The Prosecutor—Is the ICC champion of global justice or tool of Imperialism?


The International Criminal Court has its critics, but you have to admire the optimism of Luis Moreno-Ocampo. The ICC’s chief prosecutor also has a fair amount of televisual flair, swooping down from the sky in a white suit to address Congolese villagers in the opening scenes of Barry Steven’s film The Prosecutor, screening Tuesday and Wednesday (November 29-30) as part of the Knowledge Network’s outstanding Storyville documentary series.

Stevens goes behind the scenes with the ICC as Moreno-Ocampo and his team try to prosecute the opposing Congolese warlords Mathieu Ngudjolo and Thomas Lubanga—that latter being accused of using child soldiers. Meanwhile, charged with genocide, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir flaunts his contempt for Moreno-Ocampo and the ICC by visiting neighbouring countries that are obliged to execute the court’s warrants— but don’t.

Stevens’ film also provides a platform for the ICC’s detractors, most persuasively in this case the Columbia University professor Mahmoud Mamdani, who argues that the International Court—founded in 2002—is a tool of Imperialism. “…to be practical meant that [Moreno Campo] had to find an accommodation with American power,” says Mamdani. “And his accommodation was that the court would not be a challenge to American power anywhere in the world. That the court would, in fact, be a supplement to American power.”

Asked by Stevens about war crimes in Afghanistan, Moreno-Campio waffles. And given the cumbersome international politics it has to contend with, along with its own limited powers, expense, scant success, and the ever-present danger that its actions will inflame and escalate the violence in regions like Darfur, the ICC starts to look not just lame, but counter-productive.

But, argues the indefatigable and unquestionably sincere prosecutor, “the Lubanga case has impact in Congo, it has impact in Nepal, it has impact in Colombia. That’s why in Colombia they discuss child soldiers now. That’s why in Nepal they demobilized 3000 kids. That’s the impact.”

The Prosecutor screens on the Knowledge Network on Tuesday (November 29) and Wednesday (November 30)

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