January 31, 2009 / 6:06 PM / 10 years ago

International court needs more state help: prosecutor

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - “Oil and other interests” are stopping states that set up the International Criminal Court from doing enough to support it in getting fugitives arrested, its prosecutor said Saturday.

International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo speaks during his official visit to Bogota August 25, 2008. REUTERS/John Vizcaino

“This is a law passed by the states ... I’m just the prosecutor obeying the law,” ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told Reuters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum.

“There is still no consensus. Sometimes because there are oil or other interests and normally because no state has an interest to put a lot of effort in northern Uganda or Darfur. There is nothing to win there,” he said.

The ICC’s first trial started Monday after a six-month delay on concerns Congolese warcrimes suspect Thomas Lubanga would be denied a fair trial because the prosecution had withheld evidence from the defense.

The world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal has the backing of 108 nations, but experts say it still faces many challenges including winning endorsement from powers such as the United States and China, and scrutiny over its effectiveness.

Moreno-Ocampo said the involvement of member states would be particularly urgent if ICC judges granted a request by the prosecutor for a warrant to arrest Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for crimes in the war-torn Darfur region.

Moreno-Ocampo expects the judges to decide within weeks.

“How the states will ensure the respect of the court’s decision, that is a challenge, but it is more a challenge for the states,” he said.

Moreno-Ocampo said the Hague-based court could launch a further two trials this year and noted his team were also monitoring situations in Colombia, Georgia, Cote d’Ivoire, Afghanistan and Kenya.

“It’s not about the number of the trials. There are many militias taking notice of our activities but also armies all over the world are adjusting to the ICC rules so it is a huge transformation in just a few years,” he said.

“That is the beauty of this court. A few cases promote the idea that the law has to be applied,” he said. “In Colombia they are doing cases because we are watching.”

He also urged a new push to arrest Joseph Kony, head of the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), whose rebels killed more than 100 people in a January 16 attack on a village in Congo.

He said Kony used a truce to rearm, rejecting suggestions that his prosecution of Kony contributed to peace talks collapsing last year after Kony failed to sign the deal.

“Of course we like peace, of course we have to demobilize the LRA but arresting Kony is a crucial element to demobilizing the LRA,” he said.

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