Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Moreno Ocampo on the Record

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Luis Moreno Ocampo, speaks to IWPR about the first accused to arrive at the court - Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo.
By Janet Anderson
WHY IS THOMAS LUBANGA THE FIRST ACCUSED TO ARRIVE AT THE ICC?

Thomas Lubanga Dyilo [who faces charges relating to the enlistment and use of children under 15 in armed conflicts which raged through the eastern DRC during the late Nineties] is the number one of one of the most dangerous groups in the DRC. The group allegedly committed more than 2,000 killings. We always planned to focus on those who are most responsible.



WHY SUCH LIMITED CHARGES AGAINST HIM?

Forcing kids to be soldiers is one of the most serious crimes. You don't just jeopardise the kids. It also jeopardises the entire security of the community. And I have a special mandate to investigate these types of crimes. In this case, we continue investigating other crimes, so if we have evidence we will amend the charges. But if not, I think these are very serious crimes. I have to emphasise this cannot happen - to recruit or enlist kids and turn them into killers. I must stop this.



YOU’VE SAID THAT THIS IS THE FIRST OF A SEQUENCE. WHEN DO YOU EXPECT THE NEXT PERSON TO ARRIVE?

We are still investigating Thomas Lubanga's group, and we are also investigating other groups. As soon as we can, we will present further evidence in court.

WHAT SORT OF TIME FRAME ARE YOU LOOKING AT FOR A TRIAL?

That depends on the judges. I hope it will be short.



JUDGE JORDA [THE HEAD OF THE PRE-TRIAL CHAMBER DEALING WITH THE DRC] HAS GONE ON THE RECORD AS SAYING HE THINKS A TRIAL SHOULD LAST ONLY 18 MONTHS – WOULD YOU AGREE WITH THAT?

Yes, I hope that will be the case.



COULD LUBANGA HAVE BEEN TRIED IN THE DRC?

The DRC said at the beginning and also now confirmed that they do not have the ability to conduct such a complex investigation.



WHAT’S YOUR REACTION TO THE DECISION ALLOWING VICTIMS TO HAVE A ROLE AT THIS STAGE IN THE INVESTIGATION INTO THE SITUATION IN THE DRC?

The victims have a big role in the ICC and we are very happy with this. As the prosecutor's office we are open to the victims. One of our basic activities is to respect the interests of the victims. However, we appealed the decision, because we feel there are some problems in this decision. The victims could participate, but we disagree with some areas, which could be very dangerous for the victims. So we are discussing some aspects of this petition. Because we don't like to expose victims before time. So victims have to participate in the proper manner, without exposing them and while protecting their interests. So in the compensation part they will have participation, and the investigation stage it is more complicated because security is a big issue. That is our point.



WHERE ARE YOU WITH THE SUDAN CASE? YOU CAN’T GET INVESTIGATORS IN ON THE GROUND IN DARFUR – HOW ARE YOU MANAGIN THAT CASE?

In fact, because there is no security in Darfur, no one, not just us, no national court could do investigations inside Darfur. In fact our comparative advantage is that we can investigate from outside Darfur. So we are collecting evidence and taking testimonies in 10 different countries. So this is our comparative advantage.



WHERE ARE YOU WITH THE CASE IN NORTHERN UGANDA? ARE YOU ANY CLOSER TO ARRESTING THE LRA?

The arrest of the LRA is not our part. We request the arrest warrant, we issue them and now the states have to execute the arrest. Our warrants have changed the dynamic. There are three states involved. They are DRC, Uganda and Sudan, who now working together to arrest Kony [the leader of the LRA]. So the situation has changed, and I hope we can succeed.



WILL YOU BE CONSIDERING BRINGING CHARGES AGAINST OTHER GROUPS OPERATING IN NORTHERN UGANDA – FOR INSTANCE THE UPDF?

We are still completing the first case. After that, we will review all the information we have about crimes, alleged crimes committed by other groups or persons, including members of the UPDF, and we do a test of the gravity of the alleged crimes and of complementarity [assessing whether local courts have the ability to prosecute the cases]. Then we take the decision. For us, impartiality is not pursuing everyone.

Impartiality is applying the same standard to all the cases.