One aspect of the Morenogate scandal is its wider implications for the entire system of multilateral, suprastate organisations – from the UN to the EU. Friends of multilateralism make these organisations out to be based on a global idealism that transcends the egoism and shortsightedness of the nation state. From global warming to global peace, the solution to the problem, according to the these proponents of a “new world order”, is to drop the nation states and the concept of state sovereignty, first codified in the Peace of Westphalia 360 years back.
The ICC, when its statute was finalised in Rome in 1998, was to be the embodiment of these ideals. Not egoistic politicians, but elevated judges and prosecutors, recruited on principles of competence only, would rule this new court.
How far from these ideals is the ICC of the real world, operating today. Indeed the very election of the prosecutor five years ago violated these principles. Instead of a highly competent lawyer with an outstanding academic career the organisation was forced by member states in the third world to take on Luis Moreno-Ocampo, a controversial celebrity lawyer from Argentina representing the “South” (as opposed to the developed, mature democratic states of the “North”).
Article 42.3 of the Rome Statute proclaims that the prosecutor must be a highly competent lawyer, with high moral integrity who speaks and writes English and/or French fluently. Moreno-Ocampo’s legal competence is very much in doubt, there are numerous questions about his moral integrity and as everyone who has met him knows he is unable to put together even a simple phrase in correct English (and his knowledge of French is nil).
Today the prosecutor stands accused of withholding evidence from an indicted person that could be exculpatory, or (in normal language) show that the accused was innocent. For this Moreno-Ocampo has been criticised in the strongest possible terms by the ICC itself. He has shown the worst possible judgment in an internal labour case, where a whistleblower was dismissed on grounds that were found to be completely wrong. As a result a labour tribunal has awarded the whistleblower record damages of 248,000 Euros – paid by the ICC, with funds coming from the tax payers of the member states. Most importantly he has been “on reasonable grounds” (to quote the ILO labour tribunal) suspected of sexual assault against a female journalist while on a mission to South Africa in 2005. That case was dismissed because of conflicting evidence, but the “reasonable grounds” are still there, as is the evidence against him. If anyone doubts this, just look at the quote from the labour tribunal in the masthead of this blog. He is also accused of treating his staff in the worst possible way and forcing competent managers to defect in droves.
Would anyone believe that a high official in a mature democracy, like the UK Attorney General, the Belgian Federal Prosecutor or the National Prosecutor (riksåklagaren) in a Scandinavian state would be able to cling to his office with all this against him (“mature democracy” obviously doesn’t mean a country like Argentina or Somalia)? The answer to the question is a screaming “obviously not”. In any stable democracy a person like Moreno-Ocampo would have been hounded out of office months ago. The press, parliamentarians, ombudspersons, trade unions, political parties and other oversight mechanisms of a democratic system would have made sure that a dysfunctional official like Moreno-Ocampo would be removed from office before you could pronounce the word “accountability”.
Not so in the essentially undemocratic system of international organisations. At the ICC, with weak oversight mechanisms, lack of democratic control and more than one hundred member states (“states parties” in ICC jargon) who meet only once per year (and then only represented by chinless diplomats, the worst cowards in the entire world of civil servants) a person like Moreno-Ocampo can cling to his office and pretend as if nothing happened.
The nation state and national sovereignty might not be the most perfect of systems, but if the alternative is corrupt organisations like the ICC there is no doubt what I prefer. We might need international organisations, but it’s very much in doubt if we need essentially unaccountable entities like the ICC.
More will come. Watch this space and find background information on this site: