A Brief Talk with Luis Moreno Ocampo

On March 19, 2013 Luis Moreno Ocampo came to the Roosevelt House to discuss his former role as Commissioner of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and previous experiences with human rights issues abroad. Dr. Fanton introduced Mr. Ocampo (below) and sat down for a brief talk with the former Commissioner after his remarks.

Good Evening. I am Jonathan Fanton. Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. It is my pleasure to welcome the former Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo, back to Roosevelt House for a reflection on his nine years as the court’s first prosecutor.

Roosevelt House has developed an outstanding undergraduate program on human rights and international justice, now enrolling 70 students who are doing internships with Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the ACLU, the Museum of Tolerance, and the Legal Aid Society. We also have a vigorous program for the public to discuss human rights issues with people like Kofi Annan, High Commissioner for H.R. Navi Pillay, US Special Ambassador for War Crimes, Stephen Rapp, former prosecutors in the Yugoslav tribunals Richard Goldstone and Louise Arbour and current Rwandan Tribunal Prosecutor Hassan Jallow to name a few of our distinguished guests.

The International Criminal Court is the first permanent court to deal with genocide and mass atrocities. It builds on experience from the Nuremberg Trials and the international criminal tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

Luis Moreno Ocampo bore the responsibility of translating the vision of the Treaty of Rome which brought the Court to life into reality. On his watch the number of countries which are members of the Court grew from 89 to 121. During his time as Prosecutor 30 indictments were issued covering situations in Northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Darfur, Kenya,  Libya and Côte d’Ivoire. And the Court won its first conviction in March 2012 against Thomas Lubanga Dyilo and has trials proceeding against Germain Katanga of the DRC, Jean-Pierre Bemba of the Central African Republic and President Laurent Gbagbo of  Côte d’Ivoire. The Court also has opened investigations in in Mali,  and preliminary  examinations in a number  of countries including  Afghanistan, Georgia, Nigeria, and Colombia.

The existence of the Court has raised the quality of justice in member states which have improved their judicial systems to conform to the ICC standards. The Prosecutor will talk with us about the “shadow of the Court,” its role in deterring bad behavior by political and military leaders fearful of being prosecuted.

At his swearing in ceremony in 2003, the Prosecutor said, “We must learn: there is no safe haven for life and freedom if we fail to protect the rights of any person in any country of the world.” Well, 10 years later we can say that the quality of justice and protection for human rights has improved because of the successful work of Luis Moreno Ocampo. There will only be one Founding Prosecutor and we are fortunate that his adherence to the highest judicial standards, careful choice of cases, political skill in building support for the Court and eloquent advocacy for international justice has produced a Court that is indeed permanent.

Luis Moreno Ocampo was well prepared for his historic challenge.

Born in Argentina and a graduate of the University of Buenos Aires Law School, Luis Moreno Ocampo rose to prominence during the early 1980s as the assistant prosecutor in the Trial of the Argentine Junta.. He was responsible for prosecuting nine senior government figures – including three former heads of state – for the  human rights atrocities while they ruled the country under a military dictatorship. He also took on the Buenos Aires Police Force for perpetrating gross human rights abuses, and later prosecuted other members of the military elite who attempted to overthrow the government during the late 1980s and early 90s.

In 1992, he established a successful private practice that specialized in corruption control, criminal law, and human rights law. In addition to his practice, he became a Professor of Criminal Law at the Buenos Aires Law School and has also been a visiting professor at the Stanford and Harvard law schools.

He is now in private practice in New York, focusing on defending whistleblowers and prosecuting fraud.

But he remains vitally interested in international justice and human rights education for young people.

The Prosecutor will share his reflections, then he and I will have a conversation and then we will open to the audience.

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