Bensouda’s Folly: It depends upon what the meaning of the word “is” is

We would like to restate for the record the fact that the Office of the Prosecutor has not sought advice, communicated or collaborated with the former Prosecutor.

Fatou Bensouda1As quoted in Sven Becker and Dietmar Pieper, The Ocampo Affair: Current ICC Chief Prosecutor Weighed Down by Predecessor, Der Spiegel, 17 October 2017.

Fatou Bensouda, the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor, has some explaining to do.

In my last post, I mused whether she would take the necessary action to get to the bottom of what is now being referred to as OcampogateLuis Moreno Ocampo’s potential illicit activities in his offshore companies and large transfer of funds through and to tax havens while acting as the first ICC Prosecutor, and the unusually lucrative consulting deal he struck with Libyan oil billionaire (and past Muammar Gaddafi associate) Hassan Tatanaki – for whom Moreno Ocampo condescended himself by inappropriately soliciting assistance and inside confidential information from ICC staff.

Madame Bensouda was quick to distance herself from her former boss, issuing a statement that she had no contact with him since he left the ICC. In doing so, she obviously wanted to shield herself from any Ocampogate blowback. Continue reading “Bensouda’s Folly: It depends upon what the meaning of the word “is” is”


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Occasionally the best defense is an offense. More often, however, the best defense is to keep silent, admit nothing, be circumspect in word and deed – at least until all facts are known (the good, the bad, and the ugly).

Many under investigation – especially those who have tasted raw power and have enjoyed the esteem and adulation of their peers, of the influential, and of the beautiful cause-driven socialites – have gone on to be charged, and have made their defense much more challenging, if not outright impossible, by indulging their ego and sense of self-importance.

Many of the powerful and popular tend to think that because of their present position or past accomplishments, or because of their confidence in their brimming gravitas (why else would they be on Mount Olympus while the rest of us are mere yeomen toiling in obscurity), or because of who they are, they can make unpleasant and inconvenient truths disappear. All they need do is talk, to explain away. Continue reading “MORENO OCAMPO’S TACIT ADMISSION TO BENSOUDA  “


Moreno Ocampo’s Game: and the sordidness keeps coming

I never did something wrong because I am very careful. I don’t like to work on things that are awful. I reject cases for million dollars if I don’t like the case. I believe in my career, fighting people committing crimes from power.

Luis Moreno Ocampo1As quoted in Svan Becker, Marian Blasberg and Dietmar Pieper, The Ocampo Affair: A Former ICC Chief’s Dubious Links, Der Spiegel, 5 October 2017

Someone is trying to blackmail me using illegally-obtained information

Louis Moreno Ocampo2As quoted in Barney Thompson, Former ICC Prosecutor in Row Over Lucrative Consultancy Work, Financial Times, 6 October 2017

The cat is out of the bag.3A colloquial phrase for when a secret is made known. The phrase originates from the fraud of substituting a cat for a piglet at markets. If you let the cat out of the bag you disclosed the trick – and avoided buying a pig in a poke (bag). By now, the world over, titillating information – facts beyond change, inferences drawn from circumstantial evidence, and speculations based on rumor and innuendo – has surfaced concerning Luis Moreno Ocampo’s conduct and activities while serving as the first Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and thereafter.

The image that emerges is a picture of a marginally competent, appreciably unethical, excessively greedy, cheekily narcissistic, and deeply flawed Shakespearian figure who sees himself as the victim of untruths, allusions, and distortions.

Trickle, trickle. Many of the facts based on the leaked 40,000 documents (internal documents from the ICC, contracts, diplomatic dispatches, bank records and emails) remain unknown. But from what has been revealed thus far, it is not a pretty picture.  And with each new revelation, Moreno Ocampo must be feeling the effects of Chinese water torture – drip, drip, drip. Continue reading “Moreno Ocampo’s Game: and the sordidness keeps coming”


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The Moreno Ocampo identity: hubris abandoned


Doubt, benefit of the doubt, reasonable doubt. These are words embedded in the DNA of all defense lawyers.  Whether championing a client’s case or reading a salacious story in the press, doubt is always front of mind. Defense lawyers are trained not to prejudge, not to form opinions without knowledge of all the facts, and without testing the evidence. And since facts can get in the way of a good story, it’s impulsive to accept as accurate and true what is reported in the news without question. Occasionally, however, there comes an article that so shocks the conscience that it’s too difficult not to take it at face value, or muster the kind of skepticism that is our professional default.

Such is a story reported about the first and former International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo’s seedy (and greedy) conduct involving Hassan Tatanaki – a client who forked over USD $750,000 to Moreno Ocampo for what Moreno Ocampo characterized as “consultancy services” on the use of international law in reducing the ongoing violence and securing peace in Libya. Continue reading “The Moreno Ocampo identity: hubris abandoned”


The Human Rights Watch Report on the Ongwen Case and Beyond: Who should represent the victims at the ICC?


The quality of the legal representation victims receive is essential to their meaningful and effective participation in ICC proceedings. 1Independent Panel of Experts, “Report on Victim Participation at the ICC”, July 2013, para. 12

ICC court decisions have repeatedly articulated the need to “ensure that the participation of the victims, through their legal representative, is as meaningful as possible, as opposed to purely symbolic.” 2Human Rights Watch, “Who Will Stand for Us? Victims’ Legal Representation at the ICC in the Ongwen Case and Beyond”, August 2017, p. 9 quoting Prosecutor v. Ruto and Sang, ICC-01/09-01/11-460, Decision on victims’ participation and representation, 3 October 2012, para. 59

Victims’ choice matters because it can be a way for the victims represented to develop confidence that the counsel who stands for them before the court will represent their views, in turn building confidence in the court process itself. 3Human Rights Watch, “Who Will Stand for Us? Victims’ Legal Representation at the ICC in the Ongwen Case and Beyond”, August 2017, p. 11

Last year, in a post following the establishment of the International Criminal Court Bar Association (ICCBA), I raised an issue which, quite evidently, was on the mind of many Counsel who are on the ICC List of Counsel: the Office of Public Counsel for Victims’ (OPCV) taking over the legal representation of victims, and the subordination of (and running roughshod over) Counsel selected by the victims to the OPCV.

Many Counsel representing, or on the List to represent, victims before the ICC perceived, rightly or wrongly, that they, along with their clients, were being disenfranchised. Perceptions count, especially if the purpose for introducing victims’ participation was to permit victims to present “their views and concerns”4Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (“Rome Statute”), Art. 68(3). and make the proceedings more relevant and meaningful for the victims. Continue reading “The Human Rights Watch Report on the Ongwen Case and Beyond: Who should represent the victims at the ICC?”


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The Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf Al-Werfalli Indictment: Picking low-hanging fruit or chasing windmills


On 15 August 2017, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Libyan military commander Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf Al-Werfalli, accused of having committed or ordered 33 murders in Benghazi or surrounding areas from June 2016 to July 2017. The supporting evidence suggests that the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) has overwhelmingly met the rather low threshold of “reasonable grounds to believe that the person has committed a crime within the jurisdiction of the Court” (Article 58(1)(a) of the Rome Statute) in charging Al-Werfalli. Should this case to go to trial, Al-Werfalli will find that he has stacked the deck against himself: video footage of him conducting summary executions of captives published on social media.

As cases go, this is a prosecutor’s dream. For the OTP, this must have been one of those cases that is just too good to pass up. But is it? The 33 victims deserve justice, but is the ICC able to deliver it? And at what cost? Continue reading “The Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf Al-Werfalli Indictment: Picking low-hanging fruit or chasing windmills”


Book Review: Scott Turow disappoints and affronts in Testimony

Few can match Scott Turow’s writing and storytelling abilities. Very few. Over the years he spoiled us with his prose, his canny insight, his attention to detail. His freshman work, One L, was a must-read for a generation of law students. Some of the courtroom scenes in Presumed Innocent are as riveting as they are authentic. And Identical, his last novel before his recently released Testimony, was a true masterpiece, capturing all the nuances of Greek and Greek-American culture.

So, with deep regret, I suggest that if you were looking to escape (or vacate as I put it) from the daily pressures with a good novel – especially one that may hit close to home – Turow’s Testimony is not one of them.  If you have yet to set off for the beach, pull it from your bag and grab something else (perhaps the new John Grisham novel, Camino Island) desist from buying it at the airport while waiting for your flight, and refrain from gifting it to a friend or colleague. Harsh warnings, but I think justifiable. Continue reading “Book Review: Scott Turow disappoints and affronts in Testimony”


Taking the international out of justice:  An imaginary conversation on the ICC’s Decision on South Africa

A woman dressed in a traditional Sudanese thobe walks out of Courtroom I of the International Criminal Court on 6 July 2017, having heard the decision of Pre-Trial Chamber II on the Situation in Darfur, Sudan – In the Case of the Prosecutor v. Omar Ahmad Al-Bashir. Shaking her head slightly, she has a look of disbelief, visibly upset. She is a Darfur victim, having moved to the Netherlands several years ago. Next to her is a smartly dressed gentleman, obviously someone important – or at least his appearance would so suggest: gold-rimmed round glasses, bespoke summer suit, crisp white shirt, with a stylish Montblanc pen visibly displayed in the pocket of his contrasting vest, glimpses of his tastefully matching Montblanc cuff links and Orbis Terrarum pocket watch, casually knotted bow tie, holding a white Panama hat of definite high quality, and a mahogany handled umbrella – probably an affectation but then one can never be too prepared in The Hague no matter the time of the year.

Omar Ahmad Al-Bashir

Suddenly, without the slightest trace of ambivalence, the woman turns to the gentleman and asks: What just happened? I thought I heard the Judges find that South Africa failed to comply with its obligation to arrest Al-Bashir but then said there was no need to do anything about it? If that’s the case, what’s the point of all of this? I thought the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) referred Al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court (ICC)? If there is an arrest warrant out for him, how can he have immunity? And if South Africa signed on to the ICC, why is it not cooperating?  I don’t get all this stuff about South Africa having to consult with the ICC to figure out the obligations it agreed to under the Rome Statute.  Continue reading “Taking the international out of justice:  An imaginary conversation on the ICC’s Decision on South Africa”


Registrar Hosts Consultations on the ICC’s Legal Aid Scheme: so what!?

On 19 June 2016 the Registry of the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) hosted a full day consultation seminar on the ICC’s Legal Aid Scheme (“LAS”). The seminar followed the publication of two expert reports by the International Justice Consortium (“ICJC”) and Richard J. Rogers (the ICJC report is annexed to Rogers’ report), which I commented on in a previous post. The point of the seminar was for relevant stakeholders – ICC List Counsel, Counsel from other international(ized) criminal tribunals and courts, and organizations such as the International Criminal Court Bar Association (“ICCBA”) and the Association of Defence Counsel practising before the International Courts and Tribunals (“ADC”) – to exchange views with the Registrar on refashioning the LAS. Continue reading “Registrar Hosts Consultations on the ICC’s Legal Aid Scheme: so what!?”


The Cambodia Daily – Opinion: Violent Threats Could Spur ICC Investigation

On May 29, 2017, The Cambodia Daily published an opinion piece by Michael G. Karnavas.  The piece appears below:

The Cambodia Daily

Opinion: Violent Threats Could Spur ICC Investigation

by Michael G. Karnavas1   Michael G. Karnavas is a criminal defense lawyer. He was the co-lawyer for Ieng Sary at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, and is now Meas Muth’s international co-lawyer in Case 003 at the ECCC.

The Cambodia Daily reported last Friday that Prime Minister Hun Sen gave a speech to 4,000 faithful of Cambodia’s Christian Community on Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich island.

He claimed that only a Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) win in the upcoming elections will ensure peace and development in Cambodia. Mr. Hun Sen then expressed his willingness to “eliminate 100 or 200 people” if the opposition were to take any actions that would lead to the “overthrow” of the CPP. Continue reading “The Cambodia Daily – Opinion: Violent Threats Could Spur ICC Investigation”


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