PRESS CONFERENCE ON TENTH ANNIVERSARY OF ROME STATUTE OF INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
17 July 2008
The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court this morning defended his decision on Monday to indict Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, despite the Sudanese Parliament’s strong objection that the move would endanger vital peace negotiations in Sudan, especially in Darfur.
“My responsibility is judicial. I have no political responsibility,” Luis Moreno-Ocampo told a Headquarters news conference this morning organized to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Court. “My responsibility is to mitigate cases and to present evidence to the judges. That is what I am doing.”
Stressing the right of victims to the truth, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said he had informed the Security Council in December that he was moving forward with his case against Mr. al-Bashir and had also informed them in June that he would present the case in July prior to the Court’s recess, scheduled to begin 18 July. “I did it when I had my evidence ready and my evidence will be analysed by the judges.”
Mr. Moreno-Ocampo emphasized that he, like the Court, had an independent role, which was to “be clear and predictable” while informing political actors of cases under consideration and prosecution.
Responding to correspondents’ questions about the responsibility of States not party to the Statute to detain and extradite Mr. al-Bashir should he enter their territories, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said that, when the Security Council had adopted resolution 1593 (2005) and referred the Darfur case to the Court, it called on State parties, as well as States not party, to cooperate with the Court’s decisions.
If Sudan’s Government did not comply with the Court judges’ warrant for Mr. al-Bashir’s arrest, neighbouring States and regional organizations should work to bring justice to Sudan’s victims of genocide and rape, he said. “There are 2.7 million people who could die. The African Union and the Arab League can do a lot to support and help them,” he said, lauding the fact that the two organizations were to meet on the subject in the next few days.
He added that the Arab and African people were tired of double standards, and the 107 States parties to the Court’s Statute had a noble role to change the future course of history based on just standards. “They are tired of justice for the weakest people and protection for the powerful people,” he said.
According to Christian Wenaweser, current President of the Assembly of States Parties to the Court, who also addressed reporters, the Court could not try Mr. al-Bashir in absentia, nor could it legally sanction non-party States for not turning him in. However, their failure to hand him over did violate the Court’s founding 1998 Rome Statute.
A reporter asked if the charges against Mr. al-Bashir would be dropped if the Court arrested Ahmad Harun, formerly Minister of State of the Interior and now Minster for Humanitarian Affairs, and Ali Kushayb, a leader of the militia known as the Janjaweed -- both wanted for their alleged role in crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur. That decision, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said, was up to the Court’s judges.
Another correspondent asked Mr. Moreno-Ocampo to comment on the meetings in progress between Chinese and African officials that aimed to sway the Security Council to defer Mr. al-Bashir’s prosecution for one year. Mr. Ocampo declined to comment. Bruno Stagno, the incoming President of the Assembly of States Parties to the International Criminal Court, also addressing reporters, said the issue would have to be presented to the Council under Article 16 of the Rome Statute and that the Council would need to vote on it.
As to whether the Court was investigating the attacks allegedly committed by Darfur rebel commanders that had last year killed 10 African Union peacekeepers in Haskanita, South Darfur, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said: “We still have to prove the case.” He called on the rebels to provide evidence on who perpetrated the attacks, and even arrest them. Concerning the 8 July attack in North Darfur that killed 7 peacekeepers of the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) and wounded 22 others, he said all crimes against United Nations peacekeepers were under his jurisdiction.
In response to a question about why all of his prosecution had involved crimes committed only in Africa and not in other regions, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said he gave priority to the gravest offences brought before the Court and that his selection of cases was not based on geographical or gender balance.
In an opening statement to reporters, Mr. Stagno said that, since the Court had been established 10 years ago, its many critics had moderated their tone and manifested a certain willingness to be pragmatic and realistic, and to recognize that “this Court is here to stay”. In a very short time frame, the Court had been able to institutionalize itself and begin its work in earnest.
As the world’s only permanent tribunal for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, it had advanced significantly, he said, noting that it had issued more than a dozen arrest warrants, was reviewing four situations and had been called on by resolution 1593 to investigate war crimes in Darfur.
Mr. Moreno-Ocampo added that the Court, as an independent judicial body, complemented the United Nations system. The Statute entered into force in July 2002 after the required minimum of 60 State ratifications.
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For information media • not an official record
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