Debating international criminal justice

As 17 judges from 13 regional districts in Mozambique meet in Pemba for a two day workshop on international criminal justice, the international criticism of arguably the world's most senior IJ prosecutor, Luis Morena Ocampo, intensifies.

July 31st, 2011

As 17 judges from 13 regional districts in Mozambique meet in Pemba for a two day workshop on international criminal justice, the international criticism of arguably the world's most senior IJ prosecutor, Luis Morena Ocampo, intensifies.

Ocampo has long been the target of attacks on his seeming inability or unwillingness to focus on any country outside of Africa. His recent pronouncement on the alleged mass rapes in Libya by Quaddafi's forces is a case in point. His office used these supposed rapes as one of the factors to motivate for an indictment against the Libyan leader, his son and head of military. In a recent report by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch these allegations were effectively dispelled.

The two human rights organisations found no evidence of any such acts. But these actions impacting on international criminal justice are far from the minds of the group of judges who are attending training on ICJ organised by the Eduardo Mondlane University's Centre for Human Rights and the Institute for Professional Legal Training. The judges apply their legal training, expertise and experience to potential crimes against humanity much closer to home.

These include the recent police killings of protesters in Malawi, the xenophobic killings that occurred in South Africa in 2008 and a hypothetical country (but perhaps drawing a strong analogy to a southern African country) called Benguela that due to endemic and extensive state corruption has resulted in a poverty stricken population without housing, health, food, water and other basic necessities. Whether any of these case studies constitute crime against humanity is open to discussion.

Elements of crimes against humanity include a widespread and systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack. The judges participation has been exemplary and most are convinced that it is a matter of time before Mozambique ratifies the Rome Statute. This training on international criminal justice capacitates Mozambican judges to address crimes against humanity, genocide or war crimes should they ever come before their courts. While this possibility may seem remote as Mozambique is a peaceful country with a developing infrastructure, growing economy and relatively good protection of human rights, this is also a country that has emerged from a debilitating civil war.

One of the positions presented by my colleague Leopoldo de Amaral was whether, if the ICC had had jurisdiction, acts committed during the civil war would have been prosecutable as war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Louise Olivier is the Law Programme Manager at OSISA and is attending the training. OSISA is supporting the ICJ training as part of it capacity building for judges and lawyers in the region.

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