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Luis Moreno Ocampo: being a prosecutor was a great privilege


Luis Moreno Ocampo: being a prosecutor was a great privilege


Luis Moreno Ocampo was the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court for nine years. The ICC is the first permanent court ever created to try war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and aggression. He made ​​his international reputation by acting as a prosecutor in the trial of the Argentinean military junta. He recently handed the baton to Gambian Fatou Bensouda . Euronews talked to him before he left The Hague.

Raquel Álvarez, euronews: Luis Moreno Ocampo, you’re relinquishing your position as Chief Prosecutor, of the International Criminal Court, just as the ICC reaches it’s tenth anniversary. Have you accomplished what you’d hoped?

Luis Moreno Ocampo: I think so. The Court is the Nuremburg court for the future. We launched it, made it work and now it continues to work. So yes, we did complete a cycle, a phase.

euronews: You’ve talked about your memories of starting off with only three people working in your office. How has everything changed since then?

Luis Moreno Ocampo: I came when there were 18 judges waiting for my inquiries. There were three employees in my office. We had six empty floors, everything had to be built up, invented. Fatou Bensouda will take charge of the bureau with 300 people working in it. There are clear and efficient working procedures. There are lots of ongoing judgements and the office is working at its best.

euronews: You know who’s going to replace you: you’ve both worked very closely: she’s a woman and she’s African. What challenges do you think she’ll face?

Luis Moreno Ocampo: Fatou inherits a well equipped office, but she’ll also inherit a world that is much more conscious about the power of Law and that might work against us. Her being a woman represents an interesting aspect because this is a new world where being a woman offers new perspectives. At present, there are lots of women with power, I think that if they connect with each other, it could produce an extremely interesting alternative.

euronews: The ICC started off with limitations when the USA, Russia and China didn’t sign the Statute of Rome. This is an essential framework of the Court, and so they aren’t forced to recognise the work of the ICC. Is this a limit of its legitimacy?

Luis Moreno Ocampo: No, on the contrary: the most powerful countries not being part of the ICC is in itself, a sign of the ICC’s legitimacy. The court is there to protect the weak, not the strong. The powerful countries who haven’t signed up, is proof the court works. It’s a matter of time. When I started everyone was hostile towards us. Two years later the Security Council accepted to put the Darfur case before the Court. Last year they voted unanimously for the court to intervene in Libya – so things are changing. We’ve been accepted. The ones who don’t work with the ICC prove the court is working. The reason why they don’t is fear. So, their absence shows how legitimate the Court is.

euronews: The strongest criticism you’ve received is about your “geographical distribution”. All your open cases are in Africa..

Luis Moreno Ocampo: When president Bashir was prosecuted for genocide, he tried to justify himself by saying we were focusing on Africa too much. It’s incredible: people seemed to believe him: journalists asked me about this “deviation” over Africa, and not about Darfur. The problem is that president Bashir has been accused of genocide in Darfur. But now, I no longer talk about Africa, I only mention it when talking about the genocide in Darfur.

euronews: The Al Bashir case is also an example of the challenges the Court faces: For example, the Sudanese president was able to move freely through different countries without arrest.

Luis Moreno Ocampo: This challenge, regarding the Countries, is for the Security Council. It’s up to them to find a way. At the moment Bashir is a fugitive. Malawi for example denied him entering their country. Lots of other countries denied him as well. He goes where he is safe from arrest. He chooses where to go very carefully. Anyway, the Court for Yugoslavian war crimes put 161 people on trial. Do you know how many of them were caught? 50%? 20%? How many do you think?

euronews: How many?

Luis Moreno Ocampo: All of them. No one escaped. It took eighteen years. The last one, Ratko Mladic, was arrested a few months ago. But in the end we got him. So Bashir will be arrested one day. In the meantime women are getting raped and children are dying of starvation. This is the price.

euronews: The ICC doesn’t have its own police force, or army to investigate and carry out inquiries and arrests in the countries who do not collaborate. Are you putting your collaborators in danger? Four people working for the ICC have been imprisoned in Libya, what happened? Are they in danger?

Luis Moreno Ocampo: Security is a big subject for all of us and I am proud of it. The Prosecution office made more than 600 missions worldwide and no investigators or witnesses were ever injured. Now the problem is that people from the public defence have been temporarily arrested in Libya. It proves that people who work for the Court run risks on a daily basis.

euronews: As far as I can see, Libya was a milestone, due to the unanimous decision of the Security Council. So what was your reaction towards the lynching and death of Gaddafi?

Luis Moreno Ocampo: The whole world reacting and asking for justice on the Libyan case, is evidence of a global evolution. The court was able, in a few months, to investigate and prove both Muhamar Gaddafi’s, and his sons crimes. The fact that Gaddafi was executed without a judgement is not good. Nevertheless, the two other people were arrested. They are under our control. Now the problem is who is going to judge them? An easier question. Justice will be done. We only have to decide who will be doing it.

euronews: I think it must be frustrating for you to see the same things happen again and again – with the Arab revolts, like what’s happening in Syria. Only this time the Security Council hasn’t asked you to open an investigation.

Luis Moreno Ocampo: Nothing is frustrating for me. Everything is a fascinating apprenticeship. Being a prosecutor was a great privilege, not a frustration. Victims are the ones who are frustrated. Now it surprises me, that the world is talking about why the ICC hasn’t intervened in Syria. Nine years ago nobody would ever think it could be possible for a Court to act in such conflicts. So, if we look at this, we realise the great changes that have taken place. The world has changed. Expectations are different and now there are institutions that can give answers to these expectancies. Our being charged with the Syria case is up to the Security Council.

euronews: These last few months have been very important for you: In December for the first time a head of State was on trial facing the Court, the Ivorian president Gbagbo. Then, in march, the court announced its first guilty sentence against the Congolese rebel leader Thomas Lubanga.

Luis Moreno Ocampo: This is the result of what we’ve been doing for nine years. It’s the end of nine years of work. The truth is that we can’t fail. We can’t fail with Thomas Lubanga, and we can’t fail with Gbagbo. At the beginning they said: “they are just dealing with militias”. Now three heads of State are on trial. They say: “we only pay attention to Africa”. Well we’ll keep going…

euronews: Someone you wanted to collaborate with as an adviser is Balrtasar Garzòn, a very well known Spanish prosecutor. At present, he keeps being suspended from his role in Spain. What’s your reaction to the accusations and condemnation that provoked his suspension?

Luis Moreno Ocampo: I asked Garzón to come and help us because he spent his whole life investigating people in the establishment, powerful people, and now he’s paying for that. So I can say yes, if you investigate or if you judge powerful people you put yourself in danger. This is why the ICC is sometimes criticised.

euronews: You said the umpire is always unpopular.

Luis Moreno Ocampo: Of course he is. Look at a the Barcelona – Real Madrid football match, everybody makes accusations against the referee. And, that’s interesting, because fair play doesn’t just depend on the referee. For this reason, the ICC is not sufficient to avoid violence. The players have to respect the rules.

euronews: As an Argentinean you really do like your football.

Luis Moreno Ocampo: Of course.

euronews: FIFA has asked you to stop corruption in football. Will you accept this as your new job? It would be interesting to see you try something different.

Luis Moreno Ocampo: There is a reform committee inside FIFA that proposed FIFA create an ethical commission with powers of inquiry and they recommended me. So it’s up to them. FIFA can choose someone else. Nothing is certain. Let’s wait and see.

euronews: So what if FIFA say yes?

Luis Moreno Ocampo: If Fifa offer me this position then I’ll deal with it then. When I was a lawyer in Argentina, I was in charge of reforming corrupt organisations. It was part of my former job. This is the reason why, I think, FIFA’s reform committee suggested me. Let’s see what happens. By the way, I am going to be on holiday for a while, from September I think and I’m opening a law firm in New York, and if FIFA calls me, we’ll see.

euronews: Luis Moreno Ocampo, thank you very much for your time.

Luis Moreno Ocampo: Thank you.

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