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World Court's First Prosecutor to Tackle Skeptics

June 17, 2003|From Times Wire Services

THE HAGUE — An Argentine human rights lawyer was sworn in Monday as the first prosecutor of the fledgling international war crimes tribunal and said he would work to convince skeptics of the court's legitimacy.

Luis Moreno Ocampo refused to comment on U.S. opposition to the court, but said at the swearing-in ceremony at The Hague's Peace Palace that persuading skeptics of the body's independence will be a major task.

The International Criminal Court will function as a court of last resort, only acting against the most serious violations of international law.

"The number of cases that reach the court should not be a measure of its efficiency," Ocampo said. "On the contrary, the absence of trials before this court, as a consequence of the regular functioning of national institutions, would be a major success."

The court has jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide committed after July 1, 2002.

Washington, fearing politically motivated trials, has been signing deals with various nations exempting Americans from the court. Egypt, Mongolia, Nicaragua, the Seychelles and Tunisia are the latest to sign such pacts, the State Department said Monday.

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