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War and Justice

a film by MARCUS VETTER and Michele Gentile with Benjamin Ferencz, Luis Moreno Ocampo, Fatou Bensouda, Karim Khan and Joanna Frivet

Dedicated to Ben Ferencz, the youngest chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials who spent his life fighting to replace war with justice.

On February 24, 2022, Russia invades Ukraine. Shortly thereafter, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issues an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for the abduction of children from Ukraine and for associated war crimes. Fast-forward to October 7, 2023. Hamas launches a cruel massacre of Israeli civilians. Israel responds with the largest-ever offensive against Gaza. The war threatens to escalate. ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan travels to the Middle East. And he announces that he will prosecute war crimes of any kind, on both sides. The documentary WAR AND JUSTICE tells the 25-year history of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in its mission to end the most serious crimes against humanity. But once war is launched, can the ensuing crimes be prevented at all? Or is former Nuremberg prosecutor Ben Ferencz right when he says that the greatest war crime of all is war itself?

War and Justice is the first and only true-life documentary about the International Criminal Court (ICC), thanks to unprecedented access to Ben Ferencz, Luis Moreno Ocampo (ICC’s first prosecutor), and Karim Khan (its current prosecutor). Film directors Marcus Vetter and Michele Gentile follow Ocampo around the world as he enlists the support of Academy Award-winning Angelina Jolie and as they join Ferencz in the uphill battle against wars in the Congo, Libya, Palestine, and Ukraine. In the course of the film, the complexities of international law are given a face, and the viewer understands why those who launch wars of aggression, the mother of all war crimes, can hardly be brought to justice while the world’s largest military powers — China, India, Russia, and the United States — remain unwilling to recognize the ICC’s jurisdiction.Sadly, just as the film is about to debut, Ferencz dies at the age of 103. But Ocampo and Khan fight on in his honor, more determined than ever to put an end to all wars of aggression. Because war begets revenge; justice does not.

“Without dreamers, we cannot overcome the evil reality. What we are doing in the International Criminal Court is a continuation of what was started in Nuremberg about 65 Years ago.”

Ben Ferencz, the former chief prosecutor of the Nuremberg Nazi trials

Director´s Statement

How did the idea of making a film about the International Criminal Court come about and why over such a long period of time?

Marcus Vetter: In 2009 we completed the film “The Heart of Jenin” – a movie about a Palestinian father whose son was shot by Israeli soldiers and who nevertheless decides to donate his son’s organs to Israeli children. The chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo of The Hague saw the film at the “Cinema for Peace Gala” in Berlin. We were in the middle of renovating a movie theater in Jenin/Palestine and together with Ismael and his friend Fakhri we were also shooting a documentary about Yael Armanet, an Israeli woman who lost her husband in a suicide bombing in Haifa and later goes to Jenin to find answers to her husband’s death. Three films, three stories about people trying to break the vicious circle of violence. That’s what I presented in  the event in Berlin. The next day, Luis Moreno Ocampo invited me to his office and asked me if I could imagine making a film about the International Criminal Court. He said that the ICC was currently examining the extent to which Israel and also Hamas could be prosecuted for war crimes in the 2009 Gaza war. It was a very tempting offer and I told him that I could very well imagine it, but only on one condition: that he trusts us and that we can shoot behind normally closed doors.

In view of the terrible events that began in Israel on October 7, 2023, the circle closes today in the saddest possible way. Following the intervention of Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Palestine was recognized by the United Nations as an observer state in 2012 and is an official ICC member state since 2015. This means that the ICC has jurisdiction when war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity are committed on Palestinian territory; this applies to all warring parties, to Israel as well as to Hamas.

In a sense, WAR AND JUSTICE is the fourth part of our Palestine/Israel trilogy, which we are now bringing out again at the same time in view of the sad events. Here, too, people are trying to break the vicious circle of violence through a global court that wants to hold the perpetrators of war crimes or genocide personally responsible. It is about justice instead of war. Because war leads to revenge, justice usually does not. The idea behind it is to always side with the victims, regardless of the arguments against it.

Trilogy

The three films “Heart of Jenin”, “Cinema Jenin” and “After the Silence” tell the complex history of Palestine using the example of the city of Jenin. These are three films of hope, but also of despair.

Watch all three films on VOD

In 2023, 43 states submitted an application for the ICC to investigate possible war crimes on the Russian side. Karim Khan issued an arrest warrant for President Putin shortly afterwards. How is the ICC now behaving in the Israel/Palestine conflict?

The current chief prosecutor Karim Ahmad Khan was able to investigate the Ukraine war, but only for war crimes or genocide, not the original crime, the war of aggression. This is because Russia has never recognized the ICC. And for war crimes and genocide, only the state on whose territory the crime was committed must have recognized the ICC for the court to be able to act. In the case of the crime of aggressive war, however, both the attacking and the attacked state must have ratified the Rome Statute. This is why Volodymyr Selensky travelled to The Hague in the summer of 2023 to campaign for a special tribunal, because the ICC does not have jurisdiction over Putin’s war of aggression. Ocampo is therefore calling on the member states to change the rules and is particularly keen to ensure that wars of aggression are classified as war crimes in themselves. In the case of Israel/Palestine, the world is now waiting with bated breath to see how the ICC will behave. This is of course a political issue and it will be anything but easy for the current chief prosecutor Karim Khan.

How did you connect the filming in 2023 with the stories you have already shot?

Marcus Vetter: On today’s timeline, Ocampo is preparing for a speech he gave in Nuremberg to important ICC officials in October 2023. This speech is about the war in Ukraine on the one hand, but also a look back at the work of the ICC and how he built up the court as the first Chief Prosecutor. This gives us a wonderful opportunity to combine our material from the early years of the ICC with today’s perspective. With the escalation of the situation in Russia, viewers suddenly understand the resistance the ICC is facing, as powerful states such as Russia, China and the USA have never recognized the court. Now people want the ICC to take action on Russian war crimes and they suddenly have to deal with the court’s statutes and internal rules. In this context, the cases of the early years take on a new meaning. Ocampo’s review of his work gives us the opportunity to structure the film with it. At that time, for example, the revolution in Libya broke out during filming, which was crushed by Gaddafi. We were shooting when the UN Security Council referred the Libya case to the International Criminal Court, by consensus, mind you, the USA, China, Russia and India all voted in favor. Because if a country like Gaddafi’s Libya, for example, did not recognize the court in The Hague, the ICC could only take action if the UN Security Council unanimously transferred the case to the ICC. But despite a unanimous decision, the war against Libya by a multi-state NATO-led coalition has plunged the country into chaos. In the film, Ocampo says that war, even when waged with good intentions, always affects the innocent. This was the case in Libya, as well as in the Iraq war in 2003, which was waged under false pretenses and could therefore actually be classified as a war of aggression.

What other cases have you been involved in?

Marcus Vetter: War crimes involving child soldiers in the Congo. We had exclusive access to thousands of hours of court material. It was the first ICC case to be heard in The Hague. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, a Congolese warlord of the Hema ethnic group, recruited child soldiers to kill the Lendus. The film follows the case until the verdict is handed down in 2012.

Angelina Jolie and the former chief prosecutor of the Nuremberg trials, Benjamin Ferenzc, also appear in the film. Why?

Marcus Vetter: Luis Moreno-Ocampo was not only the first Chief Prosecutor of the ICC, he also had to make the young institution known to the world when it was established in 2002. And when the closing arguments were made in the Thomas Lubanga Dyilo case, he had the idea of bringing Ben Ferencz, the chief prosecutor of the Nuremberg trials, onto the team. He wanted him to bring the relevance of this first case closer to the court and thus build a bridge from Nuremberg to The Hague. Angelina Jolie herself made a film about war crimes during the war in Yugoslavia and therefore campaigned for the ICC. She has traveled to The Hague twice to support the chief prosecutor. It is also important to mention that Ben Ferencz, who died in April 2023 at the age of 103, dedicated his life to war and war crimes. He said that war itself is a war crime because there is no war in which war crimes are not committed against the civilian population. This is a very exciting topic, especially against the backdrop of the current wars and the social discussion and how to deal with them. Therefore, the movie could not be more topical. Now is the right time to release the movie in its finished form.

One last question, what “message” do you want to give the movie?

Marcus Vetter: This is a documentary that should not take sides. All wars lead to war crimes, as Ben Ferencz explains. That’s why Karim Khan and Ocampo are campaigning to the international community to take this situation, in which Putin has started a war of aggression in the most obvious way, as an opportunity to change the rules within the Rome Statute and hold heads of state who start wars of aggression to account.  To do this, however, all countries – including the powerful – must first accept such a court and wars of aggression must be considered war crimes in themselves, as is Ben Ferenz’s position. And here, of course, it is also important to point out the double standards and to remind people that wars, including those waged by the USA, were not only waged for defensive purposes. Obama even said this in his speech for the Nobel Prize, that wars can be waged for humanitarian purposes under certain circumstances. Although we will also show in the film that the moral prerequisites for the Iraq war, Saddam Hussein’s nuclear arsenal, were never found, the point is not to compare one situation with another, but to show why wars have unfortunately not yet been replaced by fair justice.
There is a scene that we shot in 2011 in which Amr Moussa, the former Secretary General of the Aryan League, tells Ocampo that the ICC will only receive international recognition when ‘Uncle Sam’, the USA, can also be held accountable or their allies can be held accountable and the world community can see that the ICC really acts independently and is not politically instrumentalized. This scene is so important because it shows how part of the world community thinks. Only if all countries stand behind an institution like the ICC can the dream Ben talks about of replacing wars with fair justice become a reality. A global court can only function if it is perceived as “just” and independent by all countries. The Israel/Palestine conflict is perhaps the litmus test here. The world is watching in horror what is happening there.

“In this international criminal court the child soldiers will not be invisible.“

Luis Moreno Ocampo, former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague

Festivals

40th Munich Film Festival

World Premiere on Sunday 25 June 2023 – 3.00 p.m.

War-and-Justice_laurel_Nuernberg-Award

28. Filmfestival Turkey Germany

Nominated BEST FILM
Winner ONGYR PRIZE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Cienma for Peace 2024

Nominated

DOVE FOR JUSTICE

37th Braunschweig
International Film Festival

Friday 10 November 2023 – 6.30 p.m.

Press & Reviews

Hochbrisante Politdoku

mit prominentem Star-Support

“Ein knallharter und streckenweise ernüchternder Film, der einem das komplexe Geflecht aus internationalen Strafgesetzen auf spannende Weise näherbringt, aber Szenen von expliziter Gewalt nicht ausspart. “

Programmkino von David Siems

Am Hof der Gerechtigkeit

Doku über den  “Internationalen Strafgerichtshof”

“Der Internationale Strafgerichtshof ist eine der zivilisatorisch wichtigsten Einrichtungen der Welt. Jetzt hat ein Filmteam eine Dokumentation über ihn gedreht.”

Die Zeit, 29. April 2013 von Steffen Richter

„Angelina Jolie war überrascht von unserer Kamera“

Interview mit Marcus Vetter über seinen neuen Film

“Ocampo würde niemals die Berichterstattung von Journalisten oder Filmemachern beeinflussen, es würde völlig außerhalb von ihm liegen. Allenfalls hätte er ein Veto in sicherheitsrelevanten Angelegenheiten vorbehalten, aber es gab keines.”

Stuttgarter Nachrichten, 4. Mai 2013 von Dieter Osswald

Wie ein Spielfilm

Die Arbeit des Internationalen Strafgerichtshofs (IStGH) in Den Haag scheint ein juristischer Thriller zu sein

“Die Arbeit des Gerichtshofs könnte nicht entsetzlicher sein: Hier werden schreckliche Kriegsverbrechen vor Gericht gestellt. Das Filmteam begleitet den 2002 eröffneten ICC bei der Vorbereitung und Umsetzung des ersten Prozesses.”

Kultur Extra, 2. Mai 2013

Ready for its close-up

A new documentary considers the trials and travails of the International Criminal Court at The Hague

“…a fascinating documentary about the pioneering work of the first world court… a heart-warming story worthy of Hollywood.”

The Economist, 24 Juni, 2013

The Court

A documentary about international justice

“With a charismatic, hard-driving prosecutor for a lead, working to put a war criminal behind bars for recruiting child soldiers in a civil war and a plot spanning The Hague, Palestine, Libya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo…”