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Countries meeting at UN elect first prosecutor for International Criminal Court

Countries meeting at UN elect first prosecutor for International Criminal Court

The countries charged with shaping the world's first permanent war crimes court gathered at United Nations Headquarters in New York today, unanimously electing a prominent Argentinean litigator as the tribunal's first chief prosecutor.

As expected, Luis Moreno Ocampo was formally elected Prosecutor of the newly established International Criminal Court (ICC) as the tribunal's Assembly of States Parties opened the second part of its resumed session. The countries had agreed on Mr. Moreno Ocampo as their choice late last month during informal meetings at the Court's headquarters in The Hague.

The ICC was inaugurated in The Hague on 11 March with the election of its 18 judges. 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, enslavement, rape, torture, and, once defined, the crime of aggression.

The Rome Statute - the treaty establishing the ICC - 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 89 countries and signed by 139.

Mr. Moreno Ocampo will assume his post as head the Office of the Prosecutor, which acts as a separate organ of the ICC, as of 16 June. The Office will conduct investigations and prosecutions of crimes that fall within the Court's jurisdiction. 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.

For much of the past decade, Mr. Moreno Ocampo has been the main partner in the Buenos Aires-based law firm Moreno Ocampo and Wortman Jofre. Specializing in criminal and human rights law, corruption control programmes for large organizations and alternative dispute resolution, Mr. Moreno Ocampo also handled litigation for cases involving journalists' protection and victims of the Holocaust.

During the political turmoil that swept Argentina in the early 1980's, Mr. Moreno Ocampo was the assistant prosecutor in the trails against the country's then-ruling military junta. He also led the prosecutorial team that analyzed more than 10,000 human rights abuses - eventually selecting 700 cases and presenting some 2,000 witnesses.

Following this morning's election, the Assembly was expected to take up other matters for the remainder of this resumed first session, set to run through Wednesday. The Assembly will elect members of the Committee on Budget and Finance and consider the appointment of an External Auditor. It will also open the nomination period for members of the Board of Directors of the Trust Fund to benefit victims of crimes within the Court's jurisdiction and their families.


Listen to UN Radio profile of new prosecutor