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Canada has much to offer international law, says Moreno-Ocampo

International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor speaks at U of T

Luis Moreno-Ocampo (left), chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, is applauded by diplomat Stephen Lewis during his visit to the University of Toronto. (Photo by Jeff Kirk)

The world needs Canada’s belief in dialogue and respect, says the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo was at the University of Toronto for a screening of the film Prosecutor, a behind- the-scenes look at a year in his life. The film follows him from his office in The Hague to the United Nations in New York to war torn regions in Africa as he and his team investigate and prosecute some of the worst crimes committed against humanity.

Moreno-Ocampo discussed the film afterwards as part of an expert panel that included Stephen Lewis, Canadian diplomat and international envoy for humanitarian efforts; the film’s director, Barry Stevens; and Renu Mandhane, director of the International Human Rights program at the Faculty of Law, the group that sponsored the event.

 “As you saw [in the film] there are many Canadians in my office,” said Moreno-Ocampo. “I think it’s because Canada is a country that has a lot of ideas, you believe in the law, you don’t believe in attacking people, you don’t believe in violent confrontation, you believe in dialogue, respect and that’s what the world needs.”

Central to the film was Moreno-Ocampo’s optimism about the power of the law and his determination to “end the era of impunity.” It was also apparent that the ICC faces many political and legal challenges as it attempts to bring perpetrators of war crimes, such as the Congo’s Thomas Lubanga Dyilo and the President of Sudan, Omar Al Bashir, to justice.

Lubanga, the alleged commander-in-chief of the political and military group, the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) is currently awaiting a decision on his case. He stands accused of forcibly recruiting child soldiers and using them to participate actively in armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Two warrants for Al Bashir’s arrest have been issued; among the charges he faces are three counts of genocide and five counts of crimes against humanity.

“The fact of the matter is that what Moreno is doing in the Congo is for so many women the first elixir of hope they have that people externally care enough to do something terribly concrete,” said Lewis. “This is an intervention to overcome the culture of impunity in a concrete way.”

The problem in the Al Bashir case is arresting him. Sudan is not one of the 119 member states that make up the ICC and only member states can act on ICC warrants. Although Al Bashir travels in the region, he has so far been able to evade arrest.

Moreno-Ocampo said as soon as the Lubanga case is decided, he’d like to explore a worldwide education program that looks at how to teach children about the ICC and to help them understand something about international conflict.

“I use this movie to explain to my kids what I’m doing,” he added.

Also in attendance that evening was author Erna Paris whose book, The Sun Climbs Slow: The International Criminal Court and the Struggle for Justice, provided a partial basis for the film.

“I’m delighted to see so many students here, and to learn about the importance of international human rights studies at this university,” said Paris. “I think we all look to you, the students in this room and your colleagues, to continue the Canadian tradition of service to peace and justice through the international rule of law.”

See the ICC website  to find out more about cases currently before the court.