Background Release

22 April 2003

States Parties to International Criminal Court to Meet at Headquarters, 21 - 23 April

Election of Court's Prosecutor to Be Held on 21 April

NEW YORK, 17 April (UN Headquarters) -- The first-ever election of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court will take place on 21 April at United Nations Headquarters, as part of the second resumption of the first session of the Assembly of the States Parties to the Rome Statute of the Court, convening from 21 to 23 April in Conference Room 2.

The Assembly is expected to elect Luis Moreno Ocampo (Argentina) as the Prosecutor. The President of the Assembly of States Parties, Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein (Jordan), announced in New York on 24 March that the Parties had informally agreed on Mr. Ocampo as a consensus candidate.

Prince Al Hussein added that "in agreeing to Mr. Moreno Ocampo, following months of lengthy consultations between the governments on a number of strong contenders, the States Parties are confident the newly established Court will benefit in the coming years from a gifted prosecutor with proven abilities; a man of recognized integrity". Under the Rome Statute, the Prosecutor is elected by secret ballot by an absolute majority of the members of the Assembly of States Parties.

When elected, Mr. Ocampo will head the Office of the Prosecutor, which acts independently as a separate organ of the Court. The mandate of the Office is to conduct investigations and prosecutions of crimes that fall within the Court's jurisdiction. The Prosecutor may start an investigation upon a referral by a State Party, or a referral by the Security Council acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, of a situation in which there is a reasonable basis to believe that such crimes have been or are being committed.

The Prosecutor may also begin an investigation after receiving information on such crimes from other sources and after a preliminary examination of the material and an examination and authorization by the Pre-Trial Chamber.

Mr. Ocampo will hold a press conference in room S-226 on Tuesday, 22 April, at 1 p.m., together with the President of the Assembly of States Parties, and the President of the International Criminal Court, Philippe Kirsch (Canada).

At its previous meeting, held from to 3 to 7 February, the Assembly elected the 18 judges of the Court -- 10 of them women -- chosen from among 43 candidates.

The Court was inaugurated on 11 March in The Hague, Netherlands, with the judges sworn in at a ceremony attended by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Secretary-General Kofi Annan and other dignitaries from around the world.

The role of the Prosecutor and that of the judges is key to shaping the Court and making it an independent, fair and effective institution to deal with crimes of the most grievous nature committed by individuals. The treaty establishing the Court, which entered into force on 1 July 2002, has thus far been ratified by 89 countries and signed by 139.

The Court has a mandate to try individuals rather than States, and to hold them accountable for the most serious crimes of concern to the international community -- genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and, eventually, the crime of aggression. The Court will have jurisdiction only over crimes committed after 1 July 2002, when the Statute entered into force.

For information, see the Court's Web site at, or contact Arnold Pronto at the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs, tel. 1-212-963-5360; e-mail:; or Ellen McGuffie at the Department of Public Information, tel. 1-212-963-0499; e-mail:

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