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International Court Under Unusual Fire

African leaders with abysmal human rights records seek to discredit Moreno-Ocampo because "they fear accountability" in their own countries, said Richard Dicker, an expert on the ICC at Human Rights Watch. Dicker concedes that Moreno-Ocampo has made missteps that have played into the hands of the court's enemies.

In September, Human Rights Watch raised concern in a confidential memo to the court about low staff morale and the flight of many experienced investigators. It also cited the prosecutor's 2006 summary dismissal of his spokesman after he filed an internal complaint alleging Moreno-Ocampo had raped a female journalist.

A panel of ICC judges, after interviewing the woman, concluded that the allegations were "manifestly unfounded." Then an internal disciplinary board recommended that Moreno-Ocampo rescind the dismissal, arguing that the prosecutor had a conflict of interest in firing the spokesman.

An administrative tribunal at the International Labor Organization ruled that while the spokesman's allegations were ultimately proved wrong, he had not acted maliciously because he believed his boss had engaged in improper behavior. It required a settlement payment of nearly $250,000 for back pay and damages.

Moreno-Ocampo, in the interview, declined to respond to the criticism of his personal reputation, saying, "I cannot answer unfounded allegations."

The case against Bashir rankles many African leaders, who say it is hypocritical. They note that the Security Council, which authorized the Sudan probe, has three permanent members who never signed the treaty establishing the court: the United States, Russia and China. "The feeling we have is that it is biased," said Congo's U.N. envoy, Atoki Ileka.

Alex de Waal, a British expert on Darfur, and Julie Flint, a writer and human rights activist, maintain that Moreno-Ocampo is the problem. They recently co-wrote an article in the World Affairs Journal citing former staff members and prominent war crimes experts who are critical of the prosecutor for not conducting witness interviews inside Darfur and for pursuing a weak charge of genocide against Bashir.

"It is difficult to cry government-led genocide in one breath and then explain in the next why 2 million Darfuris have sought refuge around the principal army garrisons of their province," Andrew T. Cayley, a British lawyer who headed the prosecutor's Darfur investigation, wrote in the Journal of International Criminal Justice last November.

Christine Chung, a former federal prosecutor and senior trial attorney for the prosecutor until 2007, dismissed the piece as "character assassination" and said the prosecutor's decision to stay out of Darfur was "in the end correct. The Sudanese government indeed detained and tortured persons believed to be cooperating with the ICC."

Moreno-Ocampo said he remains convinced that Bashir is committing genocide. "I have 300 lawyers, all brilliant people, with different opinions, but then I make the decision," he said. "I still think it's genocide, and I will appeal."

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