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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 July, 2003, 17:49 GMT 18:49 UK
ICC to exclude many cases

By Barnaby Mason
BBC diplomatic correspondent

Luis Moreno-Ocampo
Luis Moreno Ocampo: many cases have to be excluded
Since the swearing-in of the International Criminal Court's judges and prosecutor, there has been a surge of complaints - numbering almost 500 - from 66 different countries.

Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo is at pains to explain why many have to be excluded.

Fifty deal with acts committed before 1 July last year, the date when the court's jurisdiction became effective.

Other complaints cover ordinary crimes - drug trafficking, for example - or human rights violations that fall short of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

And nearly 40 communications accused the United States and its allies of aggression against Iraq.

Troop complaint

The crime of aggression is in the treaty but until there is international agreement on how to define it, the ICC can take no action.

Sixteen complaints received by the prosecutor deal with acts said to have been carried out by American troops in Iraq.

Lendu militia fighter outside Bunia in Congo

But the prosecutor can launch an investigation only into alleged crimes committed by the citizens of a state which has ratified the ICC treaty or on the territory of such a state.

Neither the US nor Iraq is a party to the treaty.

Then there are complaints about other countries that fought in the Iraq war: Britain and Australia did so and both have ratified the treaty.

But the prosecutor notes that here the court could take action only if national authorities were unwilling or unable to investigate.

Focus on Congo

There were two brief messages about alleged crimes in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but there are no state parties involved, so the ICC has no jurisdiction.

The same applies to the Ivory Coast, where there were complaints about the alleged killing of civilians by army soldiers.

However, the Democratic Republic of Congo, though torn apart by war, has ratified the treaty.

The prosecutor chose to look most urgently at the situation in the north-eastern province of Ituri, where he has received two detailed reports of massacres of civilians and other crimes.

Two non-governmental organisations have submitted detailed reports of massacres of civilians which he says could fall within the court's jurisdiction as genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.

But the prosecutor's statement also reveals how many things the ICC cannot investigate.

Court examines DR Congo 'crimes'
16 Jul 03  |  Africa
Profile: Luis Moreno Ocampo
21 Apr 03  |  Americas
International court opens its doors
01 Jul 02  |  In Depth

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