(New York) - The inauguration of the International Criminal Court's (ICC) first chief prosecutor will enable the court to launch investigations into genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in coming months. 
 
On June 16, 2003, Mr. Luis Moreno Ocampo of Argentina will formally take office as ICC Prosecutor. Moreno Ocampo was unanimously elected by the 90 members of the ICC Assembly of States Parties (ASP) on April 21, 2003.  
"The Prosecutor will shape the direction of the court," said Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch. "With his inauguration, Moreno Ocampo can hire his team and begin the careful process of identifying his first investigations."  
 
Prior to this post, Moreno Ocampo was the deputy prosecutor in the trials of Argentina's former military junta. He has also worked extensively as a defense lawyer and has been a key figure in Transparency International, an anti-corruption organization.  
 
Over the next few months, Moreno Ocampo will examine horrific crimes committed in the most urgent conflicts, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and Colombia. The milestone first cases before the ICC will likely emerge from these conflicts.  
 
"Sadly, the Prosecutor won't lack for business," said Dicker. "There are several current situations in the world that cry out for justice. We urge the prosecutor to review them carefully before choosing where the court will act first."  
 
The ICC treaty has been ratified by 90 states and entered into force on July 1, 2002. It will investigate genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed after that date, but only when national justice systems fail to act.  
 
"The ICC won't have the resources to take up all these cases. We expect the prosecutor to press national courts to do their jobs," said Dicker.  
The United States has reiterated its opposition to the court and continues to seek agreements that exempt U.S. citizens from its jurisdiction. To date, 37 agreements have been signed; a small number has been ratified. Many states, including the 15 European Union member states, continue to resist the agreements, which are widely considered to be a violation of the ICC treaty, said Dicker.  
 
The inauguration ceremony will take place on June 16, 2003, as the International Criminal Court convenes in open session in the Great Hall of Justice of the Peace Palace at The Hague.  

For more information on the International Criminal Court, please visit https://www.hrw.org/campaigns/icc/