ICC's dogged rights defender trains guns on Kenya

14th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who will Wednesday make an "important announcement" on the worst post-independence bloodletting in Kenya, has doggedly hunted rights offenders over decades.

A pragmatist who took up his present job in 2003 for a single nine-year mandate, Moreno-Ocampo cut his teeth more than 20 years ago on the trial of nine senior Argentinian commanders for mass killings.

He achieved a milestone in March last year by launching an arrest warrant for Sudan's Omar al-Bashir for crimes against civilians in Sudan's war-torn western Darfur region.

Beshir became the first sitting head of state to face charges before the ICC, which started work in 2002.

The 58-year-old is now honing in on Kenya and will on Wednesday reveal the names of six Kenyans alleged to have masterminded the 2008 violence following contested elections.

The unrest, the country's worst since independence from Britain in 1963, left more than 1,500 dead and 30,000 displaced.

In his previous career as a private lawyer, Moreno-Ocampo was also a keen defender of human rights, representing victims of the former Nazi regime and the repressive former Chilean government before joining the ICC in 2003.

"I deeply hope that the horrors humanity has suffered during the 20th century will serve us as a painful lesson, and that the creation of the International Criminal Court will help us to prevent those atrocities from being repeated in the future," he said on his election.

Moreno-Ocampo has obtained from the ICC at least 12 arrest warrants against alleged perpetrators of atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, the Central African Republic and Darfur.

Four of these have been arrested and transferred to the court's detention unit in The Hague: three leaders of rebel movements in the war in the DR Congo, and former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba for alleged crimes in the Central African Republic.

Moreno-Ocampo is a father to four children and his wife remains in Buenos Aires while her husband criss-crosses the world to improve ties with international bodies, heads of state and non-governmental organisations.

His investigation into Darfur is the only case to have been transferred to the ICC by the UN Security Council.

Once an adviser to the World Bank and a representative of anti-corruption NGO Transparency International, Moreno-Ocampo has also acted for sometimes controversial personalities such as Argentinian football star Diego Maradona.

He has taught at such prestigious universities as Harvard.

As a young assistant prosecutor, one of his first cases in Argentina was against a former strongman of the dictatorship, General Jorge Videla, tried with eight others for a reign of terror from 1976 to 1983 in which at least 15,000 people disappeared.

In that case Moreno-Ocampo led six months of evidence from more than 800 people, resulting in a guilty verdict for five of the group in 1985.

"I was 32. I thought this was going to be my most important role as a prosecutor," Moreno-Ocampo has said of the trial. "Now I feel that it was just training," he told a newspaper three years ago.

"He is a man of conviction, very passionate, but he would not like one describing him as an idealist," former aide Beatrice Le Fraper has told AFP.

"He believes that there are solutions ... international justice is according to him the only realistic tool of the 21st century because no single state, no international organisation has the legitimacy or the tools necessary to respond to these massive crimes."

© 2010 AFP

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