ICC Film Receives Top Billing at Festival - Enough Project Speaks with Court’s Deputy Prosecutor
– Luis Moreno Ocampo, Prosecutor, International Criminal Court
Opinion: International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo on How Images Can Combat Massive Injustice
Luis Moreno-Ocampo serves as the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor. Founded in 2002, the ICC is responsible for investigating crimes against humanity, and issuing warrants for the arrest of perpetrators, no matter their status as national leaders. Investigations have centered on crimes in northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic, and most recently in Darfur, with a series of arrest warrants issued and trials conducted. Director Pamela Yates followed Ocampo for three years for her documentary The Reckoning, which tells the story of the Court’s attempts to gain legitimacy and build an international coalition to support the idea of international law. The Insider talked to Moreno-Ocampo just before the Festival began.
Insider: Film can be a powerful tool for advocacy — from your experience with Pamela Yates and The Reckoning, what role do you think cinema can play to further the goals of the Court?
Moreno-Ocampo: Normally, the community determines laws and appoints someone to defend them. Here we have the law, but my work is to create the global community, and I need to inform that community, so images become an important tool. We all know that images and videos and pictures change the behavior of people. The Crimean War (1853-56) was the first war when pictures were printed by a newspaper in London. Ever since then, we’ve had the pictures in the paper, and this has an impact on how people understand wars. Basically as a prosecutor, I have to serve a community, and as a global prosecutor, I need to serve a global community, and I need a global tool to do that. Video is that tool.
Insider: The Court seems to take this idea very seriously — the ICC Web site streams video of the public hearings. How significant is this aspect of the ICC’s efforts?
Moreno-Ocampo: Trials are a ritual to show respect for the victims, the laws, and even the accused, the defendants. It’s teaching respect. So to have these videos is a first step. But it’s not enough. We need also a festival like Sundance. We need films like The Reckoning. Basically, we need other vehicles. These are all efforts to explain what we do. Distance in time and space reduce our moral abilities, so when my neighbor is killed, it is a disaster. But 20 people killed in the Congo means nothing to me. But The Reckoning connects these times and distances. It is allowing any audience to become involved in these wars. That is the magic of this film.
Insider: One of the challenges facing the ICC is the attempt to work in a global context among nations that are not yet fully willing or able to be global. Can you talk about the ICC’s design with respect to the notion of a “global community” and the tensions between the national and the global with respect to the ICC’s efforts?
Moreno-Ocampo: That for me is so interesting because we are living in the global world now. One in five people in the world has a cell phone that can be connected to the Internet with images, so the judicial system we have today, which was born before TV and the Internet, which was born in the age of the telegraph, has to adjust. This idea to have a global legal system is a 21st century idea, and the ICC is a very important first step.
Insider: This “first step” has been very successful in its first seven years. However, the concluding line of the film is a question asked by the Court’s Senior Trial Attorney Christine Chung in regard to the future of the ICC: “What are we going to do in the next 20 years to make it the court that everybody wanted it to be and not some pale shadow of what it’s supposed to be?” Do you have an answer for this question?
Moreno-Ocampo: My role is to select the cases well, investigate them, and win those cases in court. But we need to spread these ideas. In my first years I saw so much change so fast, so in 20 years I know we will be incredibly important — but we depend on people like you, and on festivals like Sundance doing these kind of exhibitions.
Insider: This raises a question about our responsibilities as viewers. You concluded a recent presentation by citing the example of Raphael Lemkin, who battled genocide (a term he invented) beginning in the 1930s. You said, “Even one person without official functions can contribute meaningfully to ending the crimes.” What might be the responsibilities of people after viewing The Reckoning?
Moreno-Ocampo: This really depends on where you are — Sundance this year, for example, has a selection of very strong documentaries; this is incredibly important. For Raphael Lemkin, however, his ambition was to create a way to end genocide. The mission is so big, so huge, but he wouldn’t stop, and that for me is such a great example. He did something great and he was alone. But now we have these other resources, and we don’t need to act alone. We talk now about “my neighborhood,” “my city,” “my country,” and “my world” — we are global citizens in a global system, and something like filmmaking becomes something lots of people can do. I see my kids — they bond globally. They understand it. We have to work to further that.
Insider: What else is the Court doing specifically to support 21st century communication and the notion of global citizenship?
Moreno-Ocampo: Well, we are still learning. I think the Sundance Film Festival and The Reckoning are a big test for how it’s working. And the timing of the screening is so important. The film will screen before an audience in January. In February, the court will issue another warrant for Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir and we need global citizens to urge governments to support this warrant. So the exhibition of the film is the perfect timing — Sundance can reach people in the world, and these people could make a difference in stopping the first genocide in the 21st century.
ICC Film Receives Top Billing at Festival, Enough Speaks with Court’s Deputy Prosecutor
Posted by Laura Heaton on Jul 1, 2009 from EnoughProject.org
The two-week run of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival wrapped up last weekend in New York, having highlighted an impressive array of documentaries from around the world. The film ‘The Reckoning: The Battle for the International Criminal Court’ and its team of filmmakers received special recognition on opening night as the featured documentary. Recognizable personalities from the film attended the opening screening as well, including the deputy prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda, former ICC prosecutor Christine Chung, and former Nuremberg prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz.
The Reckoning retraces the first three years of the Court, following ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo across four continents as he and his team investigate cases of mass atrocities and issue arrest warrants for individuals alleged to be responsible for orchestrating war crimes. As the film chronicles, this work takes them from the bush in eastern Congo and northern Uganda, to the Security Council at U.N. headquarters, to meetings with justice officials in Colombia, and back to the ICC’s permanent home in The Hague, Netherlands, where all the pieces come together.
After the screening of The Reckoning, I had a chance to speak with the Court’s deputy prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda. Ms. Bensouda has a long-standing involvement in justice systems on both the national level in her native Gambia and internationally as a delegate to the 1998 Rome conference that established the ICC and as a prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. She has held the post of deputy prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague since 2004.
Here are some highlights from our conversation that took on the sidelines of the international film festival.
Mark your calendar for a public screening of The Reckoning on July 14 at 10p.m. as part of PBS’s P.O.V. documentary series.
The public screening will be part of a massive advocacy effort directed by the filmmakers to raise awareness about the International Criminal Court and compel the Obama administration to “Support the Court.” To learn more about these plans, check out ijcentral.org.
N.B.: Maggie Fick and I recently interviewed Pamela Yates and Paco de Onis, director and producer of the film. If you haven’t watched the video of the conversation, have a look here.