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Joshua Rozenberg
Tuesday 13th October 2009
Prosecutor Lives to Fight Another Case

Rumours are circulating at the International Criminal Court that the Japanese, who contribute more to the court's budget than any other government, are concerned about the prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo.

According to these rumours, the Japanese want the prosecutor's term of office to be reduced from nine years to five years and they want court officials to be given greater control over the prosecutor's budget.

I was told that these proposals were contained in a "non-paper" - an unofficial document - being circulated ahead of the court's planned review conference in Kampala next year.

I have not been able to obtain a copy of this paper. But I am assured that the story is only partially true.

The Japanese are certainly concerned about how Moreno-Ocampo is spending his budget - and rightly so, since he has only one bogged-down trial to show for his six years in office.

But I am told that the non-paper makes no mention of the reducing the prosecutor's term.

This is no doubt entirely unconnected with the fact that Japan currently has a candidate for election to the court. The first Japanese judge, Fumiko Saiga, died in April at the age of 65. She had served for little more than a year.

I suggested at the time that

it might be appropriate to nominate someone with judicial experience as her successor. Failing that, might it not be a good idea to find someone with legal training?

Ms Saiga had neither.

The new Japanese candidate, Kuniko Ozaki, does indeed have a strong academic legal background: she is currently a professor of international law. And she is also a special assistant at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where she has worked for most of her career.

She has no experience as a judge. But I'm told the problem is that no Japanese judge is likely to speak English to the level required to operate in The Hague. The only people who can do the job are likely to be career diplomats.

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About Joshua Rozenberg

Joshua Rozenberg is an independent legal commentator who presents Law in Action on BBC Radio 4.

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