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ICC's Ocampo On Darfur but not Uganda, Asserts Jurisdiction over U.S. But For Its Veto

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, September 20 -- Sudan should arrest its two citizens who have been indicted by the International Criminal Court, even though Sudan has not signed on to the Court's Statute of Rome and is not a member of the ICC, prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told reporters on Thursday at the UN. While most questions concerned how Mr. Ocampo's call for Sudanese arrests jibes with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's "quiet diplomacy" of one-on-one meetings with president al-Bashir, Inner City Press raised two incongruities: the ICC's recent silence as UN agencies have engaged with the ICC's first set of indictees, the leaders of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (video here, from Minute 12:19), and the specifics of Sudan's -- and the United States' -- legal duty to execute warrants issued against their own citizens by the ICC. On the latter, Mr. Ocampo set forth a theory under which the U.S. could be responsible to arrest and turn over an American soldier, but only if the case was referred to the ICC by the UN Security Council. Since the U.S. is a member of the Security Council, Ocampo told Inner City Press, this is not a problem for the U.S..

            Inner City Press asked Ocampo about his repeated statement that Sudan is obligated to turn over its humanitarian affairs minister, Ahmed Muhammed Harun, and Ali Kushayb, a Janjaweed leader, given that Sudan never joined the International Criminal Court. Sudan is "part of the United Nations," Ocampo answered, and Sudan has a duty identical to the duty of Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia to turn suspects over to the country-specific Tribunals the Security Council established.

            This logic would apply to any non-ICC member country, like the United States. Inner City Press asked if, in Mr. Ocampo's statement of the law, the U.S. would be legally required even now to turn over any American, including a soldier (or, say, a Blackwater USA military contractor) indicted by the ICC.

            But the United States is a member of the Security Council, Mr. Ocampo answered.  He used the example of Iraq, saying that neither the U.S. nor Iraq are members of the ICC, so he and the ICC could only open an investigation if the Security Council made a referral of the case. There is the solution, Ocampo said. 

            The U.S. having a veto on the Security Council is the ultimate -- and in some's view, only -- protection.

Mr. Ocampo, U.S. flag at edge, Uganda's LRA not shown

            Since Mr. Ocampo spoke of the al-Bashir government sensing a "weakening of resolve," Inner City Press asked if this might not also flow from the failure to executive the arrest warrants for Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti and several other leaders of the Lord's Resistance Army, now known to be in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That's different, Ocampo said. The president of Congo is in favor of executing the warrants, but does "not fully control Northern Congo."

            Inner City Press pointed out that the UN has processed funds to build an airstrip for the LRA, and that the UN's envoy Joaquim Chissano has met with the LRA leadership. Has Ocampo said anything to Chissano, or anywhere near as much about the LRA as about Sudan in recent months?

            Ocampo's answer was oblique, that "comprehensive solutions" are needed in Uganda as in Sudan, but that he is in part of justice, and enforcing the law. But what's the difference between Harun and Joseph Kony? When Inner City Press asked if, to make international criminal law look more credible, Ocampo might support the Security Council putting indictments into suspension for a year to allow for peace talks, Ocampo said, "I cannot speculate on others' responsibility. I'm a prosecutor. I respond to the law always."

            But what about the LRA? And the apparent misunderstanding by some in the U.S. that they are legally exempt from the ICC?  These questions will continue to be asked.

* * *

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (which had to be finalized without the UN's DPA having responded.)  Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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