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Head of International Criminal Court Discusses Past and Future Cases

Aired December 4, 2009 - 15:00:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, a question the world has been grappling with since Nuremburg and the Nazi trials after World War II: How do we seek accountability for the world's worst crimes?

Good evening, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour, and welcome to the program.

Our focus tonight: the search for global justice. How do people get justice for crimes against their humanity?

After years of negotiations, the International Criminal Court was established in 2002. Its first high-profile indictment was brought against President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan in 2008, and its first trial got underway earlier this year of a Congolese militia leader charged with conscripting children into his army.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo is prosecutor of the ICC. He first made his name back in the 1980s prosecuting the military junta in his own country, Argentina, for killing between 10,000 and 30,000 civilians in the so-called dirty war. Now that his net reaches across the globe, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, joins us here in the studio.

Thank you very much for being here.


AMANPOUR: We just saw those pictures of you in the court against the military junta, the generals and their subordinates. How did that go? How did that shape you?

MORENO-OCAMPO: Oh, it changed my life. In fact, it was my first case as a prosecutor, this case. But it was -- changed not just my life. This trial changed the life of my country. No more coup d'etat, no more dictatorship in my country after this trial.

AMANPOUR: Any more impunity?

MORENO-OCAMPO: When -- when you have (inaudible) it is difficult to prosecute everyone, even in Nuremberg where 200 people prosecuted. But the story, when I was investigating the crimes, the junta, I went the weekend to see my -- my mother in his house -- in her house. My mother was against me. She was thinking it was wrong, you were wrong. General Videla is a nice man.

AMANPOUR: Why did she say that?

MORENO-OCAMPO: Because she say it like my father. My grandfather was a general in Argentina. She was in the same church with General Videla. And she was basically feeling that General Videla was protecting her...

AMANPOUR: And he was...

MORENO-OCAMPO: ... from the guerillas.


MORENO-OCAMPO: General -- General Videla was the leader of the -- the first military junta, was one of the military junta guys.

AMANPOUR: So she was against you for prosecuting him?

MORENO-OCAMPO: Yes, because she was feeling that Videla was protecting her from the guerillas. And that's a problem. These massive crimes are committed by people who convince others that, "I am protecting you." And then...

AMANPOUR: For instance, what you're doing right now. You're here in New York...

MORENO-OCAMPO: It's in each case.

AMANPOUR: ... to unveil a new request for indictments or investigations at least.

MORENO-OCAMPO: In six months, I came here, just today report to a Security Council, because today the worst crimes are committed in Darfur, and the Security Council requests my intervention to investigate the crimes.


And we end making a case against President Bashir, but also against the rebel militia. So I am coming here to explain to the Security Council what happened there.

AMANPOUR: You say your mother opposed you prosecuting the junta.


AMANPOUR: Well, now the whole of Africa just about opposes you prosecuting President Bashir.

MORENO-OCAMPO: No, no. You're completely wrong. Surveys say 75 percent of people in Africa support the indictment of Bashir.

AMANPOUR: What do you make...

MORENO-OCAMPO: Africa is changing. Look, it's (inaudible) Africa is changing. Africa is controlling violence. You know, after the genocide in Rwanda, the -- the people who committed (inaudible) went to Congo, and this produced the Congo wars. People had no idea that two Congo wars produced 4 million victims.

AMANPOUR: So you're prosecuting crimes where now?

MORENO-OCAMPO: So we are doing -- we are working in the Congo case. We are picking Uganda. We are working in Darfur. We are working in Central African Republic. And now we are requesting (inaudible) investigation into Kenya.

Why we're here, because these people are victims, and they need our support. But the important point is, there are very new African leaders fighting to stop violence in Africa, and we're going to support them.

AMANPOUR: All right. Let me ask you, you brought your indictment against President Bashir of Sudan...


AMANPOUR: ... more than a year ago now, about a year ago.

MORENO-OCAMPO: I requested, but the judges issued it in March this year.

AMANPOUR: What has it done? It hasn't brought him closer to trial.

MORENO-OCAMPO: Look, arresting a head of state is a matter of support. I need -- it's like -- remember when Richard Nixon was investigated here, Richard Nixon was a political (inaudible) Richard Nixon won elections after Watergate, but Richard Nixon was marginalized. We need the same (inaudible) important. Few months after I request the (inaudible) against President Bashir, the American government were requesting, go ahead -- was -- any country (inaudible) was leading. And we need the same leadership now.

AMANPOUR: OK, I want to ask you this about the American government. We're going to play a sound bite -- actually, part of an interview that I did with General Gration, who is the new U.S. representative...

MORENO-OCAMPO: OK, very interesting.

AMANPOUR: ... to Sudan.


SCOTT GRATION, SPECIAL ENVOY TO SUDAN: There's going to be milestones and benchmarks, as I've already said. If it's good progress that needs to be rewarded, certainly that will be on the table. If things are not moving or if they are, indeed, backsliding, then there's a wide spectrum of pressures that will be used appropriately.


AMANPOUR: So that was in response to me asking, how could you engage with the government of a president who's been indicted under international law? Do you approve of that engagement?

MORENO-OCAMPO: But we respect the government of Sudan. In fact, the Sudan has to arrest President Bashir. That's the point. The government of Sudan has to arrest President Bashir, and they have to be clear. Look, when the...

AMANPOUR: But what do you think of General Gration? You said, "Very interesting." What do you think of -- of him and the U.S. engagement with Sudan right now?

MORENO-OCAMPO: I think it was very clear in -- when I request the indictment against President Bashir, it was a strong and firm support on arresting Bashir. And I think we have to be sustain it, because there's no hopes. Bashir in charge will keep committing crimes. Bashir today is keep committing crimes against 2.5 million people.

It's OK. You have to engage with the government of Sudan, including requesting them to arrest President Bashir, keep going, because...

AMANPOUR: Is the U.S. asking them to arrest President Bashir? Have you asked General Gration what he's saying?

MORENO-OCAMPO: I don't -- I don't talk to him. I saw him two days before just for a one second. I don't know exactly what their policy, but I think we need a strong leadership here.

AMANPOUR: OK. You pointed to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The trial that is going on right now is of Thomas Lubanga.


AMANPOUR: Now, they -- also, we have pictures of people in the Congo watching his trial. And a lot of people have said, you know, why him? Is he perhaps a little bit of a small fish?

MORENO-OCAMPO: He's a (inaudible) fish for you living in Manhattan. Living in Bunea (ph), he was God. He can -- he can kill your daughter, rape your -- your -- your daughter, abduct your kids, do whatever he wanted.

AMANPOUR: The same people say, what about Peter Karim who's a Congolese...

MORENO-OCAMPO: He's another militia leader. Lubanga was a top leader. Lubanga was number one. So my policy is, we prosecute the top people, and then the others after, we see if other courts can do it, because my court is just a backup system. We're not replacing national judges. National judges can do the job.

So take time. In Argentina, 30 years later, national judges are still prosecuting people. So it's a long journey. We are doing the beginning.

AMANPOUR: Can I also play something that the Sudanese ambassador said? Because, obviously, the Sudanese government seems to be very against your indictment of their president.


ABDALMAHMOUD ABDALHALEEM, SUDANESE AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: America is an opportunist country. They want to use the ICC without becoming a member. They use the ICC to exempt their soldiers, and they use it through Resolution 1593 also to exempt it from any jurisdiction. So they are using the -- this is a double standard in its worst shape.



AMANPOUR: So that was the Sudanese ambassador talking about basically double standards in your indictment and pointing out, for instance, you could look at this map and you could say, "Look, this is all African countries, third world." And then looking at the trial right now, where there are white judges. How do you answer that?

MORENO-OCAMPO: First, we have many African judges, five, in fact. And the -- the biggest shame would be to ignore African victims. Yes, the criminals are African, but the victims are millions of African victims.

And the shame in Rwanda genocide was we ignore. Because they were African, we don't care. I care about African victims. That's why I'm indicting President Bashir, because President Bashir was killing people, saying, "You're African. You have to go from here."

So it's funny. Now (inaudible) he -- he -- he attacked the victims before they were thinking they -- they are Africans, so come on. He -- he attacked 2.5 million victims.

AMANPOUR: Also, the...

MORENO-OCAMPO: I like -- I like the ambassador saying he's not innocent.

AMANPOUR: The ambassador also said that the United States does not want to be prosecuted and there's a double standard from the United States. We are going to discuss that and other investigations when we come back from a break.




MORENO-OCAMPO (through translator): Oh, yeah? Switch places. You switch places with him. Switch. There we go. OK, we're going to do an experiment. You're him, so focus. What's your name?


MORENO-OCAMPO (through translator): Walter. You're Walter for a second.

MORENO-OCAMPO: I consider the crimes committed in Kenya were crimes against humanity, so I informed them in December I would request to the judges of International Criminal Court to open an investigation.


AMANPOUR: The two very different faces of Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, who joins me here again on the set. A reality show, as well as being prosecutor of the ICC.

MORENO-OCAMPO: For one year.


MORENO-OCAMPO: For one year, I did a TV show...

AMANPOUR: What good did that do?

MORENO-OCAMPO: Training, educating people in law.

AMANPOUR: Is that what you were doing?

MORENO-OCAMPO: Gallup -- absolutely. Gallup did a survey: 10 percent of the population in my country, 4 million people, say they learn with this program to solve conflict. I'm very proud. In fact, I was one of the three candidates to receive an award for the education program.



AMANPOUR: And then the second one is the real investigation that you said that you were in Kenya to ask for, into Kenya election violence.

MORENO-OCAMPO: Yes, in Kenya in 2007 and '08, after the elections, was riots, conflict, 1,200 people killed, I believe more than 1,000 women raped, 250,000 displaced. And the fear is all this will happen again in the next election, so we have to stop this.

AMANPOUR: So are you opening an investigation? Have you?

MORENO-OCAMPO: I went to Kenya. I went to Nairobi. I met President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga. I informed them what I would do. And that's -- that week, I requested to the (inaudible) investigation.

AMANPOUR: I would like to play a sound bite from another prosecutor, Judge Richard Goldstone.


RICHARD GOLDSTONE, U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL: I think what's really important is the double standards need to stop. It's really unfair that -- that international criminal justice only -- only involves a smaller, weaker -- weaker powers. I think it's very important for that reason that the United States should become much more active and much more involved in the International Criminal Court.


AMANPOUR: So Judge Goldstone, an internationally respected jurist, he did the Yugoslav tribunal, he's also done the Gaza report.


He mirrors a little bit of what the Sudanese ambassador said. There's a lot of complaints that the United States is not signed up to the ICC. Do you think that that will change in an Obama administration? Do you have any reason to believe that they will sign up?

MORENO-OCAMPO: I will say nothing. It's not my decision. I respect national positions.

AMANPOUR: Are you -- are you at all in touch with him on it?

MORENO-OCAMPO: I need -- look, I'm working with China, with Russia, with U.S. I need them -- we are engaging with them in different cases. Georgia -- Russia sent to me communication about (inaudible) in Georgia. China say we are a non-state party partner. The Americans have to lead. This country have to be proud of the ideals, freedom and democracy. Now we need to go ahead. We have to establish rule of law around the world. And that, the beginning is this court.

AMANPOUR: So there are all sorts of rumors and -- and thoughts that you might start prosecuting or looking into investigating American soldiers, for instance, in Afghanistan. There have been all sorts of reports of torture and other such things there.

MORENO-OCAMPO: There are two investigations to investigate an American soldier in my court. First condition, American soldier has to commit crimes. Second condition, they -- the military justice system has to ignore the crimes.

AMANPOUR: Their own justice or the military justice?

MORENO-OCAMPO: Yeah, American justice (inaudible) primacy to investigate any crime committed by American soldiers. If they don't do it when they commit crimes, depend, but they -- the two factors are American soldier has to first commit crimes, and, second, the American justice system has to ignore the crimes.

AMANPOUR: So are those two conditions being met? Have you launched any investigations? Will you?

MORENO-OCAMPO: Definitely no. I did -- I did not start any investigation against American soldiers.

AMANPOUR: And do you believe the military tribunals, the military justice system is adequate so far?

MORENO-OCAMPO: Of course it's adequate. You have to be proud for the justice system. So the issue is as soon they work, I should not work (ph). So suppose in Spain, Al Qaida bombing was a crime against humanity. I intervened not because the Spanish judges did the case. I intervene when no one is doing the cases.

In Colombia, there are crimes, but the Colombian judges are doing the cases. That's why I'm not doing them.

In Congo, nothing happened. In Darfur, Sudanese government is not doing cases. That's why I'm working there.

AMANPOUR: How do you think the ICC, in the short time it's been up and running, has affected, if at all, the way some wars are fought, whether it be in Africa, Afghanistan, anywhere?

MORENO-OCAMPO: The world is changing completely. Look...

AMANPOUR: Do you think people are aware of the possibility of being held accountable?

MORENO-OCAMPO: Absolutely. A pilot -- a flying pilot did not drop the bomb in the Iraq war because he was thinking, no (inaudible) different than I was expecting, so he refused to do it. So, yes, armies all over the world are adjusting the rules to the Rome statute.

AMANPOUR: And, again, what about, then, the U.S. in Afghanistan with the drones, the Predators, the civilian casualties, who have been...


MORENO-OCAMPO: ... look, we are -- Afghanistan is a third party (ph), so the Afghanistan government joined the court. So I have the legal capacity to see what happened there. So we're trying to collect information.

I can say no -- I can tell you no detail about what's happened there, but I can tell you, the only possibility to have an American soldier in the court is two failures. First, crimes committed by them, and second failure, the American justice system doing nothing, not investigating the crimes. That's it. As soon as these two conditions are not -- I cannot do it.

AMANPOUR: How is the world changing?

MORENO-OCAMPO: The world's changing because you, because the CNN, because the global communications, not just in the criminal area. This idea is normally criminal laws, but the state this time, the -- the International Criminal Court is a coalition of hundreds different states (ph) who accept that I intervene.

When I intervene in Kenya, I am a part of the justice system in Kenya, so that's a point. The court is connecting hundred different states (ph) working together. It's totally new (ph).

AMANPOUR: Has your mother come around to understanding what you did, even though she didn't like you doing it?

MORENO-OCAMPO: That's why I believe in trials. My mother in my lunch in her house refused to recognize information I provide to her. After -- after two weeks, the trial started, my mother called me, and she say, "I saw the witness. I still love General Videla, but you're right. He has to be in jail." And that's a point (ph).

AMANPOUR: What do you get from doing this personally?

MORENO-OCAMPO: My job. I'm a prosecutor in the International Criminal Court, the first one. This is an honor. It's a privilege. It's a responsibility. It's the best job in the world.

AMANPOUR: Does it sometimes seem that it's just too hard, that there's just too many, that the obstacles are just too high?

MORENO-OCAMPO: I love conflict.

AMANPOUR: You love conflict?

MORENO-OCAMPO: Yes. Each day, you have a new conflict. Yes, I love -- we are solving them. We are moving them. It's a huge challenge.

Look, I worked Harvard teaching when I was appointed. I was leading a seminar called "How to Establish Rule of Law in the World." I was teaching that, and then suddenly they offered me -- they called me and say, "Look, we put your name in a list of candidate to be prosecutor of the ICC, and now your name is in the top, but we don't know if you like the job."


I said, OK, I will go to see you, and then I told my wife, "Don't worry. They never will offer me the job." They did it.

AMANPOUR: And what about the next place where you're going to do an investigation? Can you tell us where you're next going to look at...

MORENO-OCAMPO: I'm now requesting opening case in Kenya. It's a huge challenge, because we have to be sure -- it's a huge expectation. I -- I arrived in Nairobi when I was to go into see President Kibaki. The airport stopped, 300 workers...

AMANPOUR: You said you liked conflict. There you go. You've just knocked over the water.

MORENO-OCAMPO: (inaudible) mistakes. It was a mistake. I arrived to the airport in Kenya, 300 workers there waiting, waiting for us. So...


MORENO-OCAMPO: Because they have a lot of hopes. They need to do justice there, and they -- they know because there are political leaders involved in the crime that it's very difficult the Kenya system work. And so their hopes and fear. We had to -- we had to fulfill our promises to do justice there. Now, those who had to do justice for Darfur, who had to do justice in Congo, we had to help.

AMANPOUR: If the biggest powers in the world -- in this case, the United States -- is not onboard, what signal does that send? And how really can you do your job?

MORENO-OCAMPO: The law is normally a way to control powerful people. So it's normal. The biggest countries, they have armies. They don't need the law to be protected. The smaller countries, Argentina and the Netherlands, they need the law to be protected. That's why they -- it's going well. It's going in the perfect way. We apply the law in the cases where we should apply the law and because I'm learning.

And, look, the biggest conflict in the discussion of this Rome treaty was the prosecutor was independent. And the America refused to sign because that. Last week, when I announced I will open an independent investigation in Kenya, the U.S. ambassador was supporting me. So things are changing.

AMANPOUR: On that note, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.

MORENO-OCAMPO: Thank you very much for inviting me.

AMANPOUR: And for more on this, go to our Web site,, for a look at the major cases the ICC is prosecuting and a breakdown of the, quote, "massive" crimes they say committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo over the past decade.

And coming up on our "Post-Script," we move from human rights on the grand scale to the village level. How do the small communities seek justice without turning to brutality themselves?



AMANPOUR: And now our "Post-Script." We have more in a series that we call "Global Dispatch." Tonight, the struggle for justice on a village level.

We want to show you a clip from a documentary that's called "Chief!" It's done by Jean-Marie Teno from Cameroon, and it's a remarkable look at what happens in a small community when a young man is caught stealing and the villagers want payback at any cost.












AMANPOUR: In the end, the young boy was taken to the police station. He survived, an extraordinary microcosm of the huge big picture that we've just been talking about.

And for a longer clip from this film and more about the filmmaker, Jean-Marie Teno, and for the other films in our series, "Global Dispatch," check out our Web site,, where you can also submit your own film to give us perspective on your world. Please join us there.

And that's it for now. Thank you for watching. We'll be back Sunday with a world exclusive interview with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, his first comments since President Obama's new strategy for his country. For all of us here, goodbye from New York.