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Argentine Lawyer To Head The Hague's War Crimes Prosecutions

Luis Moreno Ocampo sets his sights on finding justice for those victims of the worst crimes

 

After a long and sometimes controversial career as human rights prosecutor and civil attorney, the 50-year old Argentine lawyer Luis Moreno Ocampo was sworn in on Monday as the first chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC). Moreno Ocampo became prominent early in the eighties as the youngest prosecutor taking on the military dictatorial juntas that ruled Argentina between 1976 and 1983.

 

The first Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court was sworn in during a public session of the Court at the Great Hall of Justice of the Peace Palace at The Hague. The ceremony was presided over by Judge Philippe Kirsch and witnessed by the other judges of the Court.

 

After making his name on the trials against human rights abuses committed by the Argentine military, Moreno Ocampo headed a NGO oriented to the civil control of the political power. As a nationwide public figure, he briefly hosted a reality show in which he ruled on domestic cases brought by the production of the TV program.

 

Born in Buenos Aires, Moreno Ocampo obtained his law degree in 1978 and worked as a defense lawyer. He led a series of high-profile public interest cases in Argentina, including the extradition of former Nazi officer Erich Priebke to Italy in 2001 and the trial of Chilean secret police members for the murder of General Carlos Prats.

 

As a private lawyer, Moreno Ocampo defended more than one controversial figure, including the football star Diego Armando Maradona, the former Argentine Minister of Economy, Domingo Cavallo and a popular priest with strong links to the political power, accused of sexually abusing minors. This last case almost ended in a public scandal, as most expensive lawyers available in Argentina defended the priest and Moreno Ocampo could not explain in front of a TV camera who paid for his services. Before taking his new post at the ICC, Moreno Ocampo was a visiting law professor at Harvard University in the United States.

 

The International Criminal Court is the first permanent institution of international criminal justice, with jurisdiction to try individuals for the most serious crimes against  humanity, including genocide and war crimes. As prosecutor of the ICC, Mr Moreno Ocampo will be the public face of a new institution which has received strong backing from many countries, but remains shunned by the United States.

 

In fact, the US has not ratified the treaty establishing the court, something that led to a dispute with European Union. Washington is concerned that the ICC could take on its operations worldwide, as claims for immunity for their soldiers established in the five continents. The court is the culmination of a campaign that began with the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials for Second World War German an and Japanese war criminals.

 

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