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ICC's Ocampo Defends His Africa-Only Focus, His Strategy In Question

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

UNITED NATIONS, July 17 -- International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told the Press on Thursday, "Because I respect African leaders, I invite them to refer to me the case, and they did it." While dodging questions about his request for an arrest warrant against Sudan's president Omar Al-Bashir, Ocampo responded to Inner City Press' question about why all of his prosecutions so far have been in Africa, and not for example in Colombia, Myanmar or North Korea. He responded that he visited Colombia last November, and will again "next month," to monitor national proceedings. Those proceedings have offered a form of immunity to government-backed paramilitary forces, but apparently Ocampo is satisfied with that. Perhaps, then, Sudan should have put its two indictees Ahmad Harun and Ali Kushayb on trial, then offered then a slap on the wrist. Behind the scenes, Ocampo has been telling Ambassadors of Permanent Five members of the Security Council, and some of these have off the record been telling the press, that if Al-Bashir now turns over the two indictees, the prosecution against him might go away or be put on hold. Ocampo's prosecutorial strategy -- reversing the normal approach of trying to turn underlings against their boss -- and his performance are both subject to question. But on Thursday few answers were provided.

   Inner City Press asked Ocampo about both the Thomas Lubango case, which has been suspended due to his office's failure to show its evidence to the defense lawyers, and about the unacted-on arrest warrant against Joseph Kony of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Video here, from Minute 25:52. On Lubanga, Ocampo said "the problem was how to disclose some documents." First, providing discovery material to the defense is a basic principle of fair prosecution. Second, Inner City Press is told by sources inside the UN Secretariat and its Congo peacekeeping mission, MONUC, that they never expected Ocampo to base his prosecution on the hearsay material they provided him, but he did. Now that material must be disclosed, and they are unhappy.  Neither they nor the Western members of the Permanent Five, however, will criticize Ocampo in public. That would be politically incorrect.

ICC's Ocampo with outgoing Italian Ambassador, non-African prosecutions not shown

   Ocampo, however, drapes himself in the role of the last of the just, an objective man, a slave to justice. Asked why all his prosecutions have been in Africa, he said, "I cannot respect geographical balance, I cannot respect gender balance." Video here, from Minute 25:52. But how can it be that a court set up to try genocide and child soldier recruitment, among other high crimes, is focused only on Africa?  Ocampo, and later in his defense the foreign minister of Costa Rica Bruno Stagno Ugarte, claim this is because the presidents of Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo have referred cases to Ocampo. First, Ocampo admitted that he invited them to make specific referrals, to make a showing of his respect for African leaders. Second, this has created a conflict of interest or bias, in which he has not for example investigated or at least prosecuted crimes of the Ugandan army, only the LRA. Ocampo never answered the question about Joseph Kony, who meets opening with UN officials like Joachim Chissano. Perhaps there was not enough media interest to keep Ocampo focused on the LRA case, or actually succeeding in the case of Lubanga.

    In Kinshasa last month, Security Council Ambassadors emphasized to Inner City Press that Congolese president Joseph Kabila had praised them and the ICC for the prospection of Lubanga and especially Jean-Pierre Bemba. But Bemba was Kabila's main opponent in the last elections.  Even in Congo, the ICC is arguably being used politically. These questions should be answered and not dodged.

Footnote: Inner City Press asked Ruth Wijdenbosch, President of the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee of Suriname, which just joined the ICC, about reports that the U.S. in 2007 had sought anti-ICC "non-surrender" agreements from Suriname.  Video here, at end. She acknowledged the U.S. attempts and said they have stopped -- not as some argue because the U.S. agrees, or agreed, with Ocampo's Darfur prosecutions, but because by arrogantly demanding the agreements the U.S. was "losing friends" in Latin America, presumably to Hugo Chavez. So Hugo Chavez, under this theory, has helped the ICC. Watch this site. And this --


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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece 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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