some. Geoff Frey Robertson, the British QC who sat as an appeal judge in the special court for
Sierra Leone, calls him “a careful, respected lawyer with a fine record in prosecuting inhumane Argentinian generals.” But a high turnover of experienced staff has been seen as a symptom of underlying problems. “We are concerned about the phenomena of burn-out among experienced investigators who have left the office since 2005,” said Richard Dicker, director of human rights Watch’s international justice programmed. “There are simply not enough to handle the rigorous demands of these investigations and there is the perception that their efforts are not sufficiently valued.”
But it is the events of the last month that have flushed out critics. First, there was a pre-trial judgment against Moreno-Ocampo, which ordered the release of the first war crimes suspect to appear before the court.
The judges ruled that the Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga could not have a fair trial because the prosecutor had wrongly used confidentiality agreements to withhold evidence that might have pointed to his innocence on charges of conscripting child soldiers. “I disagree with the judges,” Moreno-Ocampo said.” I have a strong case. That is why I am appealing the judgment.”
Then last month he announced he was seeking an arrest warrant for genocide and war crimes against the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir, for the five years of carnage and pillage in
Darfur. It was a historic decision – the first against a serving head of state - and unusual because normally warrants are only announced once the court’s pre-trial chamber has formally agreed. It was immediately denounced by the African Union and the Arab League and opposed by
Sudan’s ally china.
“ I came out of the press conference in a state of shock,” said Alex de Waal, the
British academic formerly seconded to the African Union mediation team in
“He painted a picture no scholar would recognize. He was basically calling for regime change, making a political statement, which is surprising coming from the chief prosecutor of the ICC.
“By presenting his case in such stark terms, the prosecutor has made it easy for his critics to dismiss him as ill-informed and driven by a desire for publicity, and has made it harder for the advocates of justice in
Darfur to pursue the challenge of calling to account those responsible for crimes no less heinous than genocide.” Antonio Cassese, chair of the UN international commission of inquiry on
Darfur, which dismissed the charge of genocide, has described the decision as “puzzling”.
Mark Klamberg, a Swedish academic who has worked in the court, says it should consider removing the prosecutor. Moreno-Ocampo thinks he did the right thing. “I cannot choose the easy way,” he said. “NO one knows what my evidence is. Let the judges decide.”
About this article Close Human rights: Growing clamour to remove the Hague prosecutor who wants Sudanese president arrested .This article appeared in the guardian on Monday August 18 2008 on p13 of the
UK news section. It was last updated at 02:46 on August 18 2008.