International Criminal Court prosecutor and others analyze importance of prosecutorial independence (VIDEO)

The Institute for International Law and Justice’s November 11 panel, “How Best to Assure the Independence of the ICC Prosecutor,” brought International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo to NYU Law to discuss the role and independence of his position. The court, established in 2002 as an independent entity that nevertheless is subject to some of the United Nations Security Council’s powers, prosecutes individuals accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Investigations and prosecutions have involved Uganda, the People’s Republic of the Congo, Sudan’s Darfur region, and the Central African Republic.

Luis Moreno-OcampoMoreno-Ocampo, unanimously elected in 2003 as the ICC’s first prosecutor, is scheduled to step down in mid-2012. As José Alvarez, Herbert and Rose Rubin Professor of International Law, explained in his introduction, Moreno-Ocampo undertook precedent-setting prosecutions of top military commanders for large-scale human rights abuses, including mass killings, while a prosecutor in Argentina. Last year, Alvarez was named as a special advisor on public international law in the Office of the Prosecutor.

In his remarks, Moreno-Ocampo discussed the difficulties of bringing international defendants to justice. He described a paradox: while a diplomatic consensus with the home country is often instrumental when pursuing investigation and prosecution, as a prosecutor he can’t seek such a consensus from government officials. Instead he strives to establish at the outset that he’s working in strict accordance with the law, announces his intended course, then acts, hoping that the government’s support will follow.

Moreno-Ocampo suggested there were three key points at which the Security Council wields influence on the court that particularly affects the ICC prosecutor’s independence: staffing, oversight, and budget. “Independence is crucially important,” he said, “because the prosecutor defines where to go and the states have to follow, and sometimes they don’t like it.... With your case you’re crossing the country’s agenda, so they have legitimate concerns.”

Following Moreno-Ocampo’s talk, Hector Olasolo, professor of international criminal law and procedure at the University of Utrecht and chairman of the Ibero-American Institute of The Hague for Peace, Human Rights and International Justice, discussed the relations between the Assembly of States Parties (the ICC’s oversight body), the subsidiary bodies, and the court itself. Christian Wenaweser, Liechtenstein’s ambassador to the U.N. and current president of the Assembly of States Parties, talked about his role in relation to that of the ICC prosecutor.

Watch the full video of the event (1 hr, 39 min):