Luis Moreno Ocampo, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, has had his knuckles rapped by the International Labour Organisation for sacking the head of the ICC's public relations department, Christian Palme.
In October 2006 Mr Palme submitted a complaint claiming that Mr Moreno Ocampo had sexually abused a female journalist in South Africa. He was acquitted when the alleged victim declared that no sexual abuse had occurred. However, the ILO is highly critical of the fact that Mr Moreno Ocampo was personally involved in Mr Palme's dismissal, when he should have remained impartial.
The ILO complaint has added to the pressure on the chief prosecutor. Internally, people have long been unhappy with his working methods. A number of employees have already resigned in protest at his loner behaviour.
There has also been much criticism inside and outside the ICC of his decision to prosecute Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for genocide. International experts think it unlikely he has enough evidence. There are also fears that the accusation will only lead to more suffering for the people of Sudan.
Christian Palme's complaint against his boss in 2006 was not directed to his leadership skills but to his personal behaviour. Palme heard from a colleague that Mr Moreno Ocampo either raped or at least sexually assaulted a female journalist during a business trip in South Africa. The journalist apparently phoned Mr Palme's colleague and related how Mr Moreno Ocampo had snatched her car keys and refused to return them unless she had sex with him.
Mr Palme had a recording of that phone call which he handed to the ICC president, calling for Mr Moreno Ocampo to be dismissed for sexual misconduct.
Mr Palme's complaint was investigated by a panel of three ICC judges who decided there was insufficient evidence to charge Mr Moreno Ocampo with sexual harassment, since both the alleged victim and the chief prosecutor himself denied any sexual abuse had taken place. Mr Moreno Ocampo then sacked Christian Palme on the spot for making false accusations with intent to damage the reputation of the chief prosecutor.
The International Labour Organisation, to which Mr Palme appealed against his dismissal, concluded earlier this month that Mr Moreno Ocampo had abused his position. The basic principle of a fair trial, the ILO argued, is that no one should take a decision in a case in which he himself is involved. The ILO also ruled that Mr Palme had acted correctly in lodging a complaint when he became convinced that Moreno Ocampo had committed a sexual assault. Mr Palme was therefore awarded damages totalling 25,000 euros. His salary was also ordered to be paid through to the end of his contract, which was 30 June last year.
The ILO ruling is damaging to Mr Moreno Ocampo, particularly the way in which he dealt with a complaint directed against himself. It can be expected of a chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court that he should exercise the utmost discretion in cases in which he is personally involved. He has not only damaged his own reputation, but also that of the court. He has handed many of the ICC's opponents an extra trump card. It was not Christian Palme who damaged the chief prosecutor's reputation but the prosecutor himself.
The ILO's pronouncement puts additional pressure on Mr Moreno Ocampo's position at the court. ICC-watchers say that, for some time now, there has been serious criticism of his methods within his own department, resulting in the departure of several employees. They accuse him of operating too much on his own and of paying little attention to any criticism of his policies.
*RNW translation (im)
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