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“Beshir is destined to face justice”

by Africa News on 28 Oct 2009 | Comments

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is regularly criticised for being too selective or too slow in the pursuit of war criminals. Here, prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo gives his side of the story, explaining how the court goes about its work, and answering his critics on the cases concerning Sudan’s President Omer el Beshir, Ugandan rebel Joseph Kony and Congolese former warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba, with a combination of patience and passion for seeing justice done.

This article appeared earlier in The Africa Report

Q: Over the past six years, what progress have you made in establishing an international criminal justice system?

A: The court is establishing the idea that there is no more impunity. Before, I was teaching at Harvard and a colleague of mine told me: “It’s an honour [to be appointed ICC prosecutor], but reject it because you will be nine years at the Hague doing nothing. Without US support you cannot investigate, you cannot arrest.” Six years ago, the challenge was – can a court without a state operate? Now the issue is how the states and other organisations will react to the global court.

Is the court a deterrent to those committing war crimes?

The legal advisor of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), the most important military organisation, told me that they told their staff to imagine: in 15 years you are retired as a two-star general, on the beach with your family. Suddenly you’re surrounded by policemen who handcuff you and you go to the ICC and the evidence is documentation from NATO. You have to be aware that if you commit crimes, you could be prosecuted. So that’s it. Armies all over the world are adjusting to this.

How much is the failure of the US, Russia, China and Israel to join the court hindering its work? Will this change?

Joining the court is a national decision but, in the meantime, we are working with them (the non-members). Russia sent communications to us over crimes committed in Georgia, showing that Russia factored in the existence of the Rome Statute when they started operations in Georgia. With China, we have working relations. With the US, I would say that some members of the current administration respect the court.

What about the African Union, which voted at a summit in Sirte, Libya, not to cooperate with the court over the arrest warrant for the President of Sudan, Omer Hassan el Beshir?

After the meeting in Sirte, the next Tuesday I was in Addis Ababa meeting the high-level panel on Darfur, presided over by ex-President Thabo Mbeki. I regularly talk to Kofi Annan, who represents the AU in Kenya. We are meeting presidents of countries from all over the region.

Is the court being accepted more widely?

International humanitarian law started in the 19th century. Newspapers sent journalists with cameras to the Crimean War. This changed perceptions. Now with Twitter and YouTube, people are taking pictures and videos. Young people, particularly, watch this and they say: “Something has to happen here.”

Legal scholars of my age are still thinking of constitutional systems in nation states, but we’re living in a new world. Two days ago, South African lawyers representing a group of Muslims came to my office with a case in Gaza that involved a South African working for the Israeli Defence Force. This is a new world that needs connected institutions and global institutions such as the ICC.

How do you answer the criticism that the ICC is unduly targeting Africa and that’s why the AU decided to suspend cooperation over the warrant to arrest President Beshir?

It’s propaganda. Surveys show that in African countries, 75% of people support Beshir’s arrest. Arab countries, between 35-55%. Why focus on cases in Africa? Because there were serious crimes there and the leaders requested our intervention.

We are not in Sri Lanka or Burma, because those governments have not signed the treaty and are not requesting our intervention.

Are there other ways you can work in conflicts such as those in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sri Lanka and indeed Israel and Palestine?

I am not the world prosecutor. I am the 110 state prosecutor (i.e. the member states of the ICC). So, I have jurisdiction in state parties such as Congo and Uganda but not in Sri Lanka, Burma or Iraq, which are not state parties. I am involved in Sudan (which is not a state party) because the UN Security Council referred the Darfur case to the ICC.

So you can investigate actions by member states – such as Britain – in Iraq, even though Iraq is not a state party?

We collect information about allegations of crimes committed by some of the 25 state parties who are involved in Iraq. In three countries, we found information about nationals involved in tortures or willful killings. In all three, the responsible states were conducting an investigation against them. So assuming they are doing it, we should not do it.

Although you’re a trained lawyer, are you becoming a politician at the ICC?

On the contrary. I am putting a legal limit to the politicians. That’s my job. I police the borderline and say, if you cross this you’re no longer on the political side, you are on the criminal side. I am the border control.

Is the decision to prosecute the President of Sudan a political or legal one?

No one is saying Beshir is innocent. The political aspect is something for the UN Security Council and the government of Sudan, and then the AU and the Arab League. They debate the political aspects, not me. No one is saying my case is wrong, my evidence is wrong. It took almost 18 months to present my case and the human rights leaders were criticising me, saying: “He’s doing nothing, he’s so cautious.” I’m sorry, I had to collect evidence. Without evidence, I don’t present cases.

Why didn’t you interview witnesses inside Darfur?

It’s my legal obligation. I have a duty to protect my witnesses. I have no way to protect people in Darfur. I have to provide all the names of my witnesses [but] as soon as I provide the name of the witnesses, they could be killed.

Do you think you would have been more likely to have arrested Sudan’s minister of humanitarian affairs Ahmed Harun and Janjaweed leader Ali Kusheib if you had issued sealed arrest warrants to be acted on when they travelled to a member country of the ICC?

In each situation I assess the best way to do it. There were allegedly some trips by Harun, who has health problems. At the same time, in those days, we were exploring the possibility that the Sudanese regime would let Harun go to the Hague to face justice.

There were public conversations in Sudan to adopt this strategy, to let Harun go to the Hague. It was an avenue [we explored].

How would you reply to the wider questions – that no one is going to arrest President Beshir, that you’ve reinforced the hard-core security people in the Khartoum regime, that you prompted the expulsion of aid agencies from Darfur and undermined any attempts at peace talks there?

Look, I am Argentinian. In 1976, the military junta took power supported by international institutions. Just nine years later, they were in the dock, I was the prosecutor.

Things change, power is not permanent. It’s a matter of time. Beshir’s destiny is to face justice. Secondly, re inforcing hardliners is exactly the problem that the UN Security Council and the AU have to deal with, by having legal decisions respected. If not, they will promote the hardliners.

Beshir blocks humanitarian assistance to the people in the camps, he removes them from the villages, he destroys the water systems. Expelling humanitarian assistance is confirming the criminal intentions. It’s Beshir killing the people, not me. Today, what’s happening in the camps is genocide.

In Uganda, how do you respond again to the argument that the warrant against Joseph Kony is undermining attempts to negotiate with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)?

What peace? Kony was abducting children in the Central African Republic and talking about peace. Kony killed Vincent Otti because he was involved in the peace process. So what peace are you talking about? Kony is using the same trick. When he’s weak, he calls for peace. Kony uses the peace process to get money, weapons, food, to strengthen and then to attack again. That’s what he has done five times and wants to do again.

Kony has to be arrested and we have to mobilise efforts to arrest him because Kony has forcibly displaced more than 200,000 people. Kony is very dangerous.

If President Museveni wants to suspend the arrest warrant on Kony – does that change anything?

I can do nothing else than prosecute Kony now. When the court requests an arrest warrant, it’s a judicial activity. The judges decide. It’s not my decision. And the judges cannot take into account political factors, the judges consider evidence and it has to be lawyers presenting evidence.

The judges cannot review an arrest warrant based on political considerations. It’s a court.

You have been criticised for doing too little in the Democratic Republic of Congo. For example, some argue your case against Thomas Lubanga should have gone way beyond the recruitment of child soldiers?

I think [recruiting] child soldiers is a very serious crime. Many of them can never recover. It’s an awful experience, a terrible experience. Girls were systematically raped and beaten, forced to kill, forced to be raped, it’s a horrific experience. It’s one of the most serious crimes I’ve had to deal with. It’s important that the first case of the International Criminal Court was about child soldiers. And I will request a very high punishment for Lubanga.

Why did you choose to charge Congolese political leader Jean-Pierre Bemba with crimes committed in the Central African Republic when his main arena of operation was Congo?

In the Bemba case, the number of rapes outnumbered the number of killings by far. They were looking for the boss of the neighbourhood and when they found him, he was raped publicly to humiliate him. Of course there are allegations of Bemba committing other crimes. My business is to investigate massive crimes, I cannot present all the crimes committed in the courtroom because then the case would never finish.

What is the role of the ICC in the Kenya crisis? You met with a delegation of Kenyan politicians in July and that seemed to blur the ICC’s position.

I think the meeting was pretty good. They informed me that they are committed to ending impunity and said if we cannot do national proceedings we will refer the case to you. And in the meantime we will provide information to you. Two days earlier, I received, here in the Hague, the boxes with the Waki Commission evidence [Kenya’s official commission investigating political violence]. My feeling is that Kenya today shows how well this new idea is working. It’s a common effort between Kenya, AU representatives like Kofi Annan and the ICC to end impunity. If we do nothing today, the next election will be a disaster.

Do you think the ICC is in danger, that it might not survive?

This is propaganda. A few months ago, Chile joined the court. South America is complete. Czech Republic, a few months ago, joined the court. Europe is complete. When I started it was 78 countries, today it’s 110. The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, says she regrets that the US is not a member of the court. We have just finished the discussion on the budget of the court. The states are paying, no problem. This idea is changing the way in which the world is managing violence.

As in any beginning, it’s complicated. When the anti-slavery movement in the 19th century was trying to present the case, they were called trouble-makers, they were called impossiblists, [but] it succeeded. This is the time for this idea. We are living in a global world. We need agreement between many states and we need rules. This rule is so basic that no one is against it. The rule is don’t commit massive crimes. That’s it. And every-one has to agree on this. If not, we cannot live together. It’s very simple. It is not idealistic, it’s realistic.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo
Luis Moreno-Ocampo


Watch ICC President Judge Sang-Hyun Song at United Nations General Assembly Tomorrow

by alejandro on 28 Oct 2009 | Comments

Watch as ICC President Judge Sang-Hyun Song will present the fifth annual report of the ICC to the United Nations General Assembly tomorrow, Thursday 29 October 2009, at 10 a.m. EST/ 3 p.m. CET.

The President’s address will be broadcast on the UN’s website at:

President Judge Sang-Hyun Song
President Judge Sang-Hyun Song


Former Prosecutor Calls Sierra Leone Special Court Remarkable

by VOA News on 27 Oct 2009 | Comments

The Special Court for Sierra Leone held its final hearing Monday, upholding sentences for three rebel leaders for crimes against humanity.

The court’s appeals chamber confirmed sentences of 52 years for Issa Hassan Sesay, 40 years for Morris Kallon and 25 years for Augustine Gbao.  They were charged with rapes and killings during Sierra Leon’s civil war.

While the special court has ended its hearings in Freetown, it is still holding a trial for former Liberian leader Charles Taylor in The Hague. Taylor faces charges of crimes against humanity relating to the Sierra Leone conflict.

David Crane, the former chief prosecutor for the special court, who signed the indictment against Taylor, says of the final hearing, “My reaction is one of quiet pride in the people of Sierra Leone to have the courage to move forward in doing this all these many years.”

Crane says he’s “pleased to see justice done….  Not a perfect court but a court that…is a perfect model into the future for working with the International Criminal Court in the principle of complimentarity.”

Would he do any differently?

Crane says no.

“It was in the right place, which was in Freetown.  It had the right mandate….  And it had the ability to go out and talk to the people of Sierra Leone….  The strategy that I put together to…bring justice largely fell into place.  I think it has done a remarkable job,” he says.

Precedents were set

“One of which is that a head of state who commits international crimes while a head of state is culpable,” he says.             

Another precedent was making the recruiting of child soldiers an international crime.

He says, “In fact, any head of state or any cynical general or politician who unlawfully recruits children below the age of 18 into an armed force will be prosecuted.”

A third precedent, he says, is that the United Nations, “working with a country or a region which has been distressed by war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide…can and does have the legal power to enter into a treaty…to prosecute those who commit international crimes.”

Finally, Crane says a new crime against humanity was also established—forced marriage in time of armed conflict.  This crime focuses on the “bush wives,” whose numbers grew during the civil war.

“In the indictments that I signed back in 2003, the cornerstone…(was) crimes against women,” he says.

Crane is currently a professor at Syracuse University College of Law. 

from VOA News



US bans senior Kenyan official

by BBC News on 27 Oct 2009 | Comments

The US has imposed a travel ban on a senior Kenyan government official for obstructing efforts to rid the country of corruption.

Johnnie Carson, the US state department Africa chief, said he was considering bans on three other officials - but declined to release any names.

Kenya agreed to carry through reforms after 1,300 people died in post-election violence last year.

But the US believes some officials have deliberately been blocking the reforms.

The BBC’s Will Ross, in Nairobi, says the US has to perform a balancing act when it comes to dealing with Kenya.

On the one hand Washington wants to exert pressure and help sideline some of Kenya’s more unsavoury politicians.

But the country is a vital ally in the region which the US relies on to help to dowse the flames of Islamist militancy in neighbouring Somalia, our correspondent says.

Sealed envelope

Mr Carson told reporters in Nairobi: “The US government has taken the decision to revoke the visa of a senior Kenyan government official.”

Without revealing names, he described the politician as a “senior government official of influence”.

He said the individual had “obstructed the reform process, failed to end the cycle of impunity and has been an obstacle in the fight against corruption”.

Last month Mr Carson sent a letter to 15 officials warning them they faced travel bans if they failed to support the “reform agenda”.

He urged Kenya to strengthen its institutions and eradicate corruption to avoid more violence after the next election in 2012.

A power-sharing government was eventually set up after weeks of violence following the December 2007 election, but it has struggled to restore stability.

Rights groups blamed the police for many of the deaths in the riots.

International mediators have pressed the government to set up a tribunal to investigate the killings, but officials continue to miss every deadline they are set.

In July, former UN chief Kofi Annan passed the names of those accused of orchestrating the violence to the International Criminal Court in a sealed envelope.

The list, drawn up by a Kenyan judicial commission, has not been made public.

from BBC News

Kenyan Post Election Violence
Kenyan Post Election Violence



by Laura Heaton on 23 Oct 2009 | Comments

The cautiously optimistic reactions to President Obama’s new Sudan policy (Congressional Sudan watchers Senator Feingold and Senator Kerry have weighed in now too) often attribute their reservation to same unknown: the contents of a classified annex, which apparently includes the details about which incentives and pressures are on the table.

Administration officials ducked questions about specifics throughout the day – Special Envoy Gration told PBS’ Ray Suarez ‘you can figure out what they are’ – but a backgrounder briefing at the State Department with two senior administration officials does provide some interesting details about the new U.S. approach.

The full transcript is worth a read, but one exchange about the Sudanese president in particular stuck out:

QUESTION: Yes, I would like to understand what kind of relationship there will be in the coming few months with President Bashir, who is already indicted and accused of genocide.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: We have no intention of working with – directly with President Bashir. We firmly believe that he should get himself a good lawyer, present himself to the ICC, and face the charges that have been leveled against him. But equally, we think that it is important to engage with interlocutors within the Sudanese Government in order to resolve the issues that continue to exist both in Darfur and in the North – the implementation of the North-South agreement. [Emphasis mine.]

This is a remarkably frank statement to make, particularly in light of the administration’s typical hedging on the ICC question as it applies to Sudan, or even its brief section on accountability in the official policy document, which conspicuously doesn’t include even a mention of the ICC.

For contrast, consider this: Amid allegations that senior Kenyan officials had a hand in the violence following Kenya’s flawed presidential elections, the Obama administration unambiguously called for human rights abusers to face justice. Speaking in Kenya’s capital last summer, Secretary of State Clinton issued a stern message: “I have urged that the Kenyan government find the way forward themselves,” she said, “But if not, then the names turned over to the I.C.C. will be opened, and an investigation will begin.”

If the statement by “Senior Administration Official One” in the Sudan briefing truly reflects the policy of the Obama administration, officials should be forthright in saying so.* And if that’s the case, administration officials should do everything in their power – even if only through discreet diplomatic channels – to see that Bashir faces justice in The Hague.

*More broadly, the Obama administration should probably also take another look at the decision to not join the ICC. It’s hard to be a very effective advocate for an institution you’ve officially slighted.

from Enough Project



Tell the Obama Administration to Support the International Criminal Court’s Future!

by UNA-USA on 22 Oct 2009 | Comments

The United States must attend International Criminal Court (ICC) preparations in The Hague next month for a Review Conference in 2010 which will make vital decisions on the ICC’s future. There is a real danger that the U.S. will not go to the preparations. If not, the U.S. is likely to be frustrated and alienated by its experience at the conference. Before time runs out, tell President Obama and key cabinet leaders that the U.S. needs to go to the preparations.
Since 2003, the ICC has been investigating atrocities and holding individuals to account for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Unlike the Bush administration, the Obama administration has spoken favorably about the ICC and is open to cooperating with it. However, the administration is self-defeatingly refusing to participate in ICC meetings until it completes its full policy review on the ICC.
The ICC will hold a review conference in May and June 2010 to evaluate its performance and to shape its future. Many of the preparations for it will be finalized at the next regular session of the Court’s governing body, the Assembly of States Parties (ASP), November 18-26 in The Hague. Given the slow pace of the policy review, it will be fortunate if the policy timely authorizes the U.S. to go to the Review Conference. If it does, it will find that the agenda and many of its decisions were predetermined in the preparatory meetings. These decisions may make it harder for the U.S. to achieve its eventual policy goals and a closer relationship with the ICC.
The Obama administration is now determining its ICC policy, in close consultation with the Departments of State and Defense. If it waits too long to engage, it will be too late to ensure meaningful U.S. participation in the Review Conference. Tell President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary of Defense Bill Gates that you think the U.S. should participate in this important ICC meeting next month in The Hague.
To learn more about the ICC and UNA-USA’s program the American NGO Coalition for the ICC (AMICC), visit and find out about five things you can do to support the ICC.

Follow this link to complete the Action! Tell the Obama Administration to Support the International Criminal Court’s Future



Bashir’s campaign goes online

by Bec Hamilton on 21 Oct 2009 | Comments

Check it out:

As part of preparations for his bid to renew his Presidency in the upcoming “democratic” elections of 2011, Bashir has taken his campaign online (complete with a doce of peace floating above his name). Note though, the target audience.

Firstly, while Khartoum has a high rate of internet usage, the bulk of the Sudanese population have no web access (in fact, most have no electricity - which takes us to another matter all together).

Secondly, the website is in English and French, as well as Arabic.

It’s not the regular Sudanese voter he’s pitching to.

from Bec Hamilton



LRA attacks devastate Sudanese communities

by Ledio Cakaj on 17 Oct 2009 | Comments

Western Equatoria, Sudan – “Tell them about our suffering here,” said the Bishop of Yambio of the Sudanese Episcopal Church. “The LRA is killing, raping and looting in our communities and the world does not know about it,” he added.

Bishop Peter’s words came at the end of a meeting I had with Episcopalian pastors from various Western Equatorian districts in South Sudan. Packed in the All Saints Church in Yambio, the capital of Western Equatoria State, or WES, I heard many hours-worth of testimony from people who had been victims of the Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, most of them in the past two months.

The village of Yubu, for instance, which is 4 km away from Yambio, was attacked at the end of September. Many people were abducted, some were released but at least six were killed. The remnants of their bodies were collected only a few days before my visit. These events have become common in WES. A report by the U.N. coordination agency estimated 202 LRA related deaths and 131 abductions in September alone.

LRA attacks on the civilian population have been particularly brutal and frequent in and around Ezo, a town close to Sudan’s border with Congo, where the LRA attackers are coming from. As a result, many people have been internally displaced, moving to areas as far as Yambio – a 7 to 10 day trek on foot – trying to escape the LRA.

The displaced people I spoke to in Yambio described how the LRA had destroyed most of their villages around Ezo in search of food. Stories of killings, rape, and looting are again, all too common. There are at least 1,500 displaced people around Yambio living in squalid conditions without much help. An estimated 25,000 people in WES are displaced and most are thought to have fled LRA attacks.

The number of refugees from Congo and Central African Republic are also on the rise. The refugee camp of Makpandu, 45 km northeast of Yambio town, currently houses over 2,500 refugees, and at least 50 people arrive each week, according to the U.N. refugee agency. At least 3,000 refugees are stuck in Ezo town where food distribution is rare due to LRA attacks, but relocation of these refugees to the Makpandu site is on hold until the security situation improves.

In the meantime, LRA attacks in Western Equatoria continue. On October 7, the LRA attacked the village of Nimba near Yambio town. Two women were mutilated and killed.

The attacks have prompted more displacement, misery, and hunger. Food supplies for the local population and the displaced are dwindling because of the looting and destruction. On Wednesday, Governor Jemma Nunu Kumba of Western Equatoria appealed on Radio Miraya FM for swift humanitarian aid to the people of WES. The governor’s plea echoed the words of the director of the Sudanese Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Committee in our meeting: “We had never had people dying of starvation in Western Equatoria until the LRA came.”

From Enough Project

Enough/Ledio Cakaj
Enough/Ledio Cakaj


Prosecutor of International Criminal Court looking into recent events in Guinea

by UN News Centre on 15 Oct 2009 | Comments

15 October 2009 – The International Criminal Court (ICC) confirmed today that its prosecutor is looking into last month’s events in Guinea, where at least 150 people were killed when security forces opened fire on an opposition rally.

“A preliminary examination of the situation has been immediately initiated in order to determine whether crimes falling under the Court’s jurisdiction have been perpetrated,” according to a news release issued by the Court, which is an independent, permanent body that investigates and prosecutes people accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The Court said that the Prosecutor’s Office has taken note of “serious allegations” surrounding the events of 28 September in the capital, Conakry.

“From the information we have received, from the pictures I have seen, women were abused or otherwise brutalized on the pitch of Conraky’s stadium, apparently by men in uniform” said Deputy Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

“This is appalling, unacceptable. It must never happen again. Those responsible must be held accountable,” she added.

Top UN officials have condemned the violent suppression of the 28 September demonstration which High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has characterized as a “blood bath.”

Guinea has been a State Party to the Rome Statute, which set up the ICC, since July 2003. “As such the ICC has jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide possibly committed in the territory of Guinea or by nationals of Guinea, including killings of civilians and sexual violence,” the Court stated.

Other situations under preliminary examination by the ICC Prosecutor include Afghanistan, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Georgia, Kenya, and Palestine.

Currently, four situations – the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Uganda and the Darfur region of Sudan – are under investigation by the Prosecutor.

originally from the UN News Centre



Now That’s What I Call Engagement: Sudan Seeks to Hire Washington Lobbyists

by Julian Ku on 14 Oct 2009 | Comments

The Washington Post reports that a prominent Democratic fundraiser and close ally of Senator John Kerry (chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) is seeking to be permitted to lobby on behalf of the current Sudanese government.  This may seem a little weird, and even morally distasteful, but it is another logical consequence of the engagement strategy.  As the hopeful lobbyist is quoted as saying:

“The Obama administration is talking about engagement, and we believe in that,” Crowe said in an interview. “If we can make a difference, we will. But if we get into this and determine we can’t, we’ll walk away.”

Even more fascinating.. the idea of getting Sudan a lobbyist came from Senator Kerry’s office, which sought out the lobbyist and convinced him to apply to represent Sudan. This is another sign of where the Sudan policy is heading, and I think this, on the whole, is probably the least worst approach (although I don’t get why Sudan needs a lobbyist).  Still, I also find it fascinating that no one, not even the Post article, bothers to mention that the government of Sudan is still run by someone sought by the ICC for war crimes.  I guess that doesn’t matter much, even to the famously self-consciously multilateralist Obama Administration.

John Kerry and President Obama
John Kerry and President Obama


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