First prosecutor for international criminal court takes office

Prominent Argentinean litigator Luis Moreno Ocampo was sworn in today as the chief prosecutor of the world's first permanent war crimes court.

Mr. Moreno Ocampo was sworn in as the first chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC), based The Hague, with the President of the Assembly of States Parties charged with shaping the Court, Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein of Jordan, administering the oath of office. The States Parties unanimously elected Mr. Moreno Ocampo in April.

The ICC was inaugurated on 11 March with the election of its 18 judges. Once the Court's registrar has been elected, as is expected to take place later this month, all its senior officials will be in place.

The tribunal will have jurisdiction over the most serious breaches of international law - trying individuals rather than states, and holding them accountable for war crimes, including, genocide, mass murder, torture, and, once defined, the crime of aggression.

The Rome Statute - the ICC's establishing treaty - entered into force 1 July 2002, and the Court's jurisdiction will cover only crimes committed after that date. The Statute has thus far been ratified by 90 countries and signed by 139.

Mr. Moreno Ocampo will head the Office of the Prosecutor, which acts as a separate organ of the ICC, and will conduct investigations and prosecutions of crimes that fall within the Court's jurisdiction. Under the Rome Statute, the Prosecutor can initiate an investigation upon referral by a State Party or by the UN Security Council, of a situation in which there is a reasonable basis to believe that such crimes have been or are being committed.

In a statement released in Geneva today, Acting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Bertrand Ramcharan, welcomed Mr. Moreno Ocampo's swearing in. Later this week, Mr. Ramcharan will be participating in the ICC's opening slate of hearings organized by the Prosecutors Office. He pledged the full support of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to Mr. Moreno Ocampo in carrying out his historic responsibilities.

[Source: UN News Service, New York, 16Jun03]

Corte Penal Internacional

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