The International Criminal Court (ICC) is already moderating the behaviour of countries and raising awareness among local communities about their right to be protected from war crimes, even before its first case has gone to trial, the Court’s Prosecutor has said.
The fact that 104 countries have become States parties to the ICC shows that the Court is “a landmark in international justice,” binding all those countries to its rules, Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in an interview with the United Nations News Centre to mark yesterday’s fifth anniversary of the entry into force of the Rome Statute of the ICC.
“States recognize now that there are some limits, and that there can be no more genocide,” he said, adding that his office’s simultaneous investigations of cases in Sudan’s Darfur region, the Central African Republic (CAR), northern Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) indicated that the perpetrators of the world’s worst war crimes and crimes against humanity can be pursued.
Mr. Moreno-Ocampo also noted the impact the Court was having on local communities around the world, such as those in the DRC now debating the use of child soldiers, an all-too-frequent occurrence in that country’s recent conflicts. In other countries, such as Colombia, he said the media has begun discussing whether activities there should be brought before the ICC.
So far the Court has issued arrest warrants for two suspects accused of war crimes in Darfur and five leaders of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda. Thomas Lubanga, a rebel militia leader in the DRC, was arrested last year, while the Prosecutor’s Office has just begun its probe of allegations of killings and rapes in the CAR.
Mr. Moreno-Ocampo reiterated his call for Sudan to arrest the two Darfur suspects: Ahmed Muhammad Harun, currently the Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs, and Janjaweed militia leader Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman, also known as Ali Kushayb.
“[Mr.] Harun is now supposedly in charge of looking out for all [the displaced people in Darfur]. This is unacceptable. He has to be arrested. Sudan has to do it,” he said, adding that “while it may take time, maybe a few months or years, the destiny of [Mr.] Harun is in the dock in The Hague.”
Asked about suggestions that his pursuit of indictments and trials of suspects in some of the conflicts his office is investigating, especially in Darfur and northern Uganda, might be hampering wider efforts to bring peace, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo stressed that his role was dictated by his mandate – to investigate the worst of all war crimes.
“Peace negotiations can be long and complicated. But I can’t be involved in their aspects… The Security Council has noted that lasting peace requires justice and it’s my role to help in that. My duty is to end impunity and to contribute to the prevention of future crimes.”
Mr. Moreno-Ocampo, who took up his post in 2003, said his office had faced extra difficulties in carrying out its inquiries because conflicts or low-level violence continued to flare in the countries it has been investigating, making it hard to collect evidence and protect witnesses.
“This has been a major challenge for us,” he said, noting the differences with the UN war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia and with the post-World War II war crimes trials in Nuremberg, Germany. “They were post-conflict situations and in many cases these are not.”