Interviewing Luis Moreno Ocampo
Life has many misgivings.
This is a non-logical statement I assume. “Life has many people that contributed to the apprehensions of life,” would be a better sensible comment.
However, life has this gift of amazing people that makes it by each passing moment so much worth living.
It is not about those precious given donations from children, family, loved ones, and friends. It is with those who only pass by our paths of life for a moment or an instant. An hour or a day … those who are meant to be an absolute treat from life with a beautiful reminder saying; life is about people. Real people. Remarkable people who are the change of what we aspire to the world that is better.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo was one of those “treats” of unexpected moments that made me feel proud, that life is about people …
Ocampo is the first assigned Prosecutor to the International Criminal Court (ICC), who was sworn to the position for nine years as of June 2003. When he took the position, observers said that he would inevitably turn the ICC into a “sexy court.” It will take anyone five minutes to understand how correct this sentence is, and later to realize how the mixture of brilliance and modesty are the perfect combination that form “sexy” in this situation.
Aside from the flirting ideas about the man; what he has to offer was inspiring for me. As usual, we are also confronted with the complexity of the situation. In this particular case, it was about Ocampo’s visit and lectures in the Hebrew University. A debate that will remain ongoing, between “us” and “them.” Between “us,” “them” and “those from outside this zone of conflict.”
What Ocampo had to offer in advice to the Palestinians wasn’t particularly new. It was actually what everyone who wants to give advice to the Palestinians says: “ Follow Gandhi. Adopt nonviolence as an approach to resistance”. And each time the quick Palestinian response is: “ how do you want us to stop violence with nonviolence? How do we defend ourselves amid this vicious aggression that never seizes to stop? Occupation is violent by its very nature. What we do, even if it is not resistance, it is the only way for us to survive.”
Ocampo wasn’t different from the rest in this call: “Teach your children to leave the stones and use their cameras in the confrontation with the occupation. This is more efficient. Document the crimes and the violations and use it as a weapon of resistance.”
Ocampo was well known in his native country Argentina as a lawyer and prosecutor in cases related to corruption and human rights abuses. He gained a lot of credit while serving as a prosecutor in Argentina during the “Trial of the Juntas” that occupied Argentina’s public opinion in the mid-eighties, prosecuting nine senior commanders, including three former heads of state, among which five were convicted.
During his term as a prosecutor to the ICC, the court has opened investigations into nine situations: Congo; Uganda; Central African Republic II and me; Darfur, Sudan; Kenya; Libya; Côte d’Ivoire; and Mali. His office requested the authorization to open an investigation into the Georgia situation. And has conducted preliminary examinations in seven matters in Afghanistan, Colombia, Guinea, Iraq, Nigeria, Palestine and Ukraine. The ICC has issued arrest warrants for 31 individuals and summonses to eight others.
I met Ocampo in a session with Law students at Al Quds University. His presence and charisma are overwhelming; one would just need to watch him talk or not talk. What drew my attention most was his way in approaching the students. He very much wanted to listen to their questions and made sure to understand and respond in accordance each time. There was this very caring tone in his approach that still brought very positive answers. A sound that makes a difference in the approach of a “teacher” and hence, a whole new effect on the “student” way of perceiving and receiving the information.
I introduced myself to him with courtesy towards the end of the session, with no further interest in asking anything after dwelling with myself into the questions of the students.
I don’t know what is it exactly that makes us this way. Is it a full state of despair? Or is it just the way of education. We firmly believe that we have a strong case to represent. We strongly believe how the laws work. And yet we kind of refuse to listen to what anyone else has to tell us.
A week later, I met him by chance in the lobby of the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem, and after consulting with the editor in chief of the Egyptian magazine, I write for I asked him if I could interview him. He was very courteous as well in agreeing promptly.
He asked me if I like to join his meeting with Asylum seekers from Darfur, saying that it will be interesting to see what is the input of a Palestinian on such an issue.
It was one night of continuous inspiring moments by those young men from Darfur. It was so powerful, and heart is aching to hear their journey into an asylum. The dangers that they encountered, the injustice, the oppression, the massive killings, the escape, and the catching up with their lives again… or trying to do so.
It remains as well one of the controversial issues I encounter as a Palestinian. Sitting there, watching an Israeli young beautiful woman dedicating her time and I guess, her life in trying to bring help or justice to such people in yet another complexed issue in Israel itself. But this paradox in humanity never seizes to stop its unexpected encounters.
That very same side of Israel as a final or only resort for refuge for such people, when Israel is the graveyard for the people of this very land.
To see a Sudanese, an Arab (at least in my mind) escaping the violations and crimes that “Arabs” (and other whatever groups who happened not to belong to the same sect or cult) are imposing and performing on such groups also made it another complex in the complexity of my emotions.
During the interview, many interesting topics were addressed. Somehow talking to such people, there is nothing additional on their achievements that can be added out of what has been already said and written tens of times before. The perspective on Palestine-Israel issue remains the most intriguing to a Palestinian while the man himself is in Palestine.
How much was it of complexity for him to be in the middle of the two sides this close was another issue I think. Standing before two sides whose emotions and politics strongly overshadows the law is not a natural position. Each side has his long list of real claims that insist the law should back his side simply.
There is something of what he can or is willing to offer to both parties in his capacity as an educator and a practitioner in the field of law that is so important and unique, and I firmly believe that we, especially the Palestinians should not miss the opportunity.