3 December 2008
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

PRESS CONFERENCE BY PROSECUTOR OF INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT


The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court this afternoon said that, while the Sudanese Government had not cooperated at all with his indictment of Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, he was confident that the Sudanese President would be held to account.


“I never lose my cases,” Luis Moreno-Ocampo said during a Headquarters news conference this afternoon.  “Realistically I think he will face justice.  I don’t know if that will be in two months or two years.  But if the judges decide to indict him, the destiny of Mr. al-Bashir is to face justice.”


Speaking to the press after briefing the Security Council on the Court’s investigations during the past six months into war crimes in Darfur, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said Mr. al-Bashir’s legal fate was in the hands of the Court’s judges.  He said he held a hearing with those judges 1 October on specific aspects of the case, and on 17 November submitted documents they requested relevant to the proceedings.  His goal was to bring justice on behalf the more than 2.5 million people affected by the Darfur crisis.  


Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said that, while Sudanese national courts could decide to grant Mr. al-Bashir immunity, they must act based on the evidence presented by the Court’s investigation.  The Sudanese Government could not cut a deal by turning in Ahmad Harun, formerly Minister of State of the Interior and now Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, who was wanted by the Court for allegedly coordinating murders, rapes, torture, forced displacement and unlawful imprisonment on innocent civilians in Darfur.  In April 2007, the Court issued arrest warrants for Mr. Harun, and Ali Kushayb, a leader of the militia known as the Janjaweed, on similar grounds.  It also requested arrest warrants for four others.


Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said the evidence pointed to Mr. al-Bashir’s role in not only ordering crimes, but also replacing commanders, recruiting the Janjaweed after promising to demobilize them and other methods to carry out crimes, while using diplomacy and cover ups to protect himself.  “Rape and hunger are the two new weapons he’s using,” Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said.  “He’s promising ceasefires he never implements.  He’s torturing those who are willing to provide evidence.”  To date, Sudan’s national courts had not begun any legal proceedings involving war crimes in Darfur.


That evidence was being used by Mr. Moreno-Ocampo to dissuade several United Nations Security Council members from seeking a resolution invoking Article 16 on the al-Bashir indictment, which would allow them to suspend the Court’s prosecution for one year and potentially indefinitely.  Some Council members had expressed the opinion that such a move was necessary to bring peace and stability to Sudan.


A correspondent asked about possible tensions with the Russian Federation’s Government when the Court launched investigations into alleged crimes committed in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said he did not anticipate difficulty, adding that the Russian General Prosecutors had been very cooperative during the Court’s handling of complaints from Georgian citizens denouncing alleged crimes committed by Russian troops in Georgia. 


Regarding criticism that the Court focused too heavily on war crimes in Africa, while ignoring atrocities in such places as Iraq and Lebanon, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said the Court could not take up cases in those two countries because their respective Governments were not state Parties to the Court’s founding 1998 Rome Statute.  Nor had the Security Council, which could refer cases to the Court, asked the Court to begin investigations there.  There were 108 State Parties to the Court, among them many African countries.


Christian Wenaweser, President of the Assembly of States Parties to the International Criminal Court and the Permanent Representative of Liechtenstein to the United Nations, also fielded questions from the press.  As to whether United States President Elect Barack Obama, who had spoken out strongly against the atrocities in Darfur, would forge a new United States relationship with the Court, Mr. Wenaweser said that the United States position had already become more pragmatic in the last few years.  The United States, a permanent Council member, had not vetoed Council resolution 1593 (2005) -- which referred the Darfur case to the Court -- and it had taken a “very clear position” this past summer when the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) had been expanded.  He said the Court planned to hold informal consultations with Mr. Obama before he took office in January and hoped for a constructive relationship with his Administration.


Mr. Wenaweser said the States Parties to the Court would meet in January in New York to elect six new judges. 


* *** *


For information media • not an official record