Luis Moreno Ocampo says that at age 32, he knew he’d just been “appointed to the most important job I’d have in my life.” Moreno Ocampo became a household name, and for many a beacon of light when, in 1985, he argued the case against the Argentine military leaders who had murderously ruled his country from 1976 to 1983.
But he is better known these days as the first Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, and as such, the man to whom both Israelis and Palestinians looked, with a mixture of fear and hope, for a possible legal framework for the ongoing regional conflict.
The ICC, he says, “is basically a Nuremberg tribunal, but permanent.”
This week, alongside several US lawmakers, the Palestinians requested that the United Nations initiate an official investigation into Israeli extrajudicial killings of Palestinians following the death of Abed Al-Fattah Al-Sharif in Hebron.
Al-Sharif, a Palestinian citizen, attempted to stab an Israeli soldier patrolling the West Bank town of Hebron. He was shot and wounded by the soldier, but a second soldier, who has now been charged with manslaughter, was subsequently filmed shooting Al-Sharif in the head once he lay incapacitated on the ground.
TML: Is Palestine a state in terms of the ICC?
LMO: Nothing in statute allows a prosecutor to define this issue, so I cannot define that. I suggested the Palestinians could go to the United Nations General Assembly, and then come back. They did that, and won by an incredible 138 to 7 vote. What happened to Israel? How could they lose this by 138 to 7? That is something Israel should think about. Something is complicated here. So the fact is they got the statehood, and for 1 year they did nothing. They were using it as a Sword of Damocles.
TML: In terms of Israel and Palestine, who should have the greatest concerns right how?
LMO: Palestine’s accession [to the court] should not be construed as aggression. It could have a positive aspect. Palestine is committed to non-violence, and to investigate and prosecute cases of violence, and that should be something Israel could value. OK, Palestine could help to control rockets. And Israel also has to understand that there are issues. If it attacks Gaza, the ICC could intervene. Or the settlements could be reviewed by the ICC. So, in some ways I think it’s better because it’s a legal discussion, not a war.
TML: You have said that Israel overreacted to the Palestinian declaration of statehood. Why so?
LMO: Of course. The fact is that Palestine, if now a state, is subject to the requirements and demands that all states take upon themselves, which could actually be an opportunity for Israel. It changes how Israel can respond to charges presented against it.
The Jerusalem Post Noga Tarnopolsky