Press Conference by Chief Prosecutor of International Criminal Court
Strong political decisions were needed to ensure the execution of the International Criminal Court warrants for the arrest of President Omer al-Bashir of Sudan and other powerful Government figures, Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said at a Headquarters press conference today.
“Our warrants are not going away,” said Mr. Moreno-Ocampo, following his briefing to the Security Council on the situation in Sudan. (See Press Release SC/10274) Pointing to international community’s growing willingness to fight impunity, he said it had been demonstrated by the recent arrest of Ratko Mladić, for 16 years a fugitive from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
The problem with the passing of time when executing a warrant was that it left potential victims vulnerable to further crimes, he said, stressing that it was up to the Security Council to meet the challenges posed by President Bashir. He added that he had not himself requested any action by the Council, although some ambassadors had suggested adding names to the Sudan sanctions list.
Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said the progress made in the case against rebel commanders accused of having led a 2007 attack on the base of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) had been a highlight of his briefing to the Council. In March, pretrial judges had confirmed the war crimes charges against those commanders, showing the Court’s impartiality and the importance of its mandate to protect peacekeepers. They had admitted their role in the attack, but were challenging the neutrality of the peacekeeping bases, he said, adding that the case therefore concerned the very nature of peacekeeping.
Asked to comment on a recent report on the use of a United Nations helicopter to transport Ahmad Harun, another Sudanese official indicted by the Court, the Prosecutor said he had sent a letter about the incident to the United Nations Legal Adviser, who, in informal comments, had said that the use of the helicopter appeared to be supportable, but should be restricted as much as possible.
Commenting on situations in other countries, he said in regard to Libya that evidence was still being presented and a decision was awaited on charges related to the killing of protesters at the beginning of the crisis, as well as the continuing arrest, torture and disappearance of civilians. After that decision, other evidence would be presented in the interest of adding a new charge relating to the use of mass rape in efforts to contain protests.
Protecting civilians in Libya meant stopping the crimes, the Prosecutor continued. If the judges issued a warrant it could loosen the grip of fear in Libya, which had been used to maintain control for the past 30 years. It was to be hoped that when the warrant was issued there would be momentum to resolve the crisis.
Asked about details of the rape allegations, the Prosecutor said the victims could number in the hundreds. Whether such attacks could be attributed to directives from [Colonel Muammar al-]Qadhafi himself, as indicated by new information, or had arisen in the barracks, was under investigation. He also raised the possibly of receiving information that would confirm related reports of an alleged Government policy to issue Viagra-like drugs to soldiers.
Turning to Côte d’Ivoire, he said President Alassane Ouattara had requested an investigation, and it was planned to take place before the end of the month. All crimes in the jurisdiction would be the focus, he said, emphasizing that the President himself had insisted on impartiality to help him build a new foundation for Government.
Assessing the nearly eight years that he had been on the International Criminal Court, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said that during that time the Court had grown into a “normal” institution and was therefore starting to fulfil its purpose of helping to protect civilians.
He went on to say that he could not comment on events in Syria, since the situation there was beyond his jurisdiction, which was restricted to the 150 States parties to the Court’s founding Rome Statute, or to situations referred by the Security Council. Affirming that he had responded to a Palestinian request to discuss the Court’s jurisdiction in their area, he declined to comment on whether a General Assembly vote on Palestinian statehood would affect such jurisdiction.
However, the Prosecutor did say he looked forward to universal accession to the Rome Statute. It was only a matter of time before all countries were in the system, he said, pointing to the fact that citizens in some non-States parties were requesting accession. It was crucial, however, that prosecutors and judges respect the actual legal limits, he emphasized. “When we have to operate we operate; when we cannot, we do not,” he added.
* *** *