Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the first prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague (A grab from ‘The Court’)
Watching ‘The Court’, a compelling documentary about the workings of the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague generally and its famed first prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo you realize how hard it is to achieve justice for those on the margins of the human civilization.
Jointly directed by Michele Gentile and Marcus Vetter, ‘The Court’ tells its story through Moreno-Ocampo’s steadfast commitment to the rule of law and justice in global affairs. I will have a detailed interview with Vetter later this week. However, as I watch the documentary in preparation for the interview, I am left practically paralyzed by some of the utterly banal cruelty on display in a place like Ituri, The Congo.
Although the documentary addresses several intractable global crises arising out the harrowingly criminal regimes in many parts of the world, its basic story is about the Congolese warlord Thomas Lubunga Dyilo who forced children to serve as his soldiers and subjected them to unspeakable cruelty as a matter of routine.
It was a great moment for Moreno-Ocampo when Lubanga was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2012. Although the effectiveness of the ICC has remained a matter of serious doubt this particular conviction was held up as what the court can achieve.
As the Argentine prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo describes his challenge, “The problem is that the biggest countries of the world are outside my jurisdiction because they never signed this treaty.” The treaty being the Rome Statute that created the court in the first place. Incidentally, India has chosen to stay outside because it disapproves its broad definition of crimes against humanity. So has the United States and many others. So far 122 countries have signed up as ICC members and respect its jurisdiction. One of the biggest problems that the ICC faces is that it has no enforcement mechanism in these countries and must depend on individual nations to execute arrest warrants against those accused of crimes against humanity.
Early on in the documentary, there is a scene of what are presumably the soldiers of the Lubanga brutalizing a boy. When you see that you seriously wonder whether we have really traveled that far from our violent primitive impulses. Unarmed, utterly helpless young men are casually shot point blank even before they could complete their pleas for mercy.
The documentary does a powerful job of capturing Moreno-Ocampo’s relentless pursuit of justice. He is a natural protagonist for a documentary such as this with his innate flair for the medium.