There are friends and friends in life. Some you see all the time. Some you see less than you would like, but when you do see them you feel very close to them. To me, Luis Moreno Ocampo belongs to this group. This post is about Luis and his activities as the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. As you read this post you will realize that Luis is not just my buddy. He is your buddy as well. And the buddy of all of those who believe that those who commit War Crimes and Genocide should go to jail.
I was an admirer of Luis Moreno Ocampo before I became his friend. I admired him because he had successfully prosecuted the criminals who kidnapped and killed my 17 year old first cousin David Horacio Varsavsky in Argentina as well as 20,000 other innocent victims during the so called “Dirty War” in the late 70s. Growing up Jewish in Buenos Aires and hearing about the Holocaust I did not imagine that at the young age of 16 I was going to live through a smaller version of the same phenomenon in my native town. While the Dirty War was not targeted exclusively against Jews, the military who conducted the assassinations were openly antisemitic. Jews represent less than 1% of the Argentine population, they were around 10% of those murdered, David Horacio Varsavsky included. It is still a sad mystery as to what would make the Argentine military choose my cousin as a victim. In our research all we could find out was that it was a “mistake”, that they were looking for somebody else. Well my aunt who is still alive cries about this “mistake” every day of her life. And these “mistakes” happened because when regimes systematically violate Human Rights to stay in power they end up killing not only those who oppose itself a crime, but many more die in the crossfire. And that is what is happening in a much larger scale in Sudan where millions of aunts Sara are crying over the death of their loved ones.
This week in Manhattan Luis Moreno Ocampo described his view of the conflict in great detail to me. This is what Luis Moreno Ocampo says about Omar AlBashir. Omar AlBashir, Luis argues, is a genocidal dictator whose actions have resulted in the displacement of 4 million people, the death of 300,000, the destruction of villages, homes, and forced emigration of hundreds of thousands. Moreover those 2.5 million people who still remain in Darfur live in concentration camp conditions without access to human rights and are dying in great numbers of starvation, disease, and murder. Many women and girl survivors are subject to systematic rape. Moreover this conflict is an attack of a Muslim majority on a non Muslim minority and is carried out by Omar AlBashir with the help of paramilitary groups similar to those that the Argentine military used in the Dirty War. It is common for a military dictator to ask their own forces to operate under civilian clothes or to create other paramilitary or proxy groups who fight for them. In this case the Janjaweed. Here’s an AlJazzeera interview of Luis Moreno Ocampo. I chose it because – while very civilized – it corroborates what Luis shared were the main difficulties of his case and that is the complicity of many Arab countries with Omar AlBashir. Unfortunately Luis is now having to fight not only Arab regimes who support Omar AlBashir’s actions but China who benefits from his oil and a bizarre collection of organizations and countries who for different reasons prefer the status quo in spite of the genocide that is taking place. There are even humanitarian organizations normally operating in Sudan who believe that by turning Omar AlBashir into a global criminal, Luis Moreno Ocampo has helped accelerate his genocide. And interestingly not even USA is part of the International Criminal Court which makes his work even more complex. Luis Moreno Ocampo understands of course that everyone who is having a hard time with his arrest warrant for Omar AlBashir, including the Chinese and most Arab nations who support him would actually prefer that the genocide ends. But it is a wave of conflicting interests that has made us all sit aside and contemplate daily death and that is why I admire Luis even more. Because as it was the case in Argentina he has picked a case that is for justice but that makes a lot of governments, organizations and people uncomfortable around the world. This is what the Wikipedia says about his arrest warrant.
It is suspected that al-Bashir would not face trial in The Hague any time soon, as Sudan rejects the ICC’s jurisdiction. Payam Akhavan, a professor of international law at McGill University in Montreal and a former war crimes prosecutor, says although he may not go to trial, “He will effectively be in prison within the Sudan itself…Al-Bashir now is not going to be able to leave the Sudan without facing arrest.” The Prosecutor has publicly warned that authorities could arrest the President if he enters international airspace. The Sudanese government has announced the Presidential plane will be accompanied by jet fighters. However, the Arab League has announced its solidarity with al-Bashir. Since the warrant, he has visited Qatar and Egypt. Both countries have refused to arrest him. The African Union also condemned the arrest warrant.
And this is the AlJazzeera interview conducted in a critical tone.
I would like to end this post with a video showing one person, one survivor of the genocide in Darfur in his new life in New York City. For some reason all genocides have some survivors in New York City. It would be nice though to live in a world in which genocides and war crimes just don’t happen anymore.
Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars