May 24, 2011 (WASHINGTON) – A search committee tasked with identifying individuals who can potentially succeed the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) denied reports that they picked the former head of World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) as a candidate for the position.
The nine-year term of the current prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo is due to expire in mid-2012 and per the Rome Statute, which is the founding text of the ICC, he is not allowed to renew it.
According to the committee’s terms of reference it is allowed to receive expressions of interest from individuals, states, regional and international organizations, civil society, professional associations and other sources. It will also approach individuals who may satisfy the applicable criteria for filling the post and who may subsequently express their interest to be considered.
Following this process, a shortlist of at least three candidates will be submitted to the Bureau of the ICC Assembly of States Parties. The prosecutor will ultimately be chosen either by consensus of the member states or by secret ballot through an absolute majority.
The Khartoum based Al-Ahram Al-Youm newspaper said in its Monday edition that the search committee picked the ex-WIPO chief Kamil Idris as one of the candidates to succeed Ocampo. It further said that the Sudanese figure received backing from European bloc at the Assembly of State Parties to become the next ICC prosecutor.
Idris told the newspaper that he was approached by regional and international organizations encouraging him to run for the position. However, he stressed that he will not accept the position unless a settlement is reached regarding the outstanding ICC arrest warrant for president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir.
The Hague tribunal charged the Sudanese leader with ten counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide he allegedly orchestrated in the country’s western region of Darfur. The Sudanese government refuses to recognize the court’s jurisdiction despite a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution adopted under Chapter VII referring the Darfur case to the ICC.
In a separate interview with the pro-government Al-Rayaam newspaper published today, Idris expressed optimism that a “satisfactory” agreement could be reached that would resolve Bashir’s case.
“We cannot hand over any Sudanese [citizen] to the International Criminal Court……I cannot accept this position without reaching a settlement” he said.
But on Tuesday the search committee denied the report that appeared on Al-Ahram newspaper claiming that it chose Idris as one of the candidates.
“On instruction from and on behalf of the Coordinator of the Search Committee, H.R.H. Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein, I can state that the report contained in the article to which you referred is not true,” René Holbach the Secretary of the Search Committee said in an email response to Sudan tribune.
“The Search Committee has not endorsed any candidate for election as the next Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court”.
Idris was the director general of WIPO during the years 1997-2008 but came under pressure from Western countries to resign a year before the end of his second term after an internal audit revealed that he joined the body claiming his birth date was 1945. In 2006 he changed it to 1954 in a move that could enhance his retirement benefits.
The WIPO internal audit found that Idris’ earlier birth date would have helped him get his first job at the agency in 1982 and later promotions until 1997, when he landed the post of director-general. The audit lists documents, including drivers licenses and identity cards, some using one birth year and others using the other.
By changing his age to the younger version, Idris could “considerably benefit” by further building up U.N. pension credits before retirement, the audit said.
WIPO spokesperson at the time issued a statement describing all allegations that Idris sought to profit from the error are “groundless” and “racist.”
The press release stated it was Idris himself who initiated the age correction in the official records and that he would not benefit from the change. It further stated that the head of the United Nations’ intellectual property watchdog would actually lose some of his pension benefits as a result of shedding nine years from his official age.
The audit report also raised other questions. According to the new birth year, Idris would have been 13 years old when he claimed to have held his first “part-time and full-time posts at the national level” in Sudan.
Idris’ 1982 application also said he obtained a master’s degree in international law from Ohio University in 1978. But Jessica Stark, spokeswoman for the university, told the Associated Press that Idris attended from Sept. 12, 1977, to June 10, 1978, when he received a Master of Arts in African Studies.
The controversy surrounding Idris’ exit from WIPO would likely make it extremely difficult for him to make it as a candidate for the ICC prosecutor’s post as in line with the requirements expressed by the search committee coordinator last March.
“The key to this is reputation,” said Mr. al-Hussein adding that the committee would examine the case history of candidates — including any controversies in which they might have been involved.
“We will be very rigorous about this,” he said. “It cannot be the subject of anything less than an intensive investigation and broad search”.
Idris’ opposition to Bashir’s warrant issued by the ICC judges would trigger an automatic bar to his nomination. Furthermore, the C.V. published on his website does not list any time spent in prosecution or trial of criminal cases as required for this job.
The former WIPO director ran for presidency in Sudan last year but only managed to secure 0.76% of the votes. During the voting period Idris slammed the National Elections Commission saying that they performed poorly in overseeing the process and threatened to withdraw. However he later attended Bashir’s inauguration along with only two presidential candidates.
Last February, Idris accused agents from the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) of monitoring his moves and later interrogating him.
The NISS afterwards issued a statement denying the claim put forward by Idriss and pointed out that the agency does not need to question him on his “already known” external links or his history with WIPO and circumstances surrounding his departure from there.
They described Idris’ account as a “badly directed play”.