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ICC's Ocampo Mugs for "The Reckoning," Fired Whistleblower But ICC Will Pay the Damages?

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

UNITED NATIONS, July 17 -- A film promoting the International Criminal Court, a work in progress, was screened Thursday at the UN, with ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo prominently in attendance, slumped down in the front row. The movie, the working title of which is "The Reckoning," contains to its credit original footage from Northern Uganda, where victims of the Lord's Resistance Army describe their opposition to the indictments of LRA leaders including Joseph Kony being waived or suspended. There is rare footage of Kony himself, denying responsibility for atrocities, and of indictee Thomas Lubanga training child soldiers in Eastern Congo.

  The film does not mention, however, that the Lubango prosecution has been put on hold because Ocampo neglected to show information to the defense lawyers, as is required. And while the version screened on Thursday ends with Ocampo's press conference earlier in the week announcing his request for an arrest warrant against Sudan's Omar Al-Bashir, the movie does not include any of the critique or questioning of Ocampo's move, which is widespread in the Africa Union, the Arab League and even anti-Bashir non-governmental organizations.

    Inner City Press asked the film's producers if they intend to include critical voices, for example those pointing out that since the five permanent members of the Security Council have vetoes, their acts could never be referred to the ICC for investigation, much less prosecution. ON the question of including this perspective, produce Pam Yates answered, "Probably not." She said the film is to impart "basic knowledge to a general audience." But if it includes none of the critical or questioning voices, is it credible? Is it more than propaganda?

Moreno-Ocampo at UN, film poses and fired whistleblowers not shown

   One of Ms. Yates' two co-producers, Paco de Onis, whom she married in 1993, responded to Inner City Press' question about all of the ICC's prosecutions being in Africa by saying that since African presidents were part of the request, the actions were "not initiated by the ICC." But earlier in the day, Ocampo admitted that he selected Northern Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and then asked the presidents of those countries to refer the cases to him. So the ICC did initiate the action -- but by looking to the presidents as ground-cover, the ICC has not evenhandedly considered the behavior of Uganda's army, or of DRC's president Joseph Kabila.

   The film contains long scenes of Ocampo showing the camera how pensive he is, for example in the back of a car looking out at the rain, or mock-typing on a laptop. He similar appeared in, and devoted time to, the film "Darfur Now." One prominent UN correspondent recounts that when he called the ICC interested in writing about the Court, he got a mixed reception. When he called back mentioning he might do a personal profile of Ocampo, the response became much more positive. One might argue that Ocampo's self-promotion serves the ICC, even international justice. One might argue that -- but it might not be true.

Footnote: At Ocampo's press conference Thursday, he was asked about the fall-out of a sexual harassment case against him, in the course of which the ICC paid damages to a complainant. Ocampo was dismissive, saying "check with human resources" until the moderator pointedly moved to another question. Subsequent inquiry by Inner City Press has unearthed the actual judgment, which was for Ocampo unceremoniously firing a whistleblower. Upon review, Ocampo was faulted for having participated in the decision-making to fire the whistleblower.  Not only backpay, but "moral damages" of 25,000 Euros was ordered, apparently to be paid not by Ocampo but by the ICC itself, in a decision that came out on July 9.  While Ocampo is free to believe that Sudan, for example, is somehow behind the decision, it is what it is. Click here to view the decision, which Inner City Press obtained and is putting online.

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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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