Controversial former prosecutor justified Putin’s narratives

On August 7, Luis Moreno Ocampo, formerly Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC), who served in this position between 2003 and 2012, published a report entitled “Armenian Genocide in 2023”.

In spite of the author’s reputation, which in the past included allegations of sexual misconduct and corruption – he has denied wrongdoing – the topic was picked up by authoritative international media – Forbes, Washington Post, CNN and ABC News.

The document, drawn up on the basis of a false narrative promoted by the leaders of the Armenian separatists in Karabakh in the interests of the Kremlin, received undeservedly wide publicity. Ocampo, who should be “cancelled” by the media, was referred to as an “expert” and used as a moral mouthpiece for the entire Armenian nation.

Using Putin’s theses about genocide in Ukraine

The fake narratives thrown in by Ocampo have been used by Russia for more than a quarter of a century to justify the occupation of parts of Moldova, Georgia, and now Ukraine and Azerbaijan.

The ex-prosecutor had prepared his so-called “expert opinion” in nine days, without visiting the site of the “genocide”. Moreover, the “examination” itself was ordered (and it was done publicly) by Arayik Harutyunyan – a man who calls himself the “president of Artsakh”, that is, the puppet leader of a non-existent state on behalf of the Kremlin.

There is no such country as “Artsakh” in the world. This is a self-proclaimed, separatist enclave in Karabakh on the territory of Azerbaijan, which is not recognized by any country, except for the same self-proclaimed quasi-states controlled by the Kremlin.

Separatist enclaves like the so-called “Artsakh” had also been created by the Kremlin after the collapse of the Soviet Union in Moldova (the so-called Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic or Transnistria), in Georgia (South Ossetia) and in eastern Ukraine, that is, the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR), occupied by Russia in 2022.

The rhetoric about the “genocide” of the inhabitants of the territories controlled by the separatists is regularly used by the Kremlin to justify the occupation of part of the post-Soviet countries or their control.

For example, in February 2022, when announcing the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that one of the goals of military aggression was the “denazification” of Ukraine. He also accused the leadership of Ukraine of “genocide” of the inhabitants of the self-proclaimed DNR and LNR.

Now the Kremlin is promoting similar theses in the South Caucasus and in the international media, through publicly commissioned “expert opinions” such as the report by ex-International Criminal Court prosecutor Moreno Ocampo, who himself is worthy of cancellation in the media for what he had previously done. After all, if the crimes of the Kremlin have become the property of the world community, then it is also important to figure out, who is Mr. Ocampo? Why is it that while the entire civilized world has been shying away from toxic pro-Kremlin politicians, the ex-prosecutor all of a sudden decided to respond to their request?

Allegation of coercion

In September 2008, an article in the UK’s The Telegraph alleged that during a visit to South Africa, Ocampo forced a local journalist to have sexual intercourse: “..the prosecutor had taken that journalist’s car keys and would not return them to her unless she agreed to sexual intercourse,” the report alleged. Testimony against Ocampo was given by his colleague, the press secretary of the ICC prosecutor’s office, Cristan Palme, whom Ocampo subsequently fired. The Telegraph wrote: “This misconduct had caused serious harm to the standing of the court, and for this reason he submitted that the prosecutor should be removed from office by the court’s member states…” Ocampo has not faced criminal charges in connection with the allegation.

The millionaire official

In 2017, French political investigative journalists from Mediapart identified Ocampo’s offshore companies: “Ocampo ran companies located in some of the most famous tax havens in the world during his time as chief prosecutor of the ICC. In response to a question about his offshore financial activities, the former high-profile prosecutor said his salary at the ICC “was not sufficient.”

According to Mediapart, after leaving the ICC, Ocampo had inexplicably large assets: real estate in The Hague (€1.2 million), five properties in Argentina ($2.2 million) and at least $1 million in a bank.

Crimes and no punishment

In the course of his nine years as an ICC prosecutor, Ocampo closed only one criminal case. The influential Financial Times wrote about this in 2017: “His nine-year term in court was marked by more controversy than success. The ICC’s first verdict on Thomas Lubanga, the leader of a paramilitary group in the Congo, was handed down only in 2012, a few months before Ocampo’s departure.” And that was not without a scandal either.

The case of Lubanga, who recruited children to participate in hostilities, has been under investigation by Ocampo since 2006. According to the information of the German Spiegel, due to the fault of the prosecutor, “the case almost fell apart twice”. The French media project Zero Impunity, referring to a former employee of the ICC, reported that during the investigation of this case, Ocampo ignored many crimes: “For the Congolese, the most terrible violations that caused the greatest suffering to the population were rapes and robberies. However, all the sexual violence committed by the militias was left behind the scenes.”

As a result, due to Ocampo’s alleged connivance with the rapists, Lubanga was never charged with sexual assault.

Defence of war criminals

In 2015, having allegedly betrayed the values of his profession for the sake of profit, the former ICC prosecutor became the defender of the interests of the Libyan billionaire Hassan Tatanaki.

The latter supported the war criminal, the leader of the illegal armed groups of Libya, Khalifa Haftar, who is accused of killing civilians, and other human rights violations.

In 2017, Spiegel reported that Ocampo received a fee of $750,000 for this work. The publication also drew attention to the fact that “Haftar is not the person with whom the former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court should be associated.”

Report commissioned by the separatists

In 2010, Ocampo arrived in Yerevan in the status of an ICC prosecutor, and met with ex-President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan.

He visited Yerevan again five years later, at the invitation of the country’s leadership to participate in the forum “Against the crime of genocide.”

On July 29 2023, the head of the pro-Russian separatists in Karabakh, Arayik Harutyunyan, turned to  the ex-prosecutor to get his “expert opinion”. The result of this was a report with the loud title “Armenian Genocide in 2023”. The prosecutor, who had been investigating one ICC case for nine years, was able to sort out the situation in Karabakh in just nine days.

What did Ocampo manage to “figure out”?  

In fact, the ex-prosecutor’s 28-page report was written for the sake of just one propaganda idea, repeating the Kremlin’s narrative in other post-Soviet republics which Russia is trying to influence through puppet separatists, for the sake of the idea that has been refuted dozens of times by international influential media since the beginning of the year. And this is “a humanitarian catastrophe among the 120,000 population of Artsakh”, although, according to the Fifth Channel of Ukrainian TV, “the real population of the Armenian enclave in Karabakh is no more than 40,000.”

Ukrainian media say that “Putin uses Armenian puppet separatists in Karabakh for his own purposes, just as he did with Ossetians and Abkhazians in Georgia and supporters of the Russian World in Crimea and Donbass.”

Playing on separatist sentiments and promoting fakes previously run in Ukraine about the “genocide” of the local population, according to the Romanian version of Newsweek, “allows Moscow to maintain a military presence not only in the South Caucasus, but also in Ukraine, as well as in the breakaway region of Georgia, South Ossetia or in the Russian-controlled eastern regions of Moldova.”

Ocampo’s report, which received undeservedly high publicity, was also commented on by Rodney Dixon, a leading expert in international law who specializes in accusations related to alleged genocides.

According to Dixon, the report is not only compromised by its biased nature, but it is also completely incompetent in its interpretation of the concept of “genocide” and demonstrates “clear selectivity with regards to “facts “.

This article reflects the author’s opinion and not necessarily that of this website

Igor Chalenko

Igor Chalenko is an Ukrainian political scientist who heads the Centre for Analysis and Strategies, Ukraine.